Thursday, December 17, 2009

Xmas Present

Hi Folks
Been a busy month here in the workshop. Lots of orders, and pressure to get them out for Christmas, but its been a good time - I thoroughly enjoy making planes. And I find it amazing that Philly Planes is now in its third year of business. So as a thank you to all my customers present and past I'm offering a 25% discount on my "Classic Smoother" plane with the Karl Holtey iron through to the end of January (or until I run out of irons from my current batch). I have some lovely Santos Rosewood, English Boxwood and a small amount of African Blackwood. I also have some other rare exotics available - email me if you are interested.
So -thank you again for your continued support, encouragement and custom. A Merry Christmas to you all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Chamfer Plane

Hi Folks
Some exciting news - a new plane model! Introducing the "Chamfer Plane"....

This is a simple but joyful little plane. You set the adjustable fence to the width of the chamfer you need, set the iron for a suitable depth of cut and get planing! Once the full profile is cut the plane stops cutting - simple. And it works great on end grain, too.

I'll be making this plane in English Beech and Goncalo Alves - more details will be on my website soon. I've also put together a small video of the plane in action - see below.

If you are interested in owning one of these babies just drop me an email.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rosewood and the 100

HI Folks
Just about finished the second "Inphil" plane - it works really nicely, and looks suitably handsome in the tradition of infill panel planes. The timber on this one is Santos Rosewood, a favourite of mine - very dense and wonderful figuring. Smells nice, too!
One of the reasons for building this plane was to try a longer soled smoother - being a longer plane also adds additional weight. My initial thoughts were that it was un-necessary and I kept wanting to reach for the shorter smoother. But I'll perservere with it for a bit longer and see if it converts me.

Other exciting news - The Lambrettas played the 100 Club in London on the weekend. It was a real buzz to play at such a famous venue - the list of famous bands and artists who have played there over the last half a century is quite mindblowing! The walls were plastered with atmospheric photo's and it felt really amazing to be playing there. We were supported by The Teenbeats and Long Tall Shorty, so it was an entertaining (and long) evening.

So with my feet back on the ground I'm beavering away in the workshop - this week see's Skew Miters and a Fillister underway.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

On The Porch..

HI Folks
I've been doing more work on the second Inphil prototype and its coming together nicely - I tested it out with a spare iron and it worked very nicely with minial tuning, a good sign. I have some final sanding to do and the finish to apply and I'll take some decent photo's. Here's a picture of it next to the first.

Had a customer collect two Jack planes yesterday - one had a convex sole to make coopered doors. The customer specified Rosewood handles, wedges and strike buttons - I think they look good against the Beech.

And I actually did some woodwork that was NOT plane related! I'm building a porch for the house from Oak - today (with the help of my trusty shop buddy Mr X) we fitted the main framework after trimming back the blockwork for a good fit. Typically the heavens opened before I was able to get a coat of varnish on it - I await tomorrow morning with crossed fingers that I don't wake up to blackened oak.

'til tomorrow....


Thursday, November 05, 2009


Hi Folks
The traditional timber choice in wooden planemaking is quartersawn beech. The main reasons for its use are its toughness, ease of availability (at least in the UK) and, when quartersawn, its pretty stable. Beech is a very plain looking timber - white with faint grain markings and very tight grain. The pores are virtually invisible. But when quartersawn the medullary rays appear and transform this plain timber into something quite wonderful - to my eyes the ray figuring gives the appearance of scales on a fish, shimmering and darting. A coat of oil makes the effect pop right out of the timber.
I find getting hold of quartersawn stock to be extremely difficult, but the search is well worth it. The picture above hardly does the timber justice, but hopefully gives an impression of how handsome it can look.

On other matters, I've started work on a second "Inphill" plane. A slightly different design to the A6 inspired original, but I'm very excited about it. Hopefully it'll be ready for some pictures in a few days and you can tell me what you think.

To the 'bench.....


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In The 'Shop...

HI Folks

With the nights drawing in and the temperature dropping, its been quite pleasant working away in my little workshop. With plenty of light, a warm/dry atmosphere and the iPod playing away in the background it makes me want to get in there and make planes! Which is a good thing...... ;) And the foam mats I fitted on the floor are great - they've already saved a few chisels from dinged edges!

With the Post Office strikes and disruptions over the last few weeks and possibly into the coming weeks out deliveries have been rather hit and miss. But I only use courier delivery for my planes, which is uneffected by the disruptions -so if you are considering ordering a plane, have no worries about it being delayed.

Remember the Infill prototype from the last blog entry? I've been giving it some serious use over the last few weeks and I'm very impressed with its performance. So I'm working on a second, slightly larger version. Pictures soon!

On the bench at the moment are a pair of Jack planes. One is to have a profiled sole so the customer can make coopered doors. They are both from English Beech, with the handles, wedges and strike buttons from Rosewood. Again, pics will be along soon - the Beech has some wonderful ray figuring.

Lambrettas News!
We play the 100 Club, London on the 15th of November. Support from Long Tall Shorty and The Teenbeats, so it should be quite a night! More details on our Facebook page.....



Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Ideas......

Hi Folks
As most of you probably know, I can't help but keep experimenting with planes. Different timbers, angles, materials - you name it, I'll try it. And while relaxing in a hot bath the other evening I had another idea! Infills.......
Now - I love making wooden planes, so you don't have to worry about me going off and building infills (although customers have been asking me for a reasonably priced infill). I have made a few prototype Norris style smoothers, but completely from wood, and they never look quite right due to the thickness of the side walls. There's a minimum thickness you can get away with in wood, and it didn't always look right. So I had this idea about a plane with brass side walls, an infill but no metal sole - the infill make the sole! So you have an infill with a slippery wooden sole........
I just happened to have some offcuts of brass suitable, and doing a bit here and there, I've reached the point where the plane is usable - what do you think?
The plane works very nicely, taking sub-thou shavings easily. I'm going to a woodworking bash at Waka's in Weymouth on the weekend and will taking it along with me for some feedback. And remember where you saw this plane first.......... ;)

A customer wanted a coffin smoother in Beech, but styled after my Classic Smoother. So who am I to disappoint :) I really like this plane - its a good size but still comfortable to grip. So I may well be making this my standard design inthe future - stay tuned.

Back to the bench - Fillisters await!



Monday, October 12, 2009

A Softer Floor

HI Folks

As I mentioned in the last blog entry, I was awaiting a delivery of foam floor tiles for the workshop. They turned up bright and early today - a pleasant surprise! I bought them from a trader on Ebay, and a very good prove they were too - four packs of four tiles, each two foot square, for £25. Enough to do the main areas of the workshop.
It only took five minutes to put them in place (after a quick sweep up of the sawdust). The tiles click together easily and, to complicate matters, are grey on one side, and bright red, blue, yellow or green on the reverse. I went with the boring grey, although may change my mind one day if I'm truly bored ;)
The tiles feel good underfoot - soft enough to take the pressure off, but tough enough for workshop life. I must say I wish I had bought some years ago. At the end of work today my legs felt fine - a result!
Now - about getting that coffee machine plumbed into the 'shop............ ;)


Ebony Miter

Hi Folks

Here's another pretty plane - a Skew Miter in Macassar Ebony. I love the look of the dark timbers, they give a real sense of solidity. This particular plane is also a few inches longer than usual, at the customers request.
It's the first time I've used Ebony and I was surprised how easy it was to plane - I was expecting it to be "tear-out central". And it takes a lovely polish. Needless to say, I can see me using this wonderful timber again in the near future.

Something I've been toying with for a long time is the issue of my concrete floor. Standing at the bench all day, a concrete floor can take its toll on your legs. So I have just invested in foam floor tiles - they should arrive early this week. I'll let you know if they make a significant difference.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And Planes For Other People.....

Following on from the title of the last blog entry, here's a few planes that have been finished in the workshop recently.First up, a Jointer. Made from Ovangkol, a very tough African hardwood, with a norris style adjuster and brass screw cap. The timber looks wonderful - a coat of oil makes the figure spring into 3D. I've just had an email from the new owner, who had this to say - "The jointer exceeds all expectations. I had to use it today on some pretty difficult Bubinga and it made short work of it. It is rare to have a tools which is beautiful, so well finished and which performs brilliantly!" I'm guessing he's happy with it ;)

Next up are a pair of panel raising planes - the customer supplied a drawing with the panel dimensions for me to work from. Both planes are from quartered
English beech, and it has some wonderful ray figuring. It reminds me of the scales of a fish, shimmering as you walk past it. It's funny how such a humble and plain timber like beech turns into a thing of beauty when cut on the quarter.
And finally, another jointer. Well actually, a Try plane. This one is going to a US customer who I recently made a 30 inch Jointer - this is a "baby" one to complement it. The rear tote on this plane is offset to the right, as was the traditional placement of 18th Century planes. It feels very natural in use and makes me wonder why the rear handle is now placed in the centre.
There's plenty of other interesting planes on the go, including an Ebony Skew Miter. Pics soon!



Friday, October 02, 2009

Other Peoples Planes...

HI Folks
Had a visitor to the workshop this week who wanted to choose the timber for his plane. He also brought some very lovely goodies along with him for me to see. First up, a Stanley 444. This is a plane for cutting sliding dovetails, and cuts both male AND female parts of the joint.
I'd only seen this plane in Garrett Hack's book, so was surprised to see how big it is in the flesh. This particular plane was complete, with both fences and accessories. It had been re-plated, and looked absolutely immaculate. Jealous? Who, me?
The second goodie was a smoother - a Philip Marcou.
I was rather shocked at the weight of this plane (which I believe is the S15) I have a bronze Lie-Nielsen 4 1/2 which I think is at the limit of how heavy a plane should be - the Marcou is heavier again! It is very nicely made and, as it is bevel up, features an adjustable mouth. One thing I noticed - it was smothered in lanolin. The reason for this was to protect the brass and bronze from oxidising. This seemed to be working as the plane was like new, so this is an area I would like to experiment with.

Over at the bench the panel raising planes are almost complete. I've just applied the oil to them so tomorrow will give them a test run and they'll be ready to ship. I've also completed the Jointer with the norris adjuster - it looks awesome. Ovangkol is a beautiful timber with wonderful chatoyance. I'll get the camera out tomorrow for a photo shoot.

Finally, I'm sad to be missing the Woodworking In America conference. Mike Wenzloff was kind enough to offer me space at his bench, but with my recent show schedule, as well as making planes, it just wasn't possible to make it. Philly Planes in Philly seemed a match made in heaven ;) So my thoughts are of all the lucky woodworkers who are able to attend - have a blast!



Monday, September 28, 2009

With Knobs On.....

Hi Folks
Been enjoying myself today, back at the 'bench. The sun was shining, the tools were sharp and I've got some fun planes on the go. Two jointers and two panel raisers. There's a kind of symmetry to it ;)
One thing I've been doing is turning front knobs for a plane. We are all familiar with the standard "Bailey" front knob - like a ball with a stem. Its easy to grip but I do find it a little uncomfortable if you have to use it for a long period of time - then the older style "mushroom" grip is much nicer. I have an old pre-war Stanley #6 that has both handles re-made by the original owner - the rear tote is slightly shorter than standard and feels "compact". I think he must of had smaller hands than me. But the front knob is a slightly fat mushroom shape and is totally gorgeous :) I also like the feel of the one on the Veritas Low Angle Jack.
So I've been turning up half a dozen variations to find my favourite - turning is not my first love, but I do enjoy it once I get into it. And I can now supply my customer with a plane with a choice of front knobs that will suit his hands, not just my own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Hi Folks
Well I'm safely back in the workshop. Three shows in four weeks is too much - there's only one of me, after all ;)
Cressing Temple was an enormous success - the location was perfect, the range of exhibits wide and there was a real buzz in the air. Everyone was catered for (even the children - there was a storyteller stroller the site entertaining the young, and not so young, ones)
The hand tool barn was packed with quality - David Charlesworth, Clifton, Konrad Sauer, Lie-Nielsen, John Lloyd, Veritas (complete with two of their designers, direct from Canada!), Richard Maguire with his awesome handmade workbenches, instrument makers and many many more, including my good self.
It is always a pleasure to chat with everyone who comes by the bench at shows- the feedback and encouragement really re-charges my batteries and reinforces my belief in what I am doing. Cheers!

So back in the 'shop I am working on a Jointer plane in Ovangkol. I finished making the lever cap and norris adjuster yesterday and will have the plane together and running today. Then I can start detailing it and apply the finish - this timber really comes alive when the oil goes on!

Had a visit from a Canadian customer this week - he wanted to collect his Skew Miter plane while visiting England on holiday. Always nice to have visitors at the 'shop - if you're ever in this part of the country drop me a line and come by for a cuppa and a tour!



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

European Woodworking Show

Hi Folks
Another week, another woodworking show! This weekend is the European Woodworking show at Cressing Temple. It looks like its going to be something special, with a huge list of international ehibitors and demonstrators. I'm looking forward to meeting up with Konrad Sauer again to talk plane stuff and also to see his new infill smoother! Also top Axeman Steve Woodley will be there - always a pleasure to watch him at work.
Skew Miter planes have been this weeks main work, as it seems to be a really popular model at the moment. I should have a pair available for sale this weekend - you can try them out at the show. I've also been busy making plane adjusting hammers - both wooden and brass headed.

A customer has commissioned a convex soled Jack plane for making coopered doors - should be an excellent plane to make and looking forward to geting that one underway. There are also panel raisers and Jointers in progress, so a nice mix of planes about to stream out of the workshop in the coming weeks. Watch this spot for pictures!

Lambrettas news! We've got three new gigs booked for the band, and many more in the pipeline. A new website is being built as we speak and a Facebook group has been set up. So the future is looking bright for the Lambo's.



Wednesday, September 09, 2009


HI Folks
Another crazy week here at Philsville - the Yandles Woodworking show is a couple days away and I've been working like crazy to catch up with orders and make stock to take to the show. The weekend after next is the European Woodworking show at Cressing Temple - a new woodworking show, and one that I think is going to be quite something. So no respite for me this month - at least I get a few months rest from shows after that.

Been making good progress on a Jointer plane this week - it is made from Ovangkol, a favourite timber of mine. Its a very hard timber, and working it is quite difficult as the grain is very interlocked and extremely prone to tear-out. So I've been taking it slow and steady, sharpening the tools at the first signs of trouble. The throat has been chopped out and the bed pared, the tote has been shaped and polished and I started work on the metalwork today - this plane is to have a Norris adjuster and screw cap. More pics as she comes to life......
Remember the Lambrettas gig I played a few weeks ago? I've managed to get my hands on two camcorder recordings made on the night - quite enjoyable to watch it again (as well as squirm at the mistakes!). We have had quite a few enquiries about playing other gigs so hopefully we should have a small tour booked for later this year. I'll keep you up to date on this as the dates are confirmed.



Friday, September 04, 2009

Westonbirt 2009

HI Folks
I'm safely back in the workshop following the Westonbirt show. Five days is a long time to be stood in a field.........;)
The show was great fun, and there were huge amounts of people milling about the place. There is so much to see, all tree related, and its such an inspiring place to hold a woodwork event.
It was great to meet so many people who read this blog - thanks for coming up and saying "Hi", it made my day. And I thought only my Mum read this blog........

I came home with two six foot lengths of Boxwood, saved from the firewood pile. I've broken it down into suitably sized billets and it should make some lovely planes in a few years.

There were plenty of woodworking superstars on hand - Rob Cosman, David Charlesworth, David Lloyd and many more. I particularly enjoyed watching carver Pascal (sorry I forget his full name) making piece after piece - he worked fast but made such beautifully detailed pieces. Very inspiring! And it was very interesting to watch Dovetail King Rob Cosman at work - he's changed his dovetail demo so that he cuts the complete joint in five minutes. Impressive to see him working so fast, while still making killer joints!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this event is that the majority of the exhibitors camp together on-site. The organiser (a big thank you to Mike Hancock of Classic Hand Tools) arranges for a chef to come cater for the crew. Its a wonderful communal experience to eat, work and relax together. Although I would happily do without the rain next time ;)

So, I'm almost recovered fromt he show - it's incredible how drained you find yourself on returning home. I'm back in the workshop working on a jointer with a norris adjuster - pics soon.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Festival Of The Tree

Hi Folks
I'm feverishly packing for the this years Westonbirt event, the "Festival of the Tree". It's a great show, made all the more special by its wonderful setting, the Westonbirt Arboretum. This will my third year attending (the second as an exhibitor) and one aspect I really enjoy is the accomodation - a tent! Most of the exhibitors camp on-site, which makes for an enjoyable communal experience.
I've got five Classic Smoothers packed ready to display, and as you can see from the photo's they're a handsome bunch - I'm looking forward to seeing how they're received. There are some details on the website in the meantime - thanks to all who have emailed me.

Until next week......


Monday, August 24, 2009

The "Classic Smoother"

Hi Folks

Have some more info on the new plane for you at last. First up, the irons.......

As I mentioned previously, Karl Holtey is making the irons for these planes himself. He has sent me some information on these, which I shall reproduce below.

The A2 alloy used on all Holtey blades is of the highest specification (A2 does not mean a standard, it is just a designation).

The heat treatment has been designed for me by one of the finest metallurgists; it is very complex including triple tempering followed by a soak for considerable duration in liquid nitrogen. This needs to be carried out by a specialised heat treatment company.

These blades are then precisionally surface ground on all surfaces to the highest tool room standards. These blades will hold the finest edge and have considerable resistance to abrasions. This gives the blade a better performance for considerably longer than carbon steel.

These blades made for Philly Planes have been made exclusive for Phil Edwards and to the same exacting standard as all Holtey blades."

So there you go - the real deal! I've been giving these blades a thorough testing and I'm very impressed with them. Also, Karl surface grinds all the faces and edges - no other blade on the market is finished as well. I'm over the moon to be able to offer these irons in my plane.

I've put some photo's of a finished smoother here for you all to see - it's in Cocobolo, a very handsome timber. Sadly I'm affected quite badly by its dust, so this will probably be the last plane I make in Cocobolo. But I have some other exotic beauties in the pipeline - Partridge wood, Ebony and a timber called Ebano. I've not heard of this one before, but it is seriously dense - easily as heavy as Lignum, but a much lighter brown colour. I'm really looking forward to using it.

Again, if you're interested in more details on the "Classic Smoother" email me at

Bye for now....


Friday, August 21, 2009

More Plane Teasers...

HI Folks

Here's another sneak peak at the new plane (which is going to be called the "Classic Smoother").
I'm making six to bring to the Festival of the Tree next week, from a variety of special timbers - Boxwood, Santos Rosewood, Cocobolo, African Blackwood and a very, very special piece of Rosewood from Karl Holtey's stash. Its a wonderfully figured piece and I can't wait to apply the finish to see its true colours.

More soon.....


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Plane

Hi Folks
I've been hinting about a new plane model for a while now, and think its time to explain.
At the West Dean Hand Tool event a few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Karl Holtey, probably the worlds #1 plane maker. His work is astonishing, and the chance to chat with him over the weekend on plane related matters was wonderful. At the end of the show he suggested we should work together on my next plane.....

So - after a few months of phone calls, emails, posting of prototypes, etc, we have the final design ready to unveil. It is a smoothing plane, with traditional styling, and is extremely comfortable in the hands as well as on the eye. The big bonus is the Iron - Karl is making the irons for this model, using his own recipe of A2 steel. This will be surface ground on ALL surfaces, and stamped with the "Holtey" name - I have been testing one of these irons out and they are superb, offering extended edge holding ability.

The cool thing is that Karl is making this blade specifically for this model plane - it is not available anywhere else. And with his input into the design we have come up with a very handsome plane - I think you will all be impressed when you see it in the flesh. And speaking of which, I will be debuting this plane at the Westonbirt "Festival of the Tree", from the 28th through to the 31st of August. If you are attending please come by the bench and say "Hello"!

If you are interested in more details on this new plane or pre-ordering, email me at



Monday, August 17, 2009


Hi Folks

Some of you might know that I play guitar - I'm a bit of a musician and play in a couple of local bands. An oportunity arose recently for me to play with a rather special band - The Lambrettas. They were pretty big in the '80's Mod music scene, and had a few chart hit singles.
A couple of years ago their frontman, Jez Bird, passed away. An invitation to reform for a festival in Brighton meant that the guitarist Doug Sanders had to step up to the vocal mike, leaving the guitar spot empty. Enter Philly stage left ..........

So this weekend, after a few weeks feverish practising, the Lambrettas headlined the Modrophenia '79 festival at the Brighton Concorde center. It was their first gig since 1982 and we enjoyed a very warm reception! There are a few video clips of us on Youtube - search for "lambrettas concorde" and you'll find them. I'm the one on the right of your screens ;)

This week its back to the workshop. And maybe I'll reveal all on my new plane model.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another Blog To Read...

HI Folks
I notice that saw maker extraordinaire Mike Wenzloff has now started blogging. Get over there and take a look....

Add Image

And a great name, Mike - you should have gone for that originally ;)


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Guitars, Gaps and Jointers.....

Hi Folks

Remember the electric guitar project I've been working on? It's just about complete. I've got a couple of small tweaks left to do, but the guitar is playable (and I've been playing it!). I get such a thrill from playing an instrument I bungled together myself - the feeling of shock when I hear it ringing out. And the relief when it is still in one piece five minutes later - when the strings are tuned up to tension I expect the thing to implode any second. I'll post a sound clip soon.

Following the bandsaw blade drama I thought it was time I upgrade another machine that was waiting to "get me". I have a 12 inch disc sander that has become an invaluable tool for me - shaping curves, cleaning up end grain and even shaping metal parts. So I decided to buy a second machine so I could keep one dedicated to metalwork. Sadly the new machine had a large gap (9mm) between the edge of the table and the sanding disc - when working small pieces it is possible (and yes, I've done it) to have the workpiece pulled down through this gap. With the usual underpant threatening consequences.......... ;)
So I fashioned a new table from 3/4 MDF - it only took ten minutes to remove the old one and replace it. And I now have a tiny (read SAFE) gap. I'm so please with this I need to do the other table now (yup, the sander is a double-header).
Plane news.....
It's Jointer season - I'm building a 30 inch beech jointer at the moment (with a similar plane up next). That's a long plane!! More pics as she comes together.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Balls, Please....

Hi Folks
Thought I'd tell you about an "incident" that happened in the workshop today. I was cutting a wedge on the bandsaw in some 15mm thick beech - got halfway through the cut when there was an almighty bang!!
After the initial shock I managed to turn off the power and count my fingers - still all there, I'm pleased to say. And once I'd changed my underpants I was able to investigate further - the blade had snapped.
It's been a while since I've had a blade snap on the bandsaw (three years, in fact) and thinking back I've noticed this blade starting to misbehave. And this was a 25mm wide blade, so a big one - hence the boom when it let go!
But on the up side, it made me realise how safe a machine the bandsaw is. If the blade disintegrated on the table saw it would of been a much nastier outcome, I'm sure.

So with clean underwear fitted I'm ready to venture back into the workshop. I'm working on a new plane at the moment and I'm very, very excited about it. More details in the coming weeks - but its going to be cool!



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Favourite Things Part 2

Finishing is a tricky subject – it can make or break a project. There are many different finishes, and almost as many different ways to apply them. After using most of the types of finish available I find myself reaching for the Shellac nine times out of ten.

So what is shellac? It is a resin excreted by the Lac bug which feeds on braches of certain trees. The resin is harvested and then purified – the different levels of purification give different shades of shellac, from dark brown through to clear. It is dissolved in alcohol (methylated spirit is fine) and by varying the amount of alcohol to shellac (or the “cut”) you can get different strength solutions (i.e. thicker for bodying up).

Shellac has some excellent traits :

  • It will bond to pretty much anything
  • It dries very fast
  • No strong smell
  • Easily removed – just wipe off with an alcohol soaked rag.
  • Each application melts into previous layers, so no problems with “sand through”
  • Most other finishes will bond to it, so it can be used as a sealer (i.e. between an oil based finish and a water based finish)

For me one of the best things about shellac is its versatility – you can wipe on a single thing coat to seal the timber against fingerprints (think Jim Krenov’s method of finishing) or you can continue to add layers of finish to get the desired sheen or thickness. And the speed with which it dries means you can make some serious progress – no waiting overnight for the finish to cure. Only a couple of minutes are needed for it to be dry.

Ease of application is another plus – I’ve used paper towels, rags, mini-rollers and brushes. You can also spray it, but I’ve never felt the need to.

So what downsides are there to shellac? Well, it is dissolved in alcohol, so shellac probably wouldn’t make the best finish for a bar top – a few splashed drops of whiskey would spell disaster. Its also not water proof, so is only suitable for indoor use. But that’s about it.

Shellac is a wonderful finish for wood – it brings out the beauty of the grain and figure and makes it shine. It is a natural finish that has been used for centuries and just looks “right”. My favourite technique is to apply a coat of oil to the piece, buff it dry and then apply shellac. This gives a deep shine and makes the figuring jump out at you. And its quick and easy to do!

One final comment – there are many different shades of shellac. Experiment with them on different colour timbers – I love garnet on walnut, and lemon adds an interesting “vintage” tint to most timbers.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Favourite Things Part 1

Hi Folks

I thought over the next week I would blog about some of my favourite things. But don't worry, its about simple, useful (and cheap!) things around the workshop that I use everyday and wouldn't be without.

So to the first item - Superglue.

I'm sure most of us have used superglue at one time or another (and have a bad memory of sticking your fingers to the item to be repaired!). Its cheap, easily available and dries fast.
I was interested to find it comes in different thicknesses - I'd only used the regular stuff. You can get a thick gel version (which doesn't run - useful on vertical surfaces) and a low viscosity thin version, too. The thin stuff has become a workshop favourite of mine - it has hundreds of uses. The cool thing is this - due to its watery consistency it wicks into cracks and openings. So you can sit two pieces together then wick the glue in afterwards - cool! And it also draws itself into cracks, so the next time you have a piece of timber chip or split just let some glue seep its way in and then hold the chip down for a few seconds until it sets. Perfect repair!

Over in the guitar making world repair guys use superglue for many, many things. And turners also use superglue as a finish! Is there no end of uses for this wonderful stuff?

A perfect companion to superglue is accelerator - just spray one surface with it before putting the two parts together and the glue sets almost instantly. Or you can use a drop of accelerator to set a layer of glue before adding another, allowing you to build up a repair quickly.

So - some of my applications for superglue:

As a filler - just add sawdust.
For gluing metal to wood.
Repairing splits, checks and cracks.
To glue up quick jigs.
To temporarily tack pieces together (pry them apart within 10 minutes though)
To strengthen soft areas of timber.
As a thread lock.

For me the best attribute is speed - apply the glue, hold the pieces together for a few seconds - done! And its a surprisingly strong bond, too, once it cures fully.
Just remember not to glue your fingers together - maybe an emergency tube of superglue dissolver would be a good thing to add to the list.



Monday, June 29, 2009


Hi Folks
Found some spare time on the weekend to do some more work on my guitar project. I've added the binding around the body and given the guitar a good sanding - the top was then stained with a thinned lemon dye. A coat of cellulose sealer keeps the dirt out of the pores.
Next step is to finish inlaying the fingerboard and then I can spray the finish.

This week sees a smoother in Greenheart - a very hard and dense timber. More pics soon!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coffin Smoother with Norris Adjuster

Hi Folks
Had a good day finishing off the brass soled coffin smoother - take as look at the photo's, I think you'll agree it came out quite nicely!
I was very pleased with the adjuster - it works smoothly and accurately. And the plane is a pleasur e to use, the substantial weight means you only have to push the plane forward - it holds itself onto the workpiece!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Black Magic

Hi Folks
Just putting the finishing touches on my current plane - its a brass soled coffin smoother in African Blackwood. This one is special as it has a norris-style adjuster, the first on this particualr model.
I've completed all the major components and have only the final shaping and finishing to complete. So tomorrow will see this beauty complete - looking forward to seeing this one polished up!

I was flicking through the current issue of "British Woodworking" magazine and was pleasantly surprised to see me featured in an article on scrapers - I vaguely remember demonstratrating how to sharpen and use them at the recent WL West show. And the article also shows my Toted Smoother in use, too.

Over at Karl Holteys website he has started blogging - very enlightening to see some of his methods being demonstrated. Well worth a read!