Shock and Oar

Broken weld - now redeployed as a handy straight edge

Broken weld – now redeployed as a handy straight edge

The woodworking industry has one of the highest accident rates in manufacturing. Circular saws are very dangerous (30% of accidents), followed by planers (20%), spindle moulders (15%) and bandsaws (10%). They’re all just waiting to have your fingers. We’ve been doing some machinery safety training in preparation for the fact that the reality of boat building isn’t all about spending days and weeks with a hand plane and chisels, however idyllic that might be. Basically you shouldn’t go near a machine without a couple of push-sticks to prod the work through and keeping your hands well out of it. I almost found this out to my cost this week when I used a band saw to cut some waste from my oar. I had it all lined up and ready to go when the weld that joins the ends of the saw blade together failed and the blade spewed out of the machine quite dramatically. Luckily I’d just had my training, and Jon was keeping a close eye on what I was doing, so my hands were well out of the way of the blade. The brake kicked in and stopped the machine quickly, but it was a good lesson learned; a bag of flesh isn’t much of a match for large woodworking machines.

Back in the relative safety (only the occasional plaster) and quiet of the joinery shop, I spent the rest of the week with my spar gauge  planes, spoke shave, draw knife and 3 grades of sandpaper fashioning my Oar1 Oar2 Oar3 Oar4 Oar5 Oar6 Oar7 Oar8 Oar9 Oar10oar out of three pieces of spruce that were glued together. It really does seem miraculous to see the curved shape of the blade and the cylindrical shaft emerge from a block of wood; more like sculpture than joinery. It does take a long time though; but now it’s finished (minus 1 coat of varnish) so at least I’ll be OK next time I’m up the proverbial creek (which isn’t usually a very long wait).

Joiner’s Toys

Catalogue of Chandler and Farquhar, Boston, 1900. Smithsonianphoto 55798.

Catalogue of Chandler and Farquhar, Boston, 1900.

Like many male dominated pursuits, there is a degree of kit fetishism involved with joinery; which in the case of class 111 seems to be centred around planes. There’s a lot of interest in older planes in the group as they can work as well as, or better than new products. Beautiful new planes can be bought from companies such as Lie-Nielsen and Clifton, but the basic principle of operation hasn’t really changed for hundred of years. The earliest known planes date from the 1st century AD, and modern planes would probably be recognisable to a Roman carpenter. The iron bodied Bailey planes shown in the Chandler and Farquhar catalogue on the left were first introduced in the 1870s, and most of them can still be bought as Stanley or Record products with exactly the same design, dimensions and product numbers.

It’s amazing what you can do with a plane. I started off with a cheap no. 3 smoothing plane that occasionally saw the light of day when a door was sticking. Because I never sharpened it, it generally did more harm than good. Now I’ve built up a bit of a collection of old planes; some have been given to me by friends that have found them in sheds, some have been bought for a few pounds at tool sales and some cost a bit more. In the joinery shop we’ve used them in a variety of different ways in the past 12 weeks to create flat surfaces, perpendicular edges, angles, curves, bevelled edges and sometimes just to get rid of waste wood. We’ve used them to make boxes, mallets, bench hooks, oars and even more planes.

The latest addition to my plane collection - a bollow plane

The latest addition to my plane collection – a bollow plane

I’ve just finished making a bollow plane in beech, which will be used to scoop out the blade of a spoon oar, which is my next project. With my bench hook, mallet, dovetail gauge and spar gauge, I’ve now got a small collection of tools I’ve made myself, which provided a feeling of self sufficiency until I remembered that I needed a plane to make the plane and a mallet to make the mallet. So now I’m just wondering how they made the first one.

Zac using Andreu's old wooden jointer plane

Zac using Andreu’s old wooden jointer plane

My plane collection

My plane collection

Edward's Mathieson plane with precision adjustment tool

Edward’s Mathieson plane with precision adjustment tool

Grate Expectations

Rails, stiles, ribs and slats

Rails, stiles, ribs and slats

I always have great expectations of the next joinery project. This time it will be perfect and I will defeat the demons. In order to do good joinery, you need to mark out the lines accurately and then cut along the lines. How hard can it be?

This week I’ve been making a proper boat thing; it’s a mahogany floor grating and is the sort of thing that might be used in a boat’s cockpit, heads, shower or galley to allow water to drain away and keep your feet dry(ish). The grating consists of a frame made up of two stiles and two rails joined together with haunched mortise and tenon joints (the haunch hides the tenon from view on the outside edge). Our gratings have four ribs, which are attached to the rails with stub tenons (i.e. little ones) and four slats which are attached to the stiles with tiny beaked tenons. It was all going well; in fact it’s quite engrossing marking out and cutting all the joints; but I was conscious that it was taking rather a long time. That’s the notion that I need to remind myself always leads to things going wrong. The slats need to be recessed into the ribs; four ribs and four slats require 16 intersections between them. I decided that it would be much quicker to put all the ribs together and cut out all the recesses for the cross halving joints in 8 cuts rather than 32. The problem was that I sacrificed a good deal of precision on the altar of speed as I found out when I put them all together, so now I’ve got big gaps between my ribs and slats. Another lesson learned (again); the application of patience is inversely proportional to that of Brummer.

Class 111

Class 111

People have started to disappear from the joinery shop. Andreu and Edward have gone over to ‘the dark side’ (as the boat shed is generally known). We also said goodbye to Jonny; he’s gone off to start working in a boat yard further up the coast. We saw them off in fine style at the Commodore with a slap-up lunch followed by an afternoon and evening lost in a haze of Adnam’s Broadside and reminiscences of the last 12 weeks; we laughed, we cried, we hid Zac’s shoes …