Monday, October 16, 2017

Wooden Router Plane - Finis

I finished off shaping my wooden router plane, and gave it a few coats of shellac and a spot of wax.

It works fine, but it's not going to be taking the place of my trusty Record or Stanley routers any time soon. It'll be purely an emergency backup extra router, in case I should need one.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Making a Wooden Router Plane

This may not look like anything much, but it's actually a fully functional router plane.

Admittedly, it's not a very beautiful router plane just yet, but it works as one, which is the important thing. It has some shaping to be done as yet, now that I know it works as expected, and I also want to add a couple of tee-nuts so that I can mount a grooving fence to it.

The cutter is from Veritas, and is the same format as that for the Stanley No.70 or Record No.71 planes. It's held in place by a ¼" threaded eye-bolt which passes through the body of the router to a wing-nut at the back.

The wing-nut is functional, but uncomfortable, and I'd like to replace it with a knurled thumb-nut at some stage.

I've learned a thing or two from this so far, and I may (or may not) make another.

The cutter and eye-bolt
The wing-nut

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cunning Dovetail Jig

 This may not look like much, but in fact it's an amazingly useful and cunning dovetailing jig that makes cutting dovetails a piece of cake. It's a variation on a jig developed by Paul Sellars.

One of the crucial things to get well-fitting dovetails is getting your cuts dead square, which is especially tricky on very thin stock. I've been making a bunch of small boxes out of 8mm thick pine, and 8mm doesn't give you much leeway to gauge your accuracy visually.

The thick base of this jig allows you to get your cuts square every time. Its been marked and cut with one raked cut for a side of the dovetail, and one horizontal cut, for a shoulder. In this instance I only need one tail, but it can be easily expanded for multiple tails.
NOTE: The observant will note that there are actually two shoulder cuts, but I realised that by putting a registration peg out in the middle of the tail I'd only need the one.

The piece to be cut is put into the jig, hard up against the side piece and hard up against the top registration peg(s).

Then the saw is offered into the dovetail cut in the jig, and the first cut is made.

The piece is then flipped over, and the cut on the other side of the tail is made the same way.
Note: I'm not left-handed; this is a posed shot for the camera.
Next, the whole lot is turned sideways in the vice, and the first shoulder cut is made in the same manner.

Again, the piece is flipped over and the opposite cut is made the same way.
Note: that left-hand cut is one I included before I realised that a registration peg in the middle of the tail would give more accurate symmetry than relying on allowing for the depth of the shoulder with the original corner peg.
I didn't time my work, but I'd be surprised if it took more than four or five minutes to complete each piece, with guaranteed accuracy. It would be longer of course if you're cutting multiple tails, but it's still much faster and more reliable than doing it all by eye.

There are a couple of changes I'd make for future versions.

  1. I'd make the jig back-plate a bit wider, say about 25mm wider than the work piece, so that the saw starts its shoulder cut more reliably square. On this one, there's only a couple of millimetres from the edge of the piece to the edge of the jig, and though it worked OK, more depth would be better.
  2. The top registration peg in the corner isn't really necessary. A single peg that sits in the middle of the piece's tail is adequate to ensure that everything is properly registered for cutting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


A5. Black ink pen and coloured pencils.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Saw Conversion Complete (mostly)

The conversion of my cheap gents' saw into a rather nice dovetail saw is pretty much complete.

It's now completely usable, and it cuts very nicely with a good thin kerf.

Alas, it's still moderately hideous from its left-hand side until I can figure out a decent way to hide the captive square bolts. They don't affect the saw's functionality in any way, but they're aesthetically unpleasing.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Saw Conversion

I have an inexpensive gents' saw that I'm converting into a pistol-grip dovetail saw. I'll have to remove the saw's handle, cut off the tang and reshape the plate slightly, and then mount it into the new handle I'm in the process of shaping from a piece of 25mm thick oak I had lying around.

The existing saw is OK, though not great. The steel is decent and it cuts well, but its back-spline is a little light. Ideally I'd like to change that for a good stiff, heavy brass one, but I'm not sure that I'm capable. For the moment it can stay with the existing spline; I can always swap it out at a later date with only minor surgery to the new handle.

This is more or less how it will look when it's assembled. Of course, the grip will be shaped so that it's a lot more comfortable to hold.

One thing that's troubling me is the pair of nuts and bolts that should hold the plate to the handle. Traditionally they should be brass split-nuts, in which the bolt (or rather, machine screw) part of the pair screws into a threaded, capped tube. This gives the assembly a very neat look, but as far as I can find they're just not available anywhere in New Zealand except by cannibalizing some from an old saw. I can get some from overseas, but they're quite expensive in themselves, and the postage being demanded by the vendors is eye-watering — one mob in the UK wants £45 in addition to the cost of the fixings themselves!

Well, they're not essential; I want to use them mostly for aesthetic reasons. It would be nice to have some though, not least because I have some missing from some of my other saws that I'd like to replace.


I finished the shaping of the handle, and gave it a single coat of oil just to seal it.

I drilled a couple of small guide holes where the screws will eventually go; there's no point in going any further with them until I know exactly what hardware I've got for them.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Registration and Separations

 I've figured out a way of getting properly registered colour separations (and, eventually, prints).

I've built a frame on a piece of MDF which closely surrounds the block on three sides. Outside that frame are registration tabs to set the paper into, so the paper and block are always in exactly the same place, relative to each other. All the blocks are precisely the same size, so it works for all of them.

The frame around the block is the same thickness as the MDF I've cut the block from, which means that there's a support for the baren to run on to — that helps to keep it out of the voids, and it also means that it's less likely to shift the block by pressing against an outside edge. There's a floating piece, not attached, that I put across the right-hand edge after the block is in place for the same purpose.

The colour block guide prints are created by an offset printing process. The key block (the one in the frame in this photo) is printed on to a sheet of mylar, registered in the paper registration tabs. Then it and the key block are removed, one of the colour blocks put into the frame, and the mylar replaced against the registration tabs, and rubbed down against the fresh block with a rubber brayer (roller). That transfers a reversed image of the key block in perfect registration, and I can use that image to guide me in cutting the colour block.

I've put up a cheap portable washing line in my workshop that I can use for drying prints. These ones are on A3 sheets, and I figure I could get about 30 up there before they started to interfere with my printing area. I'm unlikely to be doing any large runs, so that should be plenty.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New-Model Baren (Mk.II & III)

At top, Baren Mk.I, the one I've been using up until now
On the right, Baren Mk.II (8mm cabochons), and to the left, Mk.III (12mm).
The 8mm and 12mm glass cabochons I ordered from China three weeks ago arrived this morning, so I've put together the disks for Baren Mk.II (bottom right) and Baren Mk.III (bottom left). I ordered 200 of each size, and the 8mm cabochons just covered the disk surface with three left over; thanks to the magic of geometry, the 12mm cabochons required only about a third the number to cover the same area.

The disks are 120mm in diameter, cut from 3mm hardboard. Hardboard is more hard-wearing and less vulnerable to water than MDF; it's not likely that these will ever get significantly wet, but better safe than sorry. The cabochons are glued to the disks with 24-hour cure epoxy resin (so they won't be ready for use until tomorrow at the earliest).

Both of the new ones are wider and flatter than the first one I made, which should make it less likely that they'll push paper down into the voids of a block where excess ink can often be found. The 8mm beads make for the flattest surface of course, with the largest number of contact points; I suspect that will also make it the hardest, physically, to use, as it will require more strength to keep all those points in firm contact with the paper surface. The proof of the pudding will be, as they say, in the eating. I won't know for sure until I actually start using them.

The 8mm beads have been laid out in a regular grid, while the 12mm beads were laid out in decreasing concentric circles. What difference (if any) that will make, I don't know; I'd like to try the less regular layout with the smaller cabochons, but I'll have to order some more in that case as I've used up almost my entire supply on this one.

Friday, September 22, 2017


That gouge is a very shitty gouge. Really, really shitty.
I've found a block-making material, new to me, that I rather like. It's a rubbery synthetic laminate, blue on one side and green on the other, and grey in the middle so it's very easy to see exactly where you're cutting. It can be cut very easily, just like lino, except that it's a bit more resilient and it doesn't split and crumble as lino can do. I don't yet know if there's any qualitative difference between the blue and green sides; thus far I've only cut the green and next time I'll do the blue.

Like lino, it's not great at reproducing very fine detail, but then if I want that I'll use wood.

It's not without its faults though. It repels water, so I can't draw directly on to the block with brush and indian ink as is my preference. Nor does it accept solvent transfer from a photocopy or laser print. A pencil line is quite indistinct against the green or blue background. I can draw on it with a Sharpie, so at least there's that.

I have some 75mm (3") Speedball soft rubber brayers, and I like them, but they're rather too narrow for me. I'd like some at least twice that width; the smaller ones have a tendency to fall into voids and leave ink where it's not wanted, so open areas have to be cut a bit deeper than would otherwise be necessary to keep them from printing.

My glass-bead baren, though otherwise excellent, is also a bit small, and the individual cabochons a little large. I'm waiting on some smaller glass cabochons, and when they arrive I'll make a wider, flatter one.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sketchbook Doodlings



Spring Feet

Seminar Bung Knee

Feet Of Many Sizes

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Proof Is Out There

The block

The first proof
I finished cutting the key block.

I was originally planning to cut away the blank background areas completely, to eliminate the chance of any accidental ink contamination, but then I realised that would make registration placement quite difficult. So instead, I carved them away quite deeply so that the brayer (ink roller) doesn't touch them. I'll probably also give them a couple of coats of gloss varnish, so that if I do get ink in those areas I can just wipe it away.

The first proof (right) was pretty successful. There are a couple of areas that could do with a bit of extra cutting, but overall I'm fairly happy with it.

I can see that I'm going to have to be quite careful with the baren at the ends of the block — you can see a faint patch at bottom right where I skipped over it a bit.

Next up, I shall build a registration frame and start working out the colour blocks.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Block Cutting

I'm cutting my first block in quite some considerable time, and my hands and neck are cramping up something awful. This is the key block; I'm thinking the finished print will be in three or maybe four colours, so of course blocks will have to be carved for each of them as well.

I'm using MDF, which isn't the best material in the world for block making, but it has some advantages. It's cheap and easily available, and it has no grain, which makes carving it a lot more like linocut than woodcut — your knife or gouge isn't going to be deflected by an unexpectedly hard and twisty bit of grain. However, it's rather fibrous, and if your tools aren't scalpel-sharp it tends to tear. It's pretty hard on tool edges too, so you need to be sharpening fairly often.

The image is one that I drew a few years ago, in ball-point pen.

I did a solvent transfer of a laser print of it on to the MDF, and then over-drew it with brush and Indian ink — I find that a brush drawing works quite well as a cutting guide, as I can't get too finicky about detail that I'd never be able to cut. For an image like this, the brush line changes the character of the image somewhat, but I like that; there seems little point to me in trying to force one medium into replicating another.

The small print you see in the main image is just a quickie I took early on in the cutting to see how the cutting will reproduce. That ink should be red, but it's been sitting in its tube so long that it's separated out, and despite all the kneading and massaging of the tube I could do, it stubbornly persists in squirting out mainly its chrome yellow base. I did the test print in a colour other than black because I wanted to still be able to see my ink lines afterwards.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Baren Test

 I gave my glass-bead baren its first test outing today. I used water-soluble Flint relief printing ink, applied to a roughly 120mm square MDF block with a rubber brayer.

This one is one very thin, smooth note paper, and it was pretty easy to get a fairly clean, sharp impression. I need to pay close attention to keeping the paper in place though; the first one I did moved about a bit under the rotational thrust of the baren, but it's not really difficult to keep it still if I pay attention.
This one is on fairly heavy printmaking paper — I don't know the manufacturer — about 280-300 gsm, I'd guess.

The impression is not as clean as on the thinner, smoother paper, which is not unexpected, but it's not too bad. It's worst at the bottom of the print, which I think is because I was a bit uneven in my rubbing pressure.

What I've learned from this very brief test is that the glass beads work very well as a baren surface, moving smoothly and easily over the paper surface, and it's easy to get a good amount of pressure without having to grunt and strain. However, I think it would work better with more, smaller beads, more closely spaced, so I'll see what I can find and make a second one.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


The components
All the bits together
A baren is basically a palm-burnisher for relief printmaking. The traditional Japanese ones are made from coarse-twisted cord glued spiral-fashion on a lacquer-laminated card disk, the whole being wrapped in a broad bamboo leaf to reduce friction and simultaneously create a hand-strap.

My version replaces the lacquered card with hardboard and the twine with small glass cabochons, which removes the need for the friction-reducing bamboo leaf. It means there are fewer, broader "points" than on the twine version, to transfer the ink from the plate to paper, but that has its pluses as well as minuses.
It looks kind of delicious, don't you think?

The cabochons are glued to the hardboard with epoxy. I've used the 24-hour cure super-strength stuff, but mainly for its extended working time rather than for its mechanical properties.

The glass cabochons themselves aren't precisely sized, which would make getting a perfectly level surface difficult (or impossible) if I glued them directly to the hardboard disc. So, instead I laid them out flat-side-up on this silicone baking sheet, added a blob of epoxy to each one, and then laid the disc down on top of them. The unevenness of the cabochon thickness is taken up by the epoxy resin, so it no longer matters that they're all subtly different. 

Conveniently, the sheet has these concentric rings printed on it, which made it a simple matter to keep everything centred.

It would be usable in its present state (once the glue has cured properly), but I intend to add a shallow wooden dome to it, both to make it easier to hold, and also to ensure that my hand pressure is being distributed evenly across the whole face of the baren. I'll also be able add a hand-strap, which means that I won't have to divert any energy to just holding on to the thing.

I'm getting really impatient to see how well it works. I must hold my enthusiasm in check until everything is properly dry.

A few days later....

Shellacked oak hand-pad

Delicious-looking glass cabochons,
looking like glacé cherries.
I've finished it off now, with the addition of a fairly hefty shellacked oak hand-pad. The whole thing is about 100mm in diameter.

I've only given it one outing as yet, and a fairly perfunctory one at that, but it was sufficient to give me an idea as to how to improve it. These cabochons are 20mm in diameter, and I think it would work better with more and smaller beads. To that end, I've ordered some 8mm and 12mm cabochons, and when they arrive I'll make a couple more and see how they compare.

I'm feeling quite optimistic about it.

So, now I shall have to get on to cutting some blocks, and getting some decent light-weight paper to print on — the baren works OK with heavier paper, but it's definitely more hard work, and the printing isn't quite as crisp.

Friday, August 18, 2017

More doodling

This is like those adult colouring books I guess, only without the colouring book.

A5 cartridge paper, black ink rollerball, coloured pencils.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Black roller-ball ink pen on cartridge paper. Each page is A5.
That's about 6" x 8½" for Americans who are still stuck with archaic and arbitrary measurement systems.
I like to doodle while I'm watching British panel shows on TV, because it makes me feel like I'm not just lying there passively absorbing entertainment and wasting my life away fruitlessly. Sometimes it'll be a drawing of an actual thing, but it's just as likely to be something like these, because doodles like these don't require a great deal of attention while I'm doing them.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tiny, tiny chisel

The sharp end looks black because it's been polished to a mirror finish,
and that confuses the hell out of the scanner sensor.

Sometimes you just need a smaller chisel than you have. I found myself in just such a situation, so I sacrificed a cheap little needle file for the task.

I heated the top end to red hot with a butane torch for just a couple of minutes; this isn't enough to completely soften the steel, but it does make it a little bit more workable, and relieves some of the file's very brittle hardness. A better way to do it would be to put it into an oven at about 200-220° for an hour or so, but I didn't want to take the time, because I require INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

I ground off the file's cutting surfaces and polished them all to a mirror finish, and ground and polished the tip to an angle of 30°. This gives me a chisel edge of about 0.9mm wide.

The whole job took about twenty minutes, I guess.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Oak Router Bed

I have a Record 071 router plane which I like a lot, but it has some issues. Most important, it's missing its depth adjustment screw, though I'm hoping to fix that shortly.

The other issue is its cast steel base, which though great for gliding across a wood surface, does tend to leave black marks behind it. (I have a much older brass Stanley router plane that does it too, probably due to the lead content of the brass alloy.)

To fix that problem, and also to increase the surface area of the base, I've given it a new wooden base, laboriously planed down to thickness from a piece of oak I had sitting around. Oak isn't ideal for the purpose; it's good and stiff, but it has a very prominent grain, and because it's being pushed across the grain there's quite a bit of friction. Some nice slow-grown English beech would be better. However, oak is what I've got, so oak it is for the moment.

I'm wondering if a few coats of shellac might help it slip a bit more easily. I'm reluctant to try wax, because I don't want it leaving wax on the surface of the timber I'm routing.
LATER: Shellac works a treat, About three coats, applied quite thin, and then polished back with an 0000 nylon abrasive pad, and now it slips and slides beautifully.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tragic. Just tragic.

I found a dismembered body on the street.

I bought it home.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Enoch the Omnipotent

Here's the little idol I carved, Enoch the Omnipotent, all stained and waxed.

I've named him after a Small (but willing) God who once saved our D&D characters by manifesting a handful of pennies in front of our pursuers. He also made us a picnic feast once. We returned his service by evangelising constantly, in the hope of expanding his worship base, and getting in on the ground floor when it came to handing out divine favour.

Enoch has a butt, but NO GENITALS, because he's not that kind of god.

Total height: 250mm.
Material: pine.