Saturday, 30 May 2015

know sale (or) someone needs a belt

I don't know what possesses some salespeople to act the way they do, especially the technical ones.

A few months ago I went looking for a new 6" or 8" double-ended grinder. I have collected quite a few vintage planes & chisels that will need (substantial) restoration. Many irons are in quite sad shape and will (at least) need a new primary bevel ground. While I am keen to do the final honing by hand, I am not keen on trying to grind away years of abuse to form a new basic bevel manually; I simply don't have that kind of time.

The staff member at the shop didn't so much ask me what I wanted the grinder for as to launch right into a rote diatribe about how to properly sharpen tools. This salesperson stopped just short of flatly refusing to sell me a bench grinder - while sending the clear signal that he considered me an ignorant butcher (or worse) - without bothering to find out any of the reasons I wanted one. I also need one to grind HSS lathe tools, but he didn't make the effort to learn that, either.

Two days ago I went into that shop looking for V-belts. When I asked to peruse their selection, the same fellow immediately demanded of me, "What do you want them for?" I told him I needed some belts to repair an old 'Brand X' drill press. He scowled and told me they didn't sell parts for 'Brand X'. I insisted that he check to see if the two part numbers which were listed on their very own website were in stock. One of them was present and, despite my irritation, I bought it. However if this guy remains employed with this shop I'm going to find somewhere else to spend my discretionary funds.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

vintage bits

Thanks to the outstanding generosity of another tools junkie, I now have a few more tools on site.

First is a Keller #1A die filer. No idea what I'll use it for just yet; maybe cleaning up hard-to-reach places on castings? Ideally, I should have a small kick press to go with it :-). The machine's protective belt cover shows "Etobicoke Board of Ed." which I delightfully recall as the employer of my grandfather many years ago.

Second is an elderly, double-ended grinding arbour which I'm told was made from castings and plans in the "Model Engineer" magazine some time in the mid 50s.

Third is an equally old power hacksaw made from a similarly aged plan set. It shuts off automatically when it finishes the cut. A vise holds material steady during the job, and small depressions for oiling are dotted around the machine.

The latter two were well made by the same gentleman (since passed on) and operate respectably. They share the same small, wheeled table for ease of placement. Not a bad arrangement, but my workspace is now completely jammed with these extra machines.

Time to increase the speed of divesting surplus!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

gone Shop'ing

I'm often amazed at the opportunities that drop into my lap.

The other day a coworker, who just happens to be a talented woodworker in his leisure hours, sent me a link to a Kijiji advert for a couple of Shopsmith Mk V multi-tools. The seller was local to me and the contents were intriguing so I set up a visit for the next morning.

Now, I've always thought of the Shopsmith as a gimmicky machine that probably wouldn't do any of its tasks very well. Consequently I've never given much thought to owing one. However, this coworker is a very strong advocate of their usefulness and functionality, having built many fine furniture pieces as well as using it to support himself in his own business during leaner times.

In the past couple of years, I've had chances to look at a few of these machines in various states of decrepitude and configuration. These machines do have a certain visual appeal, especially for those fond of retro styling and near-infinite fussiness of adjustment options.

The two that I viewed last week were in exceptional condition for 1980/1982 vintage. They had been recently serviced by the local Shopsmith authorised dealer and they operated quietly; all the parts that were supposed to move did so smoothly, while the bits that were meant to stay still obediently kept their place. The two machines were being offered with a broad range of accessories and fittings, including the 4" jointer and 11" bandsaw. The older of the two units (a model 500) was set up semi-permanently in a vertical orientation for drilling, drum sanding, routing, and shaping; with the newer unit (a model 510) being intended for all of the sawing, disc sanding, turning, and jointing duties.

Being a certified (certifiable?) machine junkie and being pleased with their condition, I purchased them on the spot. A mere 5 hours later they had been disassembled, packed, moved, unloaded, and partially reassembled in their new (and increasingly crowded) home.

It remains to delve into the extensive documentation in order to become fully conversant with their many peculiarities. A large box of binders, books, videos (VHS!) and flyers covering the Shopsmith machines and accessories were included in the package. I envision several nights of intense study.

It's also apparent that a number of existing tools are suddenly redundant. A 4" jointer, contractor's table saw, at least one drill press, and a 14" bandsaw can all be moved on to new owners. These two new machines will actually take up less space and offer more functionality than the items they are displacing.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

finally figured it out!

There are a number of people still using Dell 1501 Inspiron laptops. A lot of them are running the Microsoft Vista OS. Most of them seem to have an issue with battery life and/or the system reporting that their battery is unrecognized, needs to be replaced, or will not charge.

Seeing that there was a new version that supposedly fixed this problem, I have tried more than once to update the BIOS on this laptop. It has never worked. As it is not mine, I have not put 100% effort into finding a solution (my bad).

It has come to pass that this laptop is now surplus and can be re-purposed. Getting it running without problems is now more important. I've read every post I could find on the Internet of other people's trials and tribulations with the same issue. Suggestions run from reloading the OS from scratch, to a do-this-then-that hoop-jumping sequence that will make your eyes glaze over. Having just spent a few evenings reloading a different PC with Vista, going through the 170+ updates, re-installing all the applications, and configuring the user accounts, I had no desire to repeat the performance.

So finally (after much head scratching) I got it to work.

This is the 32-bit Vista system that has been upgraded to 2Gb of RAM. Everything else is stock (15.4" XGA, 1.6 GHzTurion processor, Broadcom DW1390 card, etc.)

Dell wants you to download and copy the Win1501263.EXE file to your desktop and execute it from within Vista. This is supposed to extract the new (and last) BIOS image (2.6.3, A16), backup your current BIOS, and write the new BIOS to the motherboard using the WinPhlash utility.

Doing this sort of thing typically requires Administrator privileges, and this instance is no exception.

However, no matter in which order things were clicked, which user account I was logged in under, or even if I ran the Win1501263.EXE self-extract "as administrator", either nothing would happen or the WinPhlash utility would fail with an error. Could be in safe mode, at the command prompt, whatever.

In the end, all it took was to remove the password from the Administrator account, reboot and allow the laptop to enter Vista without a password, and then run the utility from the desktop "as administrator". 

WinPhlash started, asked for an image file, and ran OK. It reported successfully updating the BIOS. I selected"restart" from the Windows menu once it had all finished, and got a weird looking blue screen full of gibberesh during the shutdown - for a moment I thought it had been bricked. But a power-reset led to a clean bootup - WITHOUT the usual warning that the battery could not be recognized during POST. The system then continued on and entered Vista without problem. Within the OS it did once again report that the battery needed to be replaced, however all subsequent boots have not had this warning come up at the POST or within Vista.

The only other thing I've noticed that is different since the update is the F12 boot menu now has a couple more options, including booting from USB media.

Hope this is info helpful to someone else.

Monday, 7 July 2014

outlining an idea


Once more, a tool that I probably needed to use for a quick job never made it back to its proper place. Now I have no idea where it is. Well, it's in the house somewhere, obviously (at least, I think it is). Each spot I think it could be in has been searched, but to no avail.

The arguably laughable idea of having a pegboard on the wall complete with crime-scene style outlines of each tool is becoming more appealing; you can see immediately if a tool is not where it should be.

Current industrial practise leans towards exact cut-outs in foam blocks that fill the trays of rolling tool cabinets. Again, if something isn't where it should be, it's immediately apparent.

To be this organised is a laudable goal, though the path to achieving it is gives me the sense of the archetypical old farmer by the side of the road saying to the wayward traveller, "You can't get there from here."

I'd better figure this out soon.


The tool I was looking for has been found.

It was in a place which makes a sort of bizarre sense, but (painfully) not the First place I'd look for it.

I'm reminded of a statement made by a friend of mine who is an excellent craftsman in both metal and wood, but is (as he puts it) "getting on in years". He said he must now resist the urge to rearrange things in his lifelong quest for the perfect shop configuration. When I asked him why, he said "I can remember where the tools have been for the last 30 years, but not the new place I've decided to put them."

In age there is wisdom.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

sheltered in the Lee

Made it to the Lee Valley vintage plane sale today. You'd think they were giving stuff away.

The place was packed; met lots of interesting people waiting in line for the doors to open.
In mere minutes, it was almost impossible to move. Despite the crowding, everyone was polite and patient. There were some large iron planes (6, 7, and 8) that went quickly (and at good prices) along with various drills and braces, but my eyes were set on the wide selection of wooden moulders.

After digging around for quite a while I managed to find a snipe-bill in good shape (score!), plus #12 hollow & round, a 1" skew rabbet, a bead following plane, and a coarse rip saw with a very good plate. 

The best buy for me was a "badger" plane with a thick Sorby iron. I was watching people picking this item up from amidst a group of wooden jacks, and almost immediately putting it back down again. When I finally got hold of it, I could see it was not a normal plane, having a skewed iron that did not span the full width of the sole but stuck out of one side like a rabbet. I'll use it for making raised panels.

I also got a chance to speak with Robin Lee again. He indicated that there would be two more vintage planes sales this year, in Calgary and Vancouver. He was open to the idea of offering courses in making moulding planes, and possibly carrying annealed iron blanks at the stores. We also spoke about rapid prototyping advances and ideas like injection moulded plane bodies with swappable sole plates - think pattern-makers planes. 

Tool dealer and plane expert Doug Orr was on hand to offer advice and answer questions, along with a copious quantity of knowledgeable LV staff.

There was an interesting looking DVD playing in the background of the sale area. I asked one of the staff what the name of it was. Not only did they get me the name, they went and got a DVD from the shelf while I waited in line so that I wouldn't lose my place. It was Classic Plane Making by Tod Herrli. I've already watched most of it, and it's a pretty straightforward method to make a set of #14 hollow and round planes without any special tools except plane floats, which he shows you how to make.

Konrad from Sauer and Steiner planes had a working display in the main store. These are some of the sexiest handplanes I've seen, but I cannot imagine owning one unless I magically became a (well paid) professional furniture maker. When I win the lottery I'll order a set.

I also ran into fellow students Robert and Mary during this event and we talked about sawing techniques, tote design, vintage tools, apprenticeships, planned projects, upcoming classes, and so on. Rob also mentioned something about rumors of new frog designs for Lee Valley's bench planes.

All in all it was a good, if tiring, experience. The list of "wanted" items is dwindling.

Robin Lee warned me to save up for something big in October. This sounded ominous.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

closer to hone

Re: Garry's (from Lee Valley) advice on recovering my ceramic stone.

Late yesterday I tried using the DMT medium grit plate in a figure-8 pattern on the hone.

All but one scratch and one pit have been eradicated.
The surface is once again visibly reflective and slightly "sticks" to a granite plate.

I'll be working on a chisel later this evening to see if it's truly up to snuff again.