The winds reached record highs in North Wales today and a Red Alert still in force means probable loss of life. All the big bridges are closed and public transport will be stopped by the time you read this, but inside the Penrhyn Castle walls, three feet thick and more, we can hardly hear or feel a thing of it. The Castle was closed to the public and the massive gates were locked and bolted. Matt and John continued with their tool chests and mine is ready for the raised panels – perhaps tomorrow. I have been progressing the completion of the bed that I have been making and experimenting with. The method of construction is exceptionally fast using this these simple and solid woodworking joints and the wood is relatively inexpensive too. The bed is also knock down once certain screws are removed and so it can be easily packed, stowed and transported if needed. It’s all together now and just lacks a couple of small things to prepare it for finish. Milk paint followed by shellac, I think. This we will video as one of our new videos on finishing your work. We will do this alongside the workbench stool.
The techniques I use for most of my work, because they are hand methods and there is nothing new to hand tool woodworking, are traditional techniques. The thing I have found though is this. For most woodworkers I get to know, those who have progressed naturally toward developing real skill using their hands, there is still that sense of of discovering what they never knew existed and that’s what makes everything so vibrant and exciting for them and for me. I never found machine work exciting because it was always the same stuff. Remember that everything you cut on a machine comes from a rotary cut in a straight line, mostly, anyway. Working with machines generally follows a certain pattern. First off I had to find out how to make myself and others around me safe. Then I had to think through the processes to make sure the material was safe and the machine was safe. Losing one, the other or both can be costly. most of the time that means making something that carries the wood across or into a cutterhead in some way with the primary focus being of course on safety. I was raised with spindle moulders and not so much the router. I am an expert in both machines. the Spindle moulders (shapers US) had powerful 3hp machines that did incredible work fast. A router to me was just a small scale shaper and with that it meant I had to wear the gladiator gear to go into the arena; head and face protection mostly, respirator and hearing protection. You know the stuff. All of this should have been mandatory when I was first stood in front of these machines but of course back then no protection was provided and shavings piled up behind the machine for me to bag every hour. My experience made me ever more determined that there was a way to escape mass-making machines and yet use them to do what they are really good at and that is the donkey work of stock prepping. I found that way and live by it.
Today I was using a handsaw to cut arches in the bed rails followed by an older compass plane as shown to refine the cuts and follow my lines to perfection. I defy any machine method to beat what I did for a one off piece like this. Because I used hand methods I didn’t need to dismantle the components to do this aspect of the work so, yes, it takes a few minutes longer to cut the arches with a handsaw, but I saved time not having to disassemble the rails from the bed, which means the whole operation was faster because I had the skill of working hand tools. I needed no dust extraction and no personal safety equipment and in two or three dustpans I picked up sawdust and shaving around me feet in about two minutes. Most machine work is of course pretty dull unless you are programmed to it. It can be pretty mindless and yet you can’t actually switch off your mind because of the inherent danger you are always at risk to. the greatest danger time is when you become so accustomed to the work that your mind switches off. That can become a bad habit and especially so if you have to make lots of repetitive cuts. I don’t have this issue because I can pick my work. For monotonous machine work I would always charge higher. If I got the work I would do it quickly on the machine and get it out the door so I could work on the work i enjoyed more which involved almost only hand work. This work might take me twice as long, but I charged a lot less and worked twice as long because of the fulfilment I gained in the work. I didn’t mind working longer at a lower rate you see.
Phil spent time editing film and progressing other things throughout the day and we are all glad that Resi is back in from her New Zealand trip. We all try to make sure we answer all emails and questions when they come in, but this becomes more difficult by the day as incoming emails increases every day. My blog other things I do are none income producing because we decided we would not allow advertising or take sponsorship. This will always be the case, but keep your questions and support emails coming in, we love reading about your progress and questions answered help everyone else out there searching for answers.