Saturday, 29 September 2012

Bits and pieces

                    Haskins Work Counter in Cherry, Pine & Poplar -$491,000 at auction in 2006

"Why patronise the outside world or gugaws in our manufacture, when they will say we have enough of them abroad? We want a good plain substantial Shaker article, yea, one that bears credit to our profession and tells who and what we are, true and honest before the world, without hypocrisy or any false covering. The wourld at large can Scarcely keep pace with it self in its stiles and fassions which last but a short time, when something still more worthless or absurd takes its place. Let good enough alone, and take good common sense for our guide in all our persuits, and we are safe within and without."

Brother Orren N. Haskins Jan. 18, 1887 New Lebanon, New York.

There is a good deal of work both signed and attributed to Br. Haskins of the New Lebanon Shaker community. Desks, looms, trying and moulding planes, workbenches, to name a few. All of his pieces embodied the words he wrote well over a hundred years ago, but which still ring true today.

In a weeks time I will start to make the furnishings for the cottage. They have been pieces that I have had in mind for a few years and now we have the perfect setting for them. Hopefully they too will reflect the honesty and substance that Lisa and I are trying to bring back to the cottage.

Freestanding kitchen shelving

                                                  New Lebanon style trestle dining table

                                                                       Candle stand

A step back cupboard such as this one from the Watervliet community, but with a few subtle      
  changes. This should keep me busy for a week or two...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Molasses Part 2

On the weekend I removed the H V McKay gate hinges. Here's the before and after photos. The hinges  have just been washed and left dry in the sun. They were then scrubbed down and oiled, but as you can see it has bought them back to the point where you can even see remnants of the original silver paint.

I also dragged out a set of four castor wheels that I found buried deep in the dirt at the back of the house. These things didn't swivel and the wheels had all seized. They were just rusty clumps of iron. Even I was doubtful if they could be bought back to life.
Not only did they clean up well, I was able to undo the square nuts on the bolts, which I thought would have to be sawn off. Best of all the molasses had free'd up all of the ball bearings and they swivel beautifully. Now to build something to sit on them.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The beginning and the end.

Last week we had an almighty wind storm through the region. Real 'blow a dog off it's chain stuff!' As you would expect, trees all over the place came down. As I've said previously, drought has affected the roots of many of these old trees. Above is a good example of that. This pine started a domino effect that resulted in over a dozen trees in this stand coming down.

It's a real mess in there with trees hung up and half down. Flip side being there's some nice saw logs amongst them.

This massive Radiata Pine came down at Rock House. It's 1200mm ( 47" ) at the base where I let it off the root ball and 990mm ( 38" ) just under the crown,  6.8m ( 22' ) away. There may even be some good stuff for seat blanks in there somewhere.....

While I was there I took down another dead Elm just across the driveway from where the last Elm fell. It was only a matter of time before it fell itself. There should be a good 3 or 4 sawlogs from this tree. As well as a generous supply of firewood for Mum and Dad's wood heater.

In just the same way as my connection to the above trees has begun, I'm now at the other end of the process with logs I milled 18 months ago. The London Plane above will be turned into panelled doors and drawer fronts for the last of the built-ins in the cottage.

Here's the frame just fitted into the old chimney cavity. Honed Limestone tiles ( just sitting there at the moment ) will cover up the old concrete hearth.

I broke up the monotony of the graduated drawers by dividing the top left into two smaller drawers. As I've seen in a good deal of other Shaker built-ins. Just the drawer runners in the bottom to go now and the frame/carcass is finished. With age and the sunlight streaming in of an afternoon, the Vic. Ash frame will turn a really rich golden colour.

All the uprights are dovetailed into the dividers. Dividers are loose mortise and tenoned into the uprights and the runners are all glued and screwed into place. Should make for a sturdy piece. It's a constant process, but a rewarding one. As a good friend of mine says. "It's never ending mate." "There's a beginning, a middle........ and another beginning!"

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How does my Hare look?

I know. There has been a lot of non-wood working content on the blog of late, but I promise there is some good -wood related stuff to come. The last of the built-ins in the cottage is nearly finished and with that so is the cottage in its entirety. Im planning a 'walk through video' of the house when it's all done, so stay tuned, it's not far away.

Of course that is not inclusive of all the furniture to fit it out with. That's another story, but these things take time. It reminds me of when I renovated my last house and I had a retired carpenter/joiner who would help me out every few days for an hour or so. Tony was 70 at the time and one day I said to him that Rome wasn't built in a day. Quick as a flash he replied, " that's because I wasn't the foreman! " What can you say to that?

Anyway, while I'm off the subject, I couldn't let this photo opportunity slip by. Two days ago I was in the paddock at Rock House tidying up the last of the Elm when I noticed something moving through the grass. Rats are common place and the size was about the same. Then this little guy popped up. No not a rabbit, but a hare. Well, a leveret to be precise. When you have seen plenty of both rabbits and hares, it's quite easy to tell one from the other, even when they are this young.

I think the sound of the saw must have moved him ( her? ) out from under the log. Unlike rabbits hare are much more docile and I think he was just glad to be away from the noise.

Not living in burrows like rabbits, hare live in 'forms' or depressions in long grass. And unlike the rabbit they have never successfully been kept in captivity. So while Tom would have loved to have had him as a friend for his guinea pigs, he sat on and in my beanie before I let him go back in the long grass when we were finished.

                                                          How do you like those feet!

Although these guys are a feral animal, it is good to see them out and about. Ok, it's out of my system now. Tune in for the next cottage instalment and soon after I'll be listing and showing the range of furniture I intend to make for it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Vitamin D

It took it's time, but I think I can safely say that Spring has finally sprung. Kyneton's famous daffodils are out in their golden thousands. And to celebrate the golden greatness, Sunday saw the annual Daffodil Parade.

Here's Tom in the orange vest, marching with his Kindergarten. It was a great day.

Yesterday I actually made it through a good part of the day without my beanie and scarf wrapped tightly around my neck.  In a few weeks I may even cease to be translucent !

Our garden has also come to life, the half dozen fruit trees in the back yard are all in full bloom.

The garlic has punched it's way through the mulch.

Even this little Crimson Rosella was enjoying the sun. Sitting on the vent pipe outside our kitchen window he chirped away quite happily. I'm fairly sure he and his mate are nesting in a fist sized hole in the wall of our neighbours weatherboard house.

I'll admit I'm fond of cool weather but it's heartening to see the sun for a change, hope it's warming your neck of the woods....... and your neck too for that matter.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


You may have guessed by now that I'm fairly fond of woodworking tools. In fact pretty much all hand tools and especially old ones. Sometimes you're lucky enough to find old stuff in great condition but on the odd occasion you'll find something that is not quite what it used to be. Covered in rust, scale or both, but perhaps there's something about it, it's rarity or another quality, that make it worthy of attention.

A few weeks back I was driving through Chewton ( little old 1800's gold mining town ) with a few minutes to spare and popped into one of the local antique shops to have a quick look around. A quick scrounge in one of the tool boxes and voila! Two old Cooks Patent auger bits. Nice. Only one problem, they were heavily covered in rust. I could see that there was some semblance of writing on the drill shaft but there was no way of making out what.

Here is a couple of pairs of H.V. McKay cast gate hinges, uncommon and worth cleaning up. The drill bits were in the same condition, but I didn't get a 'before' photo....

Although some old tools require cleaning to become serviceable again or 'users,'  it's always disappointing seeing a great old piece that has been destroyed by over zealous cleaning, usually with a wire brush wheel on a bench grinder. The end result is a gaudy, bright, over polished silver lump without any of the detail that may have existed under the rust. Not the answer. And especially when you are talking about the ultra fine spiral tip on a Cook's bit.

                                                   Mmmm, a drum full of black goodness

On the way home I recalled something that my Uncle put me onto when I was a kid, wanting to clean up all manner of junk that I was collecting at the time. Molasses . Yep, jet black, sickly sweet smelling molasses. So a quick detour via the stock and feed agents around the corner and a 20 litre bucket of Queensland's finest was procured. At around 52% pure sugar this stuff is made to eat rust. There's no special secret. Just tip the molasses into a larger drum and add the same volume of water. Mix it thoroughly until it's an even solution. Ideally you would just use neat molasses, but this stuff is so thick you would spend half your time trying to submerge anything in it!

                                                        Freshly rinsed and dried

Then just put what ever it is you want to clean into the drum and make sure it's fully covered. Then just sit back and wait. Depending on how thick the rust is, it can take between two to four weeks. Then just fish out the offending piece of metal and rinse off all the molasses. You'll notice that all of the rust will have gone and the item will be a dull matt grey, possibly with a yellowish scale as well. This can be removed with a very light rub with some 0000 steel wool or a scotch brite pad.

The result two very clean Cooks patent bits, with a light coat of machinists oil to stop the rust returning. The sharp detail all still present and the makers names, I Sorby and Thomas Turner & Co. as clear as a bell. The gate hinges are due out next week, along with a a couple of very old spades and a set of cast castor wheels. Cheap, easy and just the stuff to clean up any thing metal that has succumbed to rust. I wouldn't recommend it on your pancakes though...