Tuesday, 23 February 2010


As mentioned in my last post it was about time a made a workbench. Whilst it's not the work of art that the jewellery bench is its functional, and it will give me a stable platform to fasten things like the planer to. Ironically to make to workbench I had to use the planer to mill up the top for the new bench. In the process the planer slipped off the workmate and my instant reaction was to reach out to catch it. Stuck my hand straight into the blade of the planer! How I still have my fingers I honestly don't know. Luckily I was wearing my leather work gloves which took the brunt of the damage and certainly saved my fingers. If your reading this Jon, it was the pair that you bought me, so thanks again. Sometime I guess God's on your side! Here is the finished bench and no I won't be using the planer again unless bolted to the bench!

And the missing fingers!

Note to self: Always make sure you are wearing the correct safety kit......

After that little episode I thought I'd have a break from rotating knives and do a little gentle wall building. Today then I put in the lintels above the kitchen window and built up the wall at the front. When this has set up a bit I can then pour concrete into the void to create a beam to tie the end gable into the front wall. Not a bad thing really?

Eventually when filled in and built back up i'll make this into a window seat for the girls.

So tomorrow will be mixing concrete in the mixer (yet another thing off you Jon!) just hope its a warm as it was today; 11 deg and walking round in my shirt sleeves.

P.S. Yes and trim up the foam around the window (the shame of it!!!)

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Time to make that door

Now all the wood has been delivered I'm going to make the back upstairs door. I know its a bit unusual to have a door upstairs but when the ground was built up at the back you could step off into the back field. now its all been dug out its 10 feet off the ground. Trouble is its on the north facing side of the house and every time it snows, it snows in through the opening, so its time to fill it in. When I ordered the last lot of timber I ordered some dry stuff. The best you can do from the saw mill is get stuff that's been cut about 6 months. Even then in this load I was struggling to find enough that were straight enough to mill down into the stiles for the door. So in the best traditions of using what you've got I've modified the design to suit the timber and now its going to be a stable door, et voilĂ . By the end of play I had all the pieces for the door milled and cut to size. As the joiners amongst you will note this is not in itself a small task when you start of with rough sawn timber. Its always amazing to see the beauty of the wood reveal itself when you plane all the crud off, and each piece is different. Some even have a hint of pink in the grain! For my workshop Alison has been kind enough to let me use her garage (many thank's) which is close enough to run power (yipee.. lights) from the gite.

Here's a before and after picture of said timber. The eagle eyed and safety conscious among you will note that the planer is in fact about to fall off the workmate! I must build a bench that I can bolt it to....

Having cut the wood to size I carried out a few test cuts at my saw bench. This soon revealed what a pile of junk my saw bench really is. However its what I've got so I spent about an hour and a half going through and setting the blade, packing up the table insert and setting all the extension tables level. Now low and behold it cuts straight and true and at 90o and wood doesn't snag on the transition between the table and the table insert. Brill, should have done it 4 years ago. Still it's another job done.......

Lovely to see Mark and Julie in their shiny new camping car, our first visitors from England!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Snowing again

Never mind, still managed to get some work done. One of the main things I've done is to re-arrange all our stuff so I can get to the other half of the floor to work on. Not a very glamourous or photogenic subject but lordy it doesn't half make a difference! Now everything is packed into the salon leaving the cuisine free for tools and work. I've not been down to the saw mill to order the rest of the solives yet so I've been tackling the repairs to the lintel and wall above the kitchen window.

That gap between the windows is where the rotten lintel was this morning. As you can see with the aid of a hammer and chisel and of course the chainsaw its all clear and ready to fit the new lintel and build back up again. Just need a few days where the weather is sufficiently above freezing to mix some mortar!!
I've also been cleaning off the remaining beam ready to fix the rest of the solives. Mostly this involved removing the old ledger strip and de-nailing. Sound easy but not as easy as you might think when the ledger strip has been there for 300 years. The aproach I took was to saw through every foot or so and then split with a chisel around the nails. All the nails were lovely old hand forged jobs. I almost thought about cranking up the forge and making a few replacements, but on reflection that seamed a little excessive even for me.

As you will notice that beam is a little on the skinny side so I'm going to build a colombage wall with oak posts to add some support. I reckon 150mm square should do the trick. When I'd finished up today I even had a little help tidying up!

Just to remind me what I'm aiming at with the upstairs I also taken the opportunity to look at the plans (not a bad thing now and again). Good thing I did because a few things are a bit different than I remembered. Also taking to Julia I think were going to do the main bedroom as the architect intended as a "room in a box" sitting within the space. I wasn't overly keen on the idea at the time but actually its quite simple and inexpensive to do, so its back in.

Friday, 5 February 2010

More...well..floor really?

OK! so it's a big floor and these things take time. Today I finished off the floor round the fireplace. I was a bit stumped at first and it's taken me a few days to work out what I was going to do. I put in the floor either side of the chimney breast with the solives next to the chimney sistered up to carry a solive across in front of the chimney. When I looked at it, the span across all six foot of chimney, looked a bit wide for one solive to carry the ends of the other beams. To solve this I've taken one of the shorter solives through into the chimney to support it and thus halved the span. Well it feels pretty solid; I can stand and jump up and down on it and it doesn't bounce. In addition I've mortised the solives in to each other. There is a tendency to do a straight halving joint but to my mind this would weaken the beams to much (although on a shorter span this would probably be fine). Instead I've notched the male 1/4 of the thickness and then cut the female mortise only 30mm into the 100mm thick beam. This way neither is significantly weakened. As a belt and braces the middle solive/beam has a ledger stip for additional support. Well right or wrong (comments welcome from any experience joiners out there..Darren?) thats how I've tackled it and short of an earth quake that's how it's staying!
Here's the view from the kitchen

And from above. If you squint it almost looks like a room!

A close up of what I've been rambling on about;

The other thing I did today was convert my trusty generator to LPG. Running on good old petrol is OK but expensive and a pain to keep refilling. So god bless that lovely internet if I didn't find a company doing garret regulator conversions. As far as I can make out this works in a very similar way to a divers demand valve. Took a bit of fiddling to fit since the holes in the gas adapter collar didn't line up with the studs on the carburetta and you need ptfe tape for all the connections. Drilling out the holes in the collar was fine, but could I find my ptfe tape! It's there somewhere but I'm blowed if I can find it (like my meter long rule and spirit level!!!!!). Fortunately Andy down the road in the village came to the rescue with some tread sealing gunky-stuff. That said works a treat and I'm now cooking with gas...well sawing and drilling and lighting and generally power tooling it up. Here's the finished installation. Oh and of course you need to make sure you've drained out all the petrol, thus avoiding making a fuel/gas/air bomb!

P.S. For those of you who know our neighbour Guy, he had a heart attack on Wednesday night and had to be taken by helicopter to Caen. Touch wood he's making a good recovery and was well enough to be moved to Flers today. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Workbench №3

The floor is still progressing. In my spare time I've knocked up a Jewellery workbench for Julia. The bench is constructed using bits of oak I had lying around so the only things I've actually had to buy is the plywood top at €14 and some varnish at €9, which to be fair I thought was a bit steep! Anyway the legs and rails come from off-cuts of beam. This I fashioned into usable timber with judicious use of my trusty chainsaw followed by the band saw and planer/thicknesser. All the other bits are offcuts of reclaimed wood from various sources. The most interesting of which is the back rail which has a really lovely grain that has blackened with age. It looks a bit like oak but definitely isn't (doesn't have that oaky smell), my best guess would be chestnut!
I have to say the bench may be tad over engineered but one thing is for sure, its not going to fall apart in a hurry!

I've wrapped the plywood top with a strip of wood to cover the end grain. This I steamed to make pliable so I could bend it into shape enough to glue and clamp.

I love that back rail, the grain is fab!

And here it is fully loaded and ready to earn it's keep.

As the title above suggests this is the third (and I may say the best) jewellery bench I've made. The first I made when I was a technician engineer at GEC in Coventry. In those days GEC was like a small town in its own right. It had carpentry shops, electricians, tool rooms, canteens, bank, photographic studio, garage, ballroom! the lot. The carpenters cut all the wood I needed to size and loaded it all onto a trolley for me to take away, all for free. In its day it was a proper little community, but then that was in the days of cost+ contracts for British Telecom before privatisation! All (mostly) gone now of course - sad really.

P.S. The skin under the bench is to save you grubbing round on the floor when you drop something, it also catches any bits of precious metal filings so they can be re-cycled.