Thursday 26 February 2015

I saw a horse

Sanded spars are not photogenic. All the old layers of varnish are gone and the masts are somewhat thinner for it, they may well rattle in the decks. Any weight I may have removed has been added to the boom, to which I've scarfed an 8cm extension. It was always a short boom, thin too, and made from a scuzzy length of baton that once belonged to a stage set. I've glued clean trim to the bottom and sides and set a sheave into the clew end to redirect the reefing lines and make shortening sail quicker.  

But the work has been hampered by the usual problems of having an invisible workshop and exacerbated by the state of my tools. I've spent a lot of time traveling back to square one—rediscovering what constitutes a functioning arrangement in which to manufacture and repair items of wood and metal. Working in poor conditions—the bench wobbling wildly with every stroke of a dull plane, tools, pencils, rulers, shaken to the ground, loose screws becoming lost in the grass until, barefoot in the summer, I find them with my heel—I can only hope to produce shoddy work.

I started by making a solid working surface. Solid but not flat. The piece, laminated from MDF and chipboard, warped as the glue dried in the sunshine. I followed up by going over the rotting pair of trestles with a set square and then refastening them with glue and dowels. Where ever I set up this surprisingly heavy contraption one or two trestle legs fail to rest on the ground but this is resolved with a pair of wedges.

Nowadays the attitude in The Invisible Workshop has shifted away from results to focus on process, the satisfaction being in the accurate stroke of a properly functioning plane.

On this little journey I've learned to get the most out of a worn, parted whetstone and have restored my chisels and plane as well as an old screwdriver my grandfather once lent me to adjust the air/fuel mixture on my Morris Minor van. In the way of many that borrow tools I failed to return it and through some whimsy of happenstance it has stayed with me. Though paint-stained and much pitted with rust, the handle split and scuffed, the shaft loose in it's socket it was evidently an object that deserved restoration—for the memory of my grandfather, my unreliable Morris van and the 30 intervening years. I removed the rust with wet and dry sandpaper, reshaped the handle with a file and sanded with progressively finer grits until the wood was smooth as skin. Then I left it to soak in teak oil for a few days, and reassembled with wood glue.

I soon put it to use extracting some brass screws from a rebate plane that I bought from a junk shop for 8 euros. It was then that I discovered that the antique dealer had ripped me off.  
Chisels, knives, screwdriver, restored blocks, parted whetstone and Morris van.

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