OldTools Archive

Recent Search Bios FAQ

151359 "jmanners" <jmanners@p...> 2005‑10‑18 Bio
John to the shire reeves of Galootdom.  Greetings.

Whereas I am he que latitat et discurrit in this forum for several years and
having deemed it proper that I should now give myself up to the judgment of
this Honourable Court  I now  draw nigh, giving my attention, where I shall
be heard (but not too often).

I reside in Brisbane in the state of Queensland which forms a largish
portion of the Commonwealth of Australia, having practiced law for 40 years
and intending to get around to doing it fair dinkum any day now.

Both grandpas, after taking their respective small-hope chances with the
rural and industrial economies of the time, saw out the major parts of their
working lives in sawmills, the paternal as an engine driver and fitter, the
maternal as a benchman and estimator.  Strangely enough, it was the engine
driver whose occasional ventures to the bench cost him a couple of digits
whilst the other died with a full set of fingers.  I suppose I have the
Great Depression to thank for my early interest in timber and anything that
would cut it.  Dad worked in the railways which my U.S. friends pronounce

Some years ago, in a crisis of conscience, I lost the faith which involved
the belief that the only successful way of undertaking woodwork was with
machines empowered with the mightiest motors one could afford.  I think it
was the jointer, which required each of its three blades to be removed to be
resharpened and then painstakingly re-set, that knocked me off my pony on
the road to Damascus and the immediately following, enlightening crack to
the skull was sustained per medium of the uncontrollable power router,
notwithstanding a whole shelf of books devoted to explaining its virtues.
The jigs required to use it eclipsed in volume and precision work anything
one intended to make employing its advertised wizardry.  However, I still
retain a rueful affection for my 15 inch radial arm saw which defied every
effort on my part to set it up to cut both plumb and square, without
heeling.  Two out of three was as much as it would ever yield to hours of
sweat, slipped spectacles, grazed knuckles, an ever-increasing selection of
ever-larger squares and language which would make a bullocky blush.

I started then really to "see" the chairs, tables, cabinets and other items
Dad had made with a hammer, a saw, a brace, a few bits, a rule, a square, a
charcoal line, a chisel and a plane.  Not even a vice.  Things were held in
place by having scraps nailed over them or to the three-planked bench which
was full of nail holes.  Who needed a mallet when a lump of firewood was
always handy?  The shaving axe sufficed for bringing timbers to rough size
by either trimming or splitting.  But I have to admit that the timber then
was great, straight-grained stuff.  Knarled or twisted timber, if it somehow
got to the mill, was used to fire the sawmills' boilers, along with offcuts,
and the timber-getter had to whistle for his money for delivering an overly
knarled or twisted log.  He was paid so many pence per super(ficial) foot
for **millable** timber, not rubbish, and the sawmiller was the sole arbiter
of what was millable.

I have what some would say is an unjustifiably large, ah, inventory? of
saws, planes, braces, drills, squares, chisels and other items dear to the
hearts of ye brothers and sisters of this lodge, but I need every one of
them, and I need more.  All but one or two early items and Dad's tools have
never been acquired (at least by me) retail, and I have you all to thank for
my cathartic conversion to the faith of the flea.  What a wonderful
institution, what remarkably peculiar dealers, what honest dishonesty and
guileless guile do many of them display!  Friends to and victims of the
entire world and a world unto themselves.  Real people who weekly face the
mind-boggling problem of deciding which amongst their assembly of artifacts
may justly or convincingly be dubbed "a collector's item".

OT item to get me started.  A builder mate, who knows but does not
understand my peculiar mania, presented me with a very grunged up Mathieson
plane blade and capiron.  The blade is 2 1/2 inches (I kid you not) wide,
has a life to the end of this millennium and is as heavy as the lead in the
favourite's saddle whilst the capiron is 2 1/4", probably a make-do, but no
worries.  Both items presently reside in the zap tank and the intention is
to give them a home at York pitch in something of similar dimensions to that
from which they have been liberated, but liberally adapted from Mr Krenov's
designs - no separate sole, for starters.  Is the collective wisdom of the
Porch able to enlighten one as to the ultimate dimensions of the lump of
wood to house this minor behemoth and whether a tote and/or knob will be
called for?  I have a few Mathieson coffin smoothers in various sizes, but
the largest blade is 2 3/8 inches. I suspect a mighty jack cum jointer
housed the blade in question.  York pitch, perhaps even 60 degrees, at fine
set is intended, for I doubt that I could muster the energy to propel even a
fine set 2 1/2 inch blade, traditionally housed and pitched at 45 degrees.
But this blade, I believe, deserves another chance at a productive life as,
if nothing more, a tribute to Mr Mathieson and his boys, long gone, I do not
doubt, from gloomy Glasgow, but not forgotten.

John Manners
in Brisbane where spring POQ'd to bring on summer swelter.


Recent Search Bios FAQ