Shop made Fidgenian frame saw – part 2


Finally the next chapter in this fascinating series arrive to ease the eager anticipation of the woodworking proletariat.  If you missed part one, simply click the link. Since part one of this story I’ve realised that it is a lot more work than the previous two saws I’ve built.

In the pictures below you can see how I started to shape some of the parts. The Kershout is so freaking dense and heavy that I really had to remove as much timber as possible to reduce the weight.


I first tried to use my vintage Witherby drawknife to remove material from these long sections (not sure what the correct term is for these parts), but the wood is simply too hard. Then I tried the bow saw I built recently, followed by a Veritas spoke shave and it worked much better.


I reassembled the saw to check that the chosen shapes work aesthetically.


As you can see, I did not do myself any favours in terms of reducing weight with the dimensions of the steel I chose for the hardware. That is because I usually use the bits of scrap (that I collect religiously) lying around the shop rather than to go and buy stuff.


This piece of steel is meant to protect the wood from potential damage by the tensioning bolt.


Then followed the careful shaping and smoothing phase. You will notice the range of tools used sitting on my bench.


This is a picture I was reluctant to share, but decided that it would be silly not to. What I needed to do here was to fill quite a few wood borer holes with epoxy. It must be borer that did it’s damage while the tree was still alive or at the very least still green, as the wood is simply too hard for borer now. Looking at the stuff I had to dig out of the holes they had severe constipation even at that stage. I knew about these imperfections from the start. It is a fairly frequent obstacle I face while working with the feral woods of the Knysna Forest.

It simply serves as a reminder to all of you out there who can walk into a lumberyard and choose from board after board of perfect wood that you are very lucky. So remember that.


… and finally a brief preview of what’s to follow in part 3.


Lucky Strike


It is my lucky day. I managed to secure a deal for some reclaimed pine in massive dimensions (given what is generally available in Namibia) from a friend in the building trade. The deal goes like this: I need to build him a huge table that can be disassembled from some of the timber and the rest of it is mine.

The timber was used to build a container for a massive machine that weighed more than 5 tons to transport it from Germany to Namibia. In the picture below I am referring to the stuff at the bottom.


There are about ten piece of 200 mm (8″) x 75 mm (3″) x 3200 mm (10½), a few that measure 130 mm (5¼”) x 110 (>4″) x 3200 mm (10½’), and 5 or so of 150 mm (6″) x 130 mm (5¼”) x 5000 mm (16′). It is next to impossible to find solid wood in these dimensions in the Land of the Brave.


If you look at the year rings, it is clearly quality stuff. The pine we can buy around here has year rings as wide as the Benguela sea current that grace our Skeleton Coast. These trees must have grown in quite harsh conditions (I am guessing) in the Northern Hemisphere.


Unfortunately this means that I will not be able to do the chair build with Brian Eve in June. I hope he will understand my situation. He has suggested that a few bloggers build a chair together and compare notes via his website. I still think it is a wonderful idea and will certainly join something like that in future, but cannot let this opportunity slip either. Sorry Brian!

Shop made Fidgenian Frame saw – part 1


The next traditional saw on my list to build is a frame saw. You might remember that I have completed a 12″ bow saw and a 700 mm Roubo-esque cross cut bow saw already. After some research I decided to use Tom Fidgen’s (The Unplugged Woodshop) design as inspiration for my version. Tom is an icon of note as far as I am concern and that was enough reason for me. He produced two excellent videos on how he built his frame saw (see the link profided if you are interested.

For this project I chose Kershout (Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus) which is ridiculously hard with a specific gravity of > 1 (it sinks in water). The third picture show the end grain of a small piece. I tried to count the year rings and got to about 120. This gives you an idea of how slow it grows and why it is so dense.



The usual lamination process I have to endure to make up stock with appropriate dimensions.



The rough stock before work started.



Living in Africa means I have to cobble together my own hardware for the saw. A scrap piece of mild steel angle iron seemed to fit the bill. As you can see I am no welder, but we all have our little problems.




My shop built Jack plane came in handy to square up the parts.




I have been struggling to saw off smaller pieces of stock like this perfectly square. Since I received my holdfasts I tried this approach and it improved my accuracy immensely being able to see the two lines you are sawing. You then flip it over and repeat on the other side.



Dual tenon design, ala Mr. Fidgen.




I like making a small notch with my chisel to start the crosscut saw.



My shop made bow saw removed the waste between the two tenons.



Dual tenons necessitates dual mortises.




Now the fun part will start. Shaping the saw will be the topic of the next riveting installment in this series.


Holdfast boots


As self-proclaimed leader in the field of woodworking haute couture, I would like to introduce the next frontier in menuisier fashion. Last week the four Gramercy Tools holdfasts that I ordered arrived  after 5 weeks of traveling across time zones, an ocean and the equator. Holdfasts work like a charm, but tends to mar your work unless you stick a bit of scrap between it’s fangs and your stock. It can be a bit of a hassle so I thought of a way to address this particular issue.

I like to do leather work from time to time and it made sense to use this skill to alleviate the problem. As you can see in the pictures below, I custom-fitted these stunning Almond-toed leather booties to the business end of the holdfasts. I used two layers of Skeleton Coast seal skin for the sole and free range Namibian cow’s hide for the upper. It would not look out of place on a catwalk in Milan (says he), but I am not sure whether the common adage used to describe particularly sexy boots would necessarily apply. Apart from the obvious visual appeal, it has real functional advantages as well. It improves grip, protects your stock and cuts down the time spent fiddling with bits of scrap wood.



I also took to the shaft section of the holdfasts with a rasps to improve it’s grip. It works like magic.


Below you can find some examples of the boots in action. The pictures also provide ample evidence to support my decision to ignore Monsieur Schwarz’s Commandment to stick to very few dog/holdfast holes.


Here are a few examples of a saw bench modeling the trend-setting footwear.


My bench holdfasts live here.



So there you have it, once again the best of tres chic woodworking. Only at Je ne sais quoi Woodworking.

Two more sun ovens


In November 2011 I built a sun oven for our holiday house. It  became a real gem with regards to my holiday cuisine. I do almost all the cooking while we are at the beach house and there is few things better than chucking a North African tagine in a black cast iron pot, stick it in the sun oven at 09h30 and sit around reading until sunset for a perfect meal. Seeing that the beach house is probably 1500 km south of Windhoek I though it should work even better in the vicious Namibian sun.

While engaging in sun oven building activities, it made sense to build two. One for Jacana Junction and one for our Windhoek house. It is not rocket science so I will leave it up to the pictures to tell the story.



At Jacana Junction we built this stand for it where it catches all day sun every day of the year. As you can see it has a glass lit and foil to reflect the sun onto the cast iron pots. You will be surprised how effective this oven is. I once cooked a leg of lamb that went into the pot frozen (because I forgot to take it out of the freezer the previous night) to perfection in 6 hours. It works even better than a commercial slow cooker and needs no electrons.





The land of the Kavango


This is the next installment of my posts on my Namibian perambulations aimed at woodworking troglodytes (which I am one of to be honest). During the first days of May we usually head up to the mystical and magical land of the Kavango. It is nestled in the north east of the country in a cosy “little” corner south of Angola and west of Botswana. It forms the placenta to which the Caprivi strip is attached.

The reason for our annual safari is the waters of the ancient Okavango River. It originates on the eastern escarpment of the Angolan highlands before bisecting Namibia and Angola. A few kilometers from our camp it switches across the implantation of the Caprivian umbilical cord into Botswana to quench the eternal thirst of the Okavango Delta.

Get the picture? OK, let’s go.

This is a picture of a modern ossewa. The boat behind it is a new addition to our trekking equipment.


A few of the hooligans in action.


The first night we sayed at Taranga Safari Lodge. It belongs to a friend and is highly recommended.


An Okavango Moon.


Dinner under an African sky.


Same dinner, just later under the stars.


The view across the river the next morning with Angola in the distance.


Breakfast under an African sky.


Trying to drown my Cruiser in order to launch the boat. After carrying a massive amount of gear to the boat through the water of this side channel, a local came to warm us that there is a massive croc lurking around there for quite a while. Gee thanks mate!


One of the best things to do on this planet (in my humble experience) is to find a sandbank on the Okavango, light a fire for a braai and swim while being somewhat vigilant for the ever present hippos and crocs.


This is the famous Jacana Junction, our camp on the Okavango.


One of the most celebrated inhabitants of the river, the Tiger fish.


At the nearby Mahango Park we saw this interesting interaction. A few Letchwe with front row seats to the biggest rumble in the jungle since Ali-Foreman. I think these fighters are called water monitors in English (but not sure).


A giant Baobab.


Of course the boys needed to climb it …


… and the ant hill next to it.


Nothing beats a braai in a game reserve without the constraints of a fence.


My usual highlight is without a doubt, a visit to the local shebeen. We drink Windhoek Lager (the best in Africa) with the locals while the children try to settle the outcome of the Pan-African Soccer Cup of Nations.


These hippos live less than 300 meters from our camp.


My friend Siegmund Mengersson and I built this bar in an area we call the Sunset Beach.


The so called Jacana Jakutz were also erected on the mentioned beach. A warm bath under the stars or at sunset can’t be beat.


Dr Livingstone and compatriots fishing the great river.


A local fisherman.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of “The Land of …”