Tiger Moth Propeller

Earlier this year I was given a Tiger Moth propeller to repair, and modify, to enable it to hang upon a wall as a display piece.  Not work I had ever done before, though not so dissimilar to many strange pieces which have found their way through my workshop over the years.

This one, manufactured originally from South American mahogany, had served firstly upon a Tiger Moth, and then upon another aircraft, not a Moth but obviously of similar characteristics and fitting arrangement.  The prop had subsequently been damaged on one of its trailing edges.

So the commission was to splice a new piece of similar timber into the damaged area; then devise a means by which the propeller could be mounted for display upon a wall.

The following are shots of the prop in varying stages of repair and modification
click on any image to enlarge & the ‘back-button’ arrow to return
the repaired trailing edge
the original prop as it was when I received it
the eight bolt holes to attach it to the engine mainshaft flange surround the mainshaft aperture.
the new nosecone, turned on the lathe from in-stock African mahogany of approximately the same era.  The spigot is a tolerance fit into the mainshaft aperture.
the finished prop – the oak mounting ring on the rear is to screw it to the wall & the nosecone fits onto the front, covering the fixing bolts which hold the prop to the mounting ring
the full length of the finished propeller. It scrubs up pretty well, for an old ‘un, doesn’t it? :lol:
large as the propeller is, I always find it difficult to imagine how something this relatively small can power a twin wing plane, with a pilot and a passenger, hundreds of feet into the air.

I enjoy doing this sort of work – relatively simple, but not a common commission. :-)  A bit out of the ordinary.  It requires a little thought and the ability to work with quality hardwood species, involving conventional bench joinery, wood-turning and, carving when necessary.  As well as working with the appropriate polishes and finishings.

Material Stock

I may have related the story of the source of some of my wood-turning and bench joinery material on here.     If you have heard this before, I apologise, in advance.      Please allow your mind to wander freely.

Earlier in the year, a local Conservative club closed because it was no longer profitable for it to remain open, given that it was within a mile of the central Conservative club in Northampton; and subject to dwindling patronage.
Prior to the premises being a club, it was an hotel.  And when it was built in the late 19th century, to provide overnight accommodation for the jockeys performing upon the local racecourse, two professional sized snooker tables were installed in the recreation rooms, on the 1st floor.

With the club in the process of closing, I was offered the two tables, in their entirety, for the purpose of  woodturning the sixteen very substantial mahogany legs, twelve mahogany bounce cushion edges, and all of the associated unseen structural timber, used to construct the tables in the late 1800′s.
So, yes you are quite right, all of the timber is well in excess of 100 years old and was probably felled in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign as monarch.
Oh, plus, there were as many as 60 quality snooker cues too, belonging either to the club or past members; many now deceased.
Many of these cues, which are made from a significant variety of hardwood species, once cut to length, will finish up as light-pulls, or pens; samples of which are available to view, under the Turning tab on the Home page.
It took me, with the assistance of a valuable friend, three days to strip down the tables and remove everything from the premises. And it required a considerable amount of space at my premises, to store all of the timber.
These three items are just a sample of pieces turned from one of the mahogany legs.
The top one -  a presentation bowl.
The middle – a school trophy & pupils minatures.
The bowl on the left  has an arrow piercing it which itself is turned from one of the snooker cues.
click on an image to enlarge – select the ‘back’ arrow to return

Well, yesterday I got some of the framework timber out of stock, believing it to be softwood, with the intention of making some stretcher bars. (I have a couple of 36″ x 24″ canvases to stretch, for a client)
You may imagine my surprise when I discovered that, upon running the first length of timber through the rip saw, it turned out to be not softwood at all, but obeché – a west African mahogany.  Fairly soft, close grained, light in weight, but still adequately sturdy, in a framework, to do the job it was intended for – to support the slate top sections of the table.

Obeché is, however, one of the preferential timbers for picture framing.
Because of its light weight, its close-grained composition, which takes finishes very well, and its ease of use and stability.  And I’ve got almost forty (yes 40) 6″ &  8″ x 2½” x 6′-0″  planks of the stuff in stock: which I thought was just standard European redwood (deal), and would be used for general purpose, low cost, bench joinery.
In my defence, I should point out that the timber used to construct the underside of the tables was darkened with a what I assume the Victorian joiners used for mahogany stain.  (I have heard tales that they stained timber with the shredded tea-leaf dregs from the tea-pot ~ how true that is, I have no idea :roll: )   Plus it was coated in a century old residue of tobacco smoke and human drink – community laden dust.
Or at least, that is my excuse: and I’m sticking to it:lol: :lol:

So now I can use this stock, not for mundane joinery, but to produce my own profile-designed, hand-finished, one-off, client commissioned, frames.
It feels as if several of my Christmases have arrived at once.  :-D

Note:  I won’t be making any more stretcher bars out of the obeché either. 
I’ll buy some general purpose softwood deal in for that.

Your Choice

Imperial or metric?  Which measurement system do you use?
Did you begin your senior education prior to 1971, or following it?                  Why 1971?

Because 1971 was the year that Great Britain/UK adopted the metric system.
I am fortunate, because my educational development was, to all intents and purposes, completed before 1971.  So I have the choice whether I work using the Imperial measurement system or the metric one.  And admittedly, it is often convenient to be able to switch easily from one to the other.
I ask, because the question sometimes arises when framers (of my generation), congregate and chat.  And the question seems to arise because whilst GB/UK has embraced the metric system for in excess of 40 years, many items/articles are referenced still using the Imperial system of measurement.  In fact some articles are referenced using a mixture of the two systems. Imperial in one direction and metric in the other. Or offered as alternatives to one another.  Woodworking tools are a classic case in point. Traditionally, chisels were always designated by 1/8th of an inch increments of width to 1″ and then quarter of an inch increments above 1″.  Now, instead of having 5mm – 10mm – 15mm – 20mm – 25mm, we have instead metric equivalents of the Imperial sizes:  so 6mm – 10mm – 12.7mm – 19mm.
Purchase a panel saw, and it will be a 20″ or 22″ or 24″ blade x the number of teeth (points) per inch.
And the art world is no exception.
Many photographic printers still use the Imperial system:
You order a 6″ x 4″ or a 12″ x 8″ or a 30″ x 20″ photo.
Similarly with artwork prints on canvas (giclée)
And stretcher bars for canvases.
And a mountcutter is traditionally a 40″ or a 48″ or a 60″. (admittedly they are sometimes nowadays referred to as 1000, 1200 or 1500mm.) :-D

My Morso F (mitre guillotine) is a 50 years old model.  Still going strong and unerringly accurate.
And, of course, it is calibrated in Imperial inches; in quarter of an inch divisions.
No margin rule or accumulator on the measuring arm, just simple inclined scribed lines on the right hand extension arm, and a 45º stop block.

I do all of my framing work using Imperial measurement. Working to 1/16th of an inch.
It works very well for me.  I can convert to metric. But often, if I feel the need to do so, I have to pay particular attention to ensure that mistakes don’t occur.

For myself, I don’t mind which system I use so long as whatever I use is effective.  If I am working with someone (an artist/a contemporary/a customer) who prefers to (or is only able to) use the metric system, I am quite happy to comply with their directives: but given the choice, when framing, I always use Imperial, but when wood-turning or doing bench joinery, I will always use metric.

Funny old world, isn’t it?

I was taught, as a teenaged apprenticed bench-joiner, to learn to carry out any operation, if not perfectly, then at least to the very best of my ability, and to ensure that my ‘best’ was very good.  It was later explained to me that if I was capable of good quality work, but could also recognise all of the various levels of quality, down to ‘cheap & cheerful’, I would then be able to make my own choices about the quality of work that I produced ~ whereas the ‘cheap & cheerful’ worker had no choice – because he knew no other way to work.

I was also taught, when learning to turn wood on the lathe, that the ability to be ambidextrous was a real advantage, because by being able to use the chisel in either your left hand or your right hand meant that you could approach difficult to reach operations more easily and effectively; thus producing better work.
In other words, being able to work left or right-handed provided me with a choice of approach, which enabled me to perform better.

And, have you noticed how the choices a person makes, will tell infinitely more about that person, than their natural abilities and talents.


Hearts & Minds

An American warfare social rehabilitation programme?  No !! :roll:

If you have read ‘A Salutory Lesson’, you will know that I have committed myself to raising the standard of all of the work that I produce, not simply the framing side of things.
Whenever I commit to such a proposal, I am immediately faced with the apparent conundrum of ‘Yes. OK. But how?’  The standard of work that I presently produce is very acceptable to 99.9% of my clients, so what am I proposing to do, to raise the standard to a level which will satisfy the remaining 00.099% of (as yet) so-far-unconfronted-clients?

Inverse the Rule
Which Rule?
The rule which says:
“What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.”

We have all heard it quoted.  Whether we have fully understood it or not.
We may have been the one who quoted it to someone else ~ to establish a point.
Now the inverse is equally true and, indeed, is equally beneficial, in terms of raising a standard.
What the heart
(thought or conscience, if you like) doesn’t concern itself with; the eye, in all probability, will neither see, nor be bothered about seeing.

As an example:
The rear of the frame is rarely seen, whilst the front and the edges are on continual display ~ to be appreciated, scrutinised &/or criticised.
The rear of the frame is seen probably only by the framer, the owner, or the hanger.
So does it matter?  “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.”
But if, in light of my proposal, I determine that I will ensure that the rear of the framing work, which may not be seen, is as good as the front, which will always be seen, then surely some measure of progress will have been made toward achieving my goal.
And if I ensure that the inverse of the rule will not be applied:
“What the heart doesn’t grieve over, the eye won’t see.” to the front of the work, and will neverever, be allowed to apply, then once more, beneficial progress will be made.

That tiny over-cut on a window mount.
Does it matter?  Of course it matters.
Will it be seen?  Does it matter whether it’s seen or not?  It’s not up to spec.
It is the work of only a few moments to calibrate the over and under-cut stops on a modern mat cutter to suit the thickness of mount-board being used for a particular job.

And the trouble with such small details as over-cuts, no matter how tiny, is that, like the ubiquitous flumb*4, it is very possible that the client may spot it, when my eye has completely missed it.
Egg-on-the-face time. :oops:

It doesn’t just apply to over-cuts of course.
The same principle may be applied to all manner of details on the ‘front’ of the work.
Minutely damaged or open corners
A ‘ding’ to a sight line
Imperfect V grooves
Loose pastel flakes
Imprecise pen lines
Scratches on glass
Assymmetrical double mounts etc, & so it goes on.

So in both of my workshops, fixed to a wall, is a printed notice which asks:
Is the front as near perfect as you can possibly make it ?
And is the back at least as good?

*4 ~ see Glossary of Terms; under About TAA

A Salutory Lesson

I have always prided myself that I strive to ensure that the unseen part [back or underneath] of whatever I produce will always be as good as what will be seen.
It has been something of a mantra for me since I started wood-turning and framing professionally.  A source of pride that my customer will be as pleased with the back or the underneath [the normally unseen part] of his/her purchase as he/she is with what is visibly displayed.

Well, I visited a colleague yesterday, and during the course of discussing various aspects of our work, he showed me some of his most recent work and present commissions.
And I have to admit that I was very impressed, not only with the obvious quality of those parts of his framing which will be manifestly visible, but also with the attention to detail given to those parts of the finished artwork which will, for the vast majority of the time, remain unseen.  Whether it involved the mounting of a piece of photographic art or floating a canvas print in a box frame, the quality remained consistently exceptionally good.
I was sufficiently impressed to examine some of my own work as soon as I arrived back in my workshop, with a necessarily critical eye, and was forced to concede that his work is better than mine.  Not dramatically so, I hasten to add :-) yet nevertheless, recognisably superior.
Far from being dismayed by this demonstration of excellence ~ not, incidentally, I’m sure, intended to be such on the part of my colleague, I am now inspired to raise my effort, both in terms of what will be seen and what will remain unseen.

I have committed myself to raising my standard to a similar level of excellence, during the course of this month.   :-)
Interaction is so often immensely useful, in many more ways than one.

And, no.  I have absolutely no intention of disclosing to you who it was that I visited, as I’m sure he has quite sufficient customers as it is.  :-P :-P

As a footnote, I also have to rather smugly concede, that as the colleague concerned is primarily a photographic and colour reproduction expert, and a very, very good framer, my wood-turning is much, much better, than his.