Monday 20 November 2023


 I wanted a strop for chisels and plane irons, and youtube encouraged me to make my own. It's only a scrap of leather glued to a flat bit of wood. So this weekend I took the radio and a cup of coffee out to the workshop and did some recreational woodwork.




Makeshift shooting board


Polishing compound ("soap")



Richard "Walking on the razor's edge" B

Friday 17 November 2023

Long Service Award

 For at least 30 years, there was an undisputed genius in engine tuning in Plymouth. His name was Alan Jeffery and you would hear stories, told in reverent tones about the godlike works that he had done. An ex-girlfriend's dad told me about the time that Alan Jeffery took a screwdriver, pressed it to the cylinder head and inlet manifold in many different places while listening to the handle and then told him (correctly) exactly why his car was running badly. When we were young, everybody with a good souped up Escort had had it tuned by Alan Jeffery. The man from the Vehicles Inspectorate who looked at my Caterham talked about him (and his skill with Webber carburettors) in nothing but glowing terms.

In early 2016 Alan Jeffery worked his magic for me, over the phone! My Caterham wouldn't pass the emissions tests. When I rang up he asked me to read the numbers off the failure certificate, and then told me exactly what was wrong (a clean air leak into the exhaust system). He never saw the car and he tried not to charge me.

His workshop was at the end of Valley Road but more recently it changed its name to Enginetuner Ltd and started concentrating on Subarus and Mitsubishis. I went there a couple of weeks ago to ask for advice on working out how worn my Caterham engine is (it has something like 200 hours on track). The receptionist said "Oh for a Caterham you'd be better off talking to Alan, he'll be there on Thursday". Alan Jeffery, semi-retired, well into his 70's with at least a 30 year glowing reputation showed me around the workshop, looked over my car, and essentially said "if it aint broke don't fix it", but "aint broke" involves oil consumption, temperature management, and emissions tests.

I'm delighted that he's still going, but rather sad that all the youngsters who work there are concentrating on modern cars. When Alan's gone, who's going to help me with my Caterham engine? Who's going to tune cars with carburettors?

Richard "Two first names" B

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Bolingbroke Suite

I just bought a slightly battered silk lampshade from the charity shop, but it doesn't fit the pendant in The Bolingbroke Suite. To the workshop:

Bottle Top

Bottle Top with Groove

Bottle Top with O-Ring

Bottle Top at Drill Press

Bottle Top with Hole

Lampshade Adapter

Bolingbroke Suite

Richard "False Economy" B

Thursday 2 November 2023

Food Culture

 This week I present to you a couple of food based thought experiments. We have all grown up in a culture of food that has weird and subtle rules. We all know them but they're never said out loud. For example coffee and cake would come in the morning while tea and cake would come in the afternoon. If a group of people are ordering from a Chinese takeaway then no main dishes are duplicated, but the same rule doesn't apply at the fish and chip shop. No hot drinks with hot food - except at breakfast time.

I was supposed to be cooking brunch for one of my friends on Sunday, but it was cancelled at the last minute so I have an unexpected glut of sausages and bacon. The first question is are you happy to eat a meal of fried bacon, sausage, egg (maybe mushrooms, maybe potato) in the evening? I absolutely am, but my brother finds the idea repulsive. The next question is can you have a glass of red wine with it? I know a woman who does, but I find the very idea abhorrent.

Richard "Breakfast for Tea" B

Breakfast of Champions

 I'm getting used to cooking on an induction stove, and I'm getting used to cooking in a heavy carbon steel frying pan which I bought to go with it. After my house warming party I successfully fried an egg in it for the first time. I got it unstuck easily, I flipped it without breaking it, and it came out beautifully. What I don't know is what was the critical factor that lead to my success. Was it my new, thin fish slice? Was it that the pan had built up enough of an oily layer on its surface? Was it that I'd just drunk most of a bottle of champagne and a quarter of a bottle of gin? I hope it's not the last one because that would make cooking breakfast wildly inconvenient.

Richard "Chef" B