Saws, Storms and Stills

Saws, Storms and Stills

A lot can happen in a month, and yet in the blink of an eye it’s over. Pretentious and shallow statement, yes, but nevertheless it is true. We’re well into February and my exam is creeping ever closer. Does that mean all my time has been consumed by preparation? Thankfully, no. I have had a few other projects on the go.

Storm Eunice

Plymouth has been battered by high winds and rain brought courtesy of one Eunice. The damage to our property wasn’t major, but we did lose a couple of fence panels and I had an after-work recovery mission saving the plastic greenhouse from no man’s land (the scrub wasteland beside our house). We do seem to get hit by plenty of gusts despite being in a relatively sheltered location. One of my post-exam projects will be building another block wall to secure the back of our garden, then constructing several large compost heaps. It won’t be long before the raised beds need re-planting, too.

The flimsy fencing panel was no match for nature’s might

Office Renovations

The office renovations are ongoing in a piecemeal fashion. I’ve stripped most of one wall which now needs plastering. My first attempt was semi-successful, although the finish leaves a lot to be desired. Once the wall is plastered and painted, the bookshelves can be fitted. My plan for the shelving is still at the drawing board phase. Part of the project will require cutting plywood sheeting down to size, and without a table saw making long straight cuts poses a challenge. I bought a secondhand DeWalt DWS520 track/plunge saw from eBay but when it arrived it was clear the description did not tally with reality. Having been described as “great condition”, I unboxed a battered saw with a broken blade-change mechanism. The owner had clearly thrown it about, and admitted to changing the blades with an impact driver. This is far from best practice, and I ended up sending it back as defective.

The next purchase I went for was a Festool TS55 EQ, the top of the range plunge saw (and the original plunge saw patent holders). Trying my hand at a repair job, I picked up a secondhand saw with some issues which apparently required new brushes. If you’re unfamiliar with motor anatomy, “brushed” motors use carbon brushes to contact with the armature and transfer current. (there’s a great video explaining the process here). These brushes become worn down over time and eventually the motor loses power and stops working. Having looked at a few repair videos, I thought I was up for the task. These things are never as simple as they seem, as I discovered with the recumbent exercise bike I bought and repaired for my neighbours during lockdown.

After replacing the brushes with the set given to me by the previous owner, the saw started but still struggled and made a grinding noises. Another couple of attempts later and one of the brushes burned out, stopping the saw completely. I scratched my head for a while, although I did notice that the size of replacement brushes was slightly different than the originals. Could the provided brushes be the wrong size? I found the part number on Festool’s part catalogue and ordered a replacement claiming to be OEM, and got to work disassembling and cleaning the saw, looking for another explanation for the fault. The air compressor is ideal for this kind of job. I blasted the internals and cleaned everything as well as I could, then held my breath while fitting the second set of brushes. And…the same problem. That was as far as I was willing to go before off-loading it and buying a functional one. It was a gamble, one that didn’t pay off on this occasion, but I did learn more about power tools and how to troubleshoot basic issues. I have a non-functional angle grinder that might benefit from new brushes.

Foccacia matter with you?

Following on from my unsuccessful tool resurrection was a partial hobby resurrection – bread baking! I eased myself back in with a foccacia based on a BBC Good Food recipe which made a really nice loaf, topped with rosemary from the garden, sea salt flakes and extra virgin olive oil. I have always loved making indentations in foccacia and topping it with everything from caramelised red onions to olives and parmesan. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just dough stretched across a tray and topped with delicious things.

Foccacia with rosemary and sea salt flakes

License to Swill? (Off the premises, of course)

We have recently discovered the Lisbon Bakery close to Plymouth Market in the city center, a tremendous Portuguese bakery and café with a massive selection of cakes and pastries. On a post-storm dessert outing, we opted for a slice of cake, a cream-filled pastry and a mini Pastéis de nata for Evie. Nata are Portuguese custard tarts which are hard to beat as an accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Our next stop was Barrel & Still, a specialist wine and spirit retailer. After a pleasant chat with the owner and being bowled over by the selection of stuff in stock, we picked up a bottle of ume-shu (Japanese plum wine) and one of yuzu sake (flavoured with a type of citrus fruit popular in Japan). I have been a member of Naked Wines for a little while now, but given the selection and local knowledge available I have cancelled my membership and am planning to spend the money at Barrel & Still instead. It’s more important than ever to support local small businesses in the wake of Covid’s impact. And what better way than to buy something exquisite!

Choya ume-shu and yuzu sake

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