London builder's blog.

Builder carpenter roofer Chiswick Hammersmith London

My first London builder blog entry.

February 25th 2017


My intention is to keep this blog as a brief record of my site musings.

I think I will occasionally sprinkle things I like such as historic buildings and such.

Last year we were working on a roof in Chiswick and a butterfly landed on  my shoulder. Not quite an angel but nice all the same.

2. Perthshire.

February 26th 2017

I was up in Scotland recently for a visit and went past Lix Toll. The old track Land Rover has been replaced with this lovely new one.

Cowboy builder St. Margarets, Richmond, London

3. Cowboy builder in St. Margaret's by Richmond.

February 27th 2017

Undersized steel beams "supported" on 50mm of loosely stacked slate pieces.

Windsor castle timber and brick tudor

4. Lovely carpentry and brickwork in Windsor, Surrey.

February 28th 2017

Lovely example of carpentry and brickwork at Windsor Castle.

Hand drawing bespoke cabinet, Twickenham, London

5. Drawing in progress for bespoke cabinet in Twickenham, London.

March 1st 2017

Hand drawing a rough design for a bespoke cabinet for a client in Twickenham, London.

Custom made, solid Oak, furniture. Kew, Barnes, Chelsea, Twickenham, London.

6. You need a custom made Oak table in Chelsea asap?

March 2nd 2017

I was recently asked by a contact to custom make a full boule, rustic, English Oak table for a wealthy client of his in Chelsea. No problem except for the timescale. It was needed asap as he had forgot to call me. I had just finished a job in Kew, was on a job in Barnes and was about to start a two month job in Twickenham.

I don't like turning down such a lovely job, or letting down such a good contact, but I never, ever, prioritise a future job over my current job.

My normal process:

Liaise with client or designer, make drawings for confirmation and have samples approved.

Hand select the hardwood boules or slabs and custom machine them to approximate size in my work shop. 

Craft the furniture with traditional joints like dovetails, mortice and tenons, housings, etc. Or modern joints like dominos, keys, biscuits, etc.

Delivered to site bare, primed or fully finished.

Custom made, solid Oak, furniture. Kew, Barnes, Chelsea, Twickenham, London.

7. Cat in the van.

March 3rd 2017

Ralph, the client's cat, decided to have a look in the back of the van yesterday. It's normally pretty clean (for a builder's van) but was a bit scruffy after a dump run. He didn't seem too impressed and jumped back out pretty quick.

Builder's shelf, Twickenham, London.

8. End of an era.

March 6th 2017

The shelf that I cobbled together from scrap at the beginning of my current job met its demise today. It was originally built to support a wifi router but became quite the talking point.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

9. Cat in the box.

March 7th 2017

This is Ralph's second feature. He's quite a character and decided to sit in one of my stacking storage boxes.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

10. Best joiner's tool box ever made?

March 9th 2017

This is only a small part of an amazing tool box built by American joiner H.O. Studley (1838-1925). He specialised in pianos and organs. The quality of workmanship is near perfection and the tools themselves are exceptional.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

11. Bespoke work.

March 12th 2017

Lots of tradesmen ask me if bespoke work is really worth the hassle when so much extra time is spent on design, specification and client meetings.

I've done enough production work to be fast and efficient but my heart will always gravitate towards custom made.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

12. Know it all.

March 12th 2017

I can comfortably claim to be at master level for joinery and carpentry yet I still enjoy learning something new every day.

I also have a good working knowledge of the other trades relevant to my work but certainly do not claim mastery outside my own trade.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

13. Free upgrade.

March 15th 2017

When I'm doing a job I invariably make little improvements on my specifcation. I don't make a big deal about it but I know I'm doing it as a thank you for swift payment, fast decisions, occasional cup of tea, etc.

Today I managed to upgrade the birch plywood on a cabinet job from BB/CP as quoted to BB/BB. May not sound like much but it is two grades better.

All it required was driving to a different depot outwith the M25 and collecting myself. I had scheduled the day off to receive the planned delivery anyway so after a few emails and phone calls off I went.

A few hours later I was home with some lovely Russian and Latvian birch plywood.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

14. Measure twice, cut once.

March 16th 2017

Going over final spacing for a custom cabinet today and my client skillfully glided towards, with a satisfied grin, the old chestnut:

"Measure twice, cut once!"

I had to concede with a smile .....well played!

Cat in a builder's box, London.

15. Karma

March 17th 2017

I pride myself on being straight down the line. I hope I never come across as arrogant or smug.

One of the problems in London is that, because there are so many people masquerading as tradesmen (I take my lineage and craft seriously), average tradesmen start to think they are amazing.

I'd say I'm well above average but just in case I get too full of myself something will happen and keep me grounded.

Today I stood on a concreting rake. These things are crudely and heavily constructed. I got the full blow right in the centre of my forehead.

End result was a large lump, throbbing headache and a bruised ego.

Cat in a builder's box, London.

16. Tool worn out instead of stolen makes a change.

March 22nd 2017

Around ten years ago I had every portable power tool I owned stolen from my van.

I seriously considered leaving the building trade but going back to university was not a prospect I relished.

Today I've just had the better part of £1k of  power tools wear out whilst making a job.

I now face the prospect of my tools actually wearing out which is a novel experience.
Cat in a builder's box, London.

17. Kick back.

March 25th 2017

Had some major kick back on the table saw yesterday. There must have been some tension in a piece of wood as I ripped it down. I obviously wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been and, luckily, I was standing off side and missed it whizz by.

St. Fillans, Loch Earn, Perthshire

18. Loch Earn.

March 28th 2017

I was using my sash cramps today to clamp up a solid meranti frame shaker cabinet door. I was reminded of the job I bought them for many years ago. I had to site build some replacement window sashes for a gorgeous Victorian house beside Loch Earn. Perthshire in general is such a beautiful county.

I was lucky to live there on and off for a couple of years. The starry skies at night are a wonder to behold, the fresh air, early morning jogging beside the loch or up a hill, etc, etc. Fantastic.

Kenmore, Loch Tay, Perthshire.

19. Loch Tay.

March 30th 2017

The picture here is from Kenmore looking onto Loch Tay. I helped build some houses just up the road here. We would often watch an Osprey fishing whilst we ate our sandwiches during the morning "piece break".

Kenmore, Loch Tay, Perthshire.

20. Beware the "Jonny come lately".

April 3rd 2017

I've been on jobs before when all hell has broken loose because site agents, clients, managers, etcetera have trusted these strangers.

I think it's something to do with the fact that near the end of any job everyone is tired of being around each other and any new face is welcome.

Solid brass knob, bespoke cabinet, London.

21. Nice knobs.

April 4th 2017

Fitted some nice solid brass knobs today. I'll create a gallery page for this job. Lovely traditional cabinet in Twickenham.

Self levelling anahydrate screed primed ready to apply directly fixed Oak floor boards.

22. Priming anahydrate screed.

April 5th 2017

Self levelling anahydrate screed primed ready to apply directly fixed Oak floor boards.

Self levelling anahydrate screed primed ready to apply directly fixed Oak floor boards.

23. Directly fixed engineered Oak floor.

April 6th 2017

Directly fixed Oak floor boards using a firm elastic adhesive. Gives a lovley solid feel to the floor but allows the timber to move slightly.

Self levelling anahydrate screed primed ready to apply directly fixed Oak floor boards.

24. Floor protection.

April 12th 2017

I've protected the oak flooring too well in readiness for painting that no one can admire it.

Specialist masking tape and floor card with hardboard on top. All seams ae taped.

Timber hardwood front door, downpipe grey, London.

25. Timber front door, Queen's Park.

April 28th 2017

New front door in "Downpipe Grey".

Pippy Oak burr. Custom made joinery and woodwork, London.

26. Pippy Oak burr.

April 29th 2017

Timbers used in the last two months include Oak, Ebony, Walnut, Birch, Sapele, Spruce, Pine and probably more.

Here's a lovely pippy Oak burr live edge board at one of my favourite hardwood suppliers.

American black Walnut board.. Custom made joinery and woodwork, London.

27. American black Walnut.

May 1st 2017

Wide board American black Walnut board for some window cills in Queen's Park. You can see the difference in the colouring of the sap wood and the heart wood.

Granit hearth, silver waves. Custom made joinery and woodwork, London.

28. Granite hearth.

May 1st 2017

Lovely new granite hearth for my current job in Queen's Park. I think it's called "silver waves".

Custom made cabinetry,  joinery and woodwork, London.

29. Portfolio story board to come.

May 3rd 2017

This is a custom cabinet from my recent job in Twickenham. I will create a portfolio story board soon as the work has been extensive.

I just wish the client had hired me to paint as my standards tend to exceed the current accepted norm but hey ho.

Under stair storage. Custom made cabinetry,  joinery and woodwork, London.

30. Understair storage.

May 5th 2017

Under stairs storage on the job described below.

Painting and decorating London. Dulux, farrow and ball.

31. Nice paint work.

May 9th 2017

As part of our decoration work I am a stickler for proper preparation. Constantly de-nibbing, flattening and controlling dust on top of the early filling, sanding and priming.

Obviously being skilled and experienced is a major factor but care and attention makes a huge difference in the final product.

Carpentry internal doors, London, Surrey.

32. Cost vs benefit.

May 13th 2017

It occurred to me as I was working today that my fee for fitting these two doors was less than 10% of the cost of the tools I was using to fit them.

I always use a very good dust extraction system from festool which inflated my calculation but I'd rather not expose my own or my customers lungs to the dust.

Bespoke joinery, custom made solid oak, London.

33. Oak drawer.

May 14th 2017

Solid Oak drawer clamped to allow glue to cure under pressure.
Bespoke joinery, custom made, solid oak, red hardwood, birch plywood, London.

34. Cabinet doors.

May 15th 2017

Pair of traditional shaker style cabinet doors being made.
Bespoke joinery, custom made cabinetry, American black walnut, London.

35. Never enough clamps.

June 23rd 2017

The old adage of "never enough camps" always bears true. Although in this case I actually had enough clamps ..... just not in the van. Since loaded a dozen extra g clamps and will stock some more solo clamps this week.

Lovely American black walnut floating shelves.

Traditional timber back door, bespoke joinery, custom made cabinetry, douglas fir, London.

36. Stop!.....Chamfer!

June 24th 2017

Fitted a new back door into an old frame and replicated the stop chamfer detail in the new stops.

"Excellence is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skilful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities."