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Greetings from Guyane

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Greetings from Guyane

Postby Bojam » 30 Sep 2021, 13:14


If you're familiar with the story of Papillon (Henri Charriere) then you'll know of Devil's Island, part of the infamous penal colony that France operated in French Guiana until the early 1950s. We live in Kourou, a small coastal town from which you can clearly see the Salvation Islands (of which Devils Island is one) a few kilometres out to sea. It's hot and humid, but a pretty fascinating place to be. French Guiana is an overseas territory of France, largely sustained by the Space Centre here in Kourou - from which satellites are launched - and by subsidies from the central state. The total population at last count was less than 300k and is a mix of many ethnicities. It's culturally and linguistically very diverse. The majority of people live along a thin coastal strip and the vast interior is largely unpopulated (save for some small communities mainly settled along the rivers) and covered in dense tropical forest. About 95% of the total land area is in fact forest!

We've been here for 4 years now, because my wife is a forest ecologist running a forest research station. I used to teach on distance learning MSC programmes in Tropical Forestry at Bangor University and was able to continue doing that work for a while after we moved out here. Unfortuntately, due to complications arising from BREXIT, I had to stop. And so I found myself in need of a new direction. So I decided to take up woodworking and have spent the last 18 months or so equipping a small workshop and learning to make furniture and small decorative pieces. I'm planning to register a business in the New Year. We're blessed with many beautiful woods here. Even the "non precious" - i.e. readily available and relatively inexpensive - woods are lovely. Of course, they are hard and often abrasive with high silica content. So carbide blades and cutters on the power tools are essential and hand tools need regular sharpening.

Having taught myself to hand mill boards - flattening and squaring stock - with a 5 1/2 jack plane, I finally gave in and ordered a combi planer-thicknesser, which should arrive in the next few weeks. I have been using a benchtop thicknesser with spiral cutterhead (Axi AT330ST) and been very impressed with the finish it gives on even the hardest tropical woods (like Purpleheart), so my new machine will also be equipped with a helical head. A jointer will save a lot of time and toil and hopefully will improve the quality of my work. I also ordered a 17" bandsaw at the same time since shipping costs are very high so better to take advantage of the economies of scale and have them both arrive in a single shipment. I don't have a table saw but use a track saw on a large homemade MFT style bench with the Benchdogs (UK) fence accessories. I find this to be an excellent system and can make accurate and repeatable rip and crosscuts (with the right blades installed). However for really fine work, I decided to treat myself this weekend and took advantage of the flash sale at Bridge City to order a Jointmaker Pro (JMPv2) and precision fence system at a vastly reduced price. I plan to use this to batch out decorative boxes and frames, etc., with traditional joinery and decorative features like inlays. I suspect that some of you will view this as a frivolous expense and will suggest that the JMP can do nothing that can't already be achieved using traditional hand tools. This may be true but I'm not that skilled and I appreciate the speed and precision afforded by using what is essentially a human powered tablesaw. I'll keep you posted on how this experiment progresses.

My most recent project was to build a slightly reduced size "Morley Mortiser" - a relatively simple jig designed to allow accurate and repeatable mortising for traditional and loose tenon joinery using a handheld router. Turned out well, although I made the sliding top from a hardwood board (rather than marine ply like the rest of the construction) and, although dry, it cups slightly every day and then settles back down overnight. So apparently I can only do mortising work in the mornings while everything is flat :lol:. I may have to replace the top with 12mm marine ply when I next get some.

Thanks for having me here. I know I'll learn a lot from the vast accumulated experience and hope I'll be able to give something back in return.


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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Andyp » 30 Sep 2021, 13:37

Hi, James and welcome

Thanks for such an interesting bio. I read Papillon and Banco many years ago and I have never since been able to look at a cigar case the same way.
You will be able to reply to PM's now by the way and I have read the mail you sent Mark, thank you.
Sorry that Brexit has screwed things up as far afield as South America. It has buggered up a number of things for me too.

Nice to know we are forgiven for the earlier cöck up.

You will be able to post images now too. So don't be shy. I can't wait to see what you can produce from all those readily available exotic woods you must have on your doorstep.


2 wrongs don’t make a right but 3 lefts will
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Mike G » 30 Sep 2021, 13:38

Welcome James. Good to have you here. My daughter did some field research in French Guyana as part of her Zoology degree. She spotted a grasshopper or cicada, I think, which was new to science, and her team wrote it up. She absolutely loved the forest there, but had had enough of sleeping in a hammock by the time she came home.

Nice to hear the story of your new hobby and workshop.....but be careful of Americanisms! :) "Jointer" is American for "planer". Anyway, welcome aboard. It would be great to have some photos of your workshop, and of the surroundings. It will look very different to what most of us are used to.
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Lurker » 30 Sep 2021, 14:22

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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Woodbloke » 30 Sep 2021, 15:02

Welcome and if it’s not been said, we like pictures; lots of ‘em -
I no longer work for Axminster Tools & Machinery.
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby TrimTheKing » 30 Sep 2021, 16:23

Welcome James. You've got to be one of, if not our most exotically located members!
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Malc2098 » 30 Sep 2021, 22:35

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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Trevanion » 30 Sep 2021, 22:52

TrimTheKing wrote:Welcome James. You've got to be one of, if not our most exotically located members!

Hey, hey, hey! What are you saying? Pembrokeshire isn't exotic?





Who said that? I can't see you!
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby Gill » 01 Oct 2021, 00:18

Love the photos!

Now, James, your turn!

PS Welcome to WH2.
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Re: Greetings from Guyane

Postby johnward » 01 Oct 2021, 08:12

Welcome James. I envy you living in South America. I've traveled widely there, although not Guyane, while pursuing my World Birding hobby. It's a fantastic place with so much wildlife and is my favorite continent.

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