Monday, June 10, 2013

Stamping Planes

The most intimidating part of making my first planes was the heat treating. When I started this hobby I never anticipated being bent over a pile of fire bricks in my driveway at dusk with a blowtorch in my hand and a pot of peanut oil at my side. That wasn't my intention, but it's where the hobby lead. (Check out Larry Williams' Dvd and, though the step may be intimidating, it's simple with the process he describes. But, I digress...)

The hardest part of making this type of tool is stamping the plane. Seriously. It's the only part that, after making a few dozen of these tools, I wasn't confident in the outcome.

Simply put, I never acquired the skill of swinging a 3 lb. sledge at my fingers with the force demanded to stamp my name on the end of a tall, thin piece of wood I spent 5 hours making and could ruin with one glancing blow (not to mention the ER trip if the blow should glance in the other direction). I didn't have the confidence.

I still remember practicing with my stamp until my shoulder was exhausted, trying again in an hour, and then, again, the next day. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was sent an example of what the stamp should look like when done correctly.

Let this video be a demonstration of using a maker's stamp and how I use it to this day. It will hopefully save you a lot of effort trying to execute under false pretenses (i.e. you have one swing).

Take note of the following:

1. I don't even try to mark the wood with a single blow. The first swing is focused on indenting the stamp enough on one end to give it something to register in for the second, third or eighth.

2. I have clamps on the vises so I don't destroy them (I wouldn't know how to match the pink paint on my face vice if I needed to replace it.) This process would be easier with a solid backer like a stump or anvil? OK, but this works fine.

3. You must be listening to music that has the proper punch.

Remember, a heavy hammer (sledge) is necessary. The purpose is to "damage" the wood, but with control. There is no reason to be displeased if you practice. There is no reason to post about your displeasure if you haven't.

Now I need to get back to the most intimidating part of this job, sharpening the remaining 50+ planes on my bench and getting them out the door.

Mitch, you're next! I promise, I haven't forgotten.