Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Brothers Separated at Birth

When I produce a pair of planes I always make them out of a single piece of wood. I try to make sets out of as few pieces as possible. I spend a lot of time indexing my beech to keep everything in order. I spend more time lining up sap lines and other silly things, but I digress. Rabbet planes and dedicated planes usually get made from the odd leftover pieces: the fifth foot in a 5 foot length.

Today I separately packaged a group of three rabbet planes that were all made from the same piece of wood since I had run low on the aforementioned 'extras'. Each plane was boxed and 7/8" in width. One was left handed and bedded at my normal 50 degrees and two were right handed and bedded at 55.

I found myself staring at these three planes that effectively look exactly the same. One is going to England, one outside of Boston and the third is going to Hawaii. It was fun to think that three people, separated by thousands of miles, will be using the same plane and the planes will never see each other again.

The whole thing, this wonderful job, etc., just struck me and left me staring for a few minutes.

 I again thank my patient customers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spoon Carving

Well, Peter Follansbee got me again.

My family and I were minding our own business, away from people, electricity, everything.

And then, while the kids were splitting wood to burn, my wife and I found ourselves picking out a few good pieces for a completely different function. We were soon fully engaged in carving spoons: mornings and afternoons.

Here are four of mine.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Preparing for Upcoming Classes

My normal work flow has been interrupted as I make preparations for upcoming classes. This weekend, after a significant amount of re-sawing, I will be guiding a group through the process of making a rabbet plane at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, ME.

In early August I will be in Port Townsend, WA at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. I will be leading another group through the very similar process of making a single pair of hollows and rounds.

This is the first time that I will be teaching this specific subject. This class will be five days. If you've taken several classes and tend to be ahead of the group I will bring along a couple of the rabbet plane blanks for you to work on as the rest of the class catches up.

I will also be teaching a second class at PTSW: "Mouldings in Practice." This is a class that I have taught several times before. I will have series of planes for each student to use and we will learn the process of creating predictable profiles with these tools that appear difficult to guide, progress and maintain.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Water vs. Oil Stones: An Observation

Many people will not carve because they feel that their hands are not artistic.

Many also feel that their hands have not reached a level of competency for sharpening the profiles of gouges, let alone profiled planes.

My response to these craftsmen is always the same: don't let the sharpening of these tools intimidate you. Learn to sharpen a chisel without a jig, then a carving gouge, then a single and simple moulding plane iron (not 20 off of eBay). Teach your hands the process because the sharpening medium is the same. If you tried unsuccessfully a few years ago then try again today. Your hands are naturally better if they've been used more.

Many users of antique planes have seen widely varying levels of success due to the same. I discuss this process in my book and demonstrate it in my dvd. Larry Williams of Old Street Tool, Inc. goes much further into the subject using a different method with his dvds.

One aspect of both of our demonstrations that is the same is the use of oilstones. These hard, natural stones are ideal for anybody addressing profiled edges because they don't distort nearly to the extent of  water stones.

I have been using a water stone in my work for about 12-18 months for the final polish. It's messy, yes. But more concerning is the amount that needs to be removed.

The number of times I flatten both stones illustrated below is similar. However, an Arkansas stone has a new, flat surface after a few passes on a diamond plate. A water stone may take a few minutes, especially if there has been an errant stroke that has left a mark. An oilstone leaves a discolored slurry on my plate. A waterstone leaves visible build up that could be brushed away and collected once dry.

Both of these stones started at a thickness of 1". My waterstone, again, may be a year and a half old. My oilstone, which sees 10 times the amount of work, is probably 12 years old.

The amount of use your stones see in your work environment may be drastically different than mine. On Average, I spend a full day on my stones each week. The result, though less exaggerated, will be the same. Oilstones are the proper choice of stone for profiled edges, whether moulding planes or carving gouges.

Note: I have used a DMT slip which was rendered useless. I have only used sandpaper for the initial flattening of the back if necessary (60 grit).

On a seemingly different note, one of our children likes to draw and we have spent many nights at the kitchen table doing just that. 

My latest project with my wide arrange of #3 Ticonderogas:

All work with your hands will make you a better woodworker. Any woodwork will make you better with your hands. Draw a better curve and carve a smoother volute. Know what a sharp chisel feels like and you'll essentially know how to sharpen a profiled iron. It's all relevant and you're getting better at each.

Just remember that oil stones are ideal for profiled irons and #3 pencils are terrible for shading and filling in large areas in solid black. But you can make both work.

Do not preclude yourself from making mouldings by hand due to the sharpening.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dedicated Moulding Plane(s)

Once I set up a tool and get it perfect it goes in a box and out the door.

There are times when the last part of this process is harder than others. Sometimes I really have a hard time putting the plane in the box. 

I posted a few commentaries regarding spring angles for dedicated planes last week. The first is here, and addendum is here.

We settled on the final plane and I completed sharpening it today. It will ship tomorrow.

What's different about this time? Well, every time I make one of these dedicated planes I half-heartedly wish the customer backs out and I get to keep it. This plane had my attention once it was decided that we're springing the plane. The profile will fit well into my various presentations. I liked the profile a lot so I cut the line/back log and made one for myself.

Come check it out at Handworks in May. 

Here are a couple more that I recently made.

"Get 'em ready, put 'em in a box. Repeat."

"Oh, the plane is working great! Just as I like it. Put it in a box. Repeat."

Try to guess what this scraping plane I recently made will specifically be used for. Hint: the answer is in the picture.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Angles: An Addendum

On Saturday I put up a blog entitled "Spring Angles". The first comment posted two links to similar articles written a few decades ago.

The first article was written by Herbert P. Kean and published in 1988 by Astragal Press. The second was by John Whelan in 1993.

After reading those two articles I felt like I didn't add much to the conversation on Saturday. Let this by my addition.

In the second article Whelan states "It remains to be explained why astragals and beads do not use spring." He went on to illustrate an example of a sprung plane taken to extreme--an astragal sprung at 90 degrees, illustrated by him below.

Whelan explains that a plane set up in this fashion ergonomically "improves the effective pitch on the near side of the curve. [While making] it worse on the far side, where the effective pitch is beyond vertical (pitch greater than 90ยบ)."

There is another reason why a plane set up in this manner, or any plane with a cutting angle past parallel of the iron, will not work. Let's look at a side bead set up to cut a full 180 degrees and unsprung.

We've all seen this plane before. Let's take a closer look at the bead. The steepest tangent line of the bead, where the cutting edge is pushed to its extreme and scrapes, is parallel to the iron and plane's blind side.

Here we will get similar cuts on both sides of the bead as we work our way from the top to both sides.

Additionally, as the plane gets used and subsequent sharpening has occurred, the iron advances in the plane's body. The following illustration highlights (in black) the steel that will ultimately be removed during the process. 

The entire edge is present (due to the iron's lean in the plane, there will even be slight protrusions in the vertical sections, but that's a different topic that Larry and Don of Old Street Tools have addressed.)

Now let's exaggerate the issue and spring the plane to 45 degrees.

As Whelan described, the iron is making a better cut at the 10-11:00 region, but much worse between 1:30-3:00

Here the tangent line at the same point of the bead is well beyond parallel to the iron. 

Sure, the plane will work initially, but what happens after a you have sharpened the iron a few times? Let's follow the iron's advance.

Do you see the problem area?

Here is the same area highlighted in yellow. That's the area that has no iron protruding, no edge, no cut. The plane no longer functions at this point, unless you want to grind the iron's blind edge.

This is the main reason why I posted the previous topic regarding spring angle. This is the main concern and the most important reason why we must reduce the circumference of the bead if we want the plane to be sprung.

A plane set up like Whelan illustrated above has poor cutting geometry, yes. But more importantly, it also has a limited life span. 

The mouth width ranks third in my book.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Angles

The planes that I reproduce represent the point in time when all of the technology of moulding planes had been incorporated, while none of the machining had yet been taken out. One of the examples of this technology is the "spring angle" of a dedicated plane. This "Spring" is the angle at which the plane must be held to produce the desired profile. You'll see the proper angle of a plane's spring by looking at score marks on the toe (and, often, the heel).

I am in the process of designing a plane body for a custom profile, dedicated plane that I will make this week. I was sent the following image from the customer and we're trying to come up with a plane design that will create the profile.

Take note of the bead above: it's a full 180 degrees. If he decides to have this full bead in the final profile then the plane must not be sprung. 

There are two major disadvantages to not having this plane sprung. 1. The high point of the cutting edge of the iron will be much higher in the plane. This will result in a mouth that is not as uniform, well beyond the wear angle of the body and wider than necessary. 2. The iron itself will be vertical. This will result in less of a shearing cut and more of a scraping cut--think edge retention. The difference in cutting action won't be a deal breaker, but it does change things.

There are two planes illustrated below. The plane that is vertical has no spring. (This is the one from above.) The other plane, the left, has a spring angle of 22.5 degrees. The mouth will be more uniform and the cutting edge will have more linear feet in it.

Take note of how far up in the body the cutting edge travels. I can make the entire cutting edge inside of the plane's wear angle.

The disadvantage to the sprung plane is that I have to reduce the bead from 180 degrees to what's illustrated.

A few frequently asked questions:

Q.   How do you make dedicated planes?
A.   Hollows and rounds. There is no tool better for producing small amounts of very specific profiles. This is a perfect example. I will make 10" of this molding and likely never make it again. Increase the size, decrease the size, whatever. It makes no difference to me. (We are also deciding the actual dimensions below.)

Q.   Why are there no spring lines on hollows and rounds?
A.   Hollows and rounds have no spring lines because there is no predetermined angle at which the plane must be held.

Q.   How will the plane be maintained? 
A.   The plane's sole will be flattened with hollows and rounds or poor man's hollows/rounds:

Sleep on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Fun Story

I was reminded of a fun story while making the two plaques in my previous post:

The last time I made a sign like that was 5 years ago. I had recently moved to CT after leaving my previous job and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next.

Stanley (Yes, that Stanley) was advertising a job in marketing to help introduce their new line of high-end woodworking tools to woodworkers. I had no way to relate my previous experience on a resume. I tried to explain the reasons on paper but they didn’t call me back. I thought that if I could just speak to somebody I could tell him how I’m perfect because I have a genuine interest in their industry and direction. All of my free time was spent in research, after all. I called and nobody called me back.

I had the perfect plan. Using that 'print it, tape it, trace it' method I carved a ‘Stanley’ sign with my uncle’s 720s. I took a couple pictures of the process and brought them all up to the Stanley main building. After nearly getting thrown out by security for not having an appointment I finally spoke to somebody in human resources long enough for her to take my resume, pictures and plaque. No call. Ever.

This month marks my fifth year in business pursuing customers. I’ll be at Handworks in May with just about every high-end hand tool manufacturer.


Just send my work back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Sunday Afternoon, A Tuesday Evening and 10 Minutes Between.

I quickly made a sign as a gift for a friend, Kate Jones. She originally built my website and just recently transformed it into something that I will be able to manage completely. (Much of the information on my website is quite outdated and will be changed in short order.)

The final product is awesome. I know this because Kate asked about the machine I used to make it.

The process of making something so exact attracted the attention of one of my children. I insisted it was something that he could do. Yesterday we set out to again prove that his father is always correct. I took a couple minutes to start the process with him. His lines became much crisper by the time he got to the 6th letter. (I did the 'B' and the 'K'.)

This, of course, led to making another gift, a cleaner workbench and a wish that I made the original plaque in reverse.

As you become immersed in this craft you find tools whose capabilities truly fascinate. I appreciate my gouges (I used a total of three for the two plaques). The options they afford me are relieving (get it?). 2-3 hours and I have exactly what I want.

My next post, which will come much sooner than this one did, will showcase another series of tools that will afford me the opportunity to make exactly what I want, not limited by what bits or blades I may have. Any guesses?

Pick up a couple gouges. Play around with them. Are there other tools that encourage you to make a small project in a single evening?