Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How To Laterally Set A Moulding Plane's Iron

Continuing to add to the FAQ page on my website. Check it out or make suggestions in the various comment sections here.

Some planes have mechanical adjusters to help with the alignment of a blade in the plane's body. Some planes have none and rely upon slight taps with a hammer. Laterally adjusting an iron can be a tricky task for the newly initiated. Efficiency with this skill is acquired only with time and attempts.

Becoming proficient with setting one plane certainly helps with the process needed for others. Once you become adept at setting the iron for a plane with no adjustment mechanism, for example, you will likely include slight taps of a hammer with those that do. No two planes, however, are exactly the same to set and adjust: some planes have more play in their adjusters while others have no adjuster and a wedge that braces the iron more or less firmly than the average.

Every time, with every plane, the depth of cut must be addressed each time the plane is disassembled for sharpening. Additionally, each time you take the iron out of any plane you must laterally adjust the plane's iron to be in line with the plane's sole, right?

No, actually. I sharpen the profile of my side escapement irons so that there is no lateral adjustment necessary, only depth of cut. How is this possible? I grind my irons so that when the plane's iron is pressed firmly against the blind side of the plane's body (the side of the plane that the shaving is not ejected from) the iron's profile is directly in line with the profile of the plane's body.

When I set the iron for my #18 I just push the iron firmly against the left side of plane body with my fore finger. Everything falls right in line.

The same principle applies to setting up my 10s: push the iron firmly against the blind side.

The 2s? Same thing.

Even left handed planes or, in this case, a snipes bill plane sets up with the same process.

My purpose of spending the time to profile the planes in this manner may not be apparent if you only have one or two planes that you use. After all, you will only need to remember that plane A's iron is centered at the top while touching the blind side at the bottom while Plane B's iron is very different and if you get it wrong you'll figure it out.

When you have several planes, however, your opinion will change. It is nice knowing that every single plane in this picture is laterally set in the exact same manner: You just push it against that blind side and everything is in line.

There is no fuss in aligning the two profiles here, there, or anywhere.

Keeping the plane this way, of course, is up to the user.

My rabbet planes, despite having square soles with square irons, are slightly more tedious to set up than any other planes that I make. They are the only planes that have the iron floating in or near the center of the mortise.

Though every plane you will own from various manufacturers has it's own feel, I go out of my way to make certain that each plane works in the same manner as its mate and every other plane in its set. The irons all set the exact same way.

Finally, due to the graduating widths of the irons; the mortise, wedge and tang increase in size similarly. This ensures that the same strike of an adjusting hammer will advance the iron a similar amount, regardless of the plane's size.

I dare say that these planes are easier to set up than most.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Left Handed Moulding Planes

Notes: I have never had a left-handed student choose to use right-handed planes. I have never had right-handed students choose to use left-handed planes, unless posing for a joke.

I am teaching a class at CVSW this weekend. There are two spots open. Come learn how to use hollows and rounds, left or right. Come learn what appropriately tuned planes feel like, left and right. Come listen to Bob Van Dyke chastise me for listening to the soundtrack to "Hamilton", neither left nor right.

I continue to add pages to my FAQ page, this is one.

Finding the perfect plane for you lefties may be difficult, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum.

(1) You will want a specific ogee so you watch the various antique dealers hoping they will post it and you will be the first to buy it…now. It is possible. It is unlikely. You will think that "there should be a law."
(2) You want a missing pair of hollows and rounds to match your set so you watch eBay. With enough time, your desired pair will likely show up. Best case scenario you will get into a bidding war, you buy it, it is not exact, you sell it on eBay to your bidding partner at 40%. You will think that "there should be a law."
(3) You want any left handed plane. You wait, wait, read, and wait. It is not going to happen so you wish for a law to fix the left vs. right conundrum and realize there once was an unwritten law to fix exactly this.

Left handed antique planes essentially do not exist. Left handed planes are desirable for those that can not conform and may only exist because a few have not conformed.
I had a long series of paragraphs, pictures and illustrations typed out to explain the advantages of having the correctly handed planes. Having done that and now erased it, I think I can make this subject quick and apparent. You need to be able to see your progress, as measured by the shavings your plane is producing.

This is a right handed person using a right handed plane. He is working in the normal direction, right to left. Do you see how he is able see inside of the escapement?

This is a right handed person pretending to be left handed while using a left handed plane. He is working in a left handed person’s normal direction, left to right. He can also see inside of the escapement. While taking this photo he said “How do I place my hands? Wait, hold on, this? This feels weird, ok.”

This is a right handed person pretending to be left handed while using a right handed plane going in the left handed direction. While taking the picture he stated “I don’t know what I’m supposed to see. Are there two shavings? Why are you taking this picture?”

When using hollows and rounds we want predictable, desirable results. To get these results we need to be able to gauge our progress. We are able to measure our progress by watching the shavings being ejected from the mouth. If you cannot see the shavings then you cannot see the results. Additionally, if you cannot manipulate the plane to change the shavings because you cannot see the shavings or you’re not steering with your dominate hand then you will not get predictable results.

If you are told that you need to learn to deal with the situation because you don’t know what is best for you then you are dealing with somebody with an 18th-century mentality or somebody that doesn’t want to change the tooling in their shop to fit your desires, which is the exact opposite reason you’re purchasing new hollows and rounds. If you want new left handed planes and are told that you don't know what is best for you, just assume the person making the statement wants to slap your wrists with a ruler. (Note: stating there aren't enough lefties to pay for the tooling is different than stating you are wrong.)

Left handed planes are best for left handed people, as evidenced by every single left handed student I have had and given the choice. You may not choose to purchase all of your planes new and left handed. However, if you are left handed and you own some lefties while still owning some righties, the new lefties won’t make you worse with your old righties. You will be better overall.
This page is dedicated to my mother, the lefty, and Roger, the insistent:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Moulding Planes Versus Antiques

Note: This post is another addition to my FAQ page

There are many reasons to introduce moulding planes into your shop. The type of planes you choose may vary just like the reasons. Some will choose hollows and rounds over dedicated planes. Some will choose antiques versus new.

In this post I will address the antique group by showing exactly what I sell other than a very good looking tool.
The first thing that a plane’s performance depends upon is the fit of the wedge. An antique plane with a poorly fitting wedge is to be avoided. Fixing the wedge of an antique plane can mean making a new wedge, which means needing to re-bed the iron. Fixing the mortise will lead to tweaking the mortise, making a new wedge and re-bedding the iron. Essentially, a poorly fitting wedge means going through the process of making 30-40% of a new plane.
What is a poorly fitting wedge? If a wedge can be manipulated inside of the mortise then the wedge and mortise are improperly fit. There can be no slop. A wedge that moves is unable to uniformly seat an iron because the wedge will not sit uniformly from one instance to the next.
Let’s look at how my wedges fit.

There are no visible gaps at the top of the mortise. If you try to manipulate the wedge in either direction you are not able. The wedge fits ideally here, but that is not all.
Let us look at an antique in extremely good condition compared to the average…
This wedge has a slight gap. As a result, the wedge may be manipulated inside of the mortise, which, again, means that the wedge may not sit in the mortise the same way on all occasions. The iron may be bedded in some instances and not in others, depending upon the lateral position of the wedge.

When looking at the two side-by-side you may see the difference. The fit on the port side is currently equal. The starboard? Not so much.

(note: This antique plane is in very good condition compared to average.)
Now let us look at the bottom of the mortise and wedge:

There is no shadow at the bottom of my ramp.


There is a shadow at the bottom of the ramp here. What does that mean?

While there is no shadow between the ramp and the wedge (above), there is also no shadow or space between the wedge’s tip and the body. No matter how I try to force the wedge, I cannot create a void here. There is no room for play between the wedge and body of the plane. This means that there is no possible void in which the shavings may be trapped.

There is a void between the wedge and the blind side of the body in the antique here. This means that there is a void in which the shaving will be caught.

A plane’s performance depends upon a properly fitting wedge. My new planes come with a properly fitting wedge.

 In addition to the fit of the wedge, the mating surface between the iron’s back and plane’s bed is extremely important. A plane with an improperly bedded iron will chatter, clog, and dig into a surface rendering the plane unable to take a fine shaving. This is best pictured with an iron has not yet been shaped.

There are no visible gaps beneath the iron. There are also no hidden gaps beneath the iron (you’ll have to trust me here.)
Antique planes will vary. Re-bedding an antique iron is generally a straight forward process if it is not off by much. However, you will likely recognize that an iron needs to be bedded after you’ve profiled and sharpened the iron. Re-bedding the iron at this point will mean re-sharpening/profiling the edge.

This brings us to sharpening. My irons come sharp. The way I use them is the way you will get them.

Additionally, my irons match the profile of my soles. This means that you can take a fine, full-width shaving.

Antique planes will have a high spot behind the mouth, conservatively, 100% of the time. The severity of that high spot will vary, but it is there. Know that a plane can only take a shaving as fine as the sole is flat. My soles are flat along the length.

 Finally, my soles match each other. This allows easy seasonal maintenance, among other advantages.

I sell planes that work correctly and are, in the parlance of our industry, "ready to go." They have wedges that fit appropriately, irons that are bedded properly, cutting edges that are sharp and match flat soles, and soles that match each other. There are other advantages to new versus old, but those are better demonstrated than pictured.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

FAQ: Plane Availability

I have added another common question to my FAQ page. Take note that I will keep the page on my site regarding plane availability updated. This blog post, however, may not be accurate in the future. Please check my page for current options.

Planes are generally made to order. However, on occasion I will make an extra few planes or pairs due to popularity and work flow. I can have planes available for immediate sale and delivery. All are listed below.
Please know that I do not sharpen the planes until they have officially been sold. This ensures that the plane’s iron exactly matches the sole on the day that it is sent. As a result, a plane that is available for delivery will still take a day or two to leave the shop.
The planes listed on this page include domestic shipping, which may account for any discrepancies compared to other pages. Ordering multiple planes will slightly reduce the total price.
To order a plane off of this page or for answers to any other questions please send an email to matt@msbickford.com. Payments are best done through PayPal.

Snipes Bill Pair

$510, delivered

3/16″ Side Bead
$310, delivered

1/4″ Side Bead
$310, delivered

Note: the plane you receive may not be the exact one pictured. CT residents will also be charged sales tax.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hollows, Rounds and Good Place To Begin

Note: I am starting a new portion of my website that intends to answer the many questions I often receive. These frequently asked questions (FAQs) will be linked and included with the "Contact, Orders, FAQ" menu. I will be copying and pasting these in their entirety here, too. I intend to make the answers thorough, so I will be adding them one at a time. Stay tuned...

A standard full set of hollow and rounds includes 36 planes, 18 pairs. The more common half set is still 9 pairs, 18 planes. If the scale of your work ranges from large cases that define a room down to small pieces like spice boxes that adorn another horizontal surface, then a half set of planes may be warranted. A half set, despite its name, is an extremely comprehensive set and will likely be more than necessary for many users.

9 pairs of planes is not likely the perfect place to start for somebody first considering these tools; 1 pair is also not likely ideal. I always recommend starting your collection of hollows and rounds with 2 pairs.

With two pairs of hollows and rounds you will be able to do by far more than twice as much as you can do with one pair. Not only will you be able to make the same profiles in two different sizes (see left), but you will also be able to mix and match the profiles. With one pair you can make 30+ different profiles. With two pairs you can make well over 100. With two pairs you will recognize the true versatility that these planes allow and encourage.

If you do not know what sizes you want but there is a certain profile you need to execute, send it to me and I'll tell you what planes are used. Or you can find the radii of the included arcs with a circle template. Otherwise, I often recommend getting a pair of #4s and 8s (they cut a radius of 4/16ths and 8/16ths, respectively) if the scale you work to is waist height. Consider 6s and 10s (6/16" Radius and 10/16" Radius) if the scale of your furniture is shoulder height. 4s and 6s are a good place to start for piece that will stand upon another surface, i.e. mantle clock.

These sizes are a good size for somebody that makes small to mid range (chest of drawers) furniture and will ultimately be included in the largest highboys, secretaries or case clocks.
You will, of course, need a method for creating rabbets that is both accurate and efficient.