Another long, cruel winter is mercifully and slowly crawling to an end. My region had the coldest February on record from what I’ve been told, with an average high temperature of only 24 degrees F. And though spring is just around the corner, it still hasn’t sprung yet. I’ve vowed to never again start any woodworking projects in the dead of Winter, and this year I stuck to it. The problem with that vow is that it left a minimum 3 month time frame where I didn’t make any furniture. So what have I been up to, then? Well, besides insulting people who read this blog, I’ve been taking care of my tools.
Last week I picked up my first set of hollow and round planes. The planes are matching, meaning that they are from the same maker, and they arrived in pretty good condition. The irons were a little rough, in particular the round iron. But before I got to work on the irons I started on the plane bodies. Because the plane soles are obviously profiled, I needed a way to flatten them other than the bed of my table saw. So yesterday afternoon I stopped at Lowe’s, which apparently is the IKEA of home centers, and picked out the straightest 5/8 inch oak dowel I could find. I sawed off a foot long piece from the dowel, wrapped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper around it, and used it to clean up the hollow plane. Once that was done, I used the hollow plane and sand paper to clean up the round sole, which was luckily in pretty good shape to begin with. Once that was finished I turned to the irons.
As I said before, the irons on both planes were in pretty rough shape, especially the round. My sharpening method was the same as nearly every other ancient plane iron I’ve ever sharpened: coarse diasharp, fine diasharp, 1000 grit water stone, 8000 grit water stone. Flattening the bottom on the round took 15 minutes, and my arms were actually sore afterwards. The hollow was thankfully much easier to flatten. I then used the dowel/sandpaper once again to sharpen the hollow plane, using 220/400/600 grits, then the 4000 grit slipstone. I also plan on stropping it, I just didn’t have the time today to do it. As far as the round, I plan on dedicating next Saturday to taking care of the bevel. now that the back is flat I will be able to concentrate fully on it. On a side note, I’m not sure who the previous owner of this set of planes happened to be, but whoever that person was he didn’t know how to sharpen. I’m not an expert sharpener, I’m not even all that great, I’m good enough to get a sharp edge. I don’t know any magic tricks, but I do believe that the woodworkers of yesteryear sharpened a lot less than we believe they did, and I don’t think there was much science to it. I think they brought their irons to a grinding wheel and sharpened willy nilly just so they could get back to work. I can understand why they did it, but I’m not so happy about it.
As far as the bodies of the planes were concerned, I lightly sanded down any rough spots, then saturated them in linseed oil. As with my other moulding planes, I poured the oil down into the throat of the plane, let it soak for a few minutes, and then cleaned up the excess. Whether or not this is considered proper plane maintenance I cannot say, but it so far hasn’t caused any issues, and the planes all look much better after the fact.
There were two other maintenance tasks I wanted to complete before the end of the weekend. The first was to oil the tote and knob on my jointer plane. That actually started earlier in the week. Each night after work I coated the knob and tote with Tru-Oil, lightly buffing between coats with steel wool. Last night I added the 5th and last coat. I also took the plane apart, gave it a cleaning, and sharpened the iron. With the plane looking new I used it to clean up the top of my workbench, which was starting to look pretty ratty. It worked brilliantly, and as always the #7 is a pleasure to use.
Lastly, a while back I made a shoulder plane from a kit purchased from Hock Tools. Admittedly I don’t used the plane often, but I was never satisfied with the shape, so I decided to do something about it. I drew an outline on the plane side and roughed it out with a coping saw. I then used a spokeshave to clean it up, followed by sandpaper to smooth it out. I flattened the sole (making sure to keep the iron and wedge set), and then gave the plane a few coats of linseed oil. As it was drying I honed the iron, afterwards taking it for a test drive. The plane performed well, and while it is hardly spectacular looking it no longer looks awful. After I cleaned up, and before I called it a day, I gave all three planes another light coat of linseed oil and set them on the side to dry. I’m happy that I got the hollow plane in working order, now I just have to get the round up and running. Most importantly, I have to start making furniture again.