Much of the time I’ve had lately to dedicate to woodworking has been dedicated to maintenance/repair work. Friday evening was no exception to the trend.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on the iron of my moving fillister plane. When I originally received the plane the iron was in fairly rough shape, and appeared to have been poorly ground (likely on a powered grinder). Though I was able to tune up the rest of the plane fairly well, the iron continued to give me problems. No matter what I did, and no matter how sharp I seemingly got the iron, it would not hold the edge and continued to roll after minimal use. I then attempted something I rarely like to attempt, and I power grinded the iron. Admittedly I did this very carefully, too carefully it seems because while it improved the situation, it did not completely fix it. I came to the conclusion that the iron may have lost its temper, likely due to the previous owner’s poor grinding ability. My solution was to attempt a new tempering of the iron, and then Adam Maxwell stepped in.
For those of you who don’t know Adam Maxwell, I was introduced to him through this blog as well as Twitter. My first impressions of him through his profile photo were that he was either a mad scientist, or one of Gru’s real life minions. It turns out that he is a very knowledgeable woodworker, and though I don’t believe all of his fantastical claims concerning the fantastical prices he somehow pays for all of his vintage woodworking tools, I generally trust his judgment when it comes to woodworking. He suggested grinding down/back the iron 1/8 of an inch to expose new steel. Though I’m no metallurgist, that solution seemed sound to me, so last night I decided to give it a try.
I did not want to use a powered grinder again so as not to create an even bigger problem, so I turned to my usual sharpening method: coarse to fine diamond plate, 1000g and 8000g waterstones, and then leather stropping. I won’t describe the grinding/sharpening because it is boring, just know that it took me nearly 40 minutes to get the iron to where I wanted it to be, with much of that time spent on the diamond plates. My back was sore as well as my knees, but the iron looks much better, though not exactly perfect. I did get the iron ground back to where I felt it would work, I then made a test fillister.
The iron was sharp, but sharpness wasn’t really the problem; keeping the iron sharp was. I used a 1×6 piece of scrap pine, and the iron burned right through it beautifully. I immediately removed the iron from the plane body and thankfully found that it did not roll over. I know that one fillister on one piece of pine is not definitive proof, but I am happy with the result. The real test will be when I start my next project. Which I hope will be very soon. For the time being I just have to live with these small victories.