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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.
When I was an actual musician I used to pride myself on the rather small rig I used to play live. It was very simple: a direct box, a compressor, an EQ, and a tuner, to go along with my speaker and head. When I first started playing live I used a much larger rig, but that got old real quick. There wasn’t much fun in breaking down a boatload of (sometimes heavy) music equipment and loading it into a beat-up van at 5am after playing music and drinking beer for 9 hours. But the pride I felt wasn’t necessarily because of the small size of my set-up, but because I had managed to achieve a very good sound.
I spent the first year of my “live” career tweaking my guitar along with the compressor and the EQ. I had a very specific sound that I wanted, and it took a lot of trial and error before I found it. I knew guys that would walk on stage, plug in their bass and start playing. Sometimes it sounded okay, but most of the time it didn’t, no matter how much talent they had. I didn’t want to be that guy, so I continued to work at it whenever I got the chance. I knew that I had found success when other bass players, some fairly well known in the area, would approach me after a gig and asked to check out my rig. But that didn’t mean that I always was a bare-bones type of musician; I had many musical toys to play with at home, and I would spend hours recording songs, playing the keyboards, and adding every whacked out effect I could think of to the mix. It was fun. I like to believe that woodworking and music are similar disciplines. There are the tools you need to get started, but there are also the tools you want just to play with and have a little fun, just like in music.
About a month or so ago I had contacted Josh Clark at Hyper Kitten inquiring about a moving fillister plane. Josh informed me that he didn’t have any good examples in stock at the moment but if he came upon one he would contact me. So I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email last week from Josh showing me two planes in good condition and both reasonably priced. I chose one, Josh mailed it to me to inspect it, and I liked what I found, so I decided to purchase it.
I’ve wanted a moving fillister plane ever since I’ve been watching Roy Underhill. Of course, there are several ways to make a fillister without using a dedicated plane, but there is something about the look of the plane that I’ve always loved. Ordering it for me was a no brainer. It arrived in good shape, but in need of a little work. I removed every part of the plane that was removable and gave it a good cleaning. The one disappointment was the plane iron. There was no pitting or rust, but it appeared that the previous owner sharpened it with a grinding wheel of some kind. I don’t believe in grinding wheels, in particular if you really don’t know how to use one properly. The good news is that the back was flat with just a slight hollow. I began the honing process using a 1000 grit stone, though I probably should have used the 220 grit. In any event, I did manage to get a nice, and very sharp edge on it, though it took some time. The bevel of the iron could still use some work. Luckily, whomever the poor sharpener was, he at least didn’t screw up the front of the bevel, and his poor grinding was restricted to the back where it isn’t much of an issue. Still, one of these days I will really go at it and do a full regrind, by hand of course.
While I was at it, I also completely removed all of the brass from the plane, depth stop, depth stop adjuster, and the screws, and gave them a good polishing as well. I also sharpened the nicker and gave the wedges a light sanding and cleaning. I finished it all off with a coat of wax. On a side note, I removed the width adjuster to check out the sole. The sole was flat, but it did have some gook and grime on it, so I decided that I would give it a light sanding. I placed three sheets of sandpaper on my table saw: 100 grit, 150 grit, 220 grit, and proceeded to give the sole a nice clean-up. When I finished, I found something a bit scary; the wood on the sole looked absolutely beautiful. I then gave it a coating of linseed oil and it looked even better. I know that it is some sort of blasphemy to take the patina from an old and beautiful plane such as this one, but I am really tempted to do just that: sand the whole thing down, and re-coat it with the oil, and make it look brand new again.
Whatever I do, I’ve found that being a plane doctor is pretty fun. I’ve enjoyed taking these old tools, cleaning them up, fixing what I could, and putting them back to usable condition. Not that there is a whole lot to it, you only need a plane that was well made in the first place, the ability to sharpen, a little mechanical aptitude, and a little patience.
I’ve also found that the wooden planes I have worked with have been much easier to rehab than the old metal planes I’ve come across. While I still can’t call myself a traditionalist by any stretch, I am a huge wooden plane fan. My success so far has made me consider purchasing some more old wooden planes and attempting to fix those up as well. Fortunately, they are still available, and the cost is usually reasonable. Over the next few months I can see myself doing more and more of this type of work. As of today, the doctor is in.