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I should have known better.

Today I received a harsh lesson in a subject I thought I already knew quite well.

Because I had to work on Saturday, and because my family and I had a few errands to run, I did not complete my spoke shave until Sunday. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was/is that I spent nearly seven hours in my garage woodworking/cleaning up, and then went to the gym afterwards. I hate to sound like an old F*** here, but like most adult men who’ve been working all of their lives, I have back problems; in my case a herniated disc. On top of that, I have nerve damage in my right hand, which usually doesn’t affect my quality of life, but today that hand feels like tingly Jell-O.

So I should have known better to overdo it yesterday, in particular after the week of work I had just put in. But back to the woodworking.

The first task at hand was to cut the brass wear strip to size and attach it to the spoke shave blank, and for that I needed to make a jig. Let’s just put this out there; I hate making jigs. I like to think that I should be able to complete most woodworking tasks without a jig. I do understand that for many tasks a jig is, in fact, not only helpful but completely necessary, almost indispensable. So in this case the jig was actually needed to file a 45 degree bevel on the wear strip which would allow the shavings to pass through more easily. I also used the jig to hold the wear strip to bore and counter-sink the screw holes. The filing was easy enough, which was partly because I was using a brand new file. That file I purchased several years ago from a clearance bin at a Sears Hardware store for the insane price of .25 cents.
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Filing/boring jig…

I used a drill press to bore and counter sink the holes. And let me say again, this project probably could not be made without a drill press, at least most woodworkers couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine trying to bore and counter sink clean and accurate holes in a piece of brass with just a hand drill. As I said, some woodworkers may be able to do it, but I sure as heck couldn’t.

The next task was attaching the wear strip to the blank. The plans called for creating a shallow “dovetail” at 10 degrees, beveling the wear strip accordingly, and using that to hold the wear strip in place to set it and fasten it to the blank with screws. I considered doing just that, but I felt it a completely unnecessary step that could easily lead to error. Instead, I chiseled out the 1/16” recess at the recommended 4 degree angle, inserted the iron, used a business card to set the gap between the wear strip and the iron, taped it fast with some blue painters tape, and screwed it down. It took just about 15 minutes, which is probably the half the time it would have taken just to bevel and fit the wear strip into the recommended “dovetail”.

After the wear strip was attached I flied the screw heads flush and took some test shavings, as recommended. The spoke shave worked just fine, but the shavings were a bit thicker than I would like, but more on that later. I then began shaping the blank.

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Initial shaping started, wear plate filed down…

On this blog I’ve always advocated using whatever tools that you prefer. I’m not a zealot who pushed hand tools over power tools, or vice versa. As most of you who read this blog know, I use mostly hand tools because that is what I have the space for, but yesterday I would have loved to have had a band saw (and a belt sander for that matter).
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Some of the shaping underway. The round over was begun with a forstner bit…

Either way, I decided to use the bow saw I made back in December to do the initial sawing. The spoke shave kit came with a template, so that is what I used to define the lines. I was a bit unsure of using the bow saw, but what is the point in making a tool if you are going to be afraid to actually use it? The good news is the saw worked great, the bad news is that my uncertainty caused me to saw the first handle about a quarter inch from the line ( I was worried over how accurately the saw would track). My concerns were unfounded, however, as the saw tracked very well. So the second handle I followed the line very closely.

I first used a 5/8 forstner bit on the drill press to drill out the bulk of the round-over near the body of the spoke shave (before the saw cuts were made to be exact). To refine that I used a 5/8 dowel wrapped in sandpaper. The second arch of the handle was made with a series of saw kerfs and a chisel. I was tempted to use my spoke shave to finish the new spoke shave, I instead used a block plane, chisels, sandpaper (and dowels) to finish. All in all the bulk of the shaping took just about an hour to complete. I added a coat of wax and called it finished (almost).
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Top view…

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First real shavings…

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View of the escapement area…

So the first thing that likely contributed to my sore back was sharpening the iron. I’ll say this, the included iron was actually very sharp, but it was micro-beveled at the factory, which I didn’t care for. Secondly, it is A2 tool steel, which I really don’t care for. I spent 45 minutes regrinding and sharpening the iron, which is completely unacceptable. You can maybe blame my own sharpening technique or medium, but I also sharpened my other spoke shave, which is O1, in 5 minutes. I don’t see the benefit of A2 tool steel. It supposedly holds an edge longer, but if it takes 5 times the amount of time to get that edge then who cares?

As far as the kit is concerned, in general I liked it, but the assembly instructions were way too ambiguous (as is the case with nearly any instruction/plans when woodworking is concerned). For example, the instructions for the iron state that the mortise/recess should be deep enough for the iron the set just under the body. In reality, the iron should probably be recessed closer to 1/16th in order for more adjustment capability. In fact the instructions do mention something to this effect, but it’s on the last page. It would have been nice to know that when I was originally creating that mortise, and in this case I suppose reading the last page first would  have been the intelligent thing to do.

Another area of contention is the 4 degree bevel where the wear strip sits. According to the instructions that bevel should be initially created as soon as the blank is sized and marked. In reality, it probably shouldn’t be made until the wear strip is about the be fitted, as a mortise needs to be created there anyway for the wear strip to set in. The bulk of it is removed during the shaping process regardless. To my mind, creating it at the end of the process and not the beginning is more accurate, but live and learn.

Lastly, this tool supposedly offers “tool free adjustability”. The threaded adjusters, however, work just okay. When I removed the adjusters to sharpen the iron, I waxed all of the threads with furniture wax which helped a little (the threads were surprisingly smooth from the get-go). But this tool does not adjust nearly as easily as a metal shave. As of right now I have the shave set to take a finer cut, which is what I prefer regardless, as I see this more of a refining tool rather than a rough shaper.

The real question is will I make another? I think so, probably sooner rather than later. For this being just a  prototype, I am extremely pleased. Overall the construction process from start to finish probably lasted around 5 hours. Knowing what I know now, I could easily shave two hours from that, as meticulously following the instructions for making the blank took up nearly two hours on its own. I honestly believe I can make another blank in as quickly as twenty minutes now that I have one under my belt. Not that saving time is everything, but that part was one of the more boring aspects of making the tool.

In any event, the second aspect of this project that led to my lower back pain actually had little to do with the project itself. Originally, I was going to continue the project on Friday night after work, but my workbench area was quite frankly a big mess. I generally pride myself on the fact that I keep my work area clean and organized, but that wasn’t the case. The problem is I acquired some new tools over the past three months: the bow saw I made and the saw I purchased, the Superior handsaw that was given to me last week, the tools that my Father-in-Law gave me for Christmas, and now the spoke shave I just completed. I also had several non-woodworking related tools being stored on and around my bench area. So on Saturday afternoon as we were out and about running errands I picked up a 2ft x 4ft sheet of plywood and several dozen Shaker pegs to make another tool rack for the left side wall of my workbench area.

After the spoke shave was completed yesterday, I spent several hours cleaning up my garage, which included a lot of bending and lifting. I then did a rough lay out on the plywood sheet for storing the tools efficiently. At that point I finally called it a day. All in all I was in the garage from 10:30am to 5:15 pm without a single break. That wasn’t so smart after a 55 hour work week and three nights at the gym. I should have known better and now I am paying the price, but in truth it was all well worth the effort.

A dovetailed box, and a tool to boot…

This past weekend I had planned on getting in a fair amount of woodworking. The weather forecast was looking good, with relatively warm temperatures that would help to melt the blizzard of 16′. Thursday night rolled around and I wasn’t feeling so hot. Friday morning I did something I rarely do; I called out of work. Saturday I wasn’t feeling so hot either, but two things happened that turned out to be fortuitous. Firstly, the tap wrench I ordered from Amazon arrived, and secondly, a friend of a friend gave me an old Superior crosscut saw that was in reasonably good shape. Those two developments spurred me into the garage to see what I could do.

The first thing I decided to attempt was to build one of the “Paul Sellers” dovetailed boxes that I had mentioned in a prior post. I had some scrap wood that I had prepped which was basically ready to go. I stuck strictly (okay, pretty strictly) to the videos I had watched: using all hand tools and sawing the dovetails tails first. Some of you may remember my disastrous attempt at tails first dovetails a few weeks ago. This time I did much better, but there was one speed bump.

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I grudgingly admit that gang sawing is a real advantage…

On one of the tail boards I noticed a very slight crack nearly smack in the middle of one of the tails. (the next box will be made with some decent boards) It was very fine and almost looked like a pencil mark. I didn’t think anything of it until I did the test fit. The joint was snug, as it should be, but when I knocked the box apart for glue up the little crack became a split about two inches long. I didn’t panic, or put my fist through the wall, I just sawed three inches from each board, re-sawed the tails, and thankfully they fit snugly in the pin boards I had already sawn. I had hoped to make it an all hand tool operation, but the bottom board needed to be re-sawn as well, so I reluctantly ran it through the table saw and got dust all over my wife’s car. I glued up the assembly, set it aside to dry, and turned my attention to something I hadn’t planned on in the least.

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My first “Sellers” dovetailed box. Hardly perfect, but not too shabby for my first attempt…

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After cleaning up the glue and a light sanding. Joints are pretty tight and the box was surprisingly perfectly square…

Last week I had mentioned the Lee Valley (Veritas) Spoke Shave kit I had purchased more than a year ago. I decided to give it a crack now that I had all of the necessary components to get going. I started by milling up a piece of maple to the specified size using the table saw and my jack plane. I then turned to the instructions for the procedure. As I had mentioned in another post, the instructions were not overly complicated, but they weren’t overly clear either, and the sequence of steps was not, in my opinion, laid out very well. I marked the blank as indicated, used the drill press to bore out the holes, and then came to the somewhat nerve wracking step of tapping out the threads. I had nothing to worry about, however, as that step was happily straightforward.

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One of the tapped and threaded holes bored…

On a side note, I have a drill press that was given to me more than 12 years ago. As far as drill presses go it is nothing special, and I don’t say that in a mean-spirited way. But things are funny. Not long after I received the drill press my mom’s husband gave me something called a “drill press vise” which I promptly put on the same shelf in my garage where I keep the paint, and I hadn’t considered it since. When it came time to bore the holes in the spoke shave blank I was wondering what I could use to not only hold the blank perfectly still, but allow me to move it without taking it out of registration. More than twelve years after the fact that vise popped into my head, I used it, and it worked brilliantly.

Continuing forward, I beveled the front edge 4 degrees using a block plane (as the instructions said to do) and scribed out the recess for the shavings to escape. The instructions recommended using a hand saw to make a series of kerfs, whacking them out with a chisel, and cleaning it all up with a paring chisel and a file, so that is what I did. That sequence also went pretty smoothly. I then had my first hiccup. The iron needed to be mortised into the spoke shave to fit flush. I achieved a perfect fit on one side, moved to the other side, had a minor slip, and left a little gap. It doesn’t matter in the least concerning functionality, it just bothers me knowing that it’s there.

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Escapement sawn out, front bevel in place…

The next step was fitting the iron to the adjustment hardware. Once again this was a bit nerve wracking, but it went smoothly. I was very impressed at the quality of the threads, as the hardware tapped into it very smoothly but solidly. The iron fit well, and I was able to take shavings on both walnut and maple easily. I left it at that, as it was getting late. The last construction step is to add the brass wear strip, and that step will likely be the most challenging, as the wear is fitted into 1/16 inch deep “dovetails”, counter-bored, then screwed and filed flush. It involves making a filing jig and doing some careful fitting. Thankfully the kit includes enough brass to make a second wear strip in case the first is damaged or miss filed.

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Iron fitted flush and hardware installed…

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So if all goes well I will hopefully have a new and fully functioning spoke shave by the end of next weekend. If not, I have a few more pieces of maple that will serve as blanks to start again. As far as that Superior hand saw I mentioned. I removed the blade and hardware and got it cleaned up nice and shiny. I did not get around to cleaning up the handle just yet. In any event, I won’t be posting any photos or writing about that process anyway. The most you may get is an “after” photo, because I can’t imagine anybody wanting to read the details of me scrubbing clean a saw blade, and I don’t want to subject anybody who is nice enough to read this blog to that drudgery. I’m a woodworker, not a sadist.

Winter has come

Talk to an old-timer, and he or she will likely tell you about the great snowfall of nineteen-thirtysomething. That storm will often be “the biggest we ever got!” Well, I can say without an ounce of exaggeration that this past weekend we had the biggest snowfall I have ever seen. It was technically our second largest on record, the largest being January of 1996. While that 96’ storm was supposedly larger in a regional sense, this one was definitely worse. Officially we had just over 30 inches, but in actuality it was far deeper. There was no point that the snow was shallower than waist deep, and often it was nearly at my chest. After the plows came by, my driveway was blocked by a wall of snow six feet high and fifteen feet wide. Luckily I had Briggs and Stratton to help me out (Briggs is my right arm, Stratton is my left) and after three hours or so my driveway was dug out, and in another hour the majority of my sidewalks were clear.

So you would think that being snowed-in, literally, I would have had plenty of time to putz around and woodwork to my heart’s content. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I spent much of Saturday keeping up with housework and minor home repairs (hanging pictures, fixing shelves, unclogging that pesky stoppage in the utility sink, etc.) Sunday was broken up into two shoveling sessions, the first being my driveway, and the second being my sidewalk along with my neighbors car. I may be Captain America in training, but I ain’t Captain America yet, and after hours of shoveling the largest snowfall we’ve ever had, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything but watch the AFC Championship game. Still, my love of woodworking eventually kicked in, and I wandered into my garage on Sunday night to do some sharpening and prep the material for my dovetailed box project.

Like I thought, I had just enough material on hand to make two boxes, but only enough to make one lid. That isn’t a problem though, because I can easily stop at Lowe’s on my way home from work one night this week to pick up what I need. And I can construct the second box and just add the lid later. But to bore you with stock preparation isn’t why I am writing this post.

Last year not long after Christmas, Lee Valley was running a free-shipping event. I had received a Visa gift card for Christmas that had just enough money left on it to purchase the wooden spoke shave kit that they were offering. I had always enjoyed wooden spoke shaves, and the idea of making one seemed like a fun idea. The kit includes the iron, the brass wear plate, thumbscrews, templates, and a tap to make wooden threads. When the kit arrived I noticed that the instructions were fairly involved (but not what I would call complicated), and the list of recommended tools was a large one in the sense that if they weren’t already owned the cost would easily equal purchasing several made versions of a wooden spoke shave from makers such as Caleb James. Fortunately I had most of the tools at the time, but I was missing several small but important items, namely a 7/64 drill bit, and 82 degree countersink, and a tap wrench for holding the thread maker. I put the kit in a cabinet with the plan of getting back to it when I had the extra money to order the missing parts. One thing led to another and I basically forgot about it until I came across it last night. Ironically, I received an Amazon gift card for Christmas this year, and I had just enough left on it to order the missing parts I needed to make the spoke shave. So last night that is what I did.
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Spoke shave parts kit…

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A lot of tools for one tool…

This all leads me back to the “make vs buy”, “old vs new” arguments when it comes to woodworking tools. Conventional, old fashioned anarchist wisdom will tell you that making your own spoke shave will teach you invaluable lessons that you will find nowhere else. My own wisdom will tell you that the recommended tool list easily exceeds $250(not including a drill press), and that is if you aren’t purchasing high end tools. And to Lee Valley’s credit, that recommended tool list isn’t frivolous. The argument can be made that you don’t have to use a drill press, but I can tell you that it will be far, far more accurate if you do. And as everybody knows, accuracy is paramount when it comes to making a good woodworking tool. I highly doubt that any of the makers out there are drilling and tapping these holes with an egg-beater drill.

All of that being said, the tools on that list are all good tools to have, and many serious woodworkers will eventually obtain most of them at some point. I’m just trying to point out that making tools, even as a hobby, is serious business.

So in the upcoming weeks I am going to attempt to make a spoke shave. It may even be fun, and hopefully I will produce a nice looking tool that actually works well. But I can almost guarantee that unless you plan on making many spoke shaves, and possibly even selling them, it would be much more prudent to take your money and purchase that spoke shave from one of the fine makers out there who have invested in the proper tools and equipment to do it correctly.

It’s a bow saw.

Just around six weeks ago I watched a video on the Paul Sellers Woodworking Masterclasses web page detailing the construction of a traditional bow saw (frame saw). I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with bow saws, though I can’t say I know much about them in the historical sense. I know they’ve been around for a long, long time, but just how long I cannot say. They are a deceptively simple tool: three sticks, some tensioning string, and a blade, but they are surprisingly effective and versatile. A bow saw frame can accommodate scrolling blades, rip blades, cross cut blades, etc. And apparently they work well. So just after watching the videos I ordered a saw from ebay just to get the feel of it. I then decided to make my own.

I hadn’t initially planned on attempting this project so soon. In fact, just a few weeks ago I sharpened, oiled, and placed most of my chisels in their storage rolls. Then my area was gifted with the warmest December weather we’ve ever had. While I don’t care for hot days in December all that much to be honest, it was excuse enough to order in the parts and get some of the chisels back on the rack. Like a Christmas miracle, my order arrived on Christmas eve, and while my wife and daughter were out and about the day after Christmas, I started the project.

Before I continue, I feel the need to mention that I ordered the kit and downloaded the plans from Tools for Working Wood. And to jump ahead, if I were building another one of these saws, the only portion of the kit I would order again is the pins and saw blades, but I digress.

I started off by milling the wood and cutting it to length. TFWW recommends hickory, but I used some walnut I had laying around. I planed the wood according to the dimensions in the plans, and then sawed the tenons on the cross stretcher. On another note, if you don’t enjoy using a hand plane this is not the project for you, and while I supposed you could use power tools to do some of the milling, the parts are too small (IMO) for anything but hand tools.

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I used a marking knife to lay out all of the critical junctures to make measuring easier. Chopping out the shallow mortise was easy enough, and once that was finished I had a fit that was a hair looser than I would have liked, but I also had, for all intents and purposes, a working saw, which took just over an hour to finish.

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The difficult part was in the shaping. Dealing with boards this size is not always easy, in particular when trying to add subtle curves. I did much of that work with a chisel, saw, and spokehave, sawing, chopping, and smoothing as I went. I then tapered both tines, beginning in the middle and working all the way back. As I said, if you do not enjoy hand planes then this project is not for you. However, I won’t bore any of you with all of the minutiae. I see hundreds of woodworking photographs with benchtops and floors littered with shavings, and while they may have been fun to make, describing the whole process of making them does not make for good reading.

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Once the shaping was to my liking, I did another test fit, tweaked it here or there, coated it with linseed oil and gave it a trial run. The saw cut just fine. I then made a decent toggle using a bubinga scrap I had left over from my smooth plane project, added a notch ( or is it nock) to the toggle and tines, and the saw was finished. In just around four hours the entire saw was completed

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Would I attempt another one of these? Absolutely. Would I purchase the kit again? No. The handles, which look pretty and fit nicely in the pins, are useless. They are not snug enough to turn the blade, which to me is their only purpose. I suppose I may be able to fix that with epoxy, but we shall see. Next time I may make my own handles. The string is too thin and tensions a bit too quickly (believe me that is a real thing). Two of the three included blades snapped during use at the pins. Could it be from over tensioning? Possibly and probably, but I believe the tensioning string is the culprit, not my own brutish ways. I plan on replacing that string with some nylon mason’s line as soon as I get to the hardware store to pick it up.

Overall I am happy with this project. This being a prototype, it is a bit rougher than I would like. The marking knife lines are still visible and the shaping is utilitarian, otherwise it works just fine. I believe it will make a nice scroll saw. It tensions much better than any coping saw I’ve ever used, and it has a longer stroke. And, it is surprisingly comfortable.

So I may attempt another one of these saws when I can. Right now I’m not thinking about it, because sure as the sun rises the cold weather returned today, and the arrival of that cold weather meant the departure of any projects I had planned for our fortunate blast of mild weather. Once again I cleaned up my chisels and put them back in their rolls. Maybe they’ll be out again before spring, I hope so, but for now I’m not concerned with furniture, because I have some tools to restore…

So…What’s next?

The past eight weeks has been a trying time for my family, and of that I will say no more for the time being. It is times like these that many people question what they believe in, and that includes what we do in our leisure. So for the past months woodworking was rightly put on the back burner, though I did complete a project during that time, there were still many more important matters that had to be dealt with.

Now that we are in the heart of winter, the weather has turned against me. We’ve had little good weather to enjoy here, and it has mostly been rainy or snowy, and always very cold. The temperature rarely stays above freezing this time of year. I’ve vowed to never again make furniture during the winter as long as I am doing it in an unheated work area, and at this time I see no cause to break that vow. Still, there are a few things that can be, and need to be done.

Yesterday afternoon was the first time I had been home in a few days. My Enfield cupboard for all intents and purposes is completed, except for the paint, which will unfortunately have to wait until the weather improves. The only thing I had left to do on the cupboard was to even the gap between the top of the door and the face frame, which thankfully was nearly even to begin with. I simply marked the gap with a set of scribes, wet the endgrain with mineral spirits, and trimmed it off with a block plane. I then lightly sanded it and it was finished. All in all the task took less than 5 minutes.

Gap improved...

Gap improved…

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A future block plane?

 Speaking of block planes. Back during the summer I purchased some maple and bubinga that I hoped to turn into a block plane or two. Now that winter is in full swing, and all furniture projects are on hold, I think I may just do that. I have all of the material I need here already in which I should be able to make two planes, and I could always pick up some more bubinga to build others. I’ve thought about the dimensions and I would like to build a plane a bit larger than other wood blocks I’ve seen. I’m thinking of one 7 inches long X 2 1/2 inches wide, so it will be a bit larger than a regular block but still smaller than a smoother. My idea is a plane that is a bit heavier than normal, but still small enough to grip with one hand. I think it would be a perfect tool for raising panels among other things. It will be a bevel down plane, but I don’t think I will use a chipbreaker. However it turns out, it should be an interesting experiment.

My next furniture project will with out a doubt be a traditional 6-board blanket chest. I am going to start drawing up the plans soon, and I hope to pick up the material some time after Valentine’s Day. I’m not going to plan too far ahead after that, though I do have a few ideas. For now, my furniture building will be restricted to volunteering at Valley Forge Park. I’m thinking that the blacksmith’s cabin needs a new workbench, and if everything goes as planned I may be just the guy to build it.

A Hard Day’s Night

It is my hope that if you are reading this woodworking blog you will already know that I do not advocate any one particular form of woodworking over another. I don’t really care one way or another who builds what and how; it’s quite frankly none of my business. But the real truth is that I, myself, don’t have any one particular form of woodworking which I follow. That being said, if you were to ask me how to make a hand plane, I would firstly tell you to seek out somebody much better than I; somebody such as Scott Meek, who offers online plane making courses. Secondly, I would tell you that if you are making a hand plane, then you should do as much as possible using only hand tools. Why? Because using hand tools will go a long way in teaching you how a hand plane really works, and you will know exactly what I am referring to as soon as you try it.

Yesterday morning I finished making the wedge for the smooth plane I’ve been building. Making a plane wedge seems like it should be fairly straightforward; it’s not; it’s hard work. Now I’m not going to say that it is overly difficult, but it takes time and patience, and time and patience aren’t always easy to find. To prove my point, it took me a shade under 3 hours to shape the entire plane, which was a task done solely with hand tools, which included flattening the sole and sanding the plane for finish.  Conversely, it took me 2 hours just to make and fit the wedge, and it did not turn out as nicely as the plane shaping. Making the wedge was not simple, because shaping a 2 inch by 4 inch block of wood into a semi-precision piece is not a simple task, and there really isn’t a magical tool that makes it easier.

I started off by drawing the shape of the wedge on a block of ash that I had left over from the plane build. I chose to make the wedge on the flat sawn side only because it seemed to me that the flat sawn side would hold up better under the pressure that it would be subjected to. I then sawed two kerfs, one at the end of the wedge, and the other where the wedge began its taper. With that done, I stood up the block and split off the waste using my widest chisel and my biggest mallet. This was actually easy to do because the grain was straight. I then started tapering the wedge, which I did using several chisels, and which was the most exacting process of the day. Once the wedge was tapered, at least roughly tapered, I shaped as much of the rest of the wedge as I could without removing it from the block, and that was accomplished once again with chisels, a rasp, and a block plane. I then hand sanded the top of the wedge, going up to 600 grit. Once I had done as much as I could, I removed the wedge from the block by ripping it down with the table saw, nearly to the edge, and finishing the cut with a hand saw.

Wedge layout

Wedge layout

Splitting the wedge to the first saw kerf

Splitting the wedge to the first saw kerf

The splitting finished

The splitting finished

Wedge front roughly shaped

Wedge front roughly shaped

Starting to shape the back of the wedge

Starting to shape the back of the wedge

Wedge removed still in the rough

Wedge removed still in the rough

After that, it was all a trial and error process. I cleaned up the edges of the wedge with my Stanley smooth plane,  and then flattened the bottom with sheets of sandpaper,  going from 60 grit up to 600 grit, the same as the plane sole, which left a glass smooth surface. When I attempted to put the wedge in place I immediately discovered that it was too long, and the shavings just bunched up at the mouth. I shortened it several times, and finally I found myself getting full length edge shavings on pine, which was fairly impressive considering the iron probably needs to be sharpened. I then added a coat of linseed oil to the plane and called it a day. One more coat will be added, as well as a coat of wax. I may yet have to shorten the wedge, but that will remain to be seen. To put all of this in perspective, every tool I used to make the plane itself was used to make the wedge.

First shavings

First shavings

Finished wedge, needs some sanding

Finished wedge, needs some sanding

A working plane

A working plane

Sanded down with two coats of linseed oil. A coat of wax will finish it off

Sanded down with two coats of linseed oil. A coat of wax will finish it off

I had a lot of fun making this plane, and more importantly I learned a great deal. Already, I’ve discovered several steps that could be revised during the building process that will make the next plane easier and more efficient to construct, as well as increasing the accuracy greatly. In as much as I consider myself a non-traditionalist, I love wooden planes, and I love making them even more. I can certainly see myself building at least a few more of these, and more hopefully, I can see myself improving with each one I build.

 

 

Happiness is a sharp chisel.

Yesterday afternoon I managed to get in a little more work on my plane while the cat was away. Before I started, something had been bothering me that I decided to look at, and that was the holes I drilled into the cheeks of the plane for the cross-pin dowel. On the previous planes I had made, I started by squaring up the cheek stock to the body stock used for the back half of the plane. I would then mark the spot for the dowel hole, and drill out both pieces simultaneously using a drill press. That plan was the very same plan I had in mind for this plane, but then I did something foolish. I drilled out the first hole, and during the middle of the process noticed that the second cheek had some tear out at the back. Rather than finishing the drill out and then cleaning up the board, I sawed off a bit of the end, and without compensating for the sawed off difference, drilled out the second dowel hole. The result left me dowel holes that were out of line by nearly 1/16 of an inch, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot until you attempt to push a half-inch oak dowel through it. Nevertheless, I managed to get the dowel through, which leaves me a slightly crooked cross-pin. How this will affect the adjusting/wedge, or the overall usefulness of the tool I’m not exactly sure yet, but, live and learn.

Rather than despair, I continued working on the plane. First thing I did was clamp the body down and plane down the sole to get it flat; ironically I used a smooth plane for this. It really only needed a few passes before it was finished. I then used sheets of sandpaper and my tablesaw bed, starting at 60 grit and working up to 150. The plane sole is now nice and flat, though I will still do some more sanding before I call it completely finished. I want to hold off on the final sanding until the wedge is fit; I will then finish it using 220 and 400 grits.

Trueing the sole

Trueing the sole

The marks tell you when it's flat

The marks tell you when it’s flat


After I was happy with the flatness of the sole, I decided to try and attempt some initial shaping of the plane. I don’t own a band saw, so I traced out a shape using some French curves and attempted to use a jigsaw to shape the plane. I quickly found that the jigsaw was not an option, so I turned to spokeshave, rasp, block plane, and chisels. I had only a basic outline in mind at first, so the shaping was really just a trial and error process. After roughly 30 minutes I managed to achieve a fairly decent shape/curve. I don’t want the plane to look overly machined, so I got the front shaped to a look that seems pleasing and left it at that. At that I called it a night.

Saturday, after work, and running some errands, I decided on a little late evening woodworking. For the back section of the plane I was going for a more pronounced curve, so I got out my 1 1/4″ chisel and started pounding out the shape. I progressed from the large chisel to smaller chisels as I needed. I also used the block plane for some of the initial shaping, and then finally the spokeshave to clean it all up. I was attempting to achieve a graceful front to back curve, as well as a more subtle side-to-side arc. In around 45 minutes I had the carving portion finished; I then spent around 15 minutes hand sanding. I like how the plane looks: graceful, yet still made by hand. More impressively, my lovely wife actually spent a few minutes with me while all of this was going on. She was quite impressed that I knew how to carve, and she liked the contrast of the light and dark woods on the plane itself. Today, I hope to finish the wedge and make the first test shavings.

Right side angle

Right side angle

Other side

Other side

Full length

Full length

Carving and shaping tools

Carving and shaping tools

I don’t necessarily know the reasons, but I like making planes. I need to make more, many more, before I can call myself good at it, but I am improving. I have a construction technique down, now I just have to perfect it. But planes are fun to build. The material is generally reasonably priced, and you only need basic hand and power tools to get it done. With a handful of sharp chisels, a spokeshave, a table saw, and a block plane most woodworkers can make a handplane. And, more importantly, if you are a handplane user, I can’t think of a better way of learning how to use a plane than to make one of your own.

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