Posts Tagged With: Tools

Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes

Sometimes the threads of my interest and focus are a scary thing.

For example, I recently got Matt Bickford’s book Mouldings in Practice from Lost Art Press.  I’ve read the first 4 or 5 chapters word-for-word, but now I’m itching to get a set of hollows and rounds and experiment with making mouldings.  I’ve been watching for Hollows and Rounds on eBay for months, basically ever since I learned about the upcoming Bickford book.  I was trying to avoid the Schwarz Effect where even a mention of a specific old tool will send the prices through the ceiling.  So far, I haven’t found the right set, and now that the book is out I expect to see prices skyrocket.

Instead I decided to order Larry Williams’ DVD on Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes.  The DVD is also available from Lie-Nielsen, who also sells floats (more later) and tapered moulding iron blanks.

The DVD came in the mail this week and after watching it I highly recommend it.  Larry Williams makes traditional wood planes through his business, Old Street Tool, and in this DVD he shows every step in making a matched set of #10 hollow and round planes.  He talks about stock preparation, layout, making the escapement, chopping the mortise, making and fitting the wedge, shaping and heat treating the iron, and shows every other step along the way to a finished pair of planes.  Even if you don’t want to make your own side escapement planes this is worth buying and watching in my opinion.

Here is a snippet from the video where Larry demonstrates how to sharpen plane floats.

Wait, what’s a plane float?  It’s essentially a coarse file with sharp cutting edges that shear off the wood and leave a flat, crisp surface.  Lie-Nielsen sells them in a variety of styles, prices range from $40 to $60 each.  You can also make your own plane floats as shown here and here.  From watching Larry’s video it appears that you need at least one edge float and one side float.  Larry also recommends a 1/10″ chisel.

I looked on eBay for floats of course, but there were just antique/expensive items there.  I particularly like this one, I like how the shape just flows from end to end.

Antique float from eBay

The teeth on a float are shaped in the same way you would sharpen a rip saw.  The instructions I linked to above show filing the teeth directly into the float blank.  I wonder how long this would take?  The edge float would be fast, it’s basically a tiny rip saw.  The side float perhaps not so fast.  I could also see a blacksmith cutting these teeth with a canted chisel, and if I had to make more than one I’d almost certainly set it up on the mill.

Float Teeth

I also ordered Todd Herrli’s video on Making Hollows and Rounds, it hasn’t arrived yet or I’d be watching that instead of blathering on here.

So to recap, in order to experiment with sticking some mouldings I need to get a few hollow and round planes.  Bickford suggests at least two pair.  I think it would be fun to make my own H&R planes, but first I need a few special tools.  Like floats and a tiny chisel.  I’ll need to get some tapered iron blanks from Lie-Nielsen, and quartersawn Beech or Cherry stock for the plane bodies.

It’s a 3 day weekend.  I need to weld a few oil tanks, program the CNC (unrelated to anything else in this post) and then I think I’ll see what I can do about making a float.



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Don’t be a square…

Christopher Schwarz posted a couple of pictures of a rare (as in “the only one known”) Harvey Peace square hole saw in a recent blog.  The saw really caught my attention as I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s not that I have a tool problem or anything.  Really.  And no, I don’t think the fact that Mark at Bad Axe Tool Works is on my speed dial list means anything.

But check this saw out.  It’s so wrong that it’s right.  Look at the tooth pattern on the front of the saw compared to the sideways portion.

I googled for information about it, and ended up emailing Joshua Clark at Hyperkitten about it as he collects Harvey Peace saws.  Turns out HE owns this saw now.  Small world.  Here is what he said about it:

The square hole saw that Chris featured on his page was made by Harvey Peace though Disston did have a similar design. It must have been an old idea since neither seemed to patent it. The saw was designed to cut square holes in walls, etc without having to drill holes at the corners as you might with a compass saw. Here is a picture of the Peace saw from an old catalog I have:

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One of THOSE Days

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while nothing seems to go right in the shop.  Yesterday was one of those days.

It started off simply enough.  My workbench project in on pause until the Stanley #8 I bought on ebay arrives.  Hopefully today.  I decided I “needed” that to flatten the faces of my timbers for the bench top the last little bit.  I decided to do a simple project yesterday morning, to make a marking gauge after I saw a video on another blog.

Now when I say simple I mean simple for anyone with basic coordination and opposable thumbs.  Yesterday I had basic stupidity and was all thumbs.  I won’t bore you with the details of my misadventures, but I have to wonder what causes that?

Some days things go very smoothly in the shop.  Most days I think.  Then there are those days where nothing seems to go right.  Often there is blood involved.  Usually mine.

What causes that?  Not enough sleep?  Not enough coffee?  Too  much coffee (as if)?  Biorhythms?  I wish I knew and coud banish those evil spirits.

Things started off well enough, I sketched out what I wanted to make, and found a nice piece of scrap to use.  Birdseye Maple left over from a table I made with power tools several years ago.  A piece of a broken file from my junk box to use for the blade.  This particular style of gauge uses a round pin that intersects the square hole at a slight angle to wedge the arm.  The dowel has a small notch cut for clearance when it’s loose.

I ripped a length of the wood using my cheap big box pull saw, and planed it square.  That went well, although Birdseye isn’t the most plane-friendly wood.  The fact that my bench is loaded with the timbers for my new workbench, and the constant wiggling and swaying didn’t help.  But I took it all in stride.  I absolutely love the finish the plane leaves, sanding doesn’t improve this.

I cut our a 2″ x 3″ square, flattened two faces and trued three edges (knowing the the last edge would be rounded over later).  I laid out the hole for the adjuster arm, drilled it and chopped out the waste carefully.  I got a nice, even, non-wiggling fit.  I was really happy.  I’d never chopped a mortise by hand.  I don’t even have mortise chisels.  Back in my power tool days I had a hollow chisel mortiser.  That made things easy, fast and accurate.

This is where things went downhill.  I got the angle of the cross hole wrong and ruined then mortised piece.  Dang.  Taking a breath I thought I’d just re-make that part.  To speed things up I thought I’d “cheat” and use my drill press to bore the starter hole for the mortise instead of my bit and brace.  And of course I neglected to use a vise or clamp the part.  It caught on the bit and whacked my thumb – opening a bloody gash.  Stupid.  Stooooopid.  I know better, but got in a hurry.

After collecting myself I proceeded to chop out the mortise in the replacement piece.  Unfortunately I was getting bloody drips on the part.  And the mortise ended up too loose. So it wiggles.

S I G H.

Today I’l clean up my mess and make a fresh start on this project.  The root problem is loosing focus – although I don’t know what causes that.

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Stanley #5 Restore – It’s a Wrap

The paint came.  Tape went on.  Paint went on.  Tape came off.  Parts went on.

I like it.  And it’s a far cry from the rusty mess I started with.  Restoring an old tool like this is really gratifying.  I haven’t made any cuts with it yet, the paint isn’t cured, and the finish on the handles isn’t completely dry.

And yes, I went with the original handles, stained and varnished.

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Stanley #5 Restore, Getting Closer

At this point I’m just about done with the “restoration” of the #5 Stanley.  I should get the recommended “semi-gloss black Ford engine paint” delivered tomorrow, all I need to do is paint the frog and body, and re-assemble it.

I picked up a replacement rosewood knob and tote from  At the same time I’ve been playing with the original handles.  After stripping the black paint I sanded them with 220, then soaked them overnight in a mix of danish oil and mahogany gel stain.  This is the result.  I’m in the process of applying a few thin coats of wiping varnish to build up some gloss, but they aren’t too bad.  They look better in person than in this picture.  The other knob and tote are the Rosewood replacements I got.

I lapped in the sole, of course.  The bottom looked flat when I checked it with a straightedge – I couldn’t see light anywhere – but it was pitted and ugly.  I started with 80 grit, then 180 and 220.  I may do a bit more before I paint it, but I think it’s more than OK.

Next I attacked the blade and chip breaker.

Remember the before picture?

I stripped the rust, painted the back of the blade with blue Dykem and scribed a 7″ arc.  I want this blade to be cambered for roughing in stock.  I have another blade and chip breaker from Ron Hock that I’ll also use in this plane.

Then off to the grinder.  I use a Burr-King belt grinder, here with a new 40 grit belt.  There is nothing like a Burr-King.  They aren’t cheap, but they are powerful, smooth and accurate.

I ground the edge until I got an even space around the line, then worked it down right to the line.  The tool rest is set at 90 degrees to the belt/platten for this step.  The blade never got past warm.  After I had the curve ground in I used a worn 220 slack belt (no platten) to put a shine on the edge.  I used the width of the shined edge and the width of the bevel in the next step where I grind in the bevel.

I set the tool rest to 25 degrees to grind in the bevel.  I made light passes, checked the the heat in the part after each pass and checked my progress.  I wanted to have an even bevel and to take the edge down just leaving a “shine” on the cutting edge, without any appreciable thickness and certainly no sharp edge.  This is just the rough grind.  Sorry about the focus.

Next, the back of the blade needed to be flattened.  Since the blade was pitted I started with 80 grit, then 180, 220, 400, 600 and 1,000 grits.  Before and after, you can see how nasty it was to start with. I had to free-hand sharpen the blade, but it wasn’t too bade.  This blade is for rougher work, to either follow a scrub plane or to use instead of a scrub plane.

I test fit the chip breaker to the iron, and there was a big gap.  I had to bend the chip breaker a little so the the edge would even touch the blade.  Then I lapped it with 220 until I hade an even shine across the edge.  That gave me a nice tight fit.

I think this is going to be a nice plane when I’m done.  If I had to pay myself for the labor to restore this plane I think I would have been miles ahead to just buy a new lie-nielsen.  Luckily I do this for fun and it’s been an enjoyable project.


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Preview of Coming Distractions

I have a new-ish Stanley #5.  Yep, plastic tote, plastic front knob, plastic depth adjuster.  No adjuster on the frog, just loosen the screws and slide it around.  The blade vibrates like a tuning fork, and it doesn’t even begin to hold an adjustment.  But it looks like a plane.

So I decided to upgrade. Seriously.  $14.50 on ebay.  With shipping.

I don’t know the vintage on this plane, but it’s certainly not a “collectable” vintage.  The knob and tote are painted black over wood, and I believe that is the original finish.  I removed some of the finish from the knob, and it’s certainly not rosewood hiding under there.  But it has a metal blade adjuster and a frog adjuster.  I think it will make a fine upgrade, especially after some clean up, a fresh Ron Hock blade and perhaps a little hot rodding.

I pulled most of it apart, which took perhaps 45 seconds.  The last thing I disassembled with an eye toward improving was an Ironhead Sportster.  That took longer.

So, what do we have?  A lot of dirt and rust.  But at this point all the parts are accounted for and nothing seem broken.  The lateral adjuster is tight.  The wood is solid — if nothing else I can refinish that.

The blade might need to be resharpened…

But I have a replacement Hock iron already, so I’m good there.

I checked the sole with a straightedge and it needs a little flattening, but it’s straighter then the new #5 was out of the box.  If anyone is just starting out and wants the late model #5 I’ll make you a, uhm, a Sweethart deal.

Next steps are to clean up the parts, re-assemble it and lap in the sole and sides.  Then I’ll pull it apart for detailing and try to avoid getting carried away.

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Tool Shaped Objects #2

Yesterday I commented on my dovetail saw that didn’t cut straight, and what I did to correct matters.  It’s still not a great saw.  It’s not as sharp as it should be, the handle is crooked and the ergonomics are all wrong.  But it is good enough for me to make some practice dovetails in some pine offcuts to learn the process.

Another tool that I bought to help with making dovetails is a marking gauge.  You need this to lay out the baseline for the pins and tails.  You want a crisp, sharp line so that you know exactly where to stop sawing.  You should be able to use this line to accurately register the chisel when chopping out the waste.

So I bought a “Shop Fox” marking gauge.  It looks just like other marking gauges.  A thumbscrew to lock the slidey brass thingie in place, and a little disk on the end to score the wood fibers.  I immediately realized the problem with this tool, the marking disk has a rounded edge that was at least .060″ thick at the tip.  The shape of disk is a wedge in cross section, so that the deeper you mark the wider the scribed line.

I worked the back of the disk on a stone until it had a crisp edge, but it still isn’t adequate.  The line is just too coarse.  I scored a line with a knife and straightedge for comparison (going over a scribed line from the marking gauge) and the difference is night and day.

The Glen-Drake Tite-Mark is officially on my Christmas list now.  I’m not sure if Santa thinks I’ve been a good boy (I haven’t), but I can hope.

In the meantime I’m going to mark out my baselines with a knife and rule.

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Tool Shaped Objects

Somewhere I read the phrase “tool shaped objects”, probably in the Anarchist’s Tool Chest although I’m sure I’ve heard it before that.  The premise is that manufacturers make things, tools in this particular case, but over time they have lost their understanding of what makes the tool do it’s job.  It still looks like the same tool, and at a casual glance may even function to some extent.

But where it counts the tool falls flat.  I’d hazard a guess that a large percentage of the tools in any big box store fall into that category.

Case in point number number one: The Dovetail Saw.

I decided I wanted to learn how to made dovetails by hand.  My process:

1. Read everything I can about it

2. Procure the essential tools, if I don’t already have them (and I never seem to…)

3. Try it

4. Look at the results, figure out what could be improved, go to #3 until I’m satisfied.

For step number two, I didn’t have a hand saw to cut with.  So I went to the local woodworker store and picked up a “gent’s saw”.  I didn’t expect it to be a great tool given the price — under $20, compared to $100 plus for what are touted to be good saws.  But I didn’t know what to expect from a good saw versus a bad saw.

So I clamped up a piece of wood and made a few test cuts.  Bleuch.  Seriously?  How can a straight saw cut a curve? (see the “before” cuts in the picture below).  After reading an article by David Charlesworth and seeing a video by Rob Cosman I understood one important point about dovetail saws.  To cut straight they need to have minimal set.  Charlesworth recommends making a few light passes with a stone on each side of the blade to remove some of the set.

You see, the problem is that with an excessive amount of set the resulting kerf is large enough to allow the blade to flop around.  So I made a few strokes on each side of the teeth with a medium stone and tried the cut.  Amazingly, it was better.  I tried another stroke per side, better still.  At 4 or 5 strokes per side I had the saw cutting true with a narrow kerf (see the “after” part of the photo below).

This got the saw to the “good enough” point so that I could start practicing.  That is, of course, another story.

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