Category Archives: Handtools

Petite Wooden Smoothing Plane

 

I have been reading about and planing to make my own wooden planes for about a year now. I first thought of the idea when I realised how expensive it is to order good quality planes from the USA. For every two Lie-Nielsen planes I pay for an extra one in shipment fees. Make no mistake, the people at Lie-Nielsen have the best customer service I have ever come across and as everyone knows their planes are superb. Yet, sending it half way around the globe costs money.

The more I read about the wooden versions, the more it sounded like they might almost be better than their heftier cousins. Being a bit of a traditionalist, the idea of building my own wooden planes started to gain some momentum. I then had discussions with Deneb Puchalski of Lie-Nielsen around which blades might be best for the types of planes I wanted to build. He was very helpful and in the end I decided on:

1) Three x 2″ wide standard blades with chipbreakers (25 degree primary bevel)

 

2) One 1¾” wide standard blade with chipbreakers (25 degree primary bevel)

 

3) One Scrub plane replacement blade 1½” x 3/16 (thick)

 

4) One large shoulder plane replacement blade 1¼” x 8¼” x 0.140″ (thick)
The blades arrived on the 11th of June 2013 at which time I started to hunt down beech. Surprisingly, I found some in the Land of the Brave. I decided to first build a smoother and a scrub plane to warmup.
In the pictures below you can see the first chunk of beech after it received attention from the planer.

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At this point in time I still did not rehabilitate my bandsaw (thus not able to re-saw at all and definitely not ysterhout in any dimension approaching what was needed), so I had to plane a fairly small piece of ysterhout down to about 8 mm thickness (from about 24 mm). I wanted to use this incredibly hard wood for the soles of my planes. In the pictures below you can see how I used the bandsaw to cut the sole of the smoother.

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After studying the grain of the beech I decided to laminate it as you can see in the pictures below. It is impossible to find beech in bigger dimensions (around these parts) so lamination was my only option. Speeaking of which, I can really recommend the documents on building wooden planes written by Larry Williams and his partner at Old Street Tools. You will find the link on the library page of this site. There are articles on grain orientation, best woods to use etc etc.

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Here you can see how I laminated the parts.

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For some or other reason I decided to stick it in the face vise, which is not the best as the two jaws are not completely parallel, and I have made this mistake before. Anyway, it came out OK, but I really need to stop doing this.

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Next step was to hand plane the sides dead flat and square to the sole. You can appreciate the beautiful soft shavings generated by my newly rehabilitated Stanley no.5 Jack Plane. I wrote a complete post on this project which you can find in the category by the name of “Rehabilitation of old tools”.

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In order to make the next cut I was forced to spend most of the next week trying to fix and tuneup my old crappy bandsaw. The results however made it well worth my while. After the tune-up it sliced such perfect strips off the side that it only took a few strokes with the plane to get them as smooth as a baby’s bottom …

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… as you can see here.

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I then used the planer/thicknesser to get the inside close to the correct width. Maybe a bit less than 3 mm wider than the width of the blade. For this Petite Smoother I chose the 1¾” blade.

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Here you can see how I marked out the bedding angle at 51º (just to be different of course).

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In order to make this next cut I had to build a jig for my bandsaw. I call it a “Bandsaw Mitre-sled”. You can find and read an entire post on this project under the above name …

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… here you can see the actual cut.

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In the first picture you can see the toe and heel section after the first cut. In the next pictures you can appreciate the curve that was cut in the toe section.

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I used the Green Monster to smooth the curved surface of the toe section.

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In order to prevent blowout of the Ysterhout sole while planing the so called ramp, I used the wedge (off-cut) that was created by the two cuts made earlier. You can see how I clamped it in the legvise to support the fibers on the delicate edge of the sole.

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After getting rid of the saw marks left by the bandsaw by means of the old Stanley Jack Plane I used the 3M Adhesive-backed sandpaper on a sheet of float glass to get it 100% flat. You will note the technique I use frequently in scribbling on the area with a 2B pencil before sanding to identify the areas that needs more attention. Once all the pencil marks disappear you know the job is done.

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The next step is to start marking out the position of the toe and heel sections relative to each other. I started by marking out the position of the toe piece and clamping it into this position.

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For the next step it is useful to have the blade in it’s position on the heel section, also known as the ramp. In the second picture you might just be able to see the line I marked at 1.5 mm parallel to the sole on the toe section. The idea is to line the cutting edge of the blade up with this line as demonstrated in the second picture. This tells you were the heel section should be relative to the toe section. You then remove the blade and mark the position with a pencil.

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In the first two pictures below you can see where I marked out the perimeters of the cap-screw slot. The off-cut wedge is again priceless to create a big enough surface in order to cut the slot with a router as shown. Please note the makeshift stop I’ve setup on the left hand side.

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Just a quick test to see whether the slot functions as planed.

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In order to drill the second of the cross-pin holes you need to clamp the whole shebang together after drilling the one side in the correct spot. You will find a host of different ways to identify this point on the internet. I used the measurements provided in an article titled “Wood Planes made easy” by David Finck in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Once I clamped it all into position I tapped some minute panel pins into each corner to ensure that I could put it all back together exactly in the same way during the glueing phase.

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The idea is then to stick the drill bit through the existing hole to drill the opposing hole exactly in the correct place using a perfectly square drill press setup as shown.

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The cross-pin was created by milling a scrap piece of Assegaai down to a ½” square strip that was much longer than needed. In the pictures you can see how I removed some stock by means of the table saw to start shaping the pins on either side. In future I would rather do this with my Lie-Nielsen carcass saw. In the next few picture you can see how I shaped the pins with a file.

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To make sure that everything fitted perfectly I did a dry fit as shown.

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Then I shaped the cross-pin further by using this setup.

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The glue-up is fairly straightforward due to the panel pins that ensures that it all comes together precisely how it was previously decided. Please note the caul clamped to the sole area to ensure that it ends up perfectly aligned.

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The cross-pins were then trimmed flush.

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Next step was to shape the plane and I started by cutting the ends containing the panel pins away.

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Then I marked out this funky curvy configuration on the ysterhout sole. The reason for doing this on the sole was that I wanted to have the sole at the top while cutting the curves on the bandsaw to prevent blowout of the rocklike yet brittle ysterhout. In the second picture you can see the result of the bandsaw’s caress.

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The bandsaw marks were removed by a series of steps including the use of a float, a smoothing plane and finally various grids of sandpaper on float glass. The result was staggeringly beautiful to say the least.

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The piece of Tamboti you see in the pictures below is the only one I have left and a board I know as long as I can remember. I thought that this was the ideal place to use such a priceless piece of timber. I decided to produce the wedge of this sexy petite plane using Tamboti.

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Here you can see the wedge in it’s early stages.

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The next step was to decorate the plane further with some sexy stopped chamfers. I marked it out by hand using a pencil and my finger as a fence. You can probably see that I deliberately did not do a 45º chamfer, but rather one that further complements the elegant elongated shape of the plane.

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Using the pencil lines as guides I used a small Lie-Nielsen block plane, a file and my Proletarian Sanding Contrivance to create the chamfers.

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Then I moved on to flattening the sole. It is important to tap the wedge into position at about the same tension as it would be while being used, before attempting to flatten the sole. The pressure from the wedge deforms the sole ever so slightly so the idea is to flatten it in the shape it will assume while the wedge is tapped into place. You can see that I once again scribbled on the sole prior to flattening in order to identify when it is completely flat.

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In order to custom-fit the wedge I dialed in the width by planing down the sides with my rehabilitated old Stanley no.4 Smoother. Apparently one should be careful not to make the wedge too tight-fitting as far as the wedge goes as it can damage the plane if it expands during humid months. I therefore made it about 3 mm narrower than the ramp. In the last of these three pictures you can see the plane hammer I built to set the plane. You will find an entire post devoted to this project under the category “Handtools”.

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I sharpened the Lie-Nielsen blade to have a cambered edge.

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I took to a small piece of swarthout to test the little beauty and the results were incredible. It gave the best finish I have ever seen and the shavings were extremely thin and soft. There were not even a hint of chatter. What also surprised me was how easy it is to set the blade with the small plane hammer. It almost felt easier than setting a cast iron plane.

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Here are two photos to show off the beautiful Lie-Nielsen iron-chipbreaker set.

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Part of the success of this little plane must be the tight mouth. In these pictures you can also appreciate the je ne sais quoi of the ysterhout sole.

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Finally a few pictures of the plane in the late afternoon sun after a light coat of Ballistol. I plan to treat the sole with wax once I find a suitable product.

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4/9/2013 – I finally got round to treating this little beauty after using it for a few weeks. You can see how it joined it’s bigger cousin at the Finishing Spa.

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Here are a few final photos of a little plane that has already become a go-to tool in my shop within the space a month.

 

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Plane Hammer

In this post we will briefly return to a state of “Mallet Mania”. As you might remember I wrote one of my first posts on the first four mallets I made and called it “Mallet Mania”. This past weekend I made the fifth in the form of a specialised plane hammer. It was necessitated by the fact that my first wooden plane was getting close to being finished.

I therefore squeezed in some time dedicated to the hammer necessary to set the blade of my Petite Smoothing Plane (post to follow in the near future). As per usual, even the bits and pieces that are available to use for such tools is quite limited in Namibia. In the pictures below you can see what I started with. It is one of those copper rings that plumbers use to join copper water pipes.

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I chamfered the inside edge of the one side with a medium sized file.

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Then I took a piece of Kershout and Witpeer I laminated for the handle of my legvise, that was left over and turned the head of the hammer (far right) together with three file handles while I was at it. It was turned in such a way that one side was similar in diameter to the outside of the copper ring and the opposite side slightly smaller than the inside diameter tapering up to sightly bigger than that. The idea being that one could tap the ring over to fit tightly.

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Here you can see how far the ring slid over the wood without any force. I applied epoxy to act as a lubricant and adhesive before tapping it into place.

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To ensure that the ring had nowhere to go I cut a thin curve to accept a very slight wedge, which was taped in after applying Gorilla PVA wood glue.

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The sides of this wedge were trimmed flush …

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… and cut to length as shown below.

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The next step was to mark out were to drill the hole for the handle. I used a compass to scribe a circle 2 mm bigger than the hole drilled for the pin of the handle in order to have a reference of how much I should enlarge the hole on this side to accept another wedge.

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In order to drill the hole accurately I made this quick jig out of scrap plywood. The hammer’s head sits steady in the groove and held in place by the drill press vise.

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I used Kershout for the handle. Below you can see how I shaped the pin.

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Then I used a spoke shave, a rasp and a card scraper to shape the handle. It makes easy work of such a job.

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I then glued a small piece of sealskin to the one striking surface to give the option of a softer blow, when striking the wooden parts of the plane (as opposed to the plane iron).

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The final product prior to the usual Ballistol treatment.

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Reprobate Sealskin Strop

This is a straight forward hand tool that some might argue to have become obsolete, especially since the advent of devilishly fine waterstones used in conjuction with Nagura stones. However, to me it reminds of the days gone by, which creates a sense of being part of the traditions of the craft.

That is why I fashioned this sealskin strop. Before all the whiny greenies get on my back, I did not kill any seals for this purpose. I simply bought the skins at Nakara. As far as I know, Namibia has been involved in a sustained seal genocide to which more liberal societies have developed an aversion of note. As I see it, these seals were well and truly dead by the time I bought the skins, so I might as well honour their expired existence by creating a timeless heirloom tool with it. Come to think of it, in the light of the above I should probably warn sensitive readers that this post might contain disturbing images, if you are that way inclined.

As per usual I found a small piece of Assegaai for the job. The bandsaw was responsible for the rough shaping, before I took to it with a few files to round the areas forming the handle.

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I then used a card scraper to remove the file marks, which I can really recommend. It works like a charm for this purpose, as you can see from the pictures below.

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The area that would end up covered with sealskin, were then planed flat with a rehabilitated old Stanley Jack Plane. I wrote a comprehensive post on this particular endeavor, which you will find under the category of “Rehabilitation of old tools”.

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To make absolutely sure it was flat, I used 3M adhesive-backed sandpaper on glass to get it as close to perfect as possible. I used the technique of scribbling on the wood with a 2B pencil before sanding to identify the low spots. The job is done once all the pencil marks has disappeared as you can see in the last picture. I advise those sensitive types to stop reading at this point.

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Two sealskins as bought from Nakara. In the closeup picture you can appreciate that the leather is quite rough, which is probably wicked for this purpose.

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A magic marker was used to trace out the strips needed.

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I first glued the narrow strips to the sides …

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… then the wider strips.

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I used a very sharp chisel to remove a few untidy strips of leather and …

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… finally the usual treatment with Ballistol gave the Assegaai a beautiful sheen.

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Old Stanley Bailey handplane rehabilitation

My father gave me most of his tools some years ago when he decided to downscale and pursue other interests. He was very much a powertool woodworker as apposed to a hybrid woodworker (someone who uses both hand tools and power tools) or a handtool woodworker. I never even knew that he was as his way was the only way I knew, until I started reading American woodworking magazines and listening to podcasts such as the one by the Modern Woodworkers Association (my favourite) and Wood Talk (highly recommended). Now I realise that there are other ways to approach woodworking conundrums.

It is not as if I am not grateful for everything I learnt from my Dad, as it certainly got me hooked to woodworking in a big way, but I am finding myself gravitating towards quality handtools with a vengeance. I guess that would make me a hybrid woodworker with fairly basic handtool skills at present.

This is really a roundabout way to get onto the primary purpose of this post, which is the rehabilitation of the two old Bailey handplanes my Dad handed down to me. It is a no. 4 Smoothing Plane and no.5 Jack Plane that really needed serious attention. I never even knew that one should sharpen the plane irons as my father and I never did. Probably, in hind sight, because we never used them. For this reason they never seem to work very well, which did not encourage any further scrutiny.

That was until I watched the DVD on Plane Sharpening by David Charlesworth and using a sharp Lie-Nielsen No.4½ Smoother. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that it was an epiphany. A sharp handplane is poetry in motion. It is psychotherapy for a shrink … literally in my case. David also explains very clearly in his DVD what comprises a functional and well tuned (apart from a sharp iron) handplane, which is all very useful to any woodworker, but especially to plane rehabilitators.

Armed with this new knowledge I set about to rehabilitate these family heirlooms. In the first few pictures you can get an idea of the state they were in. It used to be toilsome to slice Parmesan cheese with these planes, to be honest.

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First step was to flatten the soles of these planes and it turned out that they were in some serious need of this particular ministration. An added bonus of doing this is that it makes the shiny parts of the plane body smile with a rewarding gleam. I have to warn you that this is hard work that can take time and perseverance from a woodworker. You do not have to get it 100%, but the toe, the area behind the mouth and a reasonably large area towards or at the heel all needs to be in the same plane.

A Magic Marker is very useful to demonstrate the areas that needs attention. Drawing a grid (as shown) before taking a few swipes over wet-and-dry-sandpaper fixed to 10 mm thick float glass, would reveal the troublesome spots in no time. Please note that I left the plane irons clamped in their usual position, only making sure that they are retracted well into the plane body in order not to get damaged by the flattening activity. The reason behind this is that the clamping action of the lever cap deforms the sole ever so slightly which means that you want to flatten it while under tension.

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The remnants of gridlines clearly indicate the low lying areas as seen below.

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Then it becomes a question of elbow grease, burning some midnight oil or whatever it might be called. Here you can see how I used my sharpening jig to do the flattening. If you want to read the post on how I made this jig find the post called “My version of Deneb’s sharpening jig” under the category “Jigs”. This jig clamps wet-and-dry sandpaper on a piece of float glass by means of two cauls.

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The final product is well worth the effort I thought.

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Next I took the planes apart completely, including removing the plane irons with their chipbreakers, the frogs, the totes and knobs.

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Here you can see how I sharpened the new replacement blades I bought from Lie-Nielsen. If you are interested in purchasing replacement blades for old Stanleys, check out Lie-Nielsen’s website, they have the whole range. Their blades are definitely the business. Their blades are prepared at a primary bevel angle of 25º and ground flat as … oh no just remembered this is a family website … but you really do not have to do too much work on the back at all.

I honed a 33° honing angle on my 1000 grid Ohishi waterstone and polished a 35º final cutting angle on a 10 000 grid Ohishi stone. Both blades were sharpened with a cambered edge.

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In the picture below you can see the Nagura stone I use with the 10 000 grid stone.

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Here you can see how the totes and knobs looked like prior to rehabilitation. Clearly some type of varnish left that was starting to look seriously weathered. I removed the the varnish with a card scraper before tidying it up with sandpaper.

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A last picture before the frogs came off.

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The two screws that fix the frog to the body of the plane is evident in the first picture. In the third picture you can see the screw that helps you position the frog during reassembly depending on how tight you want the throat.

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Next step was to carefully remove the worst of the rust from the frog’s surface that supports the blade with a fine flat file.

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In the first picture below you can see how I then used a magic marker to blacken all the surfaces that is in contact with the back of the blade. In the next picture you can see the setup I used with 150 grid wet-and-dry sandpaper on a piece of float glass on the edge of the table in order to easily hone the most important front section of the frog. In the third picture you can see how the leftover magic marker indicates the areas that needs more attention after just a few strokes on the sandpaper. The last picture show how it is all cleaned up and flat as … yes you know what I mean.

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Here you can see how I cleaned up and flattened the areas of the frog that is in contact with the plane body.

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Speaking of plane bodies, here you can see how they look prior to a Ballistol treatment.

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One of the most important parts of this rehabilitation operation is the work done on the chipbreakers. You want to flatten the area in contact with the blade at an angle that will ensure that the absolute tip of the chipbreaker sits flat on the back of the blade. This is accomplished by the setup as shown. You can see how the angle created will ensure that only the tip ends up flat on the blade.

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Here you can see how I decreased the angle slightly for honing and polishing. In the last picture you might be able to appreciate the perfectly polished and flat area that will ultimately sit on the back of the blade.

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The lever cap being made of cast iron is much easier to flatten, but again remember to set it up so that you only flatten the area that matters at the very tip that will be in contact with the chipbreaker. These lever caps were not even close to flat in the mentioned area.

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Here you can see the totes and knobs before and after a Ballistol treatment.

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Both totes were very wobbly due to very slack tolerance around the two raised cast iron areas on the base. I decided to remedy this by inserting some Epoxy putty and squeeze the tote into position, in order to create a perfect fit.

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Finally all the parts were reassembled with the frogs set up to create a very tight throat on both planes. I can really recommend doing this for those of you who do not mind some elbow grease in return for a pleasing precision tool. There can be no comparison between how these planes cut post rehabilitation compared with prior to it. It is an absolute pleasure.

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As per usual, the proof is in the pudding. Here are some of the first shavings I took. It is poetry, I tell you!

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I think they are ready for another few hundred years of work.

22/4/2014

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It’s a dowel plate mate

This is another brief post explaining how to make a very handy hand tool in no time. If you are in need of custom made dowels, this is a very useful tool. As usual I got this idea from Lie-Nielsen.

All you need is a scrap piece of steel. I took this chunk of steel left over from another project and drilled 5 holes starting at 10 mm increasing by 0.5 mm at a time up to 12 mm.

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The idea is to cut square strips of wood slightly bigger than needed, shape it a smidgen with a plane …

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… and tap it through the holes, starting with the biggest that would accept the blank and moving down to the size intended. In the pictures below you can see how I made the dowels for my mallet. If you want to know more about the process of building the mallet, see the post titled “Mallet Mania”.

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… and voilà, some custom Witpeer dowels!!!

 

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Shameless Flush Plane knockoff

By now I presume that you are quite familiar with the fact that I have to improvise from time to time, (more often than not) in order to acquire tools that most other people buy at their corner cafe. In this particular case my improvisation included the shameless liberation of a Veritas catalogue idea. They sell a so called Flush Plane, which I thought could be very handy as they explained for:

“flush trimming projections such as glue lines, laminate edges, plugs, etc. It can also be used for cleaning out inside corners (e.g., hinge gains, tenons, half-laps)” As copied from the catalogue of September 2012.

So I set about to make my own version of this elusive (only to mortals from Africa) tool. As usual I used scrap pieces of Assegaai. I promise to use another species of wood once I start making furniture. Despite all the hassle to get hold of tools I did find Stanley plane blades which would fit the 1/2 numbers, not the others only the 1/2s!! Therefore this rip-off was tailored around the mentioned blade.

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In the pictures below you can peruse the first phase of sculpting the laminated Assegaai blank. At least the actual contours of the rip-off are entirely my own ingenuity.

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Enter Phase two.

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Phase three was done with hand tools exclusively. I created an area at the front of the handle where one can get a grip with your leading finger/s. On the sides (less visible in the pictures below) I hollowed out an area where one’s wrap-around fingers can nestle into for improved grip. You can also see how the blade was marked for drilling holes to accept the screws that would ultimately fix it to the bottom for the grip.

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Once the shank holes were drilled I first transferred it to the grip before countersinking the holes in the steel.

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The reason for this was that I had to countersink the holes in the steel to the point were it increased the diameter of the shank holes. It was necessary to ensure that the steel screws seat below the level of the blade.

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After seating the blade the sole of this knockoff was lapped flat with sandpaper on a piece of glass.

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The final product lacked je ne sais quoi, so I decided to play around with some craving options. I will add it to this post once it is done.

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Proletarian sanding contrivances

Although I do own a belt sander and two orbital sanders (that were past down from my Dad to me), I still prefer sanding by hand. Unfortunately the cheap and nasty commercial sanding blocks I used to own in New Zealand were all stolen en route to Namibia. I thought making some sanding planes would be a good start towards my next goal of building some wooden hand planes. This way I get some experience in producing the plane tote (handles) and joining it to the rest of the tool. Even with sanding planes the aim is to keep it as flat as possible, so this way I can get a feel for doing just that.

One of the annoying things about using a sanding block is having to change the paper all the time as you move from one grid to the next. Therefore I decided to build 3 short (230 mm) and three long (380 mm) sanding planes, in order to load each with a different grid. It would allow me to simply grab the next plane when moving up a grid.

I had some trouble to get the pdf documents on Stanley totes (handles) from the Lee Valley website printed to the correct scale. It necessitated me to take the tote off my Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane and use it as a template. The Lee Valley documents were very helpful nonetheless as it explains clearly what the best sequins of steps are to produce the handle. In the picture below, you can see how the Lie-Nielsen tote was used as a template, ensuring that the hole running through the tote is 90 degrees to the sides of the board.

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Here you can see the documents, as mentioned. It is downloadable from the Lee Valley website.

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Below you will notice that the hole that runs through the handles were drilled before drilling the large diameter holes which simplifies the actual cutting of the blanks.

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Next step is to shape the blanks to resemble the perfect Lie-Nielsen tote it is based on. For this purpose I used the green monster, which is a machine my father built many years ago. In the pictures below I took it’s work surface off to enable me to maneuver the blank a bit more. Some of the shaping was done with the surface intact.

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Next I took some scrap Witels, which I thought would be a nice colour match with the pale fungi induced spots on the Assegaai handles and plane bodies. Yes, I know, ‘a certain je ne sais quoi’. After laminating the three pieces I turned the six knobs from it

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Unfortunately I did not take pictures of how I prepared the plane bodies. It was fairly gnarled bits of Assegaai to start off with. In order to flatten these bits of wood I spent quite some time working on my hand planing technique. Then I moved on to custom fitting each handle recessed about 4mm into the plane body. The totes and knobs were then glued and screwed into it’s permanent home for the next 500 years (I hope).

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The mechanism I chose to fix the sand paper to the plane necessitated a lot of fiddling with small bits of wood, screws and panel pins. Although probably not the fastest way of changing paper, it works like a charm and also adds a certain je ne sais quoi on the looks side of things!

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Seeing that these are sanding planes with which I do not want to spoil a surface that was already elbow-greased to perfection by hand planing, the next critical step was to ensure that they are as flat as glass. I used two different grids of 3M Adhesive-Backed Sandpaper on a piece of glass. You can see how I used the trick I learnt from David Charlesworth by scribbling on the sole with a pencil to see low spots. I saw him using this in a DVD on sharpening. I think if I saw this guy working in his meticulously cerebral fashion earlier in my life, I probably would have pursued woodworking as a career. His DVD’s are highly recommended. I bought mine from Lie-Nielsen.

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Next I mixed epoxy and added some wood dust to increase the viscosity. This concoction was then used to fill the holes left by the countersunk steel screws which fixed the knobs and handles to the plane body. It dried to an incredibly hard filler, which was again sanded perfectly flush with the rest of the sole.

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I then glued Red Dear leather (short planes) and Kudu leather (long planes) to the soles to ensure an even contact between the sandpaper and wood that is being sanded. You can see how in one case I used a piece of glass as a flat surface clamping through the assembly table. In the other case I used the two sanding planes as each other’s flat reference surface, to ensure flat and consistent adhesion of the leather.

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Finally the first test with sandpaper and it works like a dream.

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Usually my favourite part of building these tools is to rub on Ballistol. It brings out the beautiful colours of the wood and does not dry to a film at all, nor does it go yellow over time.

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Here you can see how I indicated on the back of each plane which grid of sandpaper it is loaded with. This makes it easy to simply grab the next plane needed during a sanding operation.

 

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In these final pictures you can see where the planes found their little home.

 

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Tamboti and Witels marking knives

Marking knives are one of those multifarious paraphernalia that have not made it’s merry way to the distant shores of Namibia. Seeing that it is a fairly vital tool in a proper woodworking workshop, I had to make a plan.

First, I set off to find some reasonable steel for the project. I decided to use the blade of an old Bailey no.4 hand plane of my Dad that I am busy revitalizing. There are some Lie-Nielsen custom replacement blades on it’s way to me as we speak to replace this particular blade. Anyway, so the steel was sorted. Then I had a good ferret around for suitable off-cuts of wood for the handles.

Finally, I decided on some Tamboti (Spirostachys africana) and Witels (Playlophus trifoliatus). I only have two very small pieces of Tamboti that have probably traveled more than 2000 km over 15 odd years with my father and already 1800 km over 13 years with me. Maybe it is time to do something with it. The first two pictures below show the old plane blade on the Witels wood. The copper ring you spot is one of those the plumbers use to join copper pipes. Clearly I need to improvise and use what is available.

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Tamboti-red_MAR5443_IJFR A beautiful Tamboti tree in the wild.

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You will usually find these gargantuan Witels trees in the wettest parts of the forest.

In the next few pictures you can see the small piece of Tamboti. I deliberately chose to cut a blank that contains a bit of sapwood to show off the beautiful colour contrast. These blanks were so small that I had to improvise again in order to fit it on my antediluvian lathe. You can see the plywood wheel with a recessed area accepting the blank that is screwed to a bigger piece of hardwood. Yes it is fiddly to say the least.

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Here you can see the turned Tamboti handle. The sapwood really adds some je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? You can also see the part of the blade allocated to this particular knife. The front part of the handle is turn to be a fraction bigger than the hole through the copper ring, but with absolute end slightly smaller to get it going when tapping it over with the blade in place. A take-home message from turning this blank, is to look for wood that has fairly straight gain throughout. The haphazard gain pattern on the front of this blank looks nice but does compromise it’s strength somewhat.

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Below you can see the Witels blank being shaped on the lathe. This was the first time I have turned Witels and only the second time I have worked with it at all. In hindsight it is probably not the best wood for this application as it is very porous and softer than what I am used to if compare to Assegaai (my go-to wood for tool making). Nonetheless I do not think there are too many people with Tamboti and Witels marking knifes.

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Unfortunately I did not take pictures of how I shaped the the blade or the internal design of how it was fitted to the handle. Therefore I made some crude Sketchup drawings to give you an idea.

You can clearly see the shape of the blade. It has a thin shaft that was inserted into the hole drilled down the middle of the handle. That part of the shaping was done by cutting it roughly to size with a grinder and finished off with hand files. The front of the blade however took ages as I did not want to overheat the steel and lose the temper. Therefore it was done slowly over hours with water stones and wet-and-dry sanding paper. Part of the blade was seated inside a slot cut into the front part of the handle, which clamped down on it when the copper ring was tapped over that section of wood. I also use epoxy to help fix the blade to the hilt (if you pardon the pun). It was inserted down the shaft’s hole, as well as inside the slot. Something that worked very well was the epoxy on the wood that came into contact with the inside of the copper ring reduced the friction significantly while tapping it over.

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Here you can see the final product. The Tamboti knife has a fairly short blade for all the run-of-the-mill work. The Witels knife has a blade almost double the length of the first and also sports a slightly more Brobdingnagian handle.

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Mallet Mania

May 2013

I thought I should start with something easy as far as documenting my progress in the shop. These hand-tool-building posts are therefore not in chronological order.
It was a good 18 months into my workshop-development-activities when I got round to building some mallets. I started with two made on the lathe that seems to be recommended from carving purposes. I actually find that they are very handy for general chisel work too.

First, I found a few bits of scrap Assegaai (Curtisia dentata) and so called Rhodesian Teak. Assegaai is my favourite wood for making tools as it is known for it’s elasticity and tends to be very hard too. The Zulu’s obviously had good reason for preferring this wood for their assegais. It was also used extensively for wagon building (in particular for the spokes of the wheels) in the Old Cape Colony. In the pictures below you can see some pictures of the Assegaai tree, leaves and the traditional weapon it’s name is derived from.

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Rhodesian Teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) has undergone a name change to Zambian Teak, which is probably more politically correct. The bits of teak I used came from some left over from another project to do with my workbench/assembly table, which we will cover in another post. By the way, this wood actually originates from Zambia, despite the fact that you find the tree in several other countries such as Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to name a few.

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In the above pictures you can see the scrap pieces I used, with the Cecil John Teak (CJT) closest and Assegaai furthest.

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You can see the lamination process which is the curse that I have to live with as 95% of the wood in my possession were cut into boards varying between 25-30mm (around the 1 inch mark). Therefore, I need to laminate in order to generate stock thicker than that.

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My lathe is old and a bit dodgy so I tend to do my best to shape the blanks before loading the cannon. In this case I used the bandsaw.

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Here you can see the Assegaai mallet already turned next to the CJT blank. The light coloured spots you see on the Assegaai mallet is caused by a fungus, but does not affect the wood’s strength at all (apart from inflicting the colour change) in this case. I therefore prefer to use Assegaai with these spots for my tools, where one is less concerned with aesthetics.

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The above pictures show the same Assegaai mallet after a treatment with Ballistol oil. I use Ballistol on all my tools. In the case of metal tools the plan is to prevent corrosion, as opposed to wooden tools where the aim is to limit moisture movement. Luckily I find myself in a very dry climate anyway where we do not see any clouds between May and October. Yes, that means no rain either and quite low levels of humidity. By the way this Ballistol stuff is really top class in my opinion. It smells nice and has been used by just about every adventurer, hunter, bush doctor, and gun nut south (by way of expression of course, as it was probably used even more to the immediate north of the mentioned desert) of the Sahara.

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Here both mallets are finished and you can see that I made some minor adjustments to the handle of the CJT mallet. The Assegaai mallet weighs 500 grams (1.1lb) and the CJT version weighs 430 grams (0.95 lb), which might sound like an insignificant difference. In actual fact I find these mallets quite different in that the CJT mallet is significantly smaller (and therefore quite a bit more manoeuvrable), but does not lose that much in weight.

(Added 11/11/2013) – This weekend I learned a new trick. The short piece of copper pipe picture below (which I picked up for free from a antique dealer) have me the idea to line the holes I drill in tool handles with copper. The idea is to drill a hole of the same diameter as the outside of the copper pipe, apply some epoxy, tap the pipe in, tidy it up, and Bob’s your Uncle.

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Now I have the option of hanging the mallet.

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Fine, so let’s move on to mallets of the alternative design. So far I have built two, again with an aim to produce mallets of different weights and size.

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For both of these I decided to use a combination of Hardepeer (Olinia ventosa) (deep yellow in colour) and Stinkhout (Ocotea bullata) (dark brown) in order to take advantage of the beautiful colour contrast. Yes I know that is contrary to what I said earlier. I must admit that I am a sitting duck for aesthetically pleasing tools.

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For the bigger mallet I used hand tools to cut the mortise for the handle, before gluing the Hardepeer inner part. Note the flaring nature of the mortise.

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In order to add some considerable heft to this mallet, I created a flat mortise (not sure if this is the correct term) to accept a piece of steel. The piece of steel fitted very tightly into the mortise and was fixed with a screw as well as being glued in with epoxy.

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Then I glued the two Stinkhout pieces to the outsides of the Hardepeer inner.

The handle was made up of two pieces of Witpeer (Apodytes dimidiata) laminated together.

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Then the shaping process started together with six Witpeer dowels inserted from side to side through the laminated parts. Two of these dowels also passed through the steel weights. This was probably not necessary, but (you’ve guest it) were added for aesthetic reasons and I did want to ensure that the steel weights never starts rattling inside while using the mallet. Maybe others have some experience with this? Let me know whether it might add value or simply a wast of time.

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The handle was shaped using a band saw and Lie-Nielsen carcass saw to cut out the rough blank and from then on only files. It was then glued into place using two Stinkhout wedges to expand it into the flaring mortise and left proud by ½ an inch, which was trimmed after a few days.

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The head of the smaller mallet was made up of the same species of wood, but were the lucky winner of an Assegaai handle. It does not contain any steel and weighs in at 350 grams (0.77 lb), as apposed to the Godfather of mallets at a whopping 1300 grams (2.87 lb).

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The same method of attaching the handle was used, again for strength in the first place yet adding a touch of je ne sais quoi as well.

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Finally, I glued a piece of leather to one face of each mallet and finished it off with a coat of (you’ve guessed it) Ballistol. The leather that was used came from the skin of a Red Dear I shot on the South Island of New Zealand (Fiordland) while living there between 2002 and 2009.

9/12/2013 – This weekend I finished a this beautiful mallet which will become my main mortising mallet with my new Lie-Nielsen bevel-edge chisels set, which is set to arrive early in the new year. It has an Ysterhout head and a Boekenhout handle. The Ysterhout is ridiculously hard and sinks in water. It took em ages to created the mortise for the handle and almost loss several chisels in trying to. I used sealskin on the on face. It is as tough as nails (if you excuse the pun). As you can see it weighs in at 780 gram.

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3/8/2014

A week or so ago I added a number of layers of leather to the leather side of these two mallets. The idea being that it would make them saver when tapping joinery together in order not to dent the work.

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