Monday, February 19, 2018

Seasonal Maintenance and Tuning of Wooden Planes, Step 1

Note: This post is more than 10 paragraphs. It will take minutes to read and likely more to digest. The video, which twice demonstrates the entirety of what is being explained, is 49 seconds. Understand, but don't be overwhelmed.

I deliver the planes I sell sharpened, stropped and ready to work hard, figured wood. Keeping the planes in that condition is up to you, the end-user.

When I teach classes on the subject of producing profiles with moulding planes I bring more than 50 planes for the students to use: a pair of #6s, a pair of #10s and a rabbet for each. Each plane I bring for the class works at the same level of each plane I sell.

These classes are not a two-day sales pitch for the planes I make, however. (In fact, at the end of a few classes I've been asked by students where I purchased my planes, which is awful salesmanship.) I do not actively push my planes at classes, shows, or even this blog because new planes certainly will not be everybody's conclusion and we are only here to learn.

Despite not actively trying to sell the planes to the students, I know that I will be judged upon the performance of my planes. As such, I tune every single plane I anticipate being used prior to going. At the class I want each student to learn how to use the tool, not how to fight the tool; I want each student to get an idea of how long an edge should feel and last, not start by sharpening a plane; I want each student to leave, at least, with a goal for tuning their own planes.

All of this tuning adds up quickly in the days leading up to teaching because, in addition to the 50+ planes for the students, I also bring all of my demo planes. I tune up my side beads, snipes bills, ogees, etc.

The rest of this post and the next one is the process I follow for each tool. This is the same process you may use with any tool you purchase from me. It will be added to my FAQ page upon completion.

Step #1:

The soles of all planes go out of flat in time. As such, the soles need to be addressed on occasion with all planes, wooden and metal.

A Stanley plane may take 75 years to go out of flat while a wooden plane may go slightly out of flat seasonally. A metal plane's sole may take significant effort to bring back to a single plane while a wooden plane that has been recently tuned is very quick.

This post is intended to show this fast process of addressing this aspect of the seasonal maintenance that goes along with the tools that I sell. Staying on top of this process (i.e. do not let them sit in a wooden box on a concrete floor for five unused years) limits the maintenance to only what will be demonstrated.

A high spot often develops behind the mouth. With a wooden plane that's been tuned recently, the inevitable high spot will likely be slight.

Know that a plane can only take a shaving as fine as the sole is flat. On occasions in our class or your shop users will want to take a fine shaving. As a result, I start the tuning process for class by flattening the sole on all occasions.

The flattening process is so quick and the likelihood of the high spot so high that I just re-flatten everything. 

With the iron set and retracted into the body, I start with a piece of 150 grit wrapped around the middle of a plane's mate. I use the round as a sanding block for a hollow and vice versa. These few passes will make the likely high spot a low spot (or a rare low spot a lower spot, which doesn't really matter). I then wrap a piece of 220 around the length of the sanding plane to bring both ends coplanar with the center. Flip the planes and follow the same process.

You can test if the resultant sole is slightly concave along the length with a straight edge. If you don't then the issue will present itself during the test cuts.

There are a couple other advantages to flattening the sole. This process also removes the finish from the sole which will make sharpening easier. You can now see the silhouette of the iron's edge above the horizon of the mouth much easier.

Additionally, if the sole is out of flat it is common to see the back of the mouth, think that what you're seeing it the iron, and make unnecessary and poor adjustments to the iron's profile.

Antique planes will follow a similar series of steps. Though the process is similar, the steps and effort will likely be exaggerated with a tool that hasn't been successfully tuned in the past 100 years. Think 60 grit instead of 150.

Next will be adding a brand new edge to the tool.

Note 2: Do not buy a plane the you haven't the ability to address the sole. I use my hollows to flatten my rounds, my rounds to flatten my hollows and my hollows and rounds to flatten my dedicated planes. All antique planes will be out of flat to varying degrees.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Side Rounds: A Serial Instructional, Part II

Part I of this Side Round serial may be found here.

When addressing the idea of side rounds the immediate question is often: "Does one need a series of side rounds in the same manner that one needs a series of rounds?"

The answer to this question is "No."

There are, of course, many different arcs and radii that may be included in a final moulding profile. Individual hollows and rounds are used to cut those same arcs and radii. Therefore, many rounds may be ideal.

Though hollows and rounds are used to make a specific circumference, they should not be used to set that same arc of a circle down, into wood.

The shape of the rounds' body will preclude it from reaching into the absolute corner.

These instances are where the side rounds comes into play. The side round will establish the transition point where this particular profile changes from convex to concave. 

The side round often only creates clearance for the appropriately sized round while establishing that transition point.
As such, a comprehensive series of side rounds is not necessary because the profile they create is not often included in the final profile, only the transition point and clearance they create is.

I make two sizes of side rounds as standard:

These side rounds may be used for creating clearance for a wide range of rounds.

Further information may, of course, be found here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rule Joint Planes, Etc.

MERCY!!! I was trying to talk about side rounds here, but...

Throughout the many years I’ve been making/selling planes I have seen several common requests go in and out of fashion. Some months I get numerous requests for moving fillesters. On other occasions my time is spent responding to the wave of those that suddenly want tongue and grooves, 3/8” side beads, panel raisers, skewed rabbets, etc. 

These past few weeks I have been responding to a significant number of people interested in a pair of Rule Joint Planes. The number has been so significant, in fact, that I am here, writing this blog, in comprehensive response. (I will, of course, add it to my FAQ page, too.)

For those of you that happen to stumble upon this blog post and do not know what a rule joint is, that’s ok. You may, after all, only know it as the integral joint of a drop leaf table. You may even have a few in your living room. Your grandmother’s favorite piece of furniture may have showcased it, like that of my own...

The joint allows a table to be extended easily while decorating the seam with a common moulding profile: a square ovolo with fillets.

A rule joint is comprised of two sides. The primary side is the top, which is a square ovolo with fillet that is ideally more than 90 degrees of a circle. 

The second half is a square cove, ideally with a slight flat at the bottom.

All of this allows the joint to be opened and closed seamlessly, without seeing any voids.

At first glance you may conclude that these profiles are easily executed with simple dedicated planes because they are simple, specific profiles. To some degree you are correct, each portion could be made with these planes.

The issue with this process is getting the two profiles to align perfectly because the depth stops of common dedicated planes will register upon different faces of the table's top.

This is fine if the thickness of the pieces being worked is exactly the width for which the planes were designed: no more, no less.

This fact is, however, an issue once any slight change in stock is worked.
 The slight change will result in a joint that does not align.

The profiles above do not match. In fact, any material that isn't exactly thicknessed for the planes' design will not match. Thus, common, sprung, dedicated planes will not work for this joint.

"But Matt," you say, "there are historical examples of rule joint planes. Why not this?"

Let us take a closer look at rule joint planes while acknowledging the one truth I've illustrated above: the two planes must register upon the same face. 

The fences of the dedicated rule joint planes must register upon the underside...

(in the scenario above the plane on the left has no depth stop, which is a MAJOR issue)

or the top 

This final illustration would be my choice, but there are still more issues involved. Due to the need for the planes to register upon the top of the piece, both planes cannot be sprung. This means that the scraping action of the cutting edge is greatly increased. This greatly reduces the edge's longevity. See here and here for further information on this subject because there are even more issues regarding seasonal maintenance and difficulty sharpening (not just increased amount of sharpening.)

I guess what I'm saying is the following:

Rule joints and rule joint planes are perfect examples of where hollows and rounds excel. I wrote a blog post on the actual steps years ago. It can be found here.

A rule joint is a perfect place to begin for somebody interested in introducing hollows and rounds into their work. The two portions of this joint are elementary and may be perfected in two or three attempts. In fact, I teach classes on using these planes and the two profiles included in the rule joint are only the third and fourth in a weekend spent using profiled planes excessively.

 Be done with the joint before lunch:

If you're running ahead of the group then do it better:

Make a rule joint with hollows and rounds knowing the whole time that these two profiles are only a portion of what may be done with a single pair.

In short, I don't make rule joint planes because I don't want my name on the nonfunctioning tools in your workshop. Make the joint with hollows and rounds and then use the same tools to do much more.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What Are Side Rounds and How Do They Work? Part 1

Approximately once a month I will be featuring a specific plane. I will post several pictures of the plane on my Instagram account (@msbickford) over the course of several days. A series of blog articles will also appear in conjunction. These will then be combined to go on my website's increasingly cool FAQ page.

This month's plane(s) will be Side Rounds.

Essentially all moulding profiles that happen on a straight  piece of wood may be executed using Hollows and rounds. Hollows and rounds, after all, create concave and convex shapes of varying radii and degrees of arc. All mouldings are a series of these varying concave and convex shapes along with some flat segments thrown in for good fun.

If you've read my book or visited my blog then you know that moulding profiles that are to be made with hollows and rounds start with series of rabbets.

The rabbets fall in specific places and serve specific functions. We are not going to get into all of the reasoning and layout of the rabbets with these 'Side Round' posts, but know that one of the purposes of the rabbets is to define transition points: where profiles change from once arc or flat to another.

Take a class with me and you will hear numerous times that rabbets define all transition points. Once that idea has been hammered into the students' heads, we go over the times that rabbets don't define those points, the times when a rabbet cannot. 

There are some transition points that can not be defined with a rabbet or rabbet plane. Some of those points can be defined with a side round.

I will be teaching a class at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts in a few weeks. The class will certainly cover this subject and many more. Plus, you'll get to execute quick profiles like the one above.

 Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Making Moulding Planes With Machines

Seeing multiple methods for executing the same task is often beneficial. 

Old Street Tool has posted several videos of their many plane-making methods on Instagram and others have posted the same. Here is a full video--from set-up to execution--of my method of cutting the escapement of moulding planes on machines, which is different than others.

There are many benefits for making this portion of these planes with machines. Not only is the process incredibly quick (I set the whole thing up and cut two escapements while talking in less than 3 minutes and could likely do 20 of the same size in 5 minutes) but it is also inexpensively made with tools and materials you likely have while being, most importantly, accurate.

Accuracy when cutting the escapement is important because you are also establishing the bed and breast of the mortise. An accurately cut, clean bed will speed up many other aspects of plane making while also leaving a tighter mouth and other cleaner aspects, etc.

I will be teaching a class at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts from February 10-11. The class is about using moulding planes. Subjects like this video and any other that your little heart desires will be discussed before class, after, during lunch or when you're looking to take a break from making the many moulding we will be learning.

Consider the class if you're considering adding these tools to your work. Spending a weekend with the planes I make will give you a good goal when it comes to tuning your own. I will see you there, or here, or Instagram (@msbickford).

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Justification for Hollows and Rounds

Note 1: This article will be a further addition to my increasing FAQ page. Check it out.

Note 2: My wife, friends and editors always tell me that all of my introductions are too long. Deal with them or delete them. I consider them desirable.

Please consider these paragraphs an introduction to reasons these tools--hand tools--may find relevance in your shop.

(This picture only serves as click bait.)

The first financial commitment of my path into woodworking was the purchase of a table saw. With slightly more woodworking experience, I quickly acquired a 6” jointer and less expensive 12” lunchbox planer. With more practice and increasingly wild dreams I accepted that the combination of my jointer and planer was not able to prepare the desired dimensioned wood of my future.

I priced the various options for jointers and planers. I could purchase a 12” jointer for $2,000 or more (up from only several hundred,) but then I’d have +5x the price invested into my jointer over my planer. At that point, I might as well put another $1,500-$2,000 into a 16” planer. This inevitability, of course, would only leave me wanting a wider jointer, then wider planer, and then jointer, and so on. I was left going through the back and forth, chasing the “Jointer High.”

Do you recognize this?

The “Jointer High,” as I’ve termed the above, is the idea that if you buy the largest sized jointer you choose to afford then you feel that you owe yourself a similarly expensive planer, which will be much wider. Then you consider spending more on a jointer and more on a planer and the circle continues. Buy the widest of both of these and you still won’t have the ability to flatten the top of a 34” wide piece for a single board, pie-crust table.

At this point you do more research and you think that you will just build a router jig for that pie-crust table you’re considering only to recognize that you will not be able to flatten the bench top you intend to build with the jig you propose to construct. You then consider buying a wide belt sander or CNC machine because you’ll have to store the longer/wider router jig and you…

Stop. You’re frustrated…

There are two groups of woodworkers that I tend to disappoint. One of them is the hand tool-only crowd. These quickly disheartened craftsmen assume that I only use hand tools because I spend all day making them. I, however, am a hybrid woodworker. I use hand tools when I am able to accomplish my goal more completely, or more quickly, or without the inherent limitations, which there always are with machines.

These previous pitfalls may be avoided. Introduce a functioning fore plane and try plane into your craft and you may likely content yourself with that 4” Rockwell jointer you’ve seen on craigslist versus the 12” model you’ve considered coupled with your dreamed 24” planer. You need not ever be limited by your tooling if you’ve chosen the correct supplemental tools to your chosen machinery. Hand tools often provide the idea of infinity that all machinery cannot.

Your ability to use hollows and rounds in your work will introduce the same idea of creativity that using a fore or try plane did: exactly create what you want by crafting. Learn to use these bench planes to supplement your machinery then you won’t let your current mechanical tooling affect your actual choices.

Hollows and rounds offer the same idea and pursuit to all: infinite options. Know that committing to hollows and rounds does not commit you to making hundreds of feet of a profile for new crown moulding in your living room and garage. Hollows and rounds offer you the ability to create your thoughts or reproduce a previous maker’s conclusion, not some manufacturer’s interpretations of either.

 These manufacturers’ adoptions, history’s concusions, or your moulding profiles are all made up of the same concave, convex and flat surfaces. Hollows and rounds offer the ability to make these varying convex and concave surfaces. Hollows and rounds will introduce you to the idea of infinity in the same way that the fore plane, try plane, and jointer planes will allow you to flatten any surface, regardless of length, width or (we have not yet addressed this) grain reversal.

The ability to create flat surfaces with hand tools offers you the ability to make any surface flat in the same way that a hand saw allows you to make dovetails of any depth, width, angle or spacing. Hollows and rounds similarly offer you infinite edges and moulded decoration.

The choices that hand tools offer may seemingly be neither apparent, necessary nor desirable in every shop. A varying degree of hand tools have their place, however, in every shop. Consider the options.

How do hand tools fit into your shop?

Do you like this presented idea of ‘infinity’. Of course, maybe you just like listening to baseball or music more than the screeching whine of a router along with your dust collector which does not collect all of the dust. Or maybe you like not having the physical threat that your machines create while spinning at 15,000 rpm. Heck, maybe you just want moulded surfaces that remain clean and sharp because they do not need to be sanded with 3 different grits of sandpaper.

(Dedicated plane for a harpsichord's bridge. The routed profile above will not be the same after machine marks are removed.)