Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Before and After

Recently I had a customer asked if I would be interested in doing some refurb/repair to a Marples shoulder plane he had purchased. He was interested in having the plane re-habbed into useable shape and possibly to enhance the overall look of the tool in the process.


I've not attempted a plane rehab prior to this except for some Bailey pattern planes that I put into useable condition some years ago, but never any re-furb work on an English made infill.

I told the customer if he would send me the plane I would be glad to take a look and see if I wanted to take it on as a new experience.

There is a couple problems with this type of thing.

(1) You don't always know what type of construction was used to assemble the plane and therefore you don't what your limits are in modifying the tool. A little too much metal removed from here and there the plane could well start coming apart.

(2) You also have to judge the expectations of the customer and judge whether or not you can accomplish that level of result with what you have to work with.

(3) What are expectations of cost and can it be done within those limits?

In this case my expectations were maybe more ambitious than the owners. So I agreed to proceed and he agreed to some flexibility in the final cost of the project.

So what was wrong with this plane? The bones were there. It was intact, all the parts were present, however as you can see in the picture above the original iron was used up and no longer extended out of the back of the plane enough for adjustment access. It was not going to be cost effective to make a custom iron for this plane so I set about to source a replacement iron that would work. My preference and the customer's as well was to find an 0-1 iron and I did purchase one from Lee Valley, however it was not long enough to allow adjustment. I then sourced an A-2 iron from Lie-Nielsen. It was long enough it was quite substantial and considering that this is a joinery refining tool most of the surfaces left by this plane with be concealed inside glued joints so the tool steel choice wasn't really that critical.

The opening in the side of the plane would have to be modified to accommodate the L-N iron. Here you can see the layout of the new opening profile.

In the above picture you can see the opening roughed out and the bed angle base line filed precisely to the line.

Above you can see the opening refined to the layout line with careful file work. Most of the work on an already assembled plane body is handwork. You take file in hand and work to precise layout lines.

And here you can see the opposite side with the new profile refined. In truth this initial layout did not allow enough room to insert the iron from the rear of the plane body and rotate it into place. I actually changed this layout two additional times before the iron could be inserted properly.

The rosewood infill in the front of the plane body had shrunk and also had shifted a bit rearward. From here all the way to opening where the wedge went into the plane had to be worked in order to bring the wood flush to the metal and in some areas the metal flush to the wood. Once again the only way to accomplish this was to take file in hand and work carefully. Very few machine tools were used and in every case they were only utilized for rough work.

The sole was lapped flush in preparation for working the sides. I left a very slight low spot just behind the mouth. This would not effect the function of the plane and further lapping would only open the mouth further.

If you look at the picture above and the "BEFORE" picture at the top of the post you'll see considerable damage to the wedge. This was caused by the use of a hammer without proper soft surfaces like for instance rawhide. There were several points of impact damage on the very rear of the wedge and the rounded area where you would strike for retracting the wedge. 

One option was to make a replacement wedge, however when the rosewood in the infilled portion of the plane was refined and finish applied I knew I had to try and save the wedge if possible. It was going to be nearly impossible to matched the old oxidized rosewood in this plane and when I applied a shellac polish it's rich aged looked came forth and it possessed a beauty only acquired with age.

Fortunately I was able to removed most of the damaged areas by performing some subtle reshaping of the wedge. The damaged areas that remained were repaired with CA adhesive and sanding dust.

When I checked the sides of the plane for square to the sole I found something that seemed odd at first. The sides were not square to the sole. The width of the plane body was smaller at the top than at the sole and the taper was equal on either side of the plane. 

 I busied myself with another task and gave this some thought. I finally concluded that this was too much of a coincidence and that this was most likely by design. This slight taper would allow the plane to easily access the bottom corner of a tenon shoulder and would allow a slight undercut when working the shoulder of a tenon cut insuring a tight join on the face of the joint. I did however decide that the amount of taper was a bit excessive and reduced the amount of taper slightly on the surface grinder prior to lapping the sides. I added some slight chamfers to the corners to make the plane nicer in the hand and it was finished.


The plane is ready to go back to work and now looks as if it's capable of doing some fine work. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

JP in the Shop, Kids in the Shop and What I Learned

Most would probably think after an event like Handworks is over you go home and everything settles down and goes back to normal, or  some semblance of normal. 

Not so. When you return you await the return shipments of everything that went to the event and then you have to re-distribute the items that returned. Some of the tools I showed at Handworks belonged to prior customers and I had to schedule to return those items and some items that were finished just in time for the event were tools that were  ordered by newer customers and those needed to be refreshed and forwarded to their new owners. 

Long story short, another week of returning, refreshing and shipping and then finally I could turn my attention back to the next items in my schedule. 
Last week my schedule was pre-empted due to a visit by my daughter and the two Paglia boys from Brooklyn.

Between daily excursions to playgrounds and our neighbor's swimming pool, Everett (aka Jimmy Pete), the oldest of the two, joined me in the shop to complete a project we had planned.

Rough cutting boards to length

Everett is still too young to possess enough muscle mass to control a full size carpentry type saw, however if I put my hands over his hands on the saw he still was able to experience the action of sawing and it enhanced the overall experience for him.

Learning to saw a bit closer to the line

Although JP was learning from his first experiences of working in the shop I learned a great deal as well. I knew initially that the scope of the project needed to be simple and if we surpassed his attention span we could always finish the project another day. 

Cleaning up the saw marks from the bevel surfaces of the seat stretchers

Fortunately kids are naturally a bit intimidated by machines and that's a good thing because they embrace hand tools as a result. Hand tools are quiet and much less imposing. They can still hurt themselves with hand tools but typically only in a minor way. Use common sense here. A plane is much less dangerous in the hand than a sharp chisel.

As you can see in the picture above at some point your fledgling woodworker may become more interested in being creative with the off cuts. Let Them. It gives them an attention span break from the project. As you progress to more interesting parts of the build their attention will come back to the project.

If your child woodworker is having fun and feels comfortable in the shop his sense of humor will soon emerge. See pic above.

Make certain the project includes task they can accomplish themselves. They enjoy it and it gives them a sense of ownership in the project. 5 year olds can get away with working in the shop in their shark print pj's. Adults, not so much.

At some point in the process Everett (JP) grabbed a board, a pencil and started marking lines onto the board. He asked me to cut the marked out parts from the board on the bandsaw. I didn't question him I just did it. He then marked a few more lines on the board and asked me to cut them as well. When I handed it back to him he pronounced that it was a pretend plane and he walked over to the board in the vise and proceeded to make a planing motion across the board. Give them a chance and their imagination will lead to creativity.

The Finished Project

 It's nice if the project is an object that can be used in a practical way by the participant. It lends credibility to the effort. I think this applies to the first project of a child or an adult.

If you're wondering why I sometimes refer to Everett as "Jimmy Pete"? All my grandchildren get a nickname and they seem to relish this idea. They have a name at home but when they come to Georgia they have a Georgia name. They enjoy this quirk and they also think I know the names of all the crows that frequent our yard. Please don't tell them differently. I'm trying hard to be the person they all think I am.


"I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn't like a person." - Bill Murray

Friday, May 22, 2015

Handworks is Done, What a Lot of Fun!

Handworks is now behind us and now Julie and I can get to the "after Handworks" list we started several months ago.

 I've had the pleasure of being associated with the Hand Tool community since around 2007. During this time I've met most of the people that made up the majority of the presenters that were present at Handworks this past weekend. I made their acquaintance at the first several Woodworking in America events, Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events in several locations across the country or the last Handworks event in 2013. They are a special and unique group of people.

One thing has changed over the years. The first couple of years most of the people that attended these events were on the average over 50 years of age. Someone younger than that was rare. Many of us wondered if there would be an end to this revival of hand tool woodworking and if it would slowly die with that generation. If you look at the picture above this paragraph you will see a very nice and well mannered "young" man. Brian Graham is part of what is so inspiring these days. The clientele at these events is becoming younger and younger and that bodes well for the future of hand tool woodworking.

Spending time with old friends is also what this event is about. The above picture includes myself and the namesake of a special version of my Winter Smoother. This gentleman in this picture is Willie Davis himself.  Willie and I jointly sponsored one of the door prizes awarded at the Handworks event. 

Sam DeSocio, (pictured with me below) was the winner of the Willie Davis Winter Smoother door prize. As you can see he is another young man that is a hand tool enthusiast. Sam is a Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh, Pa. It was fun meeting him. Awarding him a plane I would love to own myself was in it's own way a very liberating and enjoyable experience.

The man you see in the picture below is not a bandito that showed on Saturday afternoon to way lay the exhibitors as they left with the proceeds of the two days of Handworks. In fact he is one of the most pleasant people I've had the opportunity to know. He also happens to be the father of Jameel and Father John Abraham. The two gentleman that organize Handworks. This is a giant task but they do it oh so well.

The cadillac pictured below is a whole other story. Next time you see Patrick Leach ask him about it.

Since my last posting Blues Lengend B.B. King has passed away. I guess "the thrill is gone" but that's the thing about music, it lives on.


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Handworks Door Prizes

Many of the companies presenting at Handworks next weekend have contributed door prizes that will be awarded to individuals via a random drawing. There is some really great stuff being offered up for this part of the event. Makes we wish I was eligible. Maybe next time I'll try to register just to see if Jameel or Father John will catch it. Of course I guess if my name was selected as a winner it would be nixed pretty quickly. Oh well, guess not.

However if you registered then all you have left to do is show up to be eligible to win one of the many door prizes.

At the 2013 Handworks event Brese Plane contributed a small thumb plane. The winner was a young man named Aaron Moore. I really believe in the Handworks event and want to see it continue and thrive so this year I wanted to contribute a more substantial tool.

There is however a dilemma that faces a plane maker in this situation. One can easily spend 2 weeks of personal labor and shop time on a tool which makes it nearly impossible to consider giving that away. The nature of this work being that it's not like you can make it up in the last two weeks of the month. The processes required to produce tools with this kind of attention to detail require a certain amount of time spent and if you try to rush and perform these operations in less time......well the end result is different. I know most everyone that produces these type tools and none of them deals in "not exactly".

I was faced with this same dilemma and several weeks ago was pondering how I was going to pull this off with short time between then and my ship date and me really wanting  to offer this kind of tool. Enter Willie Davis. The plane I wanted to offer was a Willie Davis version Winter Smoother and when the plane's namesake heard of my dilemma he stepped in to resolve the issue. He became a benefactor and so at this Handworks the plane pictured in this blog post is the door prize that will be jointly sponsored by Brese Plane and Willie Davis, which many of you know as Bill Davis of Davis Tool and Die. Without his generosity this never could have happened.

Now all that has to happen is for everyone to make their way to Iowa and spend 2 days immersed in all things hand tool woodworking related. There are people traveling from around the globe to be present at Handworks and I'm looking forward to meeting new people and renewing acquaintances with people I've not have the pleasure of seeing for quite some time.

If you will be attending Handworks and are anticipating making some tool purchases then let me put your mind at ease as far as making the correct selections......the best tool makers in the world will be there......it's very much like the day my friend Charlie Levan was in my wood room selecting wood for the plane I was making for him. He turned to me and said, "you know, there are no bad choices here", it's the same way at Handworks.

See you in Iowa and good luck,


I've recently heard that Blues Legend B.B. King is in hospice care so in his honor my quotable quote for this post is a line from one of his songs,

"Nobody loves me but my mother, and she may be jiving me too",
                                                                                             B.B. King

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apple Pie, a Tradition in Many Ways

I guess most of us have heard the phrase, "American as Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie", I guess that harks to several things considered traditional in the nation in which I reside.

I think tradition is a good thing. It's something you can depend on and in some instances it's the stuff that makes life worth the living.

I've developed a tradition with two very good friends. Steve Walls and Charlie Levan will take time once in a while to travel from their homes in Dallas, Georgia to Thomaston, Ga. for a visit to my shop. Steve and Charlie are customers but much more than that they're my friends.

Two things almost always occur when they visit. We have lunch at English's Cafe which has been in business since 1929 and sometimes if Julie happens to be off that day she will go into town and pick up food from there. Either way is fine with us, even though actually going to English's is it's own experience.

 After lunch we have apple pie that I will have made that morning while they were making their way south thru Atlanta and to my shop.  Dallas, Ga. is on the north side of Atlanta and so much so that I often jokingly tell them I think they actually live in southern Chattanooga, Tn.

We could actually eat lunch in several different places and that would be fine but the apple pie is a constant and there can be no deviation from the desert menu.

This visit usually occurs due to my need to borrow tools from them when I'm presenting at hand tool events and part of the deal is" tools for pie". This time around I'll be taking pie with me on my journey to return the tools after Handworks. I'm happy to do so because it creates another opportunity to visit with my friends and partake in the pie. It's a win, win for everybody as far as I can tell.

This past Friday morning as I was preparing the pie I thought it might be a good idea to publish a blog about the process and so I took many photos which I will post here with descriptions. The actual recipe will be offered in pieces in reference to a given photo so if you want the entire recipe you'll have to piece it together yourself but all the info will be included.

Put out your pie crust to thaw. If you're adept at making pie crust that would most probably enhance the pie, however in this instance I used a prepared crust (I usually do) and as long as you buy a quality product these work quite well.

 Peel your apples. There are 4 apples in this pie because these apples are quite good size, however if the selection of apples is smaller your may need 5. Granny Smith apples are the apples of choice for pie. There is a good reason for this selection. The texture is correct, they are naturally tart and therefore combine with the sugar content of the recipe for just the right flavor. I've made this pie with other type apples and it was disappointing. Apples that are naturally sweet make for a pie that is too sweet and the texture is all wrong. Take my advice. Stay with the Granny Smith apples.

Cut the apples into quarters

 Cut the core out using a paring knife.

Slice each piece into thin slices, 1/8" thick or thinner.

Then chop the slices into smaller pieces by cutting thru the other direction as shown, smaller pieces allow the dry ingredients to coat more surfaces of the apple pieces.

Measure and add the dry ingredients into a large bowl. The dry ingredients include, 1 cup of sugar, 2 heaping table spoons of all purpose or bread flour, a dash of salt, 1 tsp of apple pie spice and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.

1 cup seems like a lot of sugar but this is a big pie. The dash of salt is an important ingredient, don't leave it out to reduce sodium. A dash of salt spread over this many pieces of pie is not much at all. You can make apple pie spice but it's easier to buy a premixed apple pie spice and it's just as good. The apple pie spice has some cinnamon but this recipe needs the additional 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. It will look like the picture below when mixed.

Add the sliced and diced apples. You can mix the dry ingredients together before you start processing the apples and then add the apples pieces to the bowl as you process each quarter apple. This keeps them out of your way as you process the remaining pieces.

Put one crust into the pie pan and form it to the bottom of the dish making sure the perimeter of the crust overlaps the edge of the dish as shown below.

Thoroughly mix the apple pieces into the dry ingredients. As my mom used to say "you gotta get your hands in it!" Make sure you get all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl thoroughly combined with the apples. Go ahead, "get your hands in it!"

Place the contents of the bowl into the bottom crust arranging it evenly. You can add some pats of butter as I've done here. This is optional and I picked this up from watching Paula Dean on TV. When asked about adding this much butter she replied, " I'm your cook not your nurse!" It is rather okay to lick your fingers after this part of the process. Your fingers will taste like the beginnings of a good apple pie. Then wash your hands and proceed to the next step.

Unroll the top crust over the filled pie dish and then cut the edges even with the dish with a paring knife. Rotate the dish while making a downward cutting action with the knife. Easy Peasy! Discard the excess pie crust.

Pinch the edges of the pie crust together using your fingers as shown below.

Then perforate the crust using the paring knife. Perforate straight across the center of the pie, then turn the pie 90 degrees and repeat. Then keep dividing the spaces left with perforations. It should look like the picture below. It's necessary to ventilate the pie with the perforations in order for the pie to cook properly and so the filling stays in the dish.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet. Adding some parchment paper under the pie makes clean up much easer. Cover the top with aluminum foil. Place in the over and cook on 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the crust is golden brown. I sometimes let the pie cook uncovered for as long as 20 minutes. If the crust is not brown enough after 20 minutes I turn on the convection fan for an additonal 6 minutes or until the crust is to my liking. Don't over brown the crust.

And here's your pie. If Steve and Charlie got wind of you making this pie they may be pulling into your driveway about now. Don't worry, you'll have a great time with those guys.

My recipe says this is "Ron's, My Oh My Apple Pie", now it can be your apple pie. Enjoy!

If you're wondering why I've been blogging about gardening and baking as of late, especially while I have some much going on with planes in the shop, it's because my thought process has been so consumed with plane making that my mind needs a break to think about other things. That and the fact that I really like apple pie.


"Keep it between the ditches"   
                                                 Red Green

Friday, May 1, 2015

Enjoy Your Spring

As hectic as things are at this time with preparations for Handworks, spring goes on and has been happening here for several weeks. Our daffodils and jonquils have long since past their prime and are regenerating their energy for next years early spring appearance. This morning as I looked out the window of the shop I noticed the morning light was illuminating the autumn ferns with their new fronds shining the reddish gold color that makes them such a delight this time of year.

The variegated Hostas pictured below looked fresh and vibrant this morning with the dew still on their leaves and the dappled morning light making them look well........illuminated. By August the hostas will look dreary and depleted and from the harsh summer heat. Better enjoy them now.

The oak leaf hydrangeas have grown exponentially and give us privacy while enjoying the swing under the pergola

More of the new emerging growth of the ferns,

These hydrangeas will sport blue blooms this summer and give us some cool color when we'll need it most.

Spring is a time of new life and revival. I remember helping my father plant azaleas in the edge of the woods behind my family home. I asked him why we were planting them there. He explained that when they matured and bloomed he and my mother would be able to see them when looking out the large glass door in their den. Later in my Dad's life we experience a harsh, hot, dry summer. The azaleas we planted years before persevered and the next spring the color of the azaleas in the edge of the woods was particularly vibrant against the green back drop of the trees. My Dad reveled in the beauty of the azaleas that spring. I'm glad he enjoyed them, it turned out to be his last spring.

I didn't really mean to make this post a melancholy experience but it does help make my point. You only get some many springs in your life, take the time to enjoy them.

On a recent doctors visit my physician suggested it might be time to do some blood work just to establish a base line for further checkups. When the nurse called to give me the results of my test she told me everything was good but I had two deficiencies and I needed to spend more time outdoors in the sun and I needed to include more dairy products in my diet. I replied, "this is all good news,  you're saying that I need to do more fishing and eat more ice cream", she laughed and said "I like your interpretation". I now have my doctor's permission to take time to enjoy spring........and ice cream.


"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

Stephen Hawking