Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Completed and One Very Close

Unfortunately tax preparation season has infringed upon my shop schedule as of late, but with that out of the way I'm settling back into a steady rhythm of work. I've completed the 912-50S plane that features the Macassar Ebony knob and tote. That plane is on the way to the new owner in India. You can see the completed plane in the linked video.

I can now turn my full attention to the plane that will receive the Olive wood and I should have that plane complete in fairly short order. (I probably should have never said that!) Once that plane is complete I will be looking forward to starting a group of Stainless Panel Planes.

Yes there is more video this week and in the traditional idea that a picture is worth a thousand words I'll cut short the written commentary and let the video, which is thousands of pictures, do the talking.

Once again the music is by Peach Pie Band,


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Work continues on the pair of 912 stainless smoothers. Presently I'm fitting the rear totes and putting in the fixings for the attachment points that allow for no hardware showing when the plane is assembled.

Below is a link to another video that shows further process on the bodies of these planes. If you click thru to the You Tube site you'll have the option to change the quality to 720p and watch full screen which greatly enhances the viewing experience. Once again the background music is by Peach Pie Band.


"Dust Collection Installation, one of the few times we get to use duct tape for it's intended purpose"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

912 Stainless Smoothers and the Debut of My Videography Skills, or Lack Of

At present I'm working on two 912-50S Stainless Smoothers. One will receive Macassar Ebony knob and tote and the other Olive Wood. At the Woodworking in America Conference in 2010 I displayed the first plane with Olive Wood. The response to this wood choice was amazing and actually surprising. This material smells great, takes a wonderful polish, and features some very nice contrasting lines that are not very common in lighter colored woods. Also, unlike some woods that are used in plane making, it doesn't try to kill you while you're making it into the needed plane parts.

There was however one problem. At that time I had a very limited quantity of dry Olive wood in my inventory and sourcing dry material in the sizes needed for plane making proved almost impossible. Some of the material that I purchased as a reaction to this response is finally becoming dry and ready for use so hopefully in the future I'll be able to offer Olive on an on going basis.

The process I use for assembling plane bodies has evolved a great deal over the past 5 years. Presently I use a combination of threaded pins and taper pins. I also no longer assemble the parts on a former, actually I've not used the formers for quite some time now. Of course as the process evolved the tools that I use to perform this work have evolved as well and actually newer additions of tools have fed the evolution. The new refinements place a big premium on piece part accuracy and a big part of the engineering process is also designing the environment that helps perform the work efficiently and once again.....very accurately.

When Jameel Abraham was in the shop in January he was amazed that we could create an assembled plane body from 5 separate pieces and only require the removal of .002 on average from the sole of the plane in order to achieve a flat, completely ground plane sole. Of course this doesn't happen just as a result of luck. (we do like being lucky) A lot of painstaking work goes into making this happen.

I get quite a few emails inquiring about the process required to assemble a plane body in this manner so I've recently embarked on a journey of learning to shoot and edit HD video footage. The learning curve is fairly steep so I hope that you appreciate that the production quality of some of my early work may not be up to the standard of Steve Spielberg or Jameel Abraham. (Yes, that was a joke, but don't misunderstand, I am in awe of Jameel's video work) It will be interesting to see if, and how much I will improve as time goes on.

The link below will take to you to a You Tube video that is a brief over view of the process of drilling the sole pieces of a plane body. I highly suggest you click on the word "Tube" in the bottom right hand corner of the video window, change the quality setting to 720p and watch the video full screen. It can take a while to download HD video content so depending on your connection speed you may want to start the video loading, find something else to do, and come back later to watch.

One other note. The music back ground on the video is by Peach Pie Band. Tico Vogt (Vogt Tool Works) is a member of this group so there's a hand tool community connection in very aspect of this production.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Patina, Designing a New Brese Plane

Most old things have a patina to them. Not long ago Julie and I purchased an old rocking settee we noticed in an antique shop. I didn't think it looked particularly comfortable and from a functional stand point it looked as if it would end up being a catch all for clothes that we planned to wear again the next day but were two lazy to hang back in the closet. The thing that sold us on the piece was the aged surface on the reed seat and back rest. It just had that look and we knew it would look at home in our house.

When I first began making planes I read everything I could find about this work and in the process I came across the web page of Bill Carter. What really struck me about his work was the unique materials he used to construct his planes, and the hand tool techniques he implemented to create his tools. This gave his planes a unique look that was celebrated by the use of imperfect materials that possessed features that he then enhanced by applying an aged look to the metal parts of his tools. I was intrigued by this idea but sort of put it aside as something I might re-visit at some point in time.

Over a year ago Jameel Abraham and I were at a Midwest Tool Collectors Meet. I picked up a Chaplin Patent plane, showed it to Jameel and said, "there's something here that I like" and that started the process.

When I design I take an idea and for quite a while I just think about it and try to visualize that plane. In the case of the Winter Smoother I actually "noodled" on it for about 6 months before I put pencil to paper. You may not see a lot of the Chaplin plane in the final result but it was the starting point for this design.

As the design developed two thing occurred to me. (1) The Norris style variation lever cap I used on my other planes would never work with the lines of this tool. (2) This was the tool that would benefit the most from the patina process.

The lever cap was actually the easier of the two to accomplish. Then I set about experimenting with different aging materials that would create the look that I had envisioned.

I experimented with cut offs of mild steel and brass and learned that I could achieve a nice antique look on the brass and a soft pearl gray color on the mild steel. Of course getting this look on scrap bits of metal and getting same look on an assembled plane body might be quite a different matter but I was confident.

When the plane was together I started having second thoughts about applying the patina. I liked the plane a lot just as it was and feared ruining many hours of work in just a few minutes. Finally I decided "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" and with the reassurance of the plane's future owner I went forward with the process. There were some frantic moments during the work but ultimately I achieved the look I desired and a coat of oil on the metal the next day enhanced the finish in a pleasing way.

At this point there was just one more detail that needed to be made right. This plane had taken on such an old traditional looked that I decided the iron needed to be as uncluttered as possible so before sending the plane on it's way I replaced the iron with one sans the back bevel disc. I believe this was the crowning touch. You can see the difference in the above photo.

I used Koa for the wooden bits on this first plane. While I was trying new things I thought what better time to try a new wood. I've not decided if this will be a standard offering but I was pleased with the look. While not as heavy and dense as many woods we use in planes it has a nice nutmeg brown color and is interestingly variegated.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Winter Smoother - Done

A couple weeks ago I put the final coat of finish on the wood components of the Winter Smoother.

Instead of the usual french polish, I decided to try something new. I first sealed the wood with shellac to provide a barrier, then I padded on about seven whisper-thin coats of Tru-Oil over about three days. A week cure, and a light rubout with 0000 Liberon wool, a little wax, and I had the finish I was after: rich and deep to bring out the color of the wood and satiny and silky for a great feel. This finish does not have the chatoyance and depth that shellac provides. It has a more rudimentary appeal. And I think it goes well with this plane.

The plane performs extremely well, as do all of the Brese planes. In a short while, this plane will get shipped off to its new owner, a friend of mine who more than has it coming. Bon Appetit, Gaston.

Here is a short video slideshow of the Winter Smoother. Make sure you enlarge it, it's in HD.

Follow this link for a slideshow of the stills.