Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nothing Looks Quite Like Koa and a Song

One of the most popular tools in my Stainless line of planes is the 812-50S smoothing plane. It's a great size and it covers a large scope of task for a bench plane. When luthier Richard Wile contacted me about ordering one of these planes he requested that I take my time and find an exceptional piece of material for the wooden tote and knob for this plane.

Most independent plane makers keep an inventory of quite special and even rare woods but Richard indicated he was looking for something a bit different. I had in my possession some wonderful pieces of Olive but I was pretty sure those would not be dry in time to use for Richard's plane.  Along about that time my friends Steve Walls and Charlie Levan came by the shop for a visit and when Charlie walked in the shop he handed me a piece of 8/4 koa and said "see what you can do with this". You'll see what Charlie can do with Koa at the bottom of the page.

Koa is a wood that I had investigated but I always hesitated because it is not nearly as dense as most woods used by plane makers. Well here I had a piece in my hand and I was at the point of making the wooden bits for the prototype Winter Smoother (see below) and I asked myself " why not?" I was intrigued with the Koa. The variegations in this wood are compelling.

As I was making the tote and knob for the Winter Smoother I was a bit concerned about the durability of the koa. Not so much the knob, but the tote gave me some concerns. The entire time I was shaping the rear tote I was still questioning whether or not I would actually use this tote. Once the tote was refined and it came time to apply the finish all my doubts were vanquished. Nothing looks quite like Koa!

At this point I set about looking for some Curly Koa for Richard's plane and I soon found an exceptional piece.

When purchasing  kiln dried Koa you have to consider the average moisture content of wood in Hawaii. They typically don't dry wood to a moisture content of less than 10%. In most areas it will reach an equilibrium moisture content of about 12% percent after it's been out of the kiln for a period of time. Once I had a couple of blanks in my shop they still needed time to acclimate and reach a drier condition.

When Richard's plane was complete I was smitten.  I had a hard time bagging this plane and packing it for shipment. I wanted to take just one more gossamer shaving. Oh well, I get to have them all if for just a little while.

When I informed Richard that I was editing some video of this plane in action he sent me a music file he thought I might like to use with the video. The music accompanying the video is by Richard's son also named Richard Wile and even though I don't know for sure there's a good chance the instrument he's playing was created by his father's talented hands. The young Richard Wile does a great job of manipulating a wonderful sound from this instrument with his talented hands.

And if that's not enough figured Koa for you then take a look at this picture of a Koa rocker made by my friend Charlie Levan.


If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.
- Albert Einstein

Friday, September 14, 2012

Specialized Rasp for Tool Handles

I was contact by Noel Logier of Logier Rasp inquiring as to whether I would be interested in trying one of his rasp made especially for tool tote shaping. They call it a "Handle Makers Rasp" and it comes stitched as a #9, #12 or #15. I was of course interested and we decided that the #12 stitching might be the most appropriate set up for my work. I've shown the rasp along side a Lie-Nielsen socket chisel for size comparison and also because I use that chisel a great deal in my tote shaping work.

Let me make something clear. This tool was offered as a trial, not a free tool and should I decided to keep this rasp (and I most probably will) I will be paying full price for the pleasure of having this tool at my disposal.

I also have one of the Gramercy rasp made for this application but to date I've not had the pleasure of trying one of the Auriou rasp. I hope to have the opportunity to do so at some point in the future.

So far I have shaped three tool totes with the Logier rasp and I've rather enjoyed the use of this tool. One thing that was apparent straight away was that this rasp was not as broad across the width as the other rasp that I've used for this task. Some might say that one could vary the width given the tapering shape of the tool and that is true. However I find the overall narrower width makes this tool quite versatile. In other words with a narrower width you can shape areas of the tote to the shape you prefer rather than have parts of the tote conform to the shape of the rasp. This feature also makes it easier to reach into areas that are difficult to access with a tool of more width.

This rasp removes material quite quickly and effortlessly. I can't imagine for my use I would never need this rasp stitched #9. In fact I really think I might benefit from following this tool with a #15 stitched tool in lieu of a coarse grit of sand paper to clean up prior rasp marks. Any sanding I can eliminate makes me happy. Finer work is possible using this tool just by using lighter pressure. This is especially important when making the transitions on brittle edges of dense woods. This same rasp with #15 stitching could possibly work even better in that situation.

I do however have one gripe. This is not directed solely at the Logier rasp. In fact this problem resides in all the tools of this type that I'm aware of. My gripe is with the quality of the wooden handles that come with these tools.  If you look closely at the photo below you'll see the stark contrast of the well finished hornbeam handle that comes with the L-N chisel as compared to the non-descript, barely adequate handle supplied with this rasp. This tool would be a great deal more pleasurable to use if the handle were made from a well refined close grained or dense hardwood.

 We are presently living in a golden age of tool making of which I am proud to be a part. When I pickup one of my Lie_Nielsen, Blue Spruce, Czeck Edge or Elkhead hand tools the way the handle feels in my hand is very pleasurable. Given the relatively small size there's really no reason these rasp should be any different. I for one would be more than willing to pay a bit extra to obtain a tool with a high quality, well refined handle.

I understand that Lie-Nielsen Tool Works supplies their own handles with the Auriou rasp that they sell. Obviously they felt the same about this part of these tools.

Overall I like this rasp a great deal and it certainly is a tool that makes this task easier to accomplish. I'd certainly recommend this tool to anyone that has a fair amount of this type of work to accomplish, which would certainly justify the expense. I've certainly benefitted from having the opportunity to work with this tool and I look forward to using it a great deal more in the future.


"some days in the shop I feel like a complete idiot, other days I feel like an absolute genius......in reality I'm never either one"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Drought is Over, and Goodbye Angel Belle

Some bloggers take the summer off from blogging and I guess most of you think I did the same. Truth be told I never really intended to take most of the summer off from this blog but things sort of happened to cause this to occur.

Just as Tropical Storm Isaac, then Hurricane Isaac and once again Tropical Storm Isaac helped end the drought in the midwest (way too late for the farmers) I'm hoping this post will end the drought of blog post for the Brese Plane blog.

So this is what happened.

Julie and I attended a family wedding in Florida and we decided to extend our stay in Daytona. I've never been to a place where cars were permitted on the beach. I have to admit the tradition at Daytona creates an interesting view when you look down the beach and cars are parked as far as you can see.

( I know there's supposed to be a picture here of a beach with cars but of course we forgot the camera)

When we returned from our beach trip we jumped into preparation mode for a visit from the little guy in the picture below. This was our first time keeping our grandson for a week sans parents. His parents dropped him off and headed for some fun in Savannah. It's been a long time since we were the responsible parties for a 2 year old in our house. We quickly learned it was a wise thing to take a nap whenever he did.

When Everett and his parents had returned home we fell right back into our work schedule and my focus was purely set on producing planes which I immediately set about doing. Things were going well and I was making some real progress on several tools which was also spawning some ideas for blog post. Just when I thought I was ready to settle back into regularly posting to my blog something occurred that I could never have foreseen.

I was painting some garden furniture out behind the garden house on a Saturday morning. Angel Belle was making her rounds in order to account for the whereabouts of everyone. This is her job and she takes it seriously even though she goes about it with a rather jovial attitude wagging her tail as she goes about her duties. As usual when she found me it required a greeting that included a neck rub and profuse petting. As I was rubbing my hand down her side I felt a firm mass just behind her right front leg that I immediately knew  was not a good thing.

A trip to the vet the following Monday confirmed my worst fears. By Monday the mass had grown noticeably and the vet informed me that it would continue to do just that. Angel Belle was 13 years old and surgery was not really an option for a dog her age. The vet sent us home with pain medication and his cell phone number.

I spent all my spare time during the next three weeks just being with Angel Belle. She had been a remarkable friend and companion and the most fun of any canine that has shared our home. There have been many but she was that once in a life time dog for me.

Over the next couple of weeks the mass continued to grow and she was quickly losing the use of her right front leg and laying down was becoming quite a painful ordeal. She would literally stand for hours at a time in lieu of laying down. I sensed she was about to lapse into a period of real suffering and I just could not allow that to happen. A scant three weeks after I discovered the mass she was gone.

That was about a month ago and her absence still looms quite large around here. Maybe I'm revealing a bit too much about myself but frankly this shook me to the core of my being. You may have noticed I never referred to her as "my dog". I rescued her when she was 9 months old, she had already bore a litter of puppies and was in the worst possible shape you could imagine. She had good breeding in her favor and with a new home where she was cared for and loved she blossomed into the dog she always had the potential to be.

You see it was more like "I was her person",