Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Recently Completed Winter Smoother and the Hard Part of the Build, A Note About WIA 2014

 Sometimes you set out to build a plane and every process makes you work for any bit of progress you make. Sometimes it goes quite well, as if the plane actually wants to be together. The plane featured in this blog post was one that wanted to be together.

There are options when ordering this plane. Which type wood for the knob and tote, brass parts with a bright satin finish or patina'd brass. Every once in a while a customer will specify exactly the details that I would choose if I were building the plane for myself. As lovely as this sounds it creates an inner struggle.

On one hand you're really looking forward to seeing the plane together in that particular configuration, on the other hand you know after it's finished you'll have to pack it up and send it off. Oh well....such is the life of a plane maker.

In this case the wood chosen was some of my old Picasso Rosewood. If you attempt to research Picasso Rosewood you probably won't find anything past a mention of this wood on my blog or on various woodworking forums. It's actually a nickname for this particular batch of rosewood log segments I acquired quite some time ago. Some of the log segments yielded much better pieces than others and the log segment I'm working thru at this time is particularly interesting.

The brass pins on this plane were installed using a slight variation of the earlier technique. After drilling for the pins I reamed the hole to .124. This creates a .001 interference fit as compared to the .002 fit I used on an earlier version of this process. I also put the .125 brass pins in the freezer for about half an hour prior to installation. I transported the pins to the shop wrapped in a plastic bag that contained ice to keep them cold right up until time for installation. They pressed in much easier and went deep enough so that the tip reached the bottom of the hole and the top of the pin began to deform when seated completely. Counting the brass pins and threaded steel pins there is a grand total of 28 assembly pins in this small plane.

Over the years I've discovered that bringing the finish on brass up to a near mirror type finish is just not suitable for a tool. It shows finger prints so easily that you could drive yourself mad trying to keep it pristine looking. A satin finish that is oiled is much easier to live with and requires much less maintenance.

Of course the hardest part of this build was actually packing the plane up for shipping. I certainly would have enjoyed having this one around for a while. This plane is pitched at 50 degrees and uses an iron that is 1 7/8" wide. The mouth is set at 4 thousandths. This plane holds the wood fibers quite tight as it's shearing.  The piece of boxwood I used to set up this plane was left with a polished surface that was highly reflective and was cool to the touch.

 I actually prefer small smoothers to larger planes. The mass to iron width ratio is very well balanced and that makes this tool quite easy to use. The smaller footprint means you typically get to the bottom of the deepest imperfection sooner.  The smaller size also means it's easier to use on the edges of boards.

This was the year I planned to return to the Woodworking in America Conference, however it doesn't seem as though it's to be. A commitment to our customers that have orders placed with us will once again take priority and so we will stay in the shop and make planes in lieu of creating a great deal of upheaval in our schedule in order to have what we would want to display at an event of such magnitude. Maybe next year.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

HandWorks is Coming Again in 2015

I have to say the first HandWorks Event was one of the best Hand Tool Woodworking events in which I've had the pleasure to participate. The Venue was great, the cast of vendors was top notch and some of the work being performed by Mike Siemsen and his group made the event loads of fun. The location at the Amana Colonies creates interest for the other members of your family that may not want to spend two days immersed in all things related to hand tool woodworking.

Last year the main event, was a pictorial review of the Studley Tool Chest. This year you'll get the opportunity to view this tool chest and the Studley Bench in person. Don Williams has made arrangements to have these items on display. Follow the link here for more information about that: http://www.studleytoolchest.com/

This heads up should give you plenty of time to make your travel arrangements." Be There or Be Square".....of course being square can be a good thing.

Winter Panel Plane with Desert Iron Wood


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recently Completed Planes and The Masters

Lately most of my post have been about woodworking projects. The clock and the kitchen island I have in process are just spare time pursuits. Plane making is ongoing and dominates the regular working hours in the shop.

Today I decided  to post about two very recently completed planes. A shooting board plane and a 650-55 "J" style smoothing plane.

This is a version of the 10-238SBP, actually it's an 11-38SBPW. I decided to put a 2.25" wide iron in this plane and in order to keep good visual proportions I made the plane 11" long in lieu of the standard 10 1/4". I like this plane a lot. These features, plus the Macassar Ebony infill added even more mass to a plane that already possessed quite a bit.

Because this customer already has a Winter Smoother with Macassar ebony and a patina'd finish on the brass parts I applied the patina'd finish on the brass parts of this plane as well.

I was so taken with this plane's performance that I may adopt this configuration as the standard infill configuration Shooting Plane. We'll see.

I've not made a 650-55 "J" style plane in quite a while. The wood in this plane is from a Walnut crotch that someone gave me at a Lie-Nielsen event in Atlanta several years ago. It was dry and ready to use when time for making this plane came around.

 If more figured domestic woods like this were commonly available I would probably use less of the exotic species.

I enjoyed watching the Masters Golf tournament last weekend. The Masters is a southern tradition like no other. The winner, Bubba Watson is a UGA graduate. If you live in the south and know about the interstate school rivalry between UGA and Georgia Tech, you would understand that this is actually quite a funny circumstance.

In jokes and jabs that Georgia Tech students and alumni tell about UGA people the subject is almost always referred to as "Bubba". So to have a UGA graduate leading the Masters on Saturday night it just couldn't be a better circumstance to have his actual name be "Bubba".

Matt Kuchar is a Georgia Tech graduate and he was on the leader board as well after play on Saturday was finished. He's seems such a refreshing and nice young man I certainly would have enjoyed seeing him win the most prestigous tournament in golf. He plays well at Augusta National so maybe there's a Green Jacket in his future. Of course if I could have hypothetically picked one golfer to win the the Masters this year it would have been Fred Couples. I was pulling for the "Old Guy" in the field.

We have a close friend that is a graduate of Georgia Tech. She often speaks about the fact that women are in the minority at Ga. Tech. The joke among the girls that attend Ga. Tech is "the odds are good, however the goods are odd", referring to the studious nature of the male students at Ga. tech.

Of course this is all in good fun and this was hardly a college golf tournament. Julie and I had the pleasure of attending the Masters in 1986, the year Jack Nicklaus won his final Masters tournament. It was an experience I will never forget.


Monday, April 7, 2014

The Kitchen Island Begins

We have wanted an island for our kitchen since we moved in our house. It's one of the many projects that was put off due to us being so weary of building by the time we completed the house and could move in. I really didn't need another item on a final punch list of items that needed to be completed prior to move in day.

 We could use some more work space in our kitchen and the island is the solution for that problem.

I looked at a couple of different ideas for the top of the island and I even went to Ikea to look at their solid wood countertop materials. They were okay but frankly I was underwhelmed and I really wanted something thicker than 1.5" for the top of the island.

I don't live close to a hardwood supplier that would have 10/4 stock to choose from. I did the next best thing and called my friend Jon Fiant. He doesn't live far from Peach State Lumber in Atlanta and he frequents their warehouse on a pretty regular basis. I asked Jon to check out their 10/4 red maple inventory on his next visit and told him the rough dimensions I was hoping to achieve on the top. Jon is a custom woodworker and also works at a large millwork shop. He certainly has the experience to act as my personal lumber shopper.

A couple of days later I got a call from Jon. He was in the warehouse at Peach State and had already scoped out 2 boards of 10/4 red maple. One was 6 3/4" wide and 11 feet long and the other was 7 1/2" wide and 12 feet long. I was hoping for an island top at least 20" wide and about 5 1/2 feet long so I knew these boards should yield the top with some left over.

2 days later I sent my youngest son Marc on a trip up to Jon's to fetch the boards home. I knew handling the 10/4 boards was going to be physically taxing and my eldest son and family were due in for a week long visit. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have my son Daniel help me with the heavy lifting of these boards. Don't get me wrong I wasn't taking advantage of Daniel's presence, he was a willing participant and actually quite excited by the prospect of helping me with this task.

With the boards cut into pieces approximately 6 feet long we jointed one face and the edges. The edges needed to be refined with a jointer plane in order to get an exact fit and flat glue up. There were two joints in the glue up. We made them one at a time wiping away the excess glue.

The next day we were faced with the dilemma of how to process the top surface of the glued up blank. I explained to Daniel that we really had 3 choices. We could do it by hand, but I don't really have a jack plane set up for heavy material removal, we could travel to Bo' Child's shop in Barnesville and see if he would run it thru his Martin planer, or we could build a router sled and do the rough removal with that tool. We were both intrigued with the idea of building the router sled so we found what we needed in my wood storage area to cobble together two accurate rails and enough birch plywood for the sled. Couple hours later we were ready to surface the top of the glue up.

The router sled worked quite well and after two passes we were ready to work the surface with hand planes.

Daniel cut the top to length with a hand saw. A couple of years ago I was in the NWA showcase in Saratoga Springs, NY. Adam Cherubini was there by himself setting up his bench in his booth space and I sent Daniel over to lend him a hand. He also helped Adam with a computer issue related to the camera he uses to display a closer look at his hand work. After that issue was resolved I looked over to see Adam giving Daniel a sawing lesson. He spent a while with Daniel showing him the in's and out's of using a hand saw. That lesson cam in handy for Daniel while he was cross cutting a 20" wide piece of 2 5/8" thick maple.

Daniel is a quite capable young man. He worked in an internship program with the SCA (Student Conservation Association). Daniel would travel with a group into the wilderness building hiking trails and if they encountered a water way they built bridges out of what was there in the forest to be used for materials. A person becomes adept at building something out of nothing with simple hand tools under those conditions.  It's hard to put a value on those type experiences in a young man's life. Working in a well equipped shop was a piece of cake for Daniel.

Daniel and I took turns traversing across the blank at a diagonal. I would plane one diagonal and then would pass the jointer plane over to Daniel and he would plane the opposite diagonal across the board. We continued this process until we were taking shavings all the way across the board and then we made several passes down the length.

We used a similar system with the smoothing plane. I would plane half way across down the length and then hand the plane over to Daniel on the other side of the bench and he would continue from the middle to his edge. We basically divided the work in half and soon we had a very nicely hand planed maple panel.

This was the perfect situation for a young man to learn about hand planing. We certainly had a great deal of it to do. He didn't have to achieve the learning curve of sharpening and fettling a plane, all he had to do was to use a plane in well fettled condition. He also had an experienced person to help him during the process. It was an ideal situation for learning about using these tools.

The next day I stood the blank on end in my leg vise and cleaned up the ends of the blank.

Later that day I broke all the sharp edges and applied a generous coat of tung oil finish. The next day I applied another coat. The weather was nice both days so I positioned a window fan in front of the open front door to keep the shop well ventilated for this process.

Daniel lives in Vermont so we don't get to spend a lot time together and in this case it was the difference in tacking a labor intensive job by myself or having the opportunity to spend some quality shop time with Daniel. It was a win, win for everyone, plus the fact that we will end up with a kitchen island.

Now, what to do about a base for this hefty chunk of maple?