Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wille Davis Winter Smoother #2

Metals and woods that contrast with one another create an eye catching plane. But metals and woods that compliment each other can create the same effect.

I've recently finish the second Winter Smoothing plane made in the Willie Davis style and it's actually quite similar to the first even though as you'll see no two pieces of olive wood are very similar to each other. In fact there is a large variation in color and figure in this wood and frankly it's important to get the knob and the tote from the same blank in order to have any hopes of them having a similar look. I typically turn the knob end grain so that, in and of itself, is going to create a different appearance as compared to many of the face grain surfaces of the tote.

The piece of olive that produced this knob and tote had a large degree of color variegation, probably the most I've observed in any piece of olive yet. It's these kind of characteristics that make each plane unique.

I've taken to applying True Oil to all brass parts. I started this process on brass pieces that had the aged patina finish applied to them, as a way to preserve the finish. What I've found is that it's a great process for reducing the maintenance on brass, especially if you're of a mindset to keep the brass bright. The oil enhances the color of the brass and gives it more of a slightly aged gold appearance. With two thorough coats of oil well cured the brass can be handled without the bother of feeling as if you need to re-brighten the brass after every handling that leaves finger prints and the like.

It may be practical to try turning knobs face grain in some of the denser woods. At the least it will probably yield an interesting look.

I'm also very curious to see how this plane will look with a very contrasting color wood like Macassar or Gabon Ebony. Whereas the olive actually compliments and works harmoniously with the oiled brass, either of the ebonies will be in staunch contrast. As I've stated before the different colors and finishes combined yield different results and it's one of the things that keep this work fresh and interesting, that and the feel of a gossamer shaving rising up out the mouth of the plane with very minimal effort. That's always the best reward at the completion of any plane. Look coupled with function......yes, I love my job.


The problem with me taking time off or going on vacation is “I don’t do nothing well”,

 Ron Brese

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Right in Your Own Backyard

When people look into traveling to see great feats of nature and wonderful accomplishments of mankind it's often suggested to make sure you see what's in your own background before you embark to points elsewhere. Lately I've found that is sound advice and have recently made a discovery very near to where I live that truly amazed me.

I live outside of Thomaston, Ga in Upson county. Where Upson county borders Meriwether county there has for quite a long time resided Camp Thunder Boy Scout camp. I can remember my brother spending weeks at Camp Thunder when I was still too young for scouting. A week during the summer spent at Camp Thunder was a rite of passage for young boys in our area.

Over the decades the facilities at Camp Thunder deteriorated and the place was in a state of disrepair. Fortunately some men hold their years as Boy Scouts as a very formative time and even as adults are proud of their time as Boy Scouts. Obviously Gerald Lawhorn was one of those men. He made his fortune with a chain of gas stations called Petro South and the endowment he gave Camp Thunder has transformed the camp.

I had no clue that a majestic and beautiful oak timber frame structure stood 21 miles from my house. This structure and some other smaller oak timber frame pavilions were constructed as part of the camp upgrade funded by Gerald Lawhorn. The camp is now called the "Gerald Lawhorn Canoe Center at Camp Thunder Boy Scout Camp".

There is also an array of large scale rocking chairs that allow you to rest yourself and marvel at the construction of the structure as you rock.

The structure is decked with tongue and groove 2 x pine to which a slate roof is attached.

There is also a monument at this site that states the ideals of the Boy Scout organization complete with bronze eagle.

This is only a small portion of a most grand playground that is located at this site.

And when you've thoroughly explored the Timber Frame pavilion and the playground you can then take a hike along the Flint river that flows just about 50 yards behind the pavilion.

As you can see this is an almost magical place for kids. My grandchildren loved this place.

Camp Thunder is actually located in Molena, Ga. for those looking to find this location on Google maps or by GPS.


Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Desert Iron Wood, Unique Material

Desert Iron wood has the highest specific gravity of any wood that I use whether it be for plane making or otherwise. In the wood data base it is listed as 1.21 specific gravity. If you compare it to Macassar Ebony at 1.01 specific gravity you would think it would be even harder.

The working characteristics are considerably different and in my experience the Macassar Ebony actually seems harder. I first imagined that Desert Iron wood might be particularly hard on the edges of chisels but actually this material gets out of the way of a chisel pretty well, however when trying to chisel in a tight inside corner it has a bad habit of fracturing.

By and large the working characteristics of this material are much different that I had originally thought. The initial whittling with a chisel to excavate material prior to the beginning of the rasping process goes quite well, easier than I had imagined. Rasping can tend to tear the grain and a coarse rasp needs to be followed by a finer tool.

This material is very abrasion resistant. Sanding this material can take up to 3 times longer than any other material I use in plane making.

The grain structure is very unusual which probably explains the tendency to fracture and is just a bit coarser than most dense woods.

Polishing this wood was certainly a learning experience. When applying a shellac polish you certainly will need to apply a couple coats of finish dedicated to filling the pores, otherwise the unique texture of the grain will show prominently.

As much trouble as this wood is to work and finish properly you are rewarded for your efforts in the end. Nothing looks quite like this material. When polished to a high level some pieces remind me of looking into a sunset. Within the same piece it's quite varied and interesting. You see something different everywhere you look.

In other words it's quite a worthwhile pursuit,


"The difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person knows what to say and a wise person knows whether or not to say it."