Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recently Completed Winter Smoother, and My Son is a Zombie (professionally that is)

I recently completed another Winter Smoother. The contrast of the brass sides and the cocobolo Rosewood seems right to my eye.

 Unfortunately working the cocobolo Rosewood seems to be more and more of an issue for me.

I'm very careful when working this material but it seems to be causing me quite adverse health consequences.

If I react in a similar way on the next rosewood tote and knob set it may be my last time to work this material. Fortunately I have just emptied the kiln and I have some of the best pieces of olive wood yet. The only adverse reaction I have to the olive wood is a craving for pasta.


If you're a "Walking Dead" fan you probably saw the scene that contained this screen shot below in the last episode. The Zombie on the left is my son Marc. I think my daughter Erin summed it up with this comment.

"You do NOT want to fight my brother for the last drumstick at Thanksgiving"

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Plane for Bond.....................James Bond?

I received a request from a customer to make a 123-38SBP, also know as the "Brute" chute board plane entirely from brass, except of course for the iron and in this case the lever cap screw was made from stainless steel just for a bit more contrast. I won't say this was an unusual request because I think planes with bodies entirely from brass are very serviceable tools.

Early in my plane making career I did what I suggest to many budding plane makers. I made my first plane bodies entirely from brass. Brass is a much easier material for new plane makers to use and it means you don't have to jump as much of the learning curve in the beginning. Steel is such a different animal and frankly it requires a much larger investment in tooling to do well at the outset.

I still use some of those early tools daily in the shop and I've not experienced significant wear to any of the surfaces. I think the soles actually work harden after a certain amount of use.

These days I pursue plane making with a goal of precision in every part that make up the plane and in this endeavor brass presents a new challenge and difficulty. Making the component parts of the brass to very precise thickness is challenging mainly due to the fact that it's not magnetic and it is very difficult to dimension on the surface grinder.

Cold drawn brass bar tends to relieve itself of stress at the most inopportune times.

Hand lapping to precise thickness is possible with the right method but is very time consuming but it is what is most times required.

This customer asked if I had any particularly special wood for making the knob. I purchased a Desert Ironwood burl quite a while ago. It contained several inclusions that were significant enough that it would have been impossible to get enough material for a tote and knob, let alone enough good wood for an infill. The piece I chose contained heartwood and sapwood and that made it especially eye catching. The sapwood was rather coarse and open grained and required a lot of CA adhesive filling to establish a firm structural integrity in the wood. The process was most interesting and the end result was satisfying.

My generation was young when the James Bond film Goldfinger was released. After that movie most people associated the color gold with James Bond. As I was making this plane it felt as if I was crafting some secret gadget for James to use in his fight with the evil villains he encounters. The gold of the brass makes this plane  body look as if it's milled from a billet of gold. This in and of itself makes this plane very unique. 

The week after this plane was shipped to the customer I received an email from engraver Catherine Kennedy and it immediately became apparent why this plane body needed to be made from brass. I don't have pictures of the plane after engraving, however one comment in the body of an email between myself, Catherine and the customer that received this tool has sparked an entire other project that will require Catherine and myself to push the boundaries of our skills and that's challenging and exciting at the same time.

Daniel Craig is the new James Bond and frankly his ruthless manner and methods are what we always wished the kindler gentler James Bonds of my era would have been like. He doesn't need special gadgets, he just kills them that needs killing in order to keep the world safe and secure and he doesn't dilly dally around pursuing beautiful women in the process............well not much. (please understand that this comment is made tongue in cheek. I'm certainly not a war monger)

More about the project that this plane spawned in another post.


A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Virgil Wyeth Brese, The Back Porch is Getting Crowded

I apologize for the long hiatus from posting on this blog. We've had a busy summer. A trip to Vermont for a family visit and keeping to a schedule of plane making in the shop. 

When fall arrived we decided the cooler weather was an optimal time for performing some maintenance on our house. All three exterior doors needed to be replaced and because of the way the entrances were trimmed on the inside and outside, pre-hung door units were out of the question so we've had to replace these utilizing door slabs which of course required a good bit of mill work in order to prepare them hanging in the old openings. It's a time consuming process that is soon coming to an end.

This summer we experienced a wonderful day in the life of our family. Virgil Wyeth Brese arrived into this world and the delivery went better than anyone expected. What a relief.

I enjoy my grandchildren an enormous amount and the place we choose to spend a lot of our time together is on the back porch of our house. We start the day by eating breakfast there and then the activity can turn very quickly to an impromptu sword fight using whatever is handy for swords and can progress to acting out super hero scenarios. Julie and I are typically given the role of the villians but that's okay, somebody has to be the villian.

A Proud Father

Virgil in a Breast Milk Coma

On the back porch we can do most anything and most importantly we can do nothing when time comes to rest. When it rains we don't necessarily have to go indoors. It's also where we bide our time waiting for late evening and the appearance of lightning bugs, or as Maggie Mason refers to them as "dem bugs with lights".

We also enjoy snacks on the back porch. This can range from an afternoon tea party to just enjoying a popsicle, watermelon or my favorite, ice cream.

The next blog post will include plane making and maybe some pictures of the new doors and will arrive in a more timely manner as compared to this one.


"You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit",
                                                                            Katherine Mason, now 8 years old