Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Horned Smoother Part VII

Making this plane is proving to be an excellent learning experience.

It didn't work all that well at first—shavings were getting stuck near the mouth and those I pulled free were accordianed.

I took a class years ago where we made a panel raiser. And while, after four days, we learned how to lay out the lines and flatten a bed, and everyone left with a working plane, we didn't learn (or at least I wasn't paying attention at this point) why it worked.

So when my smoother wasn't working well, I had figure out why.

First, I reckoned that because the plane is high angle, the throat needed to be opened up. This meant changing the upper angle of the throat from 55º to 62º (an arbitrary number), which in turn made the wear more shallow.  And that meant the shavings had a shorter distance to travel through the narrowest section of the plane, plus I could reach stuck shavings more easily.

I started fiddling around with the scrolls at this point, but just ignore them until the next post.

Before tweaking.
Next, I had an epiphany. It's a no-brainer, but it hadn't really dawned on me until now: a full-width shaving needs an exit path—from mouth to top of plane—that equals a full-width shaving (don't say it....I killed too many brain cells in the drinking days of my youth).

That meant tapering the thin walls of the abutments (that hold the wedge in place) from 1/4" at the top of the plane to zero, and well in advance of the mouth.  It also meant that the wide walls of the abutment had to taper from the wedge toward the front of the throat and along its entire length.
After tweaking.

After that, the long arms of the wedge needed to be shortened so they matched the length of the abutment. I also shaved a steeper angle on the arms to provide more clearance for shavings.

One other thing--I made the wear as smooth as possible. It seems as though even small bumps or rough spots will snag a shaving.

Every day that I learn something new is a good day indeed.

*You may notice that the mouth opening is awfully large. I'll add an insert later on to tighten it up.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Horned Smoother Part VI

I employed various chisels and files, and worked in from the top and bottom of the plane in order to open the mouth.  It can take awhile because you need to be sure that all surfaces are as flat as possible. 

I found it a little too iffy to cut the final angle of the abutments by following the pencil lines that I had marked on the outside of the plane. So I cut a 12º wedge from a thin board to use as a pattern to mark the angle on the inside of the plane. 

After the abutments were cut to shape, I rough-cut a full size wedge on the band saw and cleaned it up with a plane. The fit of the wedge needs to be spot on in order to hold the blade in place, so there is a bit of checking, tweaking, and rechecking involved.

Once the wedge is properly fitted, some of the lower portion needs to be removed in order to provide a clear exit for shavings.

At this point you have a working, but extremely painful to use, high angle smoother.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Horned Smoother Part V

If you're making one of these planes along with me, here are some errors you can avoid.

When drilling into the mouth to open it up, follow the angle of the bed line.

I forgot to do this and instead drilled between the layout lines that marked the bed and the lower portion of the throat (below the break angle, referred to in my books as the "wear").

After drilling the third hole in a row, I suddenly remembered why I should be following the bed angle.

I had drilled right into the lower part of the abutment that keeps the wedge in place—thus blowing it out—and also into the side wall of the abutment. I also drilled above my break angle.

Nothing a few carved pegs can't fix.

You will see these mistakes when the plane is finished, but I don't mind. It will be a good conversation piece and it fits the rustic, craftsperson-made look.

The other thing I forgot is that it's best to keep the front of the throat flat until all your angles are cut—before you start carving any curves. It's much easier to mark the location of the break angle on a flat surface.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Horned Smoother Part IV

With pencil, I outlined the shape of the throat, scrolls, abutments, cheeks, and bed. Then I started chopping.

Here are progress shots along with descriptions. 

The result after roughing out the
waste with a mortising chisel.
After this, I'll open the mouth, cut the area below the break angle, and finalize the angle of the shallow walls of the abutments (the parts that hold the wedge in place).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Horned Smoother Part III

Here is the layout for the throat, mouth, bed, abutments, and cheeks for my plane.

I referenced two books: Wooden Planes and How to Make Them, by David G. Perch and Robert S. Lee; and Making Traditional Wooden Planes, by John M. Whelan.

The two books are slightly different in their approach and presentation, and I made some slight revisions to suit my plane—so don't take my layout as gospel. If you can get ahold of some old wooden planes for reference, it would be helpful to you.

The pencil marks in the photos are pretty light, so I included two images (at right) with clearer layout lines and angles.

I also added images of the little coffin smoother (last image) that I made awhile ago so you can see the physical shape of the throat and abutment.

The lines on the blank that are at the very front and back represent cutoff lines (for the final length).

Monday, January 14, 2013

The more I learn...

.....the more I realize how very little I know.

In my two most recent posts, readers corrected me on a few points. As well they should.

Point one: when viewing the side of a handplane, the grain should run downhill from toe to heel.
Point two: always use quartersawn stock when making a handplane if you want to avoid seasonal movement (across the width).
Point three: blokschaafs do not have horns. (Hence the name change to my project)

This got me thinking about whether or not I should write about my handplane project since I am not an expert and might mislead someone who is thinking about making a plane.

And then I remembered a conversation that went around the blogosphere many months ago about the misinformation that is sometimes provided to the public through blogs, podcasts, and other venues that are used by those of us who are not professionals.

I mainly steered clear of that conversation because I believe that both sides of the argument are correct: yes, there is misinformation "out there" and yes, non-professional woodworkers do provide a worthwhile service to our community. If nothing else, we keep the conversation going.

I have been called out on a couple other occasions and because of that and other suggestions from readers, I've altered a few ways I do things in woodworking. And I'm grateful for it. I do not have a big ego and welcome criticism.

Writing this blog has made me a better woodworker. You guys have kept me on my toes and your support, advice, and enthusiasm have been the catalysts that have prodded me to try new things. I never would have made a number of things in the last five years if not for you.

Folks over the years have emailed and said very nice things about my blog. Their perception is that I give a lot to the community. The reality is I get a lot from the community—friendship, knowledge, advice, and encouragement.

So for selfish reasons, I'll keep blogging.

And now, here is a picture of my dog in order to make an otherwise dreary blog post a little more "Rosie."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Horned Smoother Part II

Before cutting up the chunk of cherry that I'm using for the horned smoothing plane, I consulted Philip Edwards of Philly Planes about grain orientation.

I had read that it's best to put the sapwood on the sole and the heartwood on top, but I wanted an expert's opinion.

Philly confirmed that he orients his planes this way, although he has seen antiques that were made heart-side-down and which seem to work fine.

First, the best wood is quartersawn. I did not use the correct section of the log in the photos (I used the flatsawn portion), so my plane will move across the width. When looking at the end of a plane (the heel or toe), the grain should be horizontal, not vertical. With seasonal movement, it's okay for the plane to get taller or shorter, but thinner in width can be a problem because the blade can become locked into the body of the plane. There may be other reasons for running the grain horizontally, but this is the one I know.*

In order to get the optimal grain orientation for my plane, the blank had to be sawn from the cherry at an angle.

I removed adjacent corners with an axe to create 90º angles, and cleaned up the faces with scrub and smoothing planes.

After that—just to be sure the blank was dead-on square—I used my power jointer and planer.

*A reader contacted me to let me know that this paragraph is incorrect—I did not say that your wood should be quartersawn in order to minimize seasonal movement (I've since added that bit). But just to avoid any misinformation, please have a look at the Old Street Tool site (formerly Clark & Williams) where they explain grain direction. 

Blokschaaf Part I

There's a blokschaaf (or six) in that
chunk of wood.
Ah, the thrill of starting a new project.

It's like the beginning of a new romance (except that your project won't stand you up or flirt with other lumber. It may, however, break your heart), and it's one of the most exciting aspects of woodworking.

It's one reason we woodworkers typically have five or more projects going on in our shops at the same time. (My gothic stool that's sat untouched for over a month comes to mind.)

I've been wanting to make a high angle smoother for awhile and was planning to make an18th c. English style coffin smoother, but I've always been drawn to the look of 18th c. Dutch planes with all their scrolly goodness.

In his book The Art of Fine Tools, Sandor Nagyszalanczy explains that small, family-owned shops in the Netherlands cranked out decorative handplanes in the 17th- and 18th-centuries while in England and the colonies, tradesman were making more utilitarian (but still handsome) styles.

Dutch planes were constructed with templates and adhered to standard specifications, but were adorned with varying scroll and other designs by individual craftsmen, making each one unique.

The plane I plan to build is referred to as a blokschaff (smoother). It will have a horn and scrolls, but whether or not it will match the qualifications of its 18th-century archetype remains to be seen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Save The Dates

Popular Woodworking Magazine posted its dates for Woodworking In America 2013: October 18-20. There is just one conference this year—in Cincinnati—and I plan to attend.

I didn't make it last year and really missed seeing my buddies.  A spirit of camaraderie defines WIA, so you can't help but make friends. And the more times you go, the more friends you make. I've attended four conferences, so WIA has become a reunion to me. And what better reunion is there than one spent with your woodworking family?

This Wednesday, January 9, at 9:00 p.m., the Modern Woodworkers Association will have PopWood's new editor—Megan Fitzpatrick—as the guest speaker. If you have questions for Megan—about the magazine, WIA, or pets of the feline persuasion—you can post them in the comments section on the MWA blog.

February 3-9 is Get Woodworking Week, created and hosted by Tom Iovino. It's an opportunity for you to encourage others to take up the craft. Even if you're not a blogger or podcaster, there are many ways for you to reach out to your community: invite a neighbor kid into your shop and, depending on the age, show him/her how to properly use a hammer or handsaw; start a woodworking club; offer to give demonstrations at local events; or write an article for your local paper.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Interview With Megan Fitzpatrick

2013 is off to a great start for Megan Fitzpatrick and Popular Woodworking Magazine as she takes the helm as the new Editor. Many of us have interacted with Megan over the years—through email, blogs, WIA, facebook—but here are some things about her that you might not know.

1. Are you from the Cincinnati area?
Yes and no. I was born in Cincinnati, but my family moved to Louisville, Ky., when I was two weeks old – so I consider myself as being from Louisville. I moved here in 1986 to attend the University of Cincinnati (and to be close to my grandparents, who had moved here from Louisville in the 1940s), and I never left.

2. How did you end up working for PopWood?
I was working for our parent company, F+W Media (F+W Publications, at the time) in the Creative Services department (the arm of the marketing department that writes direct mail and other promotional stuff), and, after seven years, was about to leave to return to grad school. But Christopher Schwarz (who had just become the editor) and Steve Shanesy (the publisher at the time) asked if I'd be interested in the managing editor's job. I was, and we worked it out that I could do both. I spent my "lunch hour" (and then some) on campus, and made up the time at work. 

3. Did you have any woodworking experience before then?
Only a little DIY stuff around the house, mostly using mechanical fasteners.

4. What sparked your interest in woodworking?
My grandfather earned a trade certificate in cabinetmaking and was always making stuff, so that was probably my first introduction to the craft. Also I like nice furniture ... but can't afford to buy it. So, given that I had daily access to several excellent instructors, I decided to pester my co-coworkers to teach me (and I felt that, as a member of the staff, it would be useful if I knew the difference between a rabbet, groove and dado).

5. Do you migrate toward certain styles of furniture?
I admire early modern pieces (16th and 17th-century), in part due to my literary interests in the same period – but I haven't built much in that style because it would look out of place in my 19th-century house. Plus, unlike you, I haven't yet become a proficient carver (one of my goals for 2013 is to get started in that). I tend to build Shaker-inspired pieces and other period pieces that aren't very adorned.

6. What types of projects are your favorite?
Inexplicably, I like really large pieces – massive bookcases, stepbacks, dining tables...the kind of thing folks are sometimes surprised to learn were built by a relatively small woman.

7. What are some things on your “must build before I die” list?
An English Arts & Crafts inlaid sideboard, a joined chest with carved panels (a la Peter Follansbee)...and a larger circulation for the magazine!

8. Do you have a preference between hand and power tools?
Oh come on – you know the answer to that one! (But I do prefer, in the interest of expediency, to do most of my rough surfacing by machine.)

9. What is your biggest challenge as a woodworker?
Like many woodworkers, the biggest challenge is finding enough hours in the week to get into the shop. After that, it's my champagne taste in tools but with a Boone's Farm budget.

10. Many folks know that you love Shakespeare. Are there ways in which you tie woodworking and Shakespeare (or the time period) together?
I wish to correct that statement a wee bit. I like and admire Shakespeare; I love Francis Beaumont, Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton (but "Shakespeare" serves as convenient shorthand for the plays of the period, because few have heard of Beaumont!). But to answer your question, yes – I always look for references to "rude mechanics," furniture, tools and the guild system (in any craft) in every play I read, and someday – I swear it – I'll finish that joint stool I started in Follansbee's class (see "Taming of the Shrew" 2.1.192).

11. What are some woodworking techniques you haven’t tried but plan to?
As I mentioned, I hope to start carving this year (I'm impressed by your work!), and will look first to Follansbee's videos because that's the type of carving in which I'm most interested. And gosh...there are a lot of techniques I'd like to try. The first two that pop in my head are steambending, so I can make a Windsor chair, and bent lamination, for no reason other than it  looks cool.

12. PopWood has made big changes over the years, and Editors have had a strong influence in that regard. Under your leadership, what are your visions for the magazine regarding content, layout, digital applications, online content and site design, outreach to the community....
Well, I've been on vacation almost since the day I was promoted (nice, eh?!), so I haven't had too much time to talk with Kevin Ireland, our publisher, and the rest of the staff (heck – I'm not even sure everyone on the PWM team even knows yet!). And I want it to be a group effort, because everyone brings a different set of skills and experience to the table, and everyone has a valid point of view to offer. So I'm afraid I'm dodging this question a bit until the staff has time to convene. But I will say that what's of great importance to me is offering articles and techniques that you won't find elsewhere, and content that's so well written/engaging/interesting/provocative that you'll want to read it even if the subject isn't something you'd typically enjoy (I realize that's an improbable goal to always realize; we won't deliver on every single article...but we can darn well try!). And as far as online content, well, we need to get back to blogging a lot more often; we need to give readers a good reason to visit our site every day (and hopefully some changes to the site itself will also help achieve that – more on that to come soon).

13. Are we likely to see more hand tools or power tools in future issues?

14. What types of projects might we expect under the Fitzpatrick regime?
I hope we'll be be offering projects that not only will appeal as a form, but that have something new/interesting/surprising to teach. 

15. What will be your biggest challenge as Editor?
Looks like Megan needs
another 5.25 cats in order
to qualify.
At the moment, finding and training a new managing editor. After that? Ask me again in a couple months (by which time I fervently pray that first challenge will be resolved).

16. Any hints you'd like to drop about WIA 2013?
We're having only one (yay!), it will be in the autumn (again), and I hope you and Nancy are there! (We haven't yet signed any venue contracts, so I really don't know anything more.)

17. Exactly how many cats do you have?

Thank you, Megan, for accepting my request for an interview!