Tools

A Valiant Effort

I too read that recent Popular Woodworking online article about Taytools hand planes. I’m not much of a tool collector (I have a spare Stanley No. 5 for my out and about toolbox and a cadaver of an extra Stanley No. 4 to scavenge parts if necessary), but I couldn’t help myself at the Amazon price for a No. 4.  I’ve wasted far more money on other tools, after all.

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The No. 5 was sold out and, besides, I have a No. 5 I love already.

Let me start by saying that, for the price, this seems like a pretty good tool.  I paid US$65 and got something that felt solid in my hand.  Would I recommend it for a new woodworker with limited space to work in?  Very probably.  I think it’s a valiant effort, all told.  But let’s explore a bit further.

I’ve restored between 5-10 antique Stanley planes and setting this thing up for relatively refined work took about an hour.  The most work went into the cap iron (about 20 minutes), which started out a bit rustic.  I also had to grind a bevel onto it, which went slowly and carefully to avoid removing too much material.  The cutting iron was ground hollow and only took about 10 minutes to flatten and another 5 or so to sharpen and introduce the back bevel with the ruler trick.

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I’ve seen worse.  Much worse.

The plane’s sole was also ground pretty hollow, which is fine.  I haven’t fully dressed the sole for smoothing yet, which I plan to do to 220 grit.  The manufacturer seems to have erred on the side of hollow grinding where possible.  For the record, I am 100% okay with this approach.

Three things about the Taytools plane stand out to me, though.

First, the mouth of the plane is cavernous.  On my Type 11 Stanley, the mouth is a smidge under 3/16, and closes up nice and tight with minimal frog advancement.

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The pitting doesn’t affect performance.  Stop complaining.

Compare that to the Taytools version.  The mouth is over 1/4 wide.  Now, 1/6 may not sound like a lot, but it’s noticeable (and a 33% increase!).  If I wanted this plane for general work, it’d do fine.  But as I’ve noted before, smoothing takes a tight mouth.  I had to move the frog significantly forward to close up the mouth.  Will this result in chatter?  Who knows?

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Notice the scratch pattern around the edges from testing the flatness.

Second, the frog adjustment mechanism is just garbage.  Novel, but garbage.  The yoke is cast into the frog itself and the tapped hole for the adjustment screw was not parallel to the bed.  This meant the frog kept binding as I turned the screw.  I eventually gave up and removed the frog adjustment screw entirely.

Finally, the plane is longer than a vintage No. 4.  Not by much, but I could see it making an incremental difference over the life of the tool.

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Weird, right?

I would be remiss if I didn’t weigh them both.  I prefer the lighter Stanley No. 4 Bailey pattern plane to the modern Bedrock copies for smoothing tasks.  My current smoother clocks in at a manageable 1615 grams.

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That’s 57 oz or 3 lbs 9 oz for the imperial types.

Surprisingly, the Taytools No. 4 is only 1890 grams (aka, 67 oz or 4 lbs 3 oz).  A bit over half a pound heavier than my Type 11 No. 4.  Not bad – and a far cry from the advertised 5 lbs. of some modern Bedrock copy No. 4’s.

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It lost a couple of grams when I ground the cap iron, in fairness.

So, again, is this I tool I would gift to a beginner woodworker interested in apartment woodworking on a budget?  Yes.  But that “yes” assumes the beginner has basic knowledge of how to prepare and sharpen a plane iron.  I don’t think the rustic cap iron would be much more of a nuisance when shavings got clogged.  And everything else seemed in relatively-good working order (apprentice marks and all).

And setting this tool up would be a hell of a lot less effort than fully restoring a swap meet piece.

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Harlequin Baby

Warning: DO NOT image search the namesake of this blog post.

For a while now, I’ve been rehabilitating a Type 15 Stanley No. 5 smooth bottom bench plane. After a couple of hours of work, it’s as pretty as I’m going to make it.

Other than my Veritas scrub plane, there are officially no modern bench planes in my tool chest anymore.  I really like the lighter weight of the antique planes (as compared to their modern counterparts).  If one of the modern makers made new versions of these lighter planes to the precision specs they do for their Bedrock copies, I would be all over it.

Even after scrubbing, there is some of the patina on the sides.

This No. 5 is intended to be a worker and, suffice to say, it’s a bit of a harlequin. The sole and frog are original. As is the cap iron. The blade, however, is salvaged from my Type 17 Stanley No. 4 smoothing plane (which now has a Veritas replacement blade and is my main smoothing plane).

It’s not a pretty grind, but the frog is perfectly flat.  And it’s a bedrock frog!

The lever cap (seen above) is scrounged from another Stanley No. 4 (a Type 10, I think). The lever cap that goes with this Type 15 exists, I just haven’t cleaned it up yet.  It has a chip at one corner so I’m in no rush to expend that much elbow grease.

The knob and tote are replacements as well. I source wooden replacement parts for planes from Greg Droz.  He does a great job and his prices are very reasonable. They both fit first try without any fettling.

Honduran rosewood, which is beautiful enough for a worker.

The sole of the plane is in very good shape and didn’t take long to de-rust or flatten. This is a jack plane so I didn’t obsessed too much. In fact, I only took it to 80 grit (which, admittedly, had worn to probably 120 grit by the end) on the granite slab.  There is a very slight hollow around the mouth that can be seen below. If the spirit ever moves me, I may dress the sole a bit more. Maybe to 220 grit and perfectly square on the shooting side.

I’m pretty sure this plane was well-used before it came to me

But I now have no place in my tool chest for my well-loved WoodRiver bench planes (No. 4No. 4 1/2 and No. 5 1/2).  They have served me well but I’d be happy to part with the No. 4 for $100 and the No. 4 1/2 and No. 5 1/2 for $125 each.  UPDATE:  ALL THREE PLANES SOLD.

If interested, shoot me an email at theapartmentwoodworker@gmail.com and I can send pictures.  They are all in used but otherwise perfect condition.

This is the first of a few sets of extra tools that I plan to sell off.  I am not a tool collector, per se.  But I do have some extra tools, which are pretty much only good for cluttering the shop and procrastinating when it’s time to sharpen.

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Surprises at Every Turn

One of the most (if perhaps not the most) treasured tool in my tool chest is my vintage Stanley Bedrock No. 7.  I’ve had it for a bit less than year and I love it more and more every day.  It was a gift from my late godfather, and it is a joy to use.

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No idea if the red paint is original.

I’m generally familiar with the dating criteria for ordinary Stanley planes.  But I hadn’t looked into the history of the Bedrock variants.  Until last night.  Turns out, my No. 7 is a Type 2, built between 1898-1899.  It’s not my oldest tool (that probably goes to the firmer paring chisel I recently restored), but it’s still in great shape for its age.

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One patent here.  One patent on the lateral adjustment lever.

Despite hanging on a basement wall for however many decades (it has a hanging hole), the plane had minimal rust (no pitting) and the sole was still very flat.  It merely required a wipe down with mineral spirits, a replacement iron (Veritas A2 from Lee Valley), a quick re-peening of the lateral adjustment lever, and a few passes on the granite slab with 220 grit sandpaper to be fully functional.

I don’t know how much use it got originally, but it gets used every day I’m in my shop.  If it came down to it, I am 100% certain that it’s the only bench plane I would keep.  They really don’t make ’em like they used to.

And, for the record, I sharpen my No. 7 with a slight camber.

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Pluses and Minuses

I almost never buy tools off eBay.  Not used ones, anyway.  I usually stick to the “New Old Stock” variety.  So it was particularly out of character for me to take a leap of faith on a random Stanley No. 4.

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I think it came out okay.

The tool in question is almost certainly a Type 17 from 1942-1945.  It has a hardwood knob/tote and a steel depth adjustment knob, plus a heavier casting.  Its heft feels more like a modern Bedrock copy than a vintage Stanley.  I’m willing to bet this plane helped defeat the Nazis.

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You can really see the thickness of the walls in this shot.

The tool was either (i) well-loved and cared for in its former life or (ii) used a little bit and then squirreled away.  My vote is for well-loved and cared for.  There was a hanging hole in the heel of the sole.  All the arrises were carefully broken with a file.  The lateral adjustment lever showed signs of re-peening.  The depth adjustment knob was caked with sawdust. All the signs of a craftsman’s tool.

My only reservation is that the iron seems off.  There is just so much steel left.  It could be a replacement iron.  And the shape of the cutting edge was strange, with a very slight hollow along the width.  Not a hollow grind on the bevel.  The cutting edge itself had the opposite shape of a smoothing plane camber.  If it had been sharp, you could have beaded with the plane when it arrived in the mail.  Perhaps the skilled craftsman was two owners ago.

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Easily fixed in the honing process, though.

Also a surprise: the sole was very flat to begin with.  It took less than 30 seconds with 120 grit on the granite slab to get it as flat as it ever needs to be.  This is not exaggeration.  20 or so passes and it was flatter than most new planes.  And the sides were very square to the sole.  Another 30 seconds on the granite slab with a squaring block and it was good to go for shooting.

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Strange place for a hollow.  But completely harmless on a smoothing plane.

I was pleasantly surprised at every turn.  In fact, tuning was going so well, I developed the intention of making this one of my main worker planes.  But then, after all the scrubbing and sanding and honing, I moved the frog forward and extended the blade to take a thin shaving and what did I see?  Wood.  Lots of it.

It was like looking under the hood of an old car and seeing asphalt.  My heart sank.

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Tearout will always be a problem with this plane.

On a hand plane, the blade, in its cutting motion, lifts under the wood fibers.  As I understand it, the leading edge of the mouth presses down on the fibers while the blade cuts.  The wider the mouth, the more likely the fibers will lift and split ahead of the blade edge.  This is called tearout.

On a smoothing plane, you want the narrowest mouth possible.  The opening between blade and sole should be barely wider than the shaving taken.  A perfectly tuned and set smoothing plane can take a tearout-free shaving in any direction on even the most figured or swirling grain because of this narrow opening.  That is, the leading edge of the mouth applies downward pressure so close to the cutting edge that there is no opportunity for fibers to lift and split as the cut progresses.  No opportunity for tearout.

But with a mouth this size, this particular plane would eat figured food.  Literally tear it up and spit it out.  So, with a heavy heart, I have put this plane in the reserve bin (i.e., my Craftsman Top Chest).  But I will name it James, Jr., for it has a mouth so big that it ruins everything it comes in contact with.

Perhaps it will one day find life as a scrub plane.  It certainly has the mouth for heavy shavings.

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This One Goes to Eleven

No, not really.  It actually only goes to 15/16, but that’s okay.  I finished the moving fillister plane.  I’m super proud of the result.

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I have since added a coat of BLO and some furniture wax.

You may have noticed the black racing stripe.  In addition to texture for a better grip, the blank paint hides some nasty tearout from the grip recess.  Dammit, why do I always reveal my secrets?  At least no one will ever mistake my plane for theirs.

I should note that this version is in every way superior to my first attempt, unless you count a slightly too wide throat.  But with the skewed iron and a more refined escapement, it shouldn’t be a big deal.  After quite a few tests, regular shavings eject consistently, whether across- or with- the grain.  Fine, cross-grain shavings bind a little bit, but it’s nothing that can’t be cleared occasionally with a mechanical pencil.

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The angle is right, but it’s a little wide.

Other than the skew iron, there are a few improvements since the first iteration.  The scoring spur extends a bit further this time.  In fact, both the scoring spur and the iron are ever so slightly proud of the body.  This (I learned from Roy Underhill) is the key to a crisp and plumb shoulder on the rabbet.  The screws for the fence are also flush with the fence itself.

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I will eventually reinforce the slots with brass, like the version I copied.

I do not plan to add a depth stop to this plane.  I’ll just mark the depth and clean everything up with a router plane after.  That’s how I’ve been doing it for a while, and I find the traditional depth stop is not that reliable.  And a full-length depth stop may interfere with the escapement.

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So there you have it!

It’s still TBD whether I caught the planemaking bug.  I do have another 6 feet or so of quartersawn hard maple and I just picked up a bench grinder, so who knows what the future holds?

Rabbets.  The future holds rabbets.

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After Further Review

A funny thing happened today when I woke up and went into the shop. Calipers in hand, ready to measure for the plug I was going to make, I decided to give it one more shot. I positioned the holdfast to the left over a scrap of wood, and whacked it with a sledge. Nothing.

Undeterred, I gave it another whack, this time holding the shaft steady as I drove it in. It felt like it seated a bit. After a third whack, it felt like it was grabbing. The fourth whack, it set tightly. Hmm.

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It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.

And it works pointed right as well.

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This is not a political metaphor (yet).

I guess the trick is to hold the shaft steady as you drive it in. So, much less sad than yesterday, I bought a corded drill and made a plumb jig to bore the remaining holes (seen above).

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Much like ‘Murica itself, this drill was assembled here with foreign components.

It’s always good to sleep on it.

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Forging New Paths

New to me, at least.  I’m cleaning up a vintage saw.

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And ruining my nice ash table in the process.

This Simonds saw, a 12ppi crosscut panel saw, came to me through a family friend (a godparent, in fact).  The plate was lightly rusted, with little pitting (and none near the teeth).  Sandflex hand blocks and some elbow grease quickly led to a passable shine.  And the Etch even survived the rust removal process.  The plate was slightly breasted along the toothline: unclear to me if the breasting was OEM or a product of uneven filing over time.

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Made from 1901 to 1926, according to teh interwebs.

The handle is also in excellent shape, if slightly paint-caked around the plate.  There is some chipping around one of the saw nuts (probably my doing), but otherwise, the finish is consistent and no work was needed.  I may ease the top tongue on the handle to fit my hand better, but I’d like to see how it works before I do.

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No lamb’s tongue, but whatever.

The only real problem with the saw was the teeth.  One side of the plate, the were filed much smaller than other.  My best guess is the crosscut filing was consistently done out of horizontal and without flipping the saw around between sides.  So my choices were: (i) file the teeth completely away and start all over or (ii) reshape the saw into a 6+ tpi rip saw.  There is a great Paul Sellers tutorial on recutting saw teeth, but a 6+ tpi rip saw will fill a gap in my tool chest.

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Notice the sharp teeth on the left even after heavy jointing with a flat file

I’m not finished with it yet, but I think reshaping was the right choice.  I already own a 10 tpi rip pattern panel raw (which is great for all-around work, including cross-cutting to rough length), but my only other rip pattern panel saw is 4.5 tpi (too coarse in my experience for hardwoods).  This saw will almost split the difference and give me a more aggressive option for hardwoods and softwoods alike.

And worse comes to worst, I’ll file them flat and start all over again.  There is plenty of plate left.  Either way, I’m going to need a new 7″ slim file after this.

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More on Shop-made Rebate Planes

Attaching the fence to the right-hand rebate plane wasn’t nearly as difficult as expected.  I approached it like I would a drawbore, by first drilling the pilot holes in the fence, then using the same brad-point bit to transfer those holes to the body of the plane.  After that, everything came together nicely.

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I did drill all the way through the backer board into the dining table, but that kind of thing happens once in a while.

The above photo shows the fixed fence at max extension (5/8 inch).  I am yet to elongate those holes to permit the fence to adjust to take a narrower cut, but that is just a question of marking and chopping out two slots in the fence.  After the fence is fitted, I’ll recess the scoring spur and the whole thing will be ready for a coat or two of Tung Oil.

I did take some quick test cuts with the fixed fence and was quite pleased.  I’m assuming the slight slope at the edge of the rabbet is due to my unfamiliarity with proper fillister plane technique.

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Product placement!

I hope to start work on the left-hand plane this weekend.

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Warrington Pattern Hammer Recommendation

I don’t usually do tool recommendations, but I have been very pleased with my new Warrington Pattern Hammer.  It’s nothing special, just a $25 dollar amazon find, but it’s worked well so far.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000VKXTGQ?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00

I may have lucked out, but the hammer is well handled and straight, and the balance of the 12oz head feels good in my hand.  If you’re looking for a relatively cheap woodworking hammer, you could do worse.

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Making Replacement Wedges

When I deepened the recess on the set of poor man’s rebate planes to accept a 5/8 inch bench chisel, the initial 1/2 inch wedge for the right-hand version became useless.  This presented two issues: (a) the bed angle itself was sized against the old wedge, so the new wedge must be custom fit; and (b) there had to be an easier way to get the correct bevel than just starting from a four square blank and planing down.

In addition, there was the problem of not having any 5/8 stock, but I fortunately had enough remaining quarter-sawn red oak to resaw some wedge blanks.  Plus, the waste from the resaw, at just over 1/2 thick, is probably usable for something else.

Taking my time, as there is little margin for error.

Taking my time, as there is little margin for error.

The initial recess was marked against a 1:4.5 angled wedge (as recommended in the Paul Seller’s video), but after all the trimming and refinement of the bed, I think it’s now closer to 1:4.  Also, I tried marking the actual bevel angle directly on the blank and rip down along that bevel.  This gave me matching right and left wedges (for the matching right-hand and left-hand planes) that need less work overall in refining the fit.

Perfect fit!

Perfect fit!  Now to make the fence.

I’m excited to finish up the fence and put the right-hand plane to work (after I figure out the best way to attach the scoring spur).  I might even buy a second 5/8 inch Narex chisel so I don’t need to swap back and forth once the left-hand plane is done, but we’ll see.  Here’s hoping using quarter-sawn hardwood will increase the longevity of the planes.

All in all, it’s been a good exercise, and very enjoyable learning basic plane-making.  I’m certain the left-hand version will come out even better than the right.

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