hand tool recommendations

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Traveling Show

About a month ago, I visited a particularly close friend for the first time in a long time. We had a two-fold agenda: (I) develop a metal prototype for a woodworking bench appliance and (II) hang a new door and create a cat door in it. We accomplished both and had a great time. More on the bench appliance later.


Everything neatly fits in the actual trunk of my car.

I mention it now because finally got to use my casket tool chest for its intended purpose: traveling with a set of woodworking tools. Although the wall rack leaves something to be desired (because of clearance above the rack), the tool chest worked wonderfully. I daresay it held a basic tool kit worth of tools: enough to make real furniture anywhere.


It’s a bit of a “pile on” approach, but it works.

I was able to fit a No. 5 1/2 jack plane, block plane, rip tenon saw, chisel roll, hand brace, auger bit roll, egg beater drill, mallets and hammers, plus 8″ and 12″ F-clamps, all in the well.  Gauges, dividers and other miscellany fit in the wall rack.  I am especially pleased with how the till worked out.  My diamond plates and other sharpening accoutrements fit beautifully, and there is even room to spare for other marking and measuring tools.


Almost like I planned it.  The plumb bob was a present for my friend.

I never did a full inventory.  I think the entire operation would have been streamlined by a till for the tenon saw, though.  But that’s a small complaint.

Just goes to show: sometimes the best-laid plans do work out.


Something More Fancy

Rehabbing a moving fillister plane I recently came into hasn’t gone so well.  About halfway through (i.e., trying to figure out how to get the iron back in alignment with the wear edges), I decided just to make another moving fillister plane.  Seeing as I never got around to the matching right hand version of the DIY rebate plane, this is long overdue.


Here is where I am so far.

I’m sticking pretty close to the traditional design, even re-purposing the iron from the original.  But there are a few changes in my version, which I’d like to talk about.


The original is made of beech, a very traditional wood for planemaking.  My version, however, is made from quartersawn hard maple.  Also, instead of starting from a single 10/4 billet, mine is laminated from two 5/4 billets.  I rarely work in anything harder than ash, so hopefully, using hard maple will allow me to skip the boxing on the wear edge.


Compare the two woods.

I also opted for the “use what’s on hand” approach for the wedge.  In this case, a piece of perfectly quartersawn 0.5″ red oak left over from the original shop-made rebate plane.  I think it came out pretty well.  Red oak has the added benefit being softer than the body of the plane, so the wedge will compress a bit for a perfect fit.


It helps to have a pattern to work from.


Even had I started from a single 10/4 quatersawn billet, I don’t own all the planemakers floats I’d need.  For example, refining the wedge mortise without a side float would have been a nightmare.  So to get around this, I cut a shallow wedge mortise in the first billet and then transferred those angles to my miter saw.  When those two trapezoidal pieces were PVA glued onto the first billet, I had a full-depth wedge mortise.

But the wedge mortise on a moving fillister plane is closed, so closing it up meant using a dutchman.  A sliding dovetail shape might have been more structural, but the square shape allows me to remove the dutchman if I ever need to modify the wedge mortise.  I used hide glue for this joint (for reversibility).  Despite the sub-optimal color match, I’m pretty pleased with the fit and the results.


Grain direction on the dutchman should match the body of the plane to avoid tearout.

The glued-in dutchman closes the wedge mortise and locks everything in place.  I was careful to remove any glue squeeze-out from the wedge mortise, but in the future, if I use this technique again, I will mask everything before gluing.  And I may add two screws to reinforce the patch.


All closed up.

Most of what remains for the main body of the plane is shaping.  I must square the front of the plane, add the thumb rabbet on the escapement side and roundover or chamfer the rest of the hard corners.  Everything will be sealed with boiled linseed oil.  Also, I am 99% certain I will use a wheel marking gauge cutter as the scoring spur, rather than add a traditional wedged nicker.  That approach has worked well on the first incarnation.

After that, I’ll make the fence and depth stop.  Actually, I haven’t decided whether to include a depth stop.  But in any event, it’s time to buy some brass bar stock.



A Loving Home

A package came in the mail on Saturday.  James over at The Daily Skep was gracious enough to gift to me the box he made for his custom box for a Veritas Large Router Plane.  I am happy to say the box now has a new home in my tool chest.


Fits very nicely.

For those who haven’t seen it before, it holds the plane itself, the fence and some additional blades, with a sliding lid.  I am particularly fond of the bits of veneer that hold the plane in place in the well.  It feels very Dutch tool chest-like in its own way.


I seem to have one more extra blade than James.

Thanks very much, James.  By the way, if you’re not a reader of The Daily Skep, you should be.



The Worst Words…

… a handtool woodworker ever hears are “hey, would you make me a cutting board?” from a friend.  In my experience, cutting boards (especially the butcher block variety) are largely a way to turn scraps into revenue.  And more often than not, they tend to be made from hard maple (a P.I.T.A. to work with hand tools).

But this particular friend is a very close friend, and I had some leftover 2×6 hard maple from my old workbench.  And so, a rather utilitarian cutting board is born.


I’m an adult and I can own a Nerf chaingun if I want.

I had thought about doing a “Basic Project” installment on this project, but there wouldn’t be much to it.  In fact, the hardest part was flattening the kiln-dried 8/4 hard maple.  Step 1: Laminate the board.  Step 2: Glue on four wooden feet.  Step 3: Break the hard edges with a plane, sandpaper or a trim router. Step 4: Apply foodsafe oil.


It occurs to me that I always take pictures from the right side.

There is plenty left over for a second cutting board, if I so desire.  Which I will not.


Something Old, Something New

The point at which you first install workholding on a workbench is a bit thrilling.  The bench transforms from furniture to functioning tool.  Even if the workholding is just an aluminum planing stop.



Final flattening of the bench only took about 30 minutes.

I have been enamored with these Lee Valley-Veritas planing stops for some time.  I tried a toothed planing stop on my previous workbench, but I never really liked it.  Unless I needed the extra 6 inches or so of benchtop, I always went back to these aluminum stops. They are low profile and easy to install (requiring only two 3/4″ dog holes).  And they can be cut to perfect length.

This time, I even remembered to space the holes so they’d line up with a row of tail vise dog holes, if I ever install a metal front vise as a tail vise.  I mean to, eventually, but I only have 12″ from the end of the benchtop to the top stretchers, so I’d need a pretty compact front vise.  Before I do, though, I’m going to try working with just holdfasts and does’ feet.  I hear it works pretty well.

My first project on the new workbench will be that plant stand I was making last year, which is very similar to a previous prototype.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: working home center spruce is such a joy.


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.


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.


The Essential Tool Kit, Redux!

Over the weekend, I was asked by my mother to clean up some poorly-mitered baseboard moulding. Not knowing what the moulding was made of (MDF, by the way), I packed up a small toolbox with enough woodworking handtools to tackle any task. I’ve been down this road before, but I took the chance to think through the essential handtool woodworking kit once again.

More than anything, I was confined by what I could fit in or on the toolbox, which is about 16″ long and has been with me since the beginning.

Seen here

Seen here, mostly empty.

Here is what I came up with:

  • Tool roll, with chisels from 1/4″ to 1″, plus 1/2″ mortise chisel, birdcage awl and 18 oz mallet
  • Tape measure, 12″ combination square, sliding bevel and marking knife
  • 14″ rip cut tenon saw and 22″ rip cut panel saw
  • No. 5 1/2 jack plane and small chisel plane
  • 600 and 1200 grit diamond plates, saw file roll and plane adjustment hammer
  • Some screwdrivers and mechanical pencils

And that’s it.

Looking back, I had room for a small router plane and a couple clamps. Maybe a dovetail saw, spokeshave and Shinto rasp if feeling fancy. A hammer and cut nails too. Plus a 200 grit diamond plate and honing guide for grinding.

And that, along with a small cordless power drill, would be enough to get started making anything, I think.  Just don’t forget the glue and blue tape.


About Damned Time

In a vulnerable and impressionable state the other day, I splurged on a new scrub plane. I’ve mostly gotten my retail therapy habit under control as of late, but in this case, the price point was too good to resist.  I weighed the benefits of merely buying an extra iron for my No. 4, but without a bench grinder in my apartment, this seemed a less attractive option.

This is my favorite part of woodworking.

This is my favorite part of woodworking.

I’ve been managing well without a true scrub plane for a while. Lately, all my traversing is done with an exaggerated camber on a No. 4.  This is perfectly fine for pines and softer hardwoods, but some upcoming hardwood projects (real hardwoods: oak, ash and maple) made it time for an upgrade. I’ll straighten the iron on my No.4 so it can return to general purpose/shooting duties.

What drove me over the edge, though – aside from over-tiredness and crushing existential dread – was taking down the width of several long boards, where the waste was not thick enough for hand-sawing away but was too much for even a heavy-set bench plane. So I splurged.

This is my first Lee Valley/Veritas plane.  I own several of their saws (as well as some winding sticks, wheel marking gauges and other miscellany) and am always impressed with their quality and pricing.  I was nonetheless blown away by how little tuning was required.  Right out of the box, the sole was dead flat.  As was the iron, which was already ground to radius (thankfully).  After a mineral spirits wipedown to remove the shipping grease and a quick coat of T-9, I assumed all the plane would need is a secondary bevel on the iron before taking shavings.

The quality of machining is a joy.

The quality of machining is such a joy.

Christopher Schwarz did a great blog post on scrub plane iron sharpening a while back that demystified the process.  I am always grateful for his wisdom.  A quick thumbnail test, though, revealed the iron was already rather sharp.  I could polish it further, but “well enough alone” is the rule of my apartment woodworking shop.  I literally just had to center the blade and tighten down the set screws before the plane was ready for use.

Overall, so far so good.  I will post a follow-up with some pictures once I’ve had a chance to take shavings.


The Largest Thicknesser of All

I absolutely adore my thickness planer.  When preparing rough stock for a new project, I often simply plane two faces of each board straight and square, and then clean up the other two faces with my thicknesser.  Even though it lives at my parents’ house, but I still get to use it fairly regularly.

The capacity, however, is limited to 13″ for face planing and 6″ for edge planing.  This isn’t normally a problem.  I rarely work with boards wider than 13″ and if I am, it’s probably because I glued up smaller board which I already surfaced individually (and jointed in reference to each other).  I can then flatten and square by hand the finished tabletop (or whatever).

But for pieces wider than 6″ that need parallel edges (e.g., the top of a footstool), the thicknesser just won’t cut it.  Instead, I need to scribe a line on the board indicating the desired thickness and hand plane down to that line (just like you would do for a smaller board, such as a table leg).  For a long time, I had been making due with my combination square for marking thickness, but I recently splurged on a Lie-Nielsen panel marking gauge.


Not sure how I ever did without one.

It takes a little bit of practice to master (especially in swirling grain woods), but the panel marking gauge is a welcome addition to my tool chest (it actually lives on my benchtop).  Planing down to a well-scribed line doesn’t take much more time or effort than sending a board through the thicknesser a couple times and it’s how they did it before thicknessers were a thing, anyway.

I’m thinking about doing a “tools I didn’t realize I couldn’t live without” segment at some point.  A panel marking gauge is certainly on my list.  What about you?