woodworking 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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Made with Love

It’s good to have goals.  Not just deadlines, but true motivation for doing something right and well.  In my woodworking life, my greatest motivation tends to come from projects that will become gifts.  In this case, the Japanese tool box for my buddy, Brady.

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I think I’ll leave it unfinished, so it ages naturally.

I am glad to have embarked on this project.  The joinery (rabbets and nails, with a little bit of glue) was a lovely break from my usual dovetail routine.  It would be a good project for someone just starting out in woodworking.  And by careful wood selection, I barely dented my pile of reclaimed mahogany (the entire box used only two 36″ boards, plus some scraps I had lying around).

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The lid is friction fit (both in the case and under the end battens), so no need for locks or wedges.

It had been a while since I “dovetailed” nails.  I don’t know if I hit exactly 7º, but it was close enough.  The bottom should stay put for a very long time under ordinary use.

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There are always a few french marks that don’t steam out.  Glad these are where only the bugs will see them.

There is nothing I would do differently on this project, which is refreshing.  Except, maybe, making the box a little bit shallower.  With 7.75″ of clearance inside (when the lid is in place), this is probably more of a picnic basket than a proper tool box.  I thought about adding a removable till, but that seemed like overkill.  These things are meant to be stuffed.

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Nice and open are always preferable, in my view.

My favorite design detail on this is the recessed ends, which allowed me to add wooden handles (from softer Eastern White Pine, for comfort). Because what’s a portable storage container for if it hurts to hold?

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A little contrast is good.

Conceivably, these recesses could also permit someone to clamp this to a table.  If I made a stouter lid (perhaps replacing the battens with a rabbet around a much thicker slab lid), this might even be sturdy enough to be a little workbench in a pinch.

But I think something dovetailed would be better suited for that.  Oh well.  Back to the bench, I guess.

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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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Shattered Dreams

I should know better than to get my hopes up.   Reading Ingenious Mechanicks psyched me up to make a minimalist workbench.  Something with a slab top, through tenoned front legs and splayed back legs.  Then I found this lovely chunk of pattern grade 16/4 Honduran Mahogany at my local Downes and Reader lumberyard.

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Pattern grade, indeed.

The slab I found was overall 124″ long, at least 14.5″ wide at every point and a full 4.5″ thick.  It had almost no cupping or bowing along its length, and no through checking.  The ends were even nearly square.  It seemed like the perfect piece of wood for the task, as I could get both the slab top and the legs from the same piece.

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Every bit of this board is usable.

But then I unloaded it from the trailer.  And could lift it by myself.  It turns out that there is more to wood than just its Janka hardness.  Honduran Mahogany exceeds Douglas Fir in hardness (which I confirmed while at the lumber yard), but apparently isn’t that great in the density department.  The bench would have been far too light for any serious planing activities.

At least I got a full refund.  Which I will put toward a Brooklyn Re-Co red oak roubo kit (sans stretchers, though).

My near mistake has made me more cautious.  Before I invest in a slab of soggy, urban red oak, I will laminate a 20″ wide top (as close to 96″ long as I can) from my glut of home center Douglas Fir 4×4’s and figure out the correct angle for the back legs.

And after that is built, I will probably sell my current workbench.

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Basic Projects: Wooden Straight Edge

It’s been a very long time since I did a Basic Project.  But on this snowy day in February, I think it’s a good time to pick them up again.  This time, it’s a wooden straight edge that is a long overdue project for me.  I admit I only got inspired to make this because I saw it on the blog of the By Hand and Eye guys.

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Hanging holes for convenient drying.

This one is pretty straightforward (teehee).  It’s a single piece of wood, approximately 33″ long, 3″ wide and 5/8″ thick.  I used a piece of mahogany with particularly straight grain, but any piece of reasonably stable, straight-grained wood of approximately the same size will do.

There is also a very short tool list:

  • Hand plane, the longer the better
  • Combination square, any size
  • Rip cut saw, preferably panel
  • Pencil and a ruler

Start by planing one side of the board straight and out of twist.  This reference face is very important to the overall project.  Clearly mark it with a face mark and a direction arrow, so you can keep track of it in the future.  Then bring the opposite face reasonably into parallel with that reference face.  Exact precision is not essential on the opposite face, however.

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Flattening a board with a try plane is easy mode.

Then bring one edge into square with the reference face, as straight as you can (but we’ll fix it to be perfectly straight later).  It’s not essential for the ends to be squared.  Just measure up 1″ from the straight edge and then cut an angle on each end.  I used 15°.  You could leave it at that, but remember that wood exchanges moisture with the air through its end grain.  That means the more end grain that’s exposed, the more stable the straightedge will be.  So let’s now taper the whole straightedge along its length.

Measure 2″ up from the reference edge on each end and mark it with a pencil.  Find the center point along the length, measure a few inches out from either side, and draw a line between each of those points and the marks on the end.  Saw down each line and clean up the tapers up with a plane.  It is not essential for these tapers to be perfectly square, but do your best.

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This cut exposes additional end grain.

And that’s it for the main shaping.  Break the arrises all around and bore a couple of hanging holes, about 2″ in from each end and 1″ up from the reference edge.  These hanging holes are more my preference than anything.  They make the straightedge easier to grab.  An alternative would be to use a gouge to cut a couple of fingertip grooves.

So all that’s left to do true the bottom edge.  If you’ve got a known straight edge (like a metal straight edge), just use that.  But if you don’t have a straight edge, you can use a trick that I saw on Lee Valley (which is apparently a Christopher Schwarz article).  Lay the square down and trace the edge, then flip it over and see how well you did.  Any undulations will be apparent.  Plane them down and do your best to keep it square to the reference face.

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Without the hanging holes.

That’s it.  Slap on a coat of boiled linseed oil and you’re ready to go.  A 36″-ish square is pretty easy if you have a No. 5 or No. 7.  But if you only have a block plane or a No. 4, perhaps start with an 18″ square.

In any event, check it now and again to see if it’s gone out of square.

 

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A Tour of the New Tool Chest

My English floor chest is, for all practical purposes, complete.  I must still attach the lifts, paint the lid and add some ring pulls to the sliding trays, but it is now at max tool holding capacity.  I’ve organized the trays and am calling this one good enough.

The bottom tray is sharpening and boring tools, plus a tool roll of gouges and specialty chisels.  In the middle are my every day hammers and tools that do not see every day use (e.g., rasps and planemaker’s floats), as well as my largest chisels.  Up top are every day marking tools, plus a block plane and extra bench dogs.

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I never thought I’d see the day.

Down below, the well is separated into three main areas.  At the front of the chest, a saw till at the front that holds both back saws and hand saws, and a tool rack that holds chisels and other important pointy tools that lend themselves to 1/2″ holes bored on 1 1/2″ center.

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I now have room for the router plane container that Jim gave me.  

In the center, general storage for my bench planes (Nos. 3, 4, 5 1/2 and 7), plus my spokeshave and scrub, chisel, small router and shoulder planes, as well as a panel gauge.  The No. 3 is very much a specialty plane in my tool chest, used solely for delicate smoothing tasks.

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I still think the saw till eats up too room and should be broken up into two different tills.

In the back, a typical moulding plane till for my modest set of hollows and rounds (2-8), two tongue and groove plans, my shop-made fillister plane and some other bits and bobs.  I plan to expand my moulding plane collection through a combination of rehabbing existing planes and making new hollows and rounds (hence the new set of planemaker’s floats).

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I’m probably going to move the calipers up to the trays.

In addition to new moulding planes, one thing my tool chest is definitely missing is a drawknife.  I have vintage versions of both a small and a large drawknife, but I don’t dream of using them until I get a way to sharpen them safely.  In my case, a Benchcrafted Drawsharp.

In the meantime, though, a spokeshave will have to do for rounding parts.

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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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Start to Finish

There is nothing like a good deadline to get the creative juices flowing.  The adrenaline rush of getting it done, right at the wire, is divine.  And deadlines have a way of helping me see through the fluff and get to the heart of things.  In this case, I had to advance my floor chest enough to move everything out of my Dutch tool chest (so that I could gift it to a friend who was coming into town).

Tool chests are all about keeping dust off the tools, so it starts with a lid:

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3/4″ birch plywood, because I had some on hand.

And then a seal around the lid to lock out the dust:

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The nails at the corners are to reinforce the actual dovetail joints

Next stop is reinforcing the lid with another 1/2″ of plywood:

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Easiest raised panel, ever.

And finally, adding a second sliding tray so pretty much eveything fits comfortably in the chest.

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Still cluttered, but less so.

Even without the third sliding tray, this chest is in good working order.  A few tools (like my rasps) are still in a safe place outside the chest, because I don’t want them grinding against each other while it’s still more piling than organization.

I’ll build the last tray, paint the lid and attach the lifts this week.  Then I will have no excuses not to begin working on the upstairs bathroom vanity.

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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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Small Improvements

What would be an appropriate inaugural project for the finished moving fillister plane?  How about a hardwood saw till for my dutch tool chest?

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I love the Veritas A2 replacement blade on my vintage Bedrock No. 7.

The prototype, which has performed very well these past months, is pine.  The new version is mahogany, a harder wood that I appreciate more and more and I learn to work it.  There will be a new home for the prototype.  And no, not the burn pile.

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The spacing is perfect so it will, if nothing else, persist as a pattern.

It occurs to me that without a tail vise, I probably need a sticking board for these types of tasks.  I did devise a way to hold down the work to cut the rabbets, involving a scrap of wood, some sandpaper backed plywood and a holdfast.  So, basically, a sticking board.

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That’s a Crucible Tool holdfast, btw.

Doing this project showed me that fine, cross-grain shavings may bind in the throat of the plane.  I’ve looked at other examples, though, and the throat size doesn’t seem to be drastically out of the norm.

It’s just something I’ll learn to live with, I guess.

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