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Archive for May 2013

  • Block Plane

    Monday 27th May 2013

    Block Plane

    The Block Plane is the first of the bench planes to be tuned up. I’m going to avoid the word “restore” as I have not stayed faithful to exact paint colours or wood finishes. This Record 0120 block plane was in quite a grim state. It was filthy, the sole was hollow and heavily scored as were the sides. The wooden knob was flaking and dirty, the blade was blunt and chipped and the plane actually smelt weird too! That said nothing was so bad that it couldn’t be bought back to life.

    Block Plane Blade

    I flattened the sole and cleaned up the sides using abrasive paper with the blade retracted but under tension. I then disassembled, stripped the paint, masked the plane and applied a fresh coat of blue enamel paint similar to the original Record blue. The knob was sanded and instead of applying rosewood stain as it was originally I decided to keep the beech as nature intended it to look and treated it with a coat of boiled linseed oil. The bade was cleaned, chips ground out and then sharpened on an oil stone. It was quite a bit of work for such a basic tool, that said, I did, in the end draw some satisfaction for giving the old plane a new lease of life

    Block Planes

    As I have already stated it is far from a restoration and not original but I am nevertheless pleased with the outcome. The 0120 is on the large size for a block plane but is comfortable to use both one and two-handed depending on the task at hand. These low angle bevel up planes only became widespread once metal planes were introduced. The design of a very low angle blade with the bevel up was not really possible with old wooden planes. The bevel up low angle of the blade and the tight mouth allow easy trimming of both end and long grain with a slicing cut that nearly always avoids tear out. Block planes offer a very precise and controllable results and are ideally suited to smaller section joinery.

    Small Block Plane

    In addition to normal sharpening, taking the time to flatten the sole made a noticeable difference with very fine shavings being easy to produce . The trial cuts were made on European Oak which is similar in nature to American White Oak. Both long and end grain worked well with very fine shaving produced with minimal effort.

    Hand Planes

    The next plane to be tackled is the classic No4 smoothing plane.

  • English Workbench

    Friday 17th May 2013

    With the tool chest done and the tools finding their home within it my attention is drawn to the next project. A workbench has been the next most logical project to undertake although I have been finding it difficult to choose between the “French” and “British” style of workbench. Well today that’s changed. While working away from the workshop erecting a hardwood conservatory I discovered this lovely old British style workbench in our clients workshop.

    English Workbench

    I’ve seen many old benches like this with the wide aprons on the sides but never seen one in the flesh with a wooden leg vice. The splayed layout is consistent with the layout described in Christopher Schwarz Workbench Book . The vice grabbed my attention straight away. The face is made from 10″ (250mm) wide x 2″ (50mm) thick pine with a beech wood screw. The top edge is heavily chamfered most likely to allow easy approach of tools

    Leg Vice

    The legs are not splayed on this example. To enable the parallel guide to work there is a boxing running down the side of the stretcher, this houses the guide.

    Wood Vice

    Underneath the top we find the wood screw running through a beech block attached to the back of the apron.

    Wooden Screw Vise

    The aprons are really deep on this example, they measure 12″ (300mm). The aprons are attached to the legs with really heavy gauge slotted screws, the heads clearly exposed. In addition the aprons finish flush with the legs to make the absolute best of the potential clamping surfaces and to allow the leg vice to operate correctly. The flush leg detail is consistent with both new and old versions of this bench design.

    Workbench Storage Drawer

    The drawer sits in a position almost identical to that shown in “George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery 1902″. The drawer is well made with snug fitting half lap dovetails. It runs really smoothly too, even though its heavily loaded and running on simple cleats.

    Workbench Drawer

    It’s been wonderful to find some direction and inspiration when I was least expecting it. I will make some changes on my build the basic concept will be very much the same as this great old example of a traditional joiners bench.

  • Buy once if you can

    Saturday 11th May 2013

    Terry McKnight has been kind enough to share with us his thoughts on buying tools and more specifically chisels. Terry is a true enthusiast with a great perspective on woodworking and joinery. Please take a look at Terry’s woodworking blog for more useful info.

    My name is Terry McKnight, I have my workshop located in the North West of England where I turn large pieces of wood into dust and smaller pieces of wood. Some of those pieces of wood end up as musical instruments or furniture. I maintain a blog at tmcwoodworks.blogspot.com and regularly contribute to the WoodTalk forum

    It is always difficult to advise a beginning woodworker what tools to buy to avoid wasting money. I went through everything from cheap hand tools from the home centre or DIY store, to mid-range tooling and then finally onto high end expensive tools.

    We all have a budget and this will dictate greatly your choices. Also the other dilemma is the question “will I like woodworking?”. If you are here, reading this blog, then you probably do have more than a passing interest in woodworking and you are ready to invest in some tools.

    For this article I will concentrate on the humble wood chisel.

    Buying your first set

    Look for bevel edge bench chisels rather than the square sided firmer chisels as bevel edge are more versatile. When buying new avoid buying a cheap set of obscure chisels from the home centre/DIY store. If you do then you can guarantee that it is money badly spent and you will end up buying expensive replacements. If possible get a set of Marples in the usual sizes ¼” to 1”. They are very decent quality (still made in Sheffield, England) with a 25 degree bevel but will need some work flattening the back and honing the bevel. These will last you years and as a starter set are not too expensive to outlay should you ultimately decide woodworking is not really for you.

    Marples Chisels

    If you are in the market to bring back to life an old craftsperson’s tools then the internet, 2nd hand shops or car boot sales/yard sales are your best bet. If you are in the UK then decent British makes to look for are any of the brands Sorby, Marples, Addis, Jennings, Stanley and others. You can get a better idea of the tools condition if you inspect it first. Buying over the internet means that you have to rely upon the seller’s photos or descriptions.

    Old Chisels

    If you decide that you do indeed want to pursue woodworking and use the finest tools then you can do no better than buying one or two (maybe more) of the US made Lie Nielson range of chisels (recommended by David Charlesworth). These are expensive to buy but will last several lifetimes. The beauty of these chisels is they have flat backs, a sharp honed bevel and hornbeam handles that fit your hands really well straight out of the box. LN also offers a lifetime warranty on their tools and will replace or renew parts, often free of charge. For me that was worth the initial purchase price alone. After buying a few tools I can confirm that I am a Lie Nielson convert (Graham knows this ).

    Lie-Nielsen Socket Chisels

    In addition to the Firmer and Bevel edge type, there are many other types of chisels for a wide variety of uses.

    • Carving chisels: There are many different kinds for carving intricate designs and sculptures. Their cutting edges are legion; such as paring, skew, gouge, parting, straight and vee.
    • Corner chisel: This one resembles a punch and has an L-shaped cutting edge. Generally used to Clean out square holes, mortises and corners with 90 degree angles.
    • Dovetail chisel: Made specifically for cutting dovetail joints. The difference being the thickness of the body of the chisel,as well as the angle of the edges, permitting easier access to the joint. Some manufacturers offer a chisel in the shape of a fishtail.
    • Framing chisel: usually used with mallet; similar to a butt chisel, except it has a longer, slightly flexible blade.
    • Mortise chisel: This has a thick, rigid blade with straight cutting edge. It has and deep, slightly tapered sides to make mortises and similar joints.
    • Paring chisel: This has a long blade and/or handle which is ideal for cleaning grooves and accessing tight spaces. Lie Nielson offer longer interchangeable handles for use with their bench chisel to make them into paring chisels.
    • Skew chisel: This has a 60 degree cutting angle and is used for trimming and finishing. You can also use it to clean out dovetail joints.


    Safety is always a consideration when using chisels. Whatever chisel is selected to be used they always be sharp. A blunt chisel tends to slip off the surface of the material being cut. If the chisel slips in the direction of the person using it a serious accident can occur.

    Another rule relating to the use of chisels is that the material being cut should be held firmly in a vice or clamped to a bench top. Furthermore keep both your hands behind the cutting edge. Don’t be tempted to place one hand in front of the chisel, as one slip with the chisel will cause an accident.

    Oh and do keep them secure and stored safely away from children or the vulnerable as they can (should) be razor sharp.

    Happy woodworking

  • Bench Planes

    Saturday 4th May 2013

    With the tool chest done it’s now time to turn my attention to preparing my tools for their new home. No tool chest would be complete without the essential bench planes needed by the joiner. I would have very much liked to of invested in some premium planes from Lie-Nielsen or Clifton. Sadly for me my budget can’t stretch that far, or maybe that’s a good thing……..

    The afore-mentioned companies do indeed make some wonderful tools, full of craftsmanship and attention to detail, but are the antique or vintage planes available from auction sites or car boot sales really that bad?

    The metal bodied planes most of us are familiar with exist thanks to the design of Leonard Bailey. Little has changed from the original 1860 “Bailey” type plane and how it works.

    Many of these early planes are very desirable and fetch high prices, however if we move the clock forward we find tools that are more within the reach of the typical woodworker. My personal preference is to look for planes no newer than the very early 1960’s. Although that sounds a potentially difficult task it’s not, just browse the auction sites and car boot sales. The main reason to look for the older planes is because they were generally better made. That’s not to say more modern versions will not perform very well, it’s more the components used in the earlier type are of a better quality and therefore more desirable.

    Let’s take a look at the planes I purchased. From left to right we have a Block Plane, No4 Smoothing Plane, No5 Jack Plane, No6 Fore Plane, No7 Try/Jointer Plane. I went for the Record brand as they were equal to Stanley in terms of quality, UK made and from a personal and irrelevant point of view I like the blue paint. This collection set me back about £200.00 including delivery charges. Ok, so not cheap, but just to contrast a set of Lie-Nielsen planes would have cost £1391.00. All but the No6 will live in the tool chest.

    Bench Planes

    Next let’s consider why the older bench planes are more desirable. Firstly the frog. The frog supports and holds the blade at the appropriate angle. Premium planes have a traditional frog consistent with early planes with lots of surface area to support the blade, this is also present on the vintage bench planes I purchased. The only difference between my vintage plane frog and the premium versions is that mine are not the “Bedrock” design. The Bedrock was a Stanley design where the frog is more solidly mounted to the body of the plane. Next up is the Y lever and just the general quality of components. As you can see from the picture the vintage Y lever is a solid item whereas the newer plane has a cheaper pressed item. The lateral adjustment arm too is often less sturdy on modern offerings. That’s not to say the newer planes with alternative components wont work or they are vastly inferior (more of that soon with vintage vs budget plane), I just wanted the desirable features of the premium brands but without the heavy price tag. And that’s about it! After all they are simple tools.

    Bench Plane Frog

    Now to prepare them, each plane will require some elbow grease to get them operating at their best and that’s the rub. If you have the money to buy the premium brands you will have something that will work right out of the box with only the minimum of attention. But that’s OK by me, I’m happy to put some time in and save some cash, although maybe a Lie-Nielsen of Clifton No4 could be the best Christmas/Birthday combined present ever…..