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Archive for January 2014

  • Back On Track - Beginner's Guide To Sharpening

    Monday 27th January 2014


    I'm pleased to say the new workspace is now finished. I hope this cleaner look will make the blog easier to follow and more interesting. It's also given me a moment to pause and rethink what I want to try and do with this blog. I have decided on working through tasks that would be familiar to an apprentice, maybe including some of the things I would have liked to of done during my apprenticeship that began in 1997. I have done two of those things so far, building a old school tool chest and workbench, both of which have been great fun. This first post will be on back to basics article and will contribute to what is already an overcrowded dance floor in respect to the topic of sharpening.

    Sharpening Station

    This will be very much aimed at a beginner, for someone who is having problems or for those unsure on what system to use rather than someone who is already happy and settled with their system. To summarise briefly, every sharpening medium that is available today be that sandpaper or ceramic stone works and works well. Mastering any sharpening process be that freehand, with a guide or with powered wheel will only be a matter of practice and what you feel comfortable with. I have chosen my prefered medium which is the oilstone and in this case the Norton India combination stone in 8" x 2" size with a "fine" and "coarse" face and yes it works just fine on A2 steel. Some of the advantages of this system are that it is good value (a Norton India is £33.00/$22.00 delivered to your door), it's does not hollow or wear quickly and it can be used in cold conditions with no risk of freezing. I will demonstrate both freehand honing and with a guide, grinding using the coarse side of the stone, how to sharpen a chisel and a plane iron. I personally freehand hone on finer stones and grind with a powered grinder, but I felt it important to show just what can be done with a very humble system and I will be using tools sharpened in this way on further articles. In addition to the stone you will need a stropping block (if you want to have one like mine I have one extra I can give away, drop a comment in the comments section and I will send you one, if more than one asks I will pick from a hat), honing oil (I find baby oil great but Norton make their own honing oil should you feel the need), a cheap side clamping honing guide, a simple base to locate the stone and some stropping compound (I have used autosol but something like chromium oxide would be just fine). You will spend in total around £50.00 and you might be surprised just how long this system lasts before you want to "upgrade"

    Sharpening station details

    In the photo above you can see close up the set up. The base is made from melamine faced 3/4" MDF. Now for some that might not sound very nice, but I would go as far as saying buying 1 x 8' x 4' x 3/4" of this stuff would be a wise investment, it's very handy for making jigs and it stays very flat. If you don't like the idea of MDF then raid the scrap bin. The board is 360mm long by 185mm wide, bigger is fine but don't go smaller. Screw a batten under the board so it will push up against the bench top. Next screw a 80mm x 35mm x Stone Thickness hardwood batten on the far side as shown in the photo, drop the stone in a push the next 80mm x 80mm x Stone Thickness batten up against the stone snugly and screw in position. The concept with these blocks is that the one closest to us will allow the honing guide to us use all of the stone and if you go freehand they will prevent you falling off the ends as you practice. Then off to the right hand side fix some reference blocks. I have used modesty blocks, I suggest buying quite a few, very useful for jig building. All honing guides doubtless vary but if you are using the clamp I linked to then fix the first block closest to us 38mm from the edge (25 deg grinding angle), the next one at 30mm (30 deg honing angle) Note in pen the angles and pop a C next to them for Chisel. Screw the next two on, one at 50mm (25 deg grinding angle) and one at 38mm (30 degree honing angle) and pop a P there for Plane. And that's it. As I said at the start the concept with this system is to build confidence and get results for a small cost. You might like it and want to stick with it, hopefully with the next blog entry, after you see it demonstrated you might want to give it a go.

    Oil Stone Box

  • Progress?

    Wednesday 15th January 2014


    The pace of things has slowed down on the blog for one main reason, I want to improve it. I have enjoyed documenting and sharing what I enjoy about woodworking and I want to continue doing that. So the space I use to photograph and document is having a bit of a sort out. A simple white background in place of the black void of my workshop in the evening, some new flooring in place of the chipboard improved lighting and a better camera. This should enable me offer better content and articles I feel happy with. There will be more videos on my youtube channel. When the revamp is finished I will be unlisting all my early videos, they will be still there within any past articles but they are a little to "raw" for my liking. Once the new space is ready there will be a new focus and different feel to the blog which I hope you will enjoy.

  • Wooden Planes

    Friday 3rd January 2014

    Jack Plane

    Outdated, hard to use and pointless. This is most definetly something wooden planes are not! I can recall as a young teenager looking up at the plane shelf and thinking to myself just how do you adjust those things! They seemed a world away from my Stanley No 3 that my Father had just purchased for me. I took them down from the shelf and I was still none the wiser and I carried on with my Bailey pattern planes. Time passed and I was busy serving my apprenticeship and progressing my woodworking career and it is only within the past year I became interested in learning more about these planes. Before I go any further this post is not a "Bailey Bashing" session, I love all planes! Bevel up, bevel down, infill, bronze, wood and I would not want to be without my beloved #4 but there are a few qualities about wooden planes I think are worth reminding ourselves about and further to that one wooden plane I think * any * woodworker should seriously consider owning, namely the wooden Jack Plane. This plane is the perfect introduction to wooden planes and if you're not sold on the idea when the plane arrives and you use it nothing much is lost.

    Jack Plane Mouth

    First of all we need to think about just what is a Jack Plane? The term Jack Plane has evolved in recent times to mean anything close to a #5 Bailey plane or the new low angle planes. Simply a true Jack Plane is is all about rough work and dealing with wood that comes to you in it's rough state. It should removed wood fast! Most of what we refer to as Jack Planes these days have more in common with Panel Planes than they do a traditional Jack Plane. So why would "any woodworker" benefit from a Jack Plane? Well even a power tool shop can benefit. Imagine you have some wonderful timber come into your workshop, it's dirty, a bit warped and a bit nasty! Fancy running it through you machines? Nope, didn't think so. Use the Jack Plane as it was intended to remove the the rough surfaces and save your power plane blades from the worst horrors of rough dirty wood. For the hand tool gang a dedicated wooden Jack Plane is an asset, already set ready for heavy stock removal, no need to spoil those nice metal planes on rough work. Check out the photo above of the typical mouth size of a Jack Plane, that is as it should be, nice and wide to allow thick shavings to escape easily.

    Thick Plane Iron

    The next attractive thing is the price, the plane shown at the top cost £1.00 with the postage added it came to a grand total of £10.00! Less than the price of a decent replacement blade for any plane. That brings us neatly to the blade issue. Wooden planes typically have a nice thick blade and cap iron, take a look at the photo above contrasting a thick wooden plane blade and a regular Bailey blade. So, are you tempted? If so the best place to find them I have found is ebay. UK ebay seems awash with them. The next step is sniffing out a good example. I like to look for something that has been well used but not abused. The advantage of this is that it is an advert for it being a go to tool, not a trouble filled nightmare that stayed on the shelf. The next thing to look at is the blade. If the seller does not have a picture of the blade ask them to provide one. You are on the lookout for pitting. The photos below of a vintage chisel show how serious bad pitting can be. The only solution is grinding the pitted metal away!

    Pitted Blade

    Next is the general look of the plane, like I mentioned above, you want it to look like a user. This indicates that the wedge is nicely fitted and will avoid time tuning. See if you can get a photo of the ends of the plane too, splits should be avoided. On a Jack, truth be told a split would not hurt too much, but there are so many at rock bottom prices that going for a real dog of plane is not really worth doing. Taking a look at the photo below you can see although this Jack Plane is well used it has not been abused, no splits or serious hammer blows.

    Jack Plane Body

    For those who have been reluctant to dip their toe in or had not thought about trying a wooden plane I hope this has given you a nudge to try them. The next post will be what to do with your new/old Jack Plane when it arrives in the post or you collect it from the car boot sale.

    Jack Plane Smoothing Plane