Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Live from Brewerton, NY, it's .......... me!

So, first let me say I hope all of you had a safe, healthy, and happy Christmas and offer my best wishes for the new year. I hope Santa was as good to you as he was to me! Of course, it helps to give your wife a list of Lee Valley tools with the item numbers and precise descriptions. In the tool department, I scored a Veritas Low angle smoother plane and a medium shoulder plane, a new Starrett 12 inch combo square, a Crown 8 inch gent's saw, some screwdrivers, and a couple of other things non woodworking oriented. Ahhh, fresh iron to play with........

Now, I realize it's a new year and all, but there is some old business to tend to. I really need to finalize the Used Hand Plane series. The problem is that some of the particulars of tuning a plane can be difficult to describe in writing. So, I will be broadcasting a live, online Used Hand Plane tune up Demo for the the finale. I will briefly recap what I've covered in the previous posts regarding iron bench plane design and selection of a used plane. Then we will cover all the steps to get your used plane shaving smoothly - and, if we're lucky, even wispy. So, please join me Saturday, January 17th (2009) at 12:00 noon in The Woodwhisperer chat room. To view my broadcast, choose the "muddlercam" from the pull down menu under the webcam box:

You can also view the broadcast live or the recorded demo after the broadcast at my Ustream site:

There are chat rooms at both sites, but keep in mind that it's difficult to follow two different chat rooms while trying to broadcast. If you would like to ask questions or make comments during the broadcast, I will be monitoring only the Wood Whisperer chat during that time. After the live demo, I will be posting the link to the recorded version here in the blog along with any other links I mention during the demo. If we have time, I will also cover the stock blade vs. the Hock blade comparison. If my primary goal subjects take too much time, then I will schedule another demo and post the recording link after.

I hope to see you there!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Used Hand Planes part 3.5: your arsenal continued

Bring on the weird looking specialty planes! The majority of these planes are designed to do detail work rather than board surfacing. Because of this, most of them have blades that butt up against or extend slightly past at least one edge of the plane body. this is so you can cut a specific area on the wood right up to an edge without disturbing the opposing edge. With that in mind, many of these planes can sub for each other in some situations. Keep in mind that a plane designed to go with the grain is probably going to have a standard bed angle and the ones designed to trim end grain will have a low bed angle. Most of these planes have obvious names that describe their use, as opposed to "jack" plane or "fore" plane, and so on.

Rabbet/Fillister plane: the use for this plane is to be able to cut a rabbet (or fillister) along the edge of a board. The most common version of this plane is the Stanley #78. The #78 has a blade that extends to it's edge. It has a side fence and a depth fence to allow you to set the rabbet dimensions. There is two blade beds so that you can use it in a bullnose fashion if you like. because this type of plane is designed to go with the grain, it usually has a standard bed angle.

Shoulder plane: A shoulder plane is designed to trim the shoulders of a tenon. For this reason, the bed angles are usually low because you'll be trimming end grain with this. Because shoulder planes tend to be narrow, they are often good for cleaning up dados. This can be one of the most useful planes in your shop.

Bullnose plane: these are very similar to a shoulder plane. However, the blade is bedded close to the front of the plane, allowing you to plane very close to the butt end of a dado or rabbet. Many of these planes allow you to remove the front nose altogether and turn it into a chisel plane to get right up to the butt end.

Router plane: The router plane is a funny looking contraption that is designed to make dados. It has a flat base with two knobs and a blade that extends below the base. The blade can be straight or wedge shaped. These excel at cleaning up dados that are made with a power router or dado blade. Some come with a fence to allow them to be used as a rabbet plane, although I would suspect it would be tough to get the kind of leverage you get with a Stanley #78.

Plow plane: A plow plane is similar to a rabbet plane but will allow you to make grooves parallel to the board edge. they have a set of blades in varying widths that will extend into the board to cut the groove. These also have a side fence and a top fence to set the groove's distance from the edge and the depth of the groove.

Molding planes and beading planes: these planes are similar in that they will cut various patterns into the edges of the board like a router bit will. Most molding planes are usually made of wood and have a singular profile that they cut. Stanley had a pair of molding planes called #45 and #55. these planes were like a Rabbet plane, but had dozens of blades designed to cut a number of profiles, beads, rabbets, etc. Many woodworkers with a hand plane affection often consider finding a Stanley #55 with the complete blade sets to be a holy grail.

Scraper plane: This is simply a scraper set in a bench plane type frame. The advantage of this is that the scraper angle can be adjusted easily and you have a solid, flat base to scrape with.

Scrub plane: The only one of this list that isn't for specialty trim or finish work. This plane is used to take very thick shavings from a board for quick dimensioning of rough stock. You might say "but Mike, isn't that what jack and fore planes are for?" Well, yes, but a scrub plane takes a VERY thick shaving. The blade is at least twice as thick as a standard bench plane blade - so thick, in fact, that it doesn't need a chip breaker for support. These planes are about the same size as a #3. The blade is honed with a very pronounced camber on the end. You would use this plane on large, rough stock to "hog" off a whole lot of wood in a short time.

And there you have it. I'm sure there are some other planes that I didn't cover that you all can come up with, but I think this is a pretty comprehensive list that shows you the variety of hand planes out there.

In the modern powered shop, many of these planes would be unnecessary. a good router and bit set can do most of these jobs in short order. I know, not very galoot-ish but I'm being honest. throw in a decent power planer and jointer and most of the bench planes are out too. Still, you might come across a board that's too wide for your jointer and/or planer. And not all power tool cuts are perfect. So, maybe I can make a few suggestions for your arsenal:
  • #3 or #4 Smoothing plane (to help smooth out planer marks and other odd jobs)
  • #5 Jack plane and #7 Jointer plane (to complete the board dimensioning trio when your jointer/planer is too small)
  • Low Angle Block plane (for triming board edges, etc.)
  • Shoulder plane (for trimming tenons, cleaning up rabbets and dados)
The rest, I leave up to you :)

In part 4, I will be cleaning and tuning up a used bench plane. Stay tuned.....


The Northeastern Wood Whisperer's Federation

Hey guys - just thought I'd share this with anyone who missed it on Marc's site:

"Monday the 15th marked a new chapter in Wood Whisperer history. A confluence of the paths of three Wood Whisperer disciples culminated in the first meeting of the Northeast Wood Whisperer’s Federation. This Wood Whisperer offshoot, satellite group, faction, clan, posse, rogue mob - or whatever term you wish to describe it - met Monday in Amsterdam NY to exchange ideas, exchange goods for cash, compare shops, and dine at a local establishment. Fortunately, all three charter NWWF members live close to each other. Dan, a.k.a Mystyk and Lance, a.k.a. Charger1966 both live in the Amsterdam NY area. Mike, a.k.a. muddlermike lives in a northern suburb of Syracuse NY about 2 hours away. It was a heartwarming occasion where good friends who had never met face to face…… finally did.

The picture was taken in Lance’s kitchen. Charter members from left to right: Dan, the renaissance man; Lance, the frugally ingenious; Mike, the fat guy with the little head."

* I just have to say, there's nothing like meeting an old friend for the first time. Thanks Dan and Lance for such a great day. If you're ever in Amsterdam NY, the food at the Windmill Restaurant is excellent!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Used Hand Planes part 3: your arsenal

Note: I realize this series is about buying used planes, but it was easier to post pics of new Lie Neilson planes for obvious reasons. Not that I have anything against buying a new plane, but this series was really about finding quality used planes to help get the average woodworker started in hand plane use without a big financial burden. Besides, it's the holiday season and I thought you all could use a little hand plane porn.

I didn't plan to get into this side of buying hand planes, but the subject seems to keep coming up every couple of weeks. So, since my selfish pursuits in the shop have been side lined by pressing family projects, I thought to discuss plane types and choices.

I can certainly relate to the perplexing cloud of wonderment that notoriously surrounds you when you first start looking at hand planes. There are way to many for most woodworker's liking at first. Fortunately, that variety can be broken down into particular classes of planes, and then the various versions within those classes give the user a number of choices so suit their need or preference. Now, I'm just going into basics here, but if you're thirsting for more and more knowledge on this subject then you need to go buy Garrett Hack's "The Hand Plane Book" (see my review in an earlier post).

Bench Planes

The typical plane you see everywhere and the primary subject of this series. these are used to prepare stock, plain and simple. And with stock prep in mind, I'm reviewing the model types in the order that you would use them rather than in the typical numeric order.

Let's say you have a nice piece of 8/4 cherry that is still in the rough. It's got a little cup to it. It's also 12 inches wide - too wide for your jointer. Now, you could build a jointer sled for your planer, but that would take up too much time. So, in order to joint the face of the board you are going to use your bench planes.

Jack and Fore planes:

so you rest the board with the cup side down so the outer edges are touching your bench and the board is higher in the middle. You clamp it down and look to your plane collection. What you're looking for is either your jack plane or fore plane. The jack planes (Stanley #5 for reference) are typically 14 inches in length with a 2 inch wide blade. The fore planes (Stanley model #6) are a little longer at about 18 inches long and with a 2 1/8 inch wide blade. These planes are designed to have the weight to take a thick shaving and to spot shave the high areas of the board. You want to continue to shave down the board until the top is relatively level across the width. if you're dealing with a very warped board and need to take some really big shavings, then a specialty plane called a scrub plane with a very thick blade would be used.

Jointer Planes:

Here comes the big boys. Once you got your board relatively level, you need to smooth out all the dips that the jack plane left. The jointers (Stanley #7 and #8) are 22 to 24 inches long with blades 2 1/8 to 2 3/8 inches wide. these long bed planes will skim any remaining high points and level the board. You take about a paper thin or slightly thinner shaving with these to get the board to a workable flatness. There. Your board's face is now jointed. The jointer planes also excel at leveling and jointing the edges - in case you don't have a power jointer. Now, you can either run the flat side face down through your planer to get the other side flat and parallel or simply embrace your inner galoot, turn the board over, clamp it down, and repeat the process for the other face.

Smoothing Planes:

These tend to be pretty versatile if you let them. You could set one for a coarse shaving and use it to spot flatten areas during the jointing process. I've even seen guys use them to chamfer edges like a standard angle block plane. their main use is obviously to smooth the surface from the jointer plane or power planer marks (Stanley #3, #4, #4 1/2). Their size ranges from 8 to 10 inches long with blade widths from 1 and 3/4 inches to 2 and 1/8 inches. These planes put the wispy in "wispy shaving". When set for a really light cut, they can smooth a board and remove the planer marks WAY, WAY faster than sanding - and with a glassy smooth surface when you're finished. In a power tool shop, a smoother would be one plane that could see a great deal of use if you give it a chance. These are the planes most galoots tuck in to bed at night on their own to their bed........much to the disgusted jealousy of their wives.

Now, I know Stanley used to make #1 and #2 smoothers and Lie Neilson still makes them. Keep in mind that these two are about as big as a block plane and are more about novelty then usefulness. They are rare because no serious woodworker a century ago would buy them. If you want to spend the coin on one, go for it. I'll even support your bench plane addiction by helping you to come up with a good reason to NEED one. But don't expect that they'll be able to replace some of the more common ones. that's why they're so uncommon to begin with.

Bench plane Recap:

#1 - toy

#2 - block plane that wants to be a bench plane

#3 - small smoother

#4 - average smoother

#4 1/2 - larger smoother, has a cult following

#5 1/4 - jack plane for junior high shop class

#5 - tried and true, the Jack of choice

#5 1/2 - between a jack and a fore

#6 - the quintessential fore plane

#7 - nice size jointer, most often used, I'm guessing

#8 - the beast jointer, that extra 2" in length and 1/4" in width makes some guys sweat on demand

Block Planes

This one is simple. The biggest difference between block planes and standard bench planes is the direction the bevel faces when in the plane. On standard bench planes, the bevel of the blade faces down. On a block plane, the bevel faces up. This can give you some versatility in the cutting angle with this option, and that is why bevel up bench planes have revived over the years.
You have two main types of block planes, standard bed angle and low bed angle. Standard angle blocks have a bed angle of 20 degrees. Combine that with a typical 25 degree bevel on your blade and you have 45 degrees - the standard bed angle for your bench planes. These planes do well for cuts with the grain, such as chamfering or rounding over an edge. Low angle block planes have a bed angle of 12 degrees. Combine that angle with a standard blade bevel angle of 25 degrees and you have 37 degrees. Sure, it doesn't sound like much of a difference - 8 degrees to be exact - but it makes a world of difference when cutting end grain and cross grain. End grain, especially, tends to bend and compress under the force of a cutting blade. this can result in an inconsistant cut across the fibers. When you lower the cutting angle, you achieve more of a shearing cut that does a much better job on those flexing fibers.

So, now you're saying, why not just use a low angle block plane for everything? Well, you can and many woodworkers do with success. However, in some cases the low angle blade can grab a few more fibers than you want it to when running it with the grain. It's lower blade angle can sometimes split the fibers like a wedge rather than shave smoothly. So, it's really all about the right tool for the right job. But, if you want to own only one block plane that could be the best of both worlds then here's another tidbit. By grinding a higher bevel angle on your low angle block plane blade you can achieve a standard angle or beyond. In other words, with one low angle block plane and two blades (one ground to 25 degrees and the other ground to 33 degrees) your one block plane can do double duty. Just install the 25 degree blade for your low angle jobs and the 33 degree blade for the standard angle jobs. Veritas has taken this a step further for their low angle bench plane line. They offer replacement blades ground to 25 degrees for a low angle (total angle = 37 degrees), 38 degree bevel for closer to standard angle (total angle = 50 degrees), and a 50 degree bevel for a high angle to use on figured woods (total angle = 62 degrees). Hell, if you have limited space and don't mind a larger plane, one low angle smoother with a collection of blades could do all of your smoothing and block plane tasks...but where would the fun be in only owning one plane?

You don't need a high end block to do the job, but buy wisely. Block planes are usually used near the end of a project when accurate cuts are important. The main things to look for are:
  • an adjustable throat
  • a lever cap that supports the blade down close to the bevel
  • a smooth blade adjustment system
  • a flat sole
  • a solid blade bed
You will not waste money on a nice Lie Neilson or Veritas block plane purchase. If those price tags are a little high for you, then you can look at used or lesser priced new blocks from Stanley, Anant, or Groz to name a few. I've been using a pair of newer Stanley block planes (#9 1/2 and #60 1/2) that have served me well, but I can say they've taken a bit of effort to get them tuned well. The blades hold an edge better than I hoped, but I do plan to replace them with Hock blades soon.

I hope this gets you on the right track. In the next post I will cover the more specialized planes, including shoulder planes, rabbet/fillister planes, router planes, scrub planes, scraper planes, and molding planes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday update...

So, Jeff was giving me shit today about how my blog postings have been, well, should we say, a little sparse lately. I had been thinking about a lot of stuff before I started, so a number of posts came quickly once I opened up the blog. But, October and November have been very busy for me between a number of work projects and family woodworking projects. And, no, not the "fun" kind of woodworking projects. Mostly utility crap like garden tool racks and such. But there are a few things coming, just in case you thought I gave up on woodworking and was looking to sell off some tools.

I'm planning on putting the band saw through it's paces with it's new woodslicer blade and test how well it resaws. I still plan on finishing the Used Hand plane series by putting you through the steps to clean up and tune up a used hand plane. I'll have some blade comparisons on grandpa's old Stanley Defiance #4 with the stock blade and a hock replacement on the same, cheap plane to really see if the performance is worth the price.

I've moved my shop to a different part of the basement and now have a much better organized space. Once the transformation is finished I'll be taking picks. Then there's the assembly table. And the workbench project. and a number of future tool stands/cabinets.

Then there's a number of books and tools to review - some that I hope to be getting at Christmas, of course :)

So there you have it. I've been lost in the eternal void of too much work, but should be back to my selfish endevors soon!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A new toy!!!!!

So, most of you know that I bought a new bandsaw last week (BIG thank you Jeff for putting me on to the deal). I've been eying the Grizzly GO555 ultimate 14" bandsaw for some time now but really had not planned to buy it until after Christmas. But alas, a deal is a deal and I couldn't pass it up (and I didn't even have to bring up the shoe or project analogies to the wife). For the money, it's a pretty sweet machine. Check it out:

14", 1hp, upper and lower bearing guides, blade tensioning release lever, 2 speeds, cast iron table and frame, solid fence and miter gauge. Considering the price, it came very well equiped, but I did buy the riser block kit and a Shop Fox mobile base. With the riser block the resaw capacity is 12 inches (normally 6 inches).

Once again I had a great buying experience with Grizzly. I ordered the saw on Tuesday, the riser block and mobile base on Thursday (with standard shipping), and everything came on Friday. Their customer service had contacted me via email about possibly ordering lift gate service from the trucking company. Their replies were prompt and helpful, and they even cleared up my concern over the effects of drool on the cast iron table - great sense of humor, obviously, and a class act. The saw was packed very well - sometimes too well but that's better than having the parts rattle around in the box. The wheels were aligned at the factory, and once the riser block was installed it took very little upper wheel tracking adjustment to get it up and running. The wheels were coplaner right out of the box. All in all, it took me about 3 hours to get everything put together and set up including the base, mobile base, and riser block.

I've been very impressed with Grizzly so far. I had a similar experience with my 6" jointer last spring. It arrived within a week, set up was under 2 hours including the cast iron cleaning, and the knives were aligned from the factory. All in all, great value and great service. They really seem to care about how they are perceived. I would recomend them to anyone!

below are some pics. And Jeff - you might be the whitest guy in the chat room but I'm the fattest - if it makes you feel better :)

saw, baby, saw!!!.......saw, baby, saw!!!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Favorite Tools: Lee Valley 4 inch double square

Into note: This blog was meant to be an outlet for me to share my woodworking projects and adventures with all my woodworking internet friends. If I came over to your shop some Saturday morning to shoot the shit, I'm sure we would end up talking about projects, techniques, tools, books, etc.. With that in mind, I started the book review feature back in September. Along with favorite woodworking books, I had plans to feature a favorite tool occasionally. I also plan to renovate some old tools and even attempt to make some eventually. So, I'm adding this new feature called "My Favorite Tools". My only intention is simply to share my thoughts on why I have a certain affection for a particular tool.

The idea of blogging was brought up in TWW Town Square Forum and in some cases criticized and labeled narcissistic. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion but forgive me if I feel the need to defend what I'm doing. As much as I joke about plugging my blog in the chat room and forum, it is purely a joke. This is just for me to connect with my friends - many of whom are much better woodworkers than I am. All I offer is conversation and a smattering of wisdom that has been had through mostly painful, error based learning. It is what it is. I love reading what my friends wrote more than writing down my own offerings, but I'm finding that this new medium opens up a pleasing form of expression for me as well. So be it.

My Favorite Tools:
The Lee Valley 4 inch Double Square

I know what your thinking........WHAT!!! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MILLER"S FALLS #9 SMOOTHING PLANE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST!!!! Hard to believe, I'm sure, but this little square completely turned my woodworking around. Those of you who have used a well made square will not find this a surprise, will you?

My early attempts at making furniture - or anything wood based for that matter - was plagued with bad measurements and parts not coming together true and square. Cuts would be off, markings seemed to change on a board in a blink of an eye. All the while I was trusting an old Craftsman POS combo square. I mean, it's a "square" for Christ's sake, why wouldn't it be a perfect 90 degrees? I know you know the answer, but this post is really aimed at the guy who's starting out in woodworking. The two most important things I obtained over the last three years that took my woodworking to the next level, so to speak, was a good quality square and learning the technique of relative dimensioning (thank you Marc). They kind of go hand in hand because both of them are about measuring your work for accuracy. I can't stress this enough - you can't have accurate cuts and joints without an accurate square to measure and mark them with! No matter how little money you have to spend, this is one thing you should never cut corners on. And, we're only talking about an extra $20 - $40 in most cases from a cheap Stanley combo to a Starrett.

I really like that little square for it's size and reliability. It is as handy and as quaint as it looks. Don't get me wrong, though, it's a serious tool and to me is the perfect size for average joinery measuring and tool set ups. The milling and graduations are crisp, and it feels very sturdy for it's size. Most of all, I really liked it because it did actually turn my accuracy around. There's plenty of techniques to learn and practice that will make you a better woodworker, but some things just cant be helped. If your square is not square and it's graduations are not crisp and even then your measurements will be off no matter how consistent your measuring techniques are. It really was the first tool I ever bought that truly made a difference in my woodworking accuracy. And in woodworking, accuracy is everything in my opinion. Now you see why it's at the top of my list?

I must say, however, if I was going to recommend anything to a new woodworker I would still suggest a Starrett or comparable 12 inch combo square first. A 12 inch model covers more situations than a 4 inch square so you shouldn't be without one of those. But if you're in the market for something a little smaller and pocket sized, I can recommend the Lee Valley. By the way - they now offer a 6 inch version too.

Peace out brothas,


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Report: :"The Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack

Alright, I hate to even utter these words, but, Jeff was right ;) I have been meaning to buy this book for a long time, and did so recently at Jeff's prodding. Now I wonder why I hadn't bought it a long time ago. If ever there was a complete, printed resource for hand plane design and use, this is probably it. It's actually so informative that there's barely a need to go over what's inside. I could probably just say "it has practically everything you need to know about planes" and leave it at that. Mr. Hack, you most definitely created the "Handplane Bible".

This book covers plane history, plane types and uses (including many of the specialty planes), overall plane function, how to buy a plane, how to tune your plane, and how to use your plane. He spends a good deal on blade dynamics and angles as well as many fine tuning points to get your used plane (or new plane for that matter) working like it should. Most of all, he fosters a solid understanding in plane physics and function.

If I had any complaint, it would be purely a personal one. I was hoping for more info on the history of various plane makers and comparisons between like models. Information on how a Keen Kutter or Union smoother compares to a similar Stanley or Sargent - or Miller's Falls, of course ;) - would be incredibly helpful when buying used tools on line. Unless the guy selling the plane knows anything about what a bench plane buyer is really looking for, you might not get pictures of the frog or frog receiving area on the base for example. Hmmmm....maybe it's time I write a book......

It was a little dry reading at times, but all in all a really good hand plane reference - THE hand plane reference as far as I'm concerned. If you dabble in hand planes even the least bit then I would pick up this book.

Here it is on Amazon for $16.46 with free shipping:

Take care,


A Note about "Used Hand Planes, part 2"

Hey guys,

I just wanted to mention that I forgot to address the tote and knob in part 2 of the Used Hand Plane series. I've since added the tote and knob as #4, bumping the blade and chip breaker to #5. I fixed the links in part 1 and 2 (so you can actually click on them now), and added quite a few more about repairing the tote and knob. At the end of part 2, I listed a really good, general hand plane site link called "Hand Plane 101" that you should check out if you haven't already. A lot is going on for me this month, so my hopes of posting part 3 about restoring and tuning a used hand plane in the next few days is falling through. It will most likely be a few weeks for that post, although I do have some book reports and maybe a tidbit or two in the mean time. At least I can thankfully say that my wife's mother and sister left on time after visiting this weekend.

So, if you're interested, check out the updates and repaired links in parts 1 and 2 of the Used Hand Plane series.



Woodline Parallel Clamp Review

Many of you know that I recently bit the bullet and bought a few of Woodline's new parallel clamps. Yes, yes, yes.......I went astray from Jet because I was looking for a bit of a better value. I was also annoyed with Jet for jacking their prices so much over the last year and with Amazon for selling the 24" clamps for more than the 31" models. It came across as price gouging to me because the 24" clamps were more popular, although a few guys in the WoodWhisperer Town Square Forum (ahem, LordLQQK) did have some good points and revelations about Amazon's selling practices in particular. I also was looking at the Irwins, but it seemed the Woodlines were pretty good and the price was excellent. I've since let my temper cool towards Jet and, ironically, just noticed that Amazon is selling the 24" Jet parallels for $32.61 with free shipping. Well.......shit.

Anyway, let me tell you about the Woodlines. they are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as parallel clamps go, but they do have some different features that I liked. The over all size is comparable to most parallel clamps. The bar is heavy - arguably as heavy as the Jets. They have built in clamp pads recessed into the jaws and I'm curious as to how long it will last. They look like they might get chewed up a bit over time. The handle fits the hand really nice and has a solid rubberized grip. The handle will also cock to 90 degrees to give you some real torque if you need to pull a joint together or split a joint apart. Now, I would hope that your joints were cut well enough that you wouldn't need that kind of force, but I could see using it for disassembly and in bent wood lamination forms (not that I've done any, but I'm guessing you might need it to pull the laminations into a form). Also, if you're hands are the least bit arthritic, you're gonna love these. The clutch is a double plate type that you find on many F-style clamps. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it works better than the original Bessies and Jorgies in moving the clamp head along the bar. When I've played with the Jorgies, I usually have quite a bit of trouble getting them to close because of this. That was one thing that got me interested in the Jets (see Marc's "the Big Squeeze" episode) and was something that I was looking for when shopping for these new parallels. The clutch mechanism is still not as efficient as the Jet trigger design, but it does work. They have a plastic foot at the end of the bar to help keep it stable when sitting upright. The foot is not movable, and is kind of flimsy. When it comes to length, they offer their parallels in what I call +3" sizes. In other words, the typical 12 inch size is 15 inches. The 24 inch size is 27 inches, and so on. So, you have some play in the sizes to give you a little breathing room when gluing up. The clamp head is not the same as the Jets. The plastic looks a little lighter or cheaper, but they still feel pretty durable. As with many other parallels, they are still dwarfed by the Jets in overall size. Finally, they are red, so they fit in along side of Bessies and Jets in your collection if you're concerned about having all your clamps match.

So, the Pros:
  • Overall, a nicely built clamp with heavy components.
  • nice handle design in size, shape, and texture with a functional 90 degree option for more torque and weaker hands
  • double plate clutch is heavy, holds strong, and aids in moving clamp head along bar
  • slightly more length in each size to help in glue ups
  • they are red, for all those OCD woodworkers that need their clamps to match
  • the price: $28 for a 27 inch clamp. Shipping was $6 total for eight 27 inch clamps. I ordered them in the morning and they were shipped that afternoon. I had them in three days.
The Cons:
  • smaller jaws than the Jets
  • Plastic appears cheaper than Jets
  • built in clamp pads might get chewed up over time
  • flimsy, non-movable rear stabilizing foot is a poor design compared to the solid, movable Jet version
So, they are not Jets, but they are serviceable clamps. I'm posting some photos below to give you some side by side comparisons of the Jets with the Woodlines. For someone on a budget, I would take a serious look at them.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Used Hand Planes part 2: what you're looking for

In this part, I'm going to cover what's good and bad in bench planes. Some things can be fixed, and some things should be avoided. Some parts are easily (and often should be) replaced, and some parts are really important to get right when buying your used plane. First, I'm posting a nice diagram (on the left) showing the parts of a bench plane so you understand what I'm talking about. It was an illustration from an Ian Kirby article in Fine Woodworking.

#1: the Frog

I'm putting the frog as numero uno here because I think it is the most important thing that makes a bench plane work well AND is the most difficult to replace. Every used plane I've looked at has included the frog and the main casting. it might be missing any one or more of the other parts, but always the frog and main casting. The pairing of the two is something specific to the plane itself, and most often the only way to interchange parts is to find another used plane of the same make and model (and year as well). Many changes that a company like Stanley would make over the years included how the frog attached to the bottom casting. Looking back through the type history of Stanleys in particular, some of the main differences were in the receiving area for the frog in the base. Of most importance is that the frog seats solidly to the base and has lots of support. If there is too much play between the frog base and the casting, this will contribute to plane chatter and poor performance. There are steps you can take to help flatten this junction, but a weak connection between the frog and base is hard to fix. So, make sure that the frog fits properly to the base casting.
The second thing to look for is the surface area on the face of the frog. The more solid surface for the blade to rest on, the less flex in your blade and the better your plane will perform. Check the next pic. Notice how the frogs on the right and in the middle has some casted detentes across their faces? that made it easier for the manufacturer to mill the faces flat, but it sacrifices surface area. Combine that with a thin blade and poor frog to base connection and your plane will likely chatter across the wood like a jack hammer.
And lastly, pay attention to what the frog is made of. My stepfather picked up a #5 for me one time that had a stamped steel frog. It was flimsy and offered no support to the blade, nor was it "tunable" to any degree. run awayyyyy........

#2: the Base Casting

This one is number two, because if the casting is bad then there is little you can do with the plane. When shopping for a used plane, take along a reliable straight edge and check the sole with it front to back, side to side, and diagonal from each corner. Any twisted or severely warped castings, just walk away from. You might need to flatten your sole a bit in the tuning process, but if you have 1/16 - 3/32 inch of dish across the sole bottom then you can find one in better shape. Now, as long as the heel, toe, and areas immediately forward and behind the mouth are level with each other, then your plane is serviceable. Just remember that the used plane market is saturated with tons of offerings and you shouldn't have to settle for a bad tool.
Also, look for cracks in the casting. These can be hard to find because the opposing sides often fit back together like a puzzle piece. They can be barely noticeable unless you slightly twist the casting. Places to look for are at the mouth and along the broadest side areas (cheeks) in particular. They can be repaired, but great care must be taken. I have read and talked to guys that have braised them to stabilize the crack with good results. Having no experience in welding, I didn't want to attempt it. I have read that the only way to properly fix a crack in cast iron is arc welding. check the third and fourth pic above. That is a type 9 Stanley #7 with just such a crack. I entrusted it to a friend of a friend that does artistic metal work, and he arc welded it for me. The casting is solid, but pretty ugly. With that kind of fix, it is doubtful the side would ever be square enough to use in a shooting board. Still, it is solid with a flat sole and should hold up to my occasional use over the years.

#3: Lever Cap and assorted parts

The lever cap is important, but is usually very interchangeable with other planes. Sometimes you run into a longer than usual lever cap or one that is hinged (see pic 5), but many of the lever caps from the same company and even different companies can be used as replacements. the other parts like the depth adjuster knob, the tote and knob mounting hardware, the lever cap screw can all be replaced if need be. Granted, it's much easier when your plane has everything to begin with, but if you MUST have a particular plane that is missing parts, then replacements can be had pretty easily. I will post some sites to get replacement parts at the end.

#4: the Tote and Knob

The tote (or handle) and front knob are easy to replace. In fact, I would think if someone actually did a statistic on what is the most common part of a used bench plane that is broken it would be the tote. One advantage to having the original tote and knob is - for Stanley Planes in particular - it helps type date the plane. But, replacements are easy to find and sometimes more desirable. In fact, if you don't have a serious collector's plane you might WANT to make new ones from cocobolo, walnut, bubinga, curly maple, or other nice woods to personalize the plane. I plan to do this in the future for some of my planes, and naturally plan to post a blog entry about it.

some links about tote and knob repair:

#5: the blade and chip breaker

Yup - I listed them last, and for good reason. After market blades and chip breakers are readily available from Hock, as well as Lee Valley and Lie Neilson to name a few (I'll leave links to their sites at the end of this post). In fact, unless your cutting iron (or blade) and cap iron (or chip breaker) are in very good shape and nice and thick, I would suggest replacing them eventually (or immediately if the old ones are in poor shape). The performance difference is significant with such after market blade sets, by virtue of their thickness alone. Some manufacturers of economy planes used lesser quality blade steel for their blades, and as a result have a difficult time holding an edge well. A new Hock blade will sharpen up and hold an edge much better than many original blades sets, and the extra thick blade will help compensate for a weak frog as well.

Obviously, if the plane is broken in some way or is missing parts, it's best to just look for another one. If you really have to have a particular one or someone buys one for you that is missing parts, than many parts are very replaceable. Some things - like a missing lateral adjustment lever - can be compensated for (I do this for my #7 - just use a lightweight tool to tap it into position). But, I hope I stressed the more important things to look for. Inspect the frog well, and the casting too. Finding a quality plane at a good price is not hard, once you know what you're looking for. Hopefully I got you on the right track, but I welcome any questions or input from you guys. I'm sure you all have stories to tell about your hand plane purchases and what you've learned along the way.

Here are some links to new and used bench plane parts:

Next up, I'm going to renovate one of my new planes and go over the whole process for you. Let's hope that one won't take as long as these other two :) If you can't wait, and want much more on hand planes, check this site out:

This is one of the best hand plane sites I've ever found for restoring, tuning, and dating a used plane.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Used Hand Planes part 1: The Stanley "Rule"

So, ebay hand plane purchases have been all the rage over the last couple of weeks in the Woodwhisperer chat room! Even I got on the bandwagon and bought 3 more smoothers. At around $23 a piece with shipping, how could I resist? When it comes to planes, I'm talking about bench planes. Block planes are pretty user friendly in both use and function, but bench plane use seems to come about as a turning point in your woodworking. There's something about buying, tuning, and using your first bench plane that is both excitingly new and nostalgic, simultaneously. Now, I'm not sure how I became a hand plane data base overnight and granted I'm not always right (thinking about a certain Sargent jointer, right Vic?), but I have acquired a bit of knowledge that I thought would be helpful to all of you who are just starting out with bench planes in particular. This is the first in a three post series about choosing, buying, and tuning a used bench plane.

When it comes to iron bench planes, the standard is Stanley. This is ironic, because Stanley has ended up near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the new hand plane makers of today. However, rewind 60 to 100 years, and now we are in the Stanley era. Many of you probably already know that Leonard Bailey developed the iron bench plane design that has become the industry standard back in 186 0's. After a decade or so as the story goes, Stanley Rule and Level Co. hired Bailey and acquire d the patents to his bench plane design. Bailey left not too long after but continued to produce bench planes under the names Bailey, Victor, and Defiant (here's a link to the detailed story: http :// ). Unfortunately, Stanley Rule and Level Co. eventually ran him out of business. They were the king of bench planes and a load of companies tried to keep up. Sargent, Miller's Falls, Union, Ohio, Keen Kutter, and others produced very good quality planes using the Bailey design. Then came World War Two. Many manufacturing plants had to do double duty, producing tools and parts fo r the war effort as well as try to continue to make the products they had been making all along. You will find a bit of confusion trying to date a Stanley plane from this era, mainly because there was a lot of mixing and matching parts from different years just to put bench planes on the shelves. After the war, Stanley looked to the future, and saw more mass production as the answer. The problem with this mentality was that the quality of their planes started to suffer. You can see it in the first picture of pre and post WW2 Stanley Bailey plane frogs. The pre WW2 frog is almost solid across its face, yet the post war Bailey has cast detentes in it. This allowed for quicker milling of the frog to speed production, but gives the cutter less over all support. In the second pic, you can see how less attention is payed to making the base of the frog solid. A slippery slope...

(bailey type 9; post WW2 bailey; 1950s Defiance)

bailey type 9, post WW2 bailey, 50's defiance)

(Stanley Bailey, Sargent VBM, Miller's Falls)
So here's where the tides changed. Looking at the post WW2 examples to the left, you can see that the Miller's Falls and Sargent frogs have a pre-war Bailey design compared to the Stanley of the same era. Much better design, obviously, and consistent with today's high quality bench planes from makers like Lie-Neilson.

(Miller's Falls #900; Stanley Defiance)

And here's yet another example where Stanley cut corners. The frog on the right is from a Stanley Defiance model - one of their post-war economy models. The frog face surface area is even less than the post-war Bailey. The plane on the left is a post-war Miller's Falls #900 - their economy model offering into the 1950's. Notice any glaring difference? Which one would you think will chatter the most?

(Miller's Falls #900; Miller's Falls #9C)

Here's two Miller's Falls planes side by side - their premium #9 and their economy #900. Now you get why I'm a fanatical Miller's Falls fan, right? You can clearly see that their frogs are almost identical. in fact, the only differences I can find are purely cosmetic. I happen to now own two of each...after a good week of ebay auctions, that is. I think this illustrates the point that while Stanley was cutting corners in vital areas of their design, other companies cut costs with cosmetics while maintaining quality.

So, don't be afraid to look at something other than a Stanley. You might just find something better, ultimately. My next post will cover bench plane parts, design features, usual damage areas, and potential pit falls to avoid when buying a used bench plane.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book report: "Hand Tool essentials" by Popular Woodworking

Ok , I know I'm on a roll. I promise to try to keep this post a little shorter then the last one :)

So, I'd like to do a book report periodically. My learning has been MOSTLY from books, DVDs, magazines, web sites, and - without question - podcasts. I've listed some of my favorite woodworking web sites, blogs, and podcasts in the sidebar for you to explore, but I understand books are a different, literally and figuratively. So, if I come accross a book that I think is easy and enjoyable to read as well as extremely informative, I don't hesitate to reccomend it.

Disclaimer: I understand that everyone learns differently, is at different levels in their woodworking, and might not find what I find as entertaining. That doesn't mean that I will refund your costs for a book that you didn't find as helpful as I did. Just thought I should make that clear. ;)

"Hand Tool essentials: refine your power tool projects with hand tool techniques" by Popular Woodworking
So I was drawn to this book mainly because of the title...ok, and because "The Schwarz" wrote a third of the book alongside such greats as Lonnie Bird, David Charlesworth, Frank Klausz, and well, the list goes on. In fact, there were fourteen writers and editors from Popular Woodworking Magazine that contributed chapters to this book. It's the phlilosophy of the book that I love the most. The book starts with chapters about how hand tools fit in a power tool shop, how to shop for used tools, and considerations about how to set up your workbench area to use hand tools. Then on to the sharpening. And more sharpening. Nine chapters on sharpening covering everything from waterstones to sand paper and plane irons to drawknives. The theory being that the biggest obstacle to hand tool proficiency is not learning to sharpen them properly. I was inclined to agree. I think back to using dull tools and all the frustration that goes with them (no wonder why it's so easy to embrace power tools and their replaceable bits and blades).
Then comes ten chapters on hand planes, starting with Chris Schwarz's run down of "Coarse, Medium, & Fine" - his well known take on how to approach milling boards with hand planes and/or power tools. The hand plane-fest continues with plane type explinations, restoring used planes, wooden planes, metal planes, infill planes, smoothing planes, block planes, shoulder planes, and how to edge joint by hand. Part 4 takes you to saws - west vs. east, techniques to sawing properly, a chapter on hand cut dovetails, and one on bench hooks. Part 5 is five chapters on chisel use, restoration, and modification. Part 6 includes chapters on awls, striking and marking knives, try squares, rasps, spokeshaves, and drawboarding. Finally - and if that isn't enough - you get chapters on making a Roubo-Style workbench, a wall hung tool cabinet, traditional sawbenches, and a chapter on a shooting board. Phew.....
I have re-read it three times and still use it as a reference. The illustrations and pictures were excellent. At the end of many chapters were references for supply costs and where to find the supplies needed for the tools and techniques mentioned in that chapter. Although some of the info was a bit basic for me, I thought it was necessary for the content. If you have years of fine woodworking experience then you might not find it as informative as I did. But if you're new to woodworking or have limited hand tool knowlege then I think you might find this book very helpful. Check out the book listing below on Amazon - they have a nice preview of the table of contents and some of the introduction.
I hate to say that Popular Woodworking offers this book on their site for $25, but Amazon offeres it for $16.50 with free shipping. Sorry Pop WWing, but a deal is a deal ;)
If yougot any specific questions about content details, feel free to post them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hand tools: and the fear they strike in the heart of the modern day woodworker...

While in the Woodwhisperer chat room today the topic got on to hand planes. Clint and Meister had just bought a few each on ebay, and Jeff was salivating over the new Veritas Skew Rabbet Planes. I, of course, was egging them all on (especially Jeff - he needs to redirect his frustration with Lie-Neilson's impending price increases anyway). We talked about hand plane choices, what you need compared to what you want, and rehabilitating the used ones. As the topic rolled along I got into a side chat with Dave about hand tool skills, our lack of confidence in their use, and good web sites to learn from. Naturally, all that talk about hand tools got me a-ponderin'. Why all the apprehension? I mean, really - why do we get so anxious and fanatical about using hand tools? Hell, I know so many fellow woodworkers that feel more comfortable mortising a hinge with a roto-zip then with a chisel. How come we feel so unworthy - as if using a non-powered tool is somehow harder and requires more skill then a powered one?

The more I thought about it, the more hungry I got so I ordered some lunch. Thank God for delivery. And it was a really good burger, too.

After lunch my thoughts turned once more to the hand tool thing, but this time I had an epiphany. I started thinking about my childhood, and the woodworking I did with my grandfather. And the woodworking I did in shop class. And all the lame projects that followed. And I realized that it came down to a matter of trusting myself. Now, I don't know how many of you started woodworking at an early age, but I can truly say that I sucked as a woodworker when I was young. It started with grandpa, but it wasn't his fault. Since I was 5 years old, who could blame him for his hesitation in letting me use the table saw? Still, my shop teachers probably could've spent some time helping us kids build up our confidence with hand tools. The only project that I can remember early on was a candle stick holder made with wood and wraught iron. I think we spent more time bending the iron then we did cutting wood.

Then came 9th grade. Mom and I moved down to Dallas from Syracuse and I was a lost, little yankee among all those good 'ole boys. Thankfully, I managed to find a couple of Texans who didn't want to run me out of town - one of which was my shop teacher. Finally, real projects on big power tools! I made a table top writing desk and got to turn some cool things on the lathe for extra credit. I even won the "Most Improved in Shop" award for the 1982-83 school year (you can look it up). But the desk and the lathe projects and the award weren't the biggest thing I took away from that school year. It was the realization that only the best projects are made with big, expensive power tools. This notion was unfortunately confirmed by such shows as The New Yankee Workshop. I would watch in awe as Norm managed to pull out special power tool after special power tool. I came to the obvious conclusion that those beautiful projects were way out of my reach to build. How could they be? I didn't have the space or money to build such a shop nor the time or freedom to study under such a master. So, I abandoned the dream of making guitars and grandfather clocks, and resigned myself to a life of DiY projects.

Now, I'm not blaming my shop teachers, Norm, or certainly not my grandfather for my lack of confidence with hand tools over the years. But I think I can see how it happened. My examples of how to make nice things were from guys that learned on hand tools when they were young and graduated up to power tools in their life times. Marc (the Wood Whisperer)once mentioned that he thought most of our generation learned it backwards, and I couldn't agree more. Our fathers and grandfathers and shop teachers were just going with the most efficient tools of the trade, but they had a firm rooting in the basics already. By the time we came along, all we saw were power tools being the tools of choice. they were the most accurate and efficient, right? But I must've screwed up plenty of circular saw cuts in my day. And I didn't pick up a router and rout a perfect dado right off the bat. And I don't think I've ever cut a straight line with a jig saw. And I don't think I've drilled more than a couple dozen holes perfectly straight in my lifetime. Yet, why should I be so nervious to pick up a chisel and cut a mortise by hand? Why can't I cut that tenon with a hand saw? I know why. Because some where in the back of my mind is a gnawing thought that my hands can't do the job as well as a power tool can. That's what I learned, after all these years. That principle has imprinted so deep for many of us, that the measure of quality is directly associated with the amount of hand tool use employed in a given project. To a great extent it's true. But where we handicap ourselves as woodworkers is in thinking that such skills are barely obtainable, when they take just as much practice (or as little, for that matter) as you spent learning to use that router.

There was a great post in the Wood Whisperer Town Square Forum the other day about being a "galoot" - a.k.a. hand tool lover. I added a post about a very recent encounter I had over remortising a door catch that wouldn't latch properly for my father. I had a number of power tools at my disposal (including two Dremmels and a Roto-zip with all the fixings). But when it came time to do the job, I grabbed the chisel, sharpened it right there with some sand paper, and refit the catch in a minute or two with just that chisel. A warmth of satisfaction came over me. It felt comfortable. I felt comfortable with that chisel. Confident. It wasn't just a feeling of trust in the tool... I finally trusted myself.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

the pilot episode...of sorts

So, here goes. I've always been outspoken, and those who know me would not be surprised that I would finally start a blog. Now, it may be a bit narcissistic of me starting a wood working blog when I really don't have a vast amount of training in fine wood working - my experience has been primarily utilitarian projects through the years. Still, I have a deep love of wood working and am finally at a point in my life where financial and spacial resources have converged, opening the door for me to explore a hobby that I've been interested in since pre-school. Ironically, at the same time there has been a monumental surge in wood working blogs, sites, podcasts, books, and DVDs that has brought years of experience to the inexperienced who thirst for the knowledge that was previously unobtainable to most. We, the lost galoots. We look to conjure, create, and form the sculptures we always knew we could produce. Oh, and make a few things for our families, too.

My intention for this blog is simply a channel to share my journey with all of you. I have a few shop phases to develop, a few hand planes and saws to tune up, and a few projects to toil over. So, let the blogging begin.....