Saturday, May 23, 2009

Planes in the Mail

Philly Planes

Just got another update from Phil Edwards regarding my hollows and rounds...they're complete and should be in my grubby little hands by the end of next week. I love it when manufacturers give updates of their work while it's being done, it makes parting with my hard earned cash that much easier! Phil has been extremely professional and a pleasure doing business with; if his planes are half as good as his customer service then I'll be a happy woodworker.
I'll let you know when they arrive.

David Charlesworth Comments

On Edge Jointing

In a previous post I was looking at some edge jointing techniques David Charlesworth uses and a few readers made some comments and posted a few questions. I thought it would make much more sense to ask David himself, instead of carrying out another online discussion or thread speculating the how's and why's of his methods with readers. He was gracious enough to drop me a note; if you didn't see the original post you can see it here. Be sure to read the comments there to better understand the topic.


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I do appreciate your interest in some of my techniques and the mention of these on your very professional looking blog...

If an edge joint is made with a slightly cambered iron, the glue line when visualised from the end should be slightly thicker at the centre of the joint than at the surfaces.

I think he (Tico) is correct. However if sufficient clamping pressure is achieved, Hoadley suggests something in the order of 200 lbs per square inch, I doubt that this effect will be a problem.
Most medium density hardwoods are somewhat compressible. The original hollow from a slightly cambered iron is of the order of a few tenths of a thousandth of an inch, over the width of a 3/4 inch board.

I would suggest that the hollow in width, could only be a problem if the camber is excessive, i.e. a Scrub plane blade, or if the work was very thick.

The correct place to post this is eluding me but please feel free to post it on the blog.

best wishes,
David Charlesworth

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hand Made Modern...Take 3

A Fall Front Desk in Walnut

O.k. so my last few blogs have been about other people's handy work, hand tools and the like and I'm happy to say that I'm back in the wood shop working again on my own projects.
These last few weeks have been busy with life outside of the wood shop so it'll be great to make some shavings again. I'm working on a new piece that follows in the realm of the 'hand made modern' line I'd been designing over the past year. The first was the walnut entertainment cabinet and the second the walnut and aluminum sideboard. This new piece is also made from solid walnut with an interesting take on some through dovetails I've been calling a finger tail split... It's basically a technique where I cut wide through dovetails as per normal procedure and then split each one again with a finger joint. It makes for a unique look but can be a little tricky to execute. The photo shows the main carcass dry fit together with the door panel glued up in the foreground. The upper main carcass is a basic box with a fitted interior secretary incorporating drawers and shelves. The door panel will have bread board face and the cabinet will have a rabbeted back dust panel. The leg frame will really be the component that transforms this piece from a simple dovetailed box and draw it into a more, Mid-Century Modern vein. (at least that's the plan on paper) Funny how things can change when you start to 'get into the grain'.
I'll be posting some more details as I go so stay tuned...
Work really does make life sweet!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rob Cosman Dovetail Saws

A New Hand Saw from the Dovetail Master Himself

Rob Cosman is a well known Canadian 'hand tool coach' offering DVD's and books on wood working for the past 10 years or more. When it comes to sawing dovetails he's absolutely incredible. I've watched pretty much all of his videos and can honestly say they've helped me a great deal along my own hand sawing journey. I would strongly recommend them to any worker at any stage. I'm very happy to hear Rob is offering a dovetail saw on his website. It seems to have some interesting features and I'll be curious to hear what people have to say about it. For starters, it has a heavy brass back that Rob says is almost twice the weight of a standard dovetail saw and is much better suited to "vibration free sawing". Second it comes with a 22ppi for the first 2" of blade and then a more standard 15 ppi. This fine tooth will make starting cuts much easier for beginners. Another plus, the saw plate at 10" is an inch longer than most dovetails saws on the market. Well, without trying one before purchasing one, (which you already know from my last blog I don't really enjoy doing all that much), I can only go by what I see and what I read. Again, I'll be hoping to hear from anyone that gets a chance to use it.
Lastly, on this point of 'Trying a tool before Buying a tool...' The description of the saws and the pictures on the website are all I have to go off of so with that I say this: These new resin saw handles are scaring the hell out of me! I know Rob said he went with the balance and durability in this "resin” composite handle, but from the picture on the website it looks like he had a few old bathroom counter tops he decided to recycle. I'm sure they feel great in hand and as Rob mentions are water-proof (for all of those times I'm cutting dovetails back home in the fresh Atlantic surf)
Maybe I'm a wood snob or am completely naive to this new technology of resin in handsaws, but for me a saw needs to have a wooden handle. Now just so everyone doesn't think I'm 'Rob bashing' or anything I'll also mention the new Veritas DT saw...they're a little bit on the creepy side too. I'm well aware that a hand tool doesn't have to look great to be great but it sure is nice when they do! Theres a truck load of hand tool manufacturers making sculpture like tools that perform as well as they look.
Robs new saws also come with a custom wooden box which I like. The idea is nice but I think it would be even nicer if the customer had the option of solely purchasing the saw without it; I'd be curious to see the price difference. Maybe I should take my own advice and see about trying one out. I'm sure he'll be at the wood show next year with some of them. I'll look forward to it.
With that, knowing Rob Cosman, and being a fan of his work for years, these things will probably eat dovetails for breakfast-but brother please...from one East Coaster to another...those handles?

Purchasing Handtools

Do you Buy before you Try ?

Over the past few weeks I've been surprised at how many new hand tool manufacturers are popping up on the Internet and all of the well known manufacturers are offering new and exciting product. This is nice but I'm sometimes either takes someone with a bucket of dough or a trusting consumer to buy tools on the Internet without first trying them out, unless it's from an extremely well known tool maker or you've at least done some homework and read some reviews from reliable voices.
I know I don't have a bucket full of dough but I can say there are a few hand tool manufacturers I feel quite confident in. I see a new product in a nice little picture, I read a few details that the manufacturer obviously wrote themselves and with that I reach for some plastic and wait for the mail truck.
Looking at some recent articles showing the rise in the hand tool market I know I'm not alone on this. So all that said what does it take to do that?
I'm just curious if there's a lot of people out there who would never think on buying a hand tool that they've never once put their hands on...I suppose in a perfect world I'd be able to get to all of the wood shows and special hand tool events, try out all of the new tools before I commit, but my reality is something quite different than that. I try to develop a relationship with manufacturers and when they offer new product I go further than just reading a short paragraph on a web-site. I'll contact them and make conversation, discuss the company history and see how the new product came to be. I've found almost every hand tool manufacturer I've contacted with questions or concerns to be absolutely forthcoming with information and assistance. If they're not I'll go somewhere else right? That is my job isn't it ? My duty as a member of society to go elsewhere when I get bad service...let people know of my bad experiences as well as the good ones of course!
The good ones thankfully out way the bad and as a woodworker in 2009 I feel fortunate to be living and working through this exciting time. Whether you realise it or not we're watching a section of history unfold in the hand tool market alone. This renaissance will be looked back upon the way we look back on our vintage Stanley's and the like. My Lie Nielsen such and such will probably be worth more when my grand kids hock it on 'What-Ever-Bay' in a hundred years....
I digress...
Wooden bodied moulding planes, panel and back saws, specialty tools and educational platforms-it's going to be an interesting few months with so many new and exciting things happening in my wood shop. I'll fill you in on the details as they unfold. Stay tuned...
Oh yeah, the picture at the top has nothing to do with the article; I just thought it was a nice shot of our first born- Sally, the Unplugged Watchdog is our nine year old Beagle. She spends just about every waking hour with me in my wood shop. Maybe I should use this photo for my tool chest for sale advertisements? What a disgusting thought.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Philly Plane Update

Hollows, Rounds and Non-Tapered Irons...

Last week I blogged about some new hollows and rounds I ordered from Phil Edwards in England. He makes beautiful wooden bodied hand planes in Broadstone, Dorset and is sending me pics as they're coming along, a nice touch when ordering custom tools.
After posting the article one reader commented that he had heard Phil didn't use 'tapered irons' in his planes and that this could be a difficulty while adjusting/removing the blade. I didn't want to speculate so I asked the plane maker is what he said:
I know that some Folks say that only tapered irons will do, but from experience I have found this to be incorrect...The secret to a wooden plane that is easy to adjust and keeps it setting is a well fitting wedge - if the wedge beds correctly then you don't need to use excessive force to lock it in place. This also means it is easy to adjust and easy to release the wedge...Traditionally, irons were made by forge welding a small piece of high carbon steel (the cutting edge) to a piece of iron. This section of iron was then hammered and teased out to make the iron longer - this gave the tapered effect. As time went by tool steel became less expensive and the whole blade was made from it, not just the first inch or two, But they still taper ground the irons. I believe they did this because plane makers were used to making planes with the tapered irons, and changing to a parallel iron meant making new jigs at slightly different angles for the layout and making of their planes...Sometimes you have try things out - just because everyone does it this way doesn't mean its correct!

It sounds to me like Phil has done his homework and considering he's made over 200 wooden planes I won't question him. I should have the planes in the next few weeks so I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bad Axe Tool Works

A Division of TechnoPrimitives, LLC

If you've visited this site before then you're already well aware of Mark Harrell, better known as-
I first heard of Mark last year and soon after sent him a nest of old saws needing to be sharpened and story like so many others was that of awe. The saws were returned in a professional manner, better than I could have imagined. Mark and I then corresponded through the winter and more importantly became friends. Mark is about as interesting a person you'll ever get to know, which you likely will when you do business with him-that's the type of person he is, someone who loves what he's doing and is doing it very, very well.
A published author, retired Army officer, recently redeployed from Afghanistan, as well as a hand tool enthusiast, with special emphasis on getting your old saws fully restored. Oh yeah, did I mention he's also available for Renewable Energy Systems and Green Home Consultation! Seriously.

Fast forward a few months and we'll be talking about Mark Harrell in another new light, Bad Axe Tool Works, the guy who manufactures incredible back saws down in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I've been biting my tongue on this information for the past few months and am happy to finally say that Bad Axe Tool Works is finally a reality.
Finely crafted back saws offered in a larger-scale saw plate than what is currently in most markets. Here are some specs for you to think about:

· Premium-grade Swedish spring steel, .025” thick, with 4” under the back for the
16” saw and 4.5” under the back for the 18” saw.

· Standard filing: 10 ppi rip for the 18” saw or 11 ppi x-cut; and 11 ppi rip for the 16” saw or 12 ppi x-cut; custom filing available at no additional charge per customer request (I requested a finer tooth count, so Mark has increased the tooth count by one for each of my custom saws)

· Cherry handles with a natural finish

· Brass fasteners with a 13/16” diameter sawnut of the deep-dish variety

· Blued steel back

Does this sound as good to you as it does to me? I'm looking forward to getting them in my hands in June and will fill you in on all of the details here...if you'd like to get more information or perhaps place an early order, (before the waiting lists start to pile up) contact Mark directly.


Road Maps in the Edge Grain

Following the 'Signs'

This morning, while edge planing a piece of Cherry I decided it would be a good time to demonstrate a trick I frequently do to determine the 'flatness' of the surface being worked. In the next photograph I've just taken a few through shavings down the reference edge. Please note that the stock is simply sitting on my bench top; it isn't 'dogged-down' or clamped in any way. This will insure I'm not pinching the work, creating a bump or hollow over it's length. I do have it resting up against a thin, scrap piece of plywood secured across the width of my work bench as well as having my bench dogs raised slightly along the front edge to keep the piece from moving about. With this method there's no danger of transforming the profile of this important, reference edge in any way while I'm working it.

This is important and should be noted.

I arrived at this point after the larger 'work' or 'reference' surface was first determined and flattened. This first face surface being the most important, it will be our 'reference' surface to which all of our other lay-out will be referenced from. Some woodworkers when using the term 'face side' are usually referring to the outside 'show surface' which can get a bit to be clear-the work surface is actually my inside 'reference face' while dimensioning and laying out.
Now the trick I mentioned is a simple visual solution that clearly determines what your surface edge really looks like. Winding sticks and straight edges are great tools and visual aids showing you how straight and square you're work really is; even a light rub with your finger tips can assist the eyes in determining this narrow, 'surface flattening'. But to be absolutely sure the reference edge is flat you'll need some hard evidence...these are the shavings lying before you.If you look closely at the photos you'll see the shavings I'm taking-these are only possible with a depth of cut in the neighborhood of one thousandth of an inch and taking a full, through shaving you'll begin to see the signs. This type of shaving can only be obtained after you've flattened and tuned the sole of your bench plane as well as working with a plane iron that is razor sharp!
Lying there before me is a kind of road map...this clearly shows where there are still dips or hollows in the surface. In the next photo you'll see how I'm getting closer to a truly flat edge. Again, the 'map' in the edge grain is unequaled in its ability to clearly demonstrate the progress. Simply take a fresh shaving and carefully unroll it. I've laid it on my steel flat edge to make it easier for you to see. With each pass these small 'holes' in the shavings get smaller. Another shaving and I'm almost there. The small 'holes' or 'tears' in the edge grain shaving mark any low or hollow spots in the surface. I can plane 'around' these valleys and bring things closer together. In the bottom photo you can see the three passes it took: from right, my first pass with two big sections that are obviously low. The middle shaving in the photo represents the next pass bringing the surfaces closer together; and finally the left shaving being my third pass is almost complete. I'll follow with one or two stopped shavings to uniformly 'hollow' the length of the edge slightly and finish off with one or two more through shavings calling this side done.

My steel straight edge, winding sticks and engineers square together will tell the story of square and straight but for these tiny surface hollows, in the thousandth of an inch range, this road-map trick is something you should try. It can be difficult to see with the naked eye any slight valleys and a finger tip touch can only get you so far...this method of watching these signs will give you the confidence to move on with the dimensioning process of the lumber being worked. I should also mention the technique of 'hollowing' the edge along it's length is a technique best demonstrated by David Charlesworth. His DVD on hand planing techniques available through Lie Nilesen Toolworks is extremely imformative and should be viewed by all using hand planes in the workshop.