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Refurbishing Hand Planes
plane, old tools, woodwork, galoot

Notes from a presentation by Ralph Truesdell at Woodcraft of Minneapolis, July 10, 2010.

Different types of planes have different ways to adjust the mouth. For Bailey and Bedrock planes you adjust the frog. Some other types have the frog permanently built into the body, and a separate mouth adjusting mechanism.

The main cause of chatter is a thin blade. You want thick blades. Hock blades are not the thickest, but the steel is so good that they work quite well. Old laminated (steel and iron) blades are good. Japanese plane blades are still made that way. When you replace the blade you do not need to replace the original cap iron.

The cap iron must mate flat to the blade. No gap. This is critical. Note how it bends slightly when the screw is tightened.

The first step is to flatten the sole. Not necessarily all of it (note Japanese planes, but the mouth, front, and back need to be coplanar. Don't worry about the front and back corners. Leave the frog and the blade assembly in while you do this (but with the blade retracted). If the plane had an adjustable mouth, clean that before flattening the sole.

The face of the frog, where the blade sits, should be flat.

You don't want super smooth finish on the handles. That is the problem with plastic handles.

Bailey planes have had both left and right adjustment screws during their history.

Norris type planes have a single adjustment mechanism, doing the work of both the adjustment screw and the lateral adjustment lever on Bailey and Bedrock types.

Make sure these mechanisms work smoothly.

You want the blade to be supported by the lateral adjuster on Bailey and Bedrock planes.

Chipbreaker position on the iron is not critical. Recent experiments have established this.

The best new planes, e.g. Lie-Nielsen and Veritas, work fine just out of the box, needing at most to hone the blade. Cheaper new planes ... think of it as buying a plane kit. You will have some work to do before it is useable. Groz is not recommended. Woodriver has some problems, e.g. literally rough edges, but they are a big step up from Groz and getting better. [This was interesting to hear because Woodcraft sells both brands.] Modern Stanley Bailey planes are suspect: Their castings are sometimes too thin. This does not apply to the new Sweetheart series.

The great O1 vs. A2 steel debate is still going on. A2 holds the edge better, but requires more effort to sharpen. A2 is a little grainier. Ron Hock suggests that you hone an A2 blade at 33o, as opposed to 30o for O1, based on grinding at 25o.

You need to polish back flat well once After that just occasionally use your finest stone. Ralph (the presenter) was not enthusiastic about David Charlesworth's "ruler trick."

The front of the plane can be straight, rounded at the corners, of cambered. There are different amounts of cambering.

Wooden planes are easier to flatten, but you have to worry about the mouth growing. You can fix that by adding a patch to tighten the mouth, or a whole new sole.

Wooden planes are lighter that metal ones. Some people like this. Some don't.

Wooden planes can be finicky to adjust, since there is no actual adjustment mechanism — you have to tap them in just the right way.

It is OK to set a plane sole down on a bench, provided it is a dedicated woodworking bench, e.g. no metal particles, sharpening grit, etc.

Shoulder planes should be absolutely flat and square.

Some of the participants had brought in their own planes, including one from Bridge City Toolworks. Quite impressive, but I do not have any inclination to get one.

The new low angle planes from Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, and now Stanley are quite versatile. Just buy multiple blades, honed at varying angles, and change them as need. You can have the equivalent of several Bailey/Bedrock planes. Such smoothing planes so equipped seem like a very cost-effective alternative to Bridge City's, even if they do not look quite as cool.

wolfsword works at Woodcraft and attended much of the presentation.


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