Re-Tote Your Bench Plane (Part 3)

Here is a wooden jack plane, it has minimal checking and no major cracks. With a bit of time and a new tote this could be a very nice user. Original cost of plane was $6.50 add a few more dollars for the quarter sawn beech for the tote and a bit for finish and wax. Out of pocket well under the $10 mark.

Wooden jack plane missing tote.

I made a template from another open tote jack plane I had laying around. Transferred it to a piece of quarter sawn beech. Then at the drill press I drilled out the inside curves with a Forstner bit.

Holes drilled on drill press.

At the band saw I cut away all the waste material.

Waste removed at bandsaw.

Next I drew in some lines on the surfaces that needed material removed. This helps remind me which surfaces need material removed and approximately how much.

Lines drawn to guide waste removal.

With assistance from a wooden screw clamp and a vise its quite easy to hold the work and turn it quickly with minimal interruption. This also puts the work up at a comfortable working height for me.

Wooden screw clamps used while shaping tote.

Once I get the shape close I work on the fitting of the tote to the body. At this stage the fit is close but not perfect, I certainly wouldn’t drive it in with a hammer yet.

Initial fitting of tote.

The final shaping is done on the handle and it is sanded smooth. At this stage I had to make my final decision on what I was going to do with the body of the plane. Once again I took the drastic approach and planed off all the dirt, grime and patina. While I often hesitate at this stage to be this aggressive with a plane, I rarely regret it. The old quarter sawn beech comes alive once again. The strike button was severely damaged and I made the call to make a new one and replace it. While at the lathe I made two strike buttons, the second was for a wooden smoother. I flattened the sole of the jack plane at this time too.

Tote shaped and sanded.

Directly after planing down the body I apply a coat of finish to it and most of the tote. This helps minimize warping in the body due to moisture exchange. As well as it makes the wood grain pop, helping me get over the “oh no, what did I just do to this plane” feeling.

Final fitting of tote.

Once the first coat of finish dried I did the final fit of the tote to the body. The tote was glued in place with hide glue. If you don’t know this already, hide glue rocks, get some and try it.

Wooden smoother with new strike button and sole flattened.

Here is the other strike button installed in the wooden smoother. Sole flattened and finish applied. A second coat of finish was applied to the jack and let dry. Note there is at least a days worth of dry time on each coat plus the glue, so there is a fair amount of waiting. Final step is always to apply a coat of wax, let it harden up then buff it out. This leaves a great luster on the surface and makes the plane feel like brand new.

Waiting line for waxing.

I still have a bit of work to do on the iron of this plane but the wood portions are revived and complete. It feels so great in the hand!

Re-Tote Your Bench Plane (Part 2)

Time in the shop is precious to me and I thank my wife for allowing me some freedom over the last couple of weekends to catch up on a few projects. This being one that I was able to complete.

Fitting of the tote, the smoothing plane in the vise is upside down for thicknessing.

Fitting of the tote to the plane can be a bit finicky. One thing to note on the two totes that I have had to repair or replace, both have had a gap between the tote and the base of the hole in the body, At least 1/8″ probably closer to 1/4″ space. This surprised me initially, but I can see with the machining that was done in the body that it’s just quicker. Also to note is that the rear of the hole is sloped with the top forward and the bottom to the heal of the plane, same goes for the front of the slot. This makes fitting of the tote much easier once you understand the process. The heal goes in first and its rocked forward until it’s fully seated.

Fitting of the tote to the mortise in the body, you can see the angle on the front of the tote.

This is the approach that I took when fitting the tote. The tote started about a 1/16th over sized to width. I planed that thickness down to a very snug fit, taking some off each side of the tote as I went making sure not to take to much. Then I shaped the heal of the tote with a rasp, this goes quick, but don’t take to much off in a rush. Once the heal fit nicely I was able to verify the overall width of the tote and make any minor adjustments as needed. Next I cut the tote to length as it was about 3/8″ long initially. I then started to shape the toe of the tote, note in the photos that there is an angle at the front of it, this matches the slope of the front of the slot. Keep things tight and take your time to get the fit as close to perfect as possible. Be patient as you progress and shape, the deeper the handle goes the more adjustments you need to make. Stop once the top of the front of the tote is at the surface of the body.

Mid sanding process on the tote.

With the shaping and fitting complete it was time to make everything smooth. I started with 120 grit sand paper and removed any leftover rasp marks and progressed to 320 grit in long strips and worked the inside of the handle. Once I was satisfied with the inside I worked on the outside. This was certainly more sawdust than I would have liked, but it was an effective method of getting it all smooth. When I say smooth, I’m talking silky smooth here, I could barely tell the transition from end grain to face grain, there was no need to go above the 320 grit.

Tote complete and ready to install.

At this point I had to make a final decision, was I going to darken the handle, leave it a stark contrast, clean up the body of the plane, or go all out and plane it down a bit. After flattening the sole with another jointer, I decided to go all out and plane it to get rid of all the patina and grime that was on it. I will certainly miss the patina, but it was mostly grime and it just needed to go.

Grime removed and ready for finish.

Some of you are cringing at this point, and I was very hesitant to make this big of a leap, but I think it was a good decision in the long run. Thankfully the body cleaned up with minimal passes on each surface and I was able to take out a little bit of twist, I think it turned out beautifully. The tote was attached with Old Brown Glue. Hide glue is wonderful to cleanup, just a damp rag and its gone.

Tote installed, and rehabilitation complete.

After two coats of Minwax Antique Oil Finish was applied, the already beautiful wood popped even more. I really do enjoy working with beech and appreciate it more every time I do. The tote and the plane are complete, although I do need to add a coat of wax. Now to remember where I put the iron!

Beautiful beech grain under all the grime.

Re-Tote Your Bench Plane (Part 1)

How many of us have found a nice wooden plane with the tote damaged and passed it by? I know I have many times, well, this time I couldn’t as the price was too good to pass up. The same thing happened to one of the other guys in the shop and I thought why not make a couple of them since we are at it and help each other out. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of them before I started so we have to dive right into the process.

Removing the broken tote from the body of the plane with a chisel.

I started with a chisel and removed the bulk of the handle that was above the plane body. Then I used a forstner bit and drilled out the rest of the old handle. A few more taps with the chisel and the old tote resents were removed.

Pattern traced onto the quarter sawn beech blank.

Luckily I have another tote in good condition on another jointer. I traced the tote onto a piece of tag board to create a pattern. With the pattern cut out it was easy to transfer that onto this nice piece of beech. I pulled out the forstner bits again an placed them in several locations on the pattern to figure out which size would be the closest for the radius. If you are planning to use this pattern in the future don’t forget to write down which size goes where.

Drill out as much of the inner part as possible.

I drilled out all the material I could easily, 3 in the center of the handle, and one at the bottom of the horn. As an afterthought I could have also done the bottom front part where it connects to the plane body. Next I used a chisel to remove any extra material I could from the center making sure not to go past my lines. Thin cuts with the chisel across the grain is definitely helped.


Spindle sander used to cleanup the inside surfaces of the tote.

Here is the new guy in the shop at the spindle sander cleaning up the inside of the tote. Note he has a lot of sanding to do as he didn’t cut much out with the chisel. A little bit more time with a chisel saves a lot of sanding and saw dust in the shop. The more I work with hand tools the less often I have a desire to go to a power tool, but there are just some tasks that are well suited for power.

Bandsaw used to rough out the tote blank.

Back at the bandsaw to remove the outside waste from the tote. We had a fairly wide blade on so we had to use relief cuts on the inside curves, it was still considerably quicker than swapping blades out.

Removing the bandsaw marks from the edges of the tote with a spindle sander.

The two of us were swapping back and forth between the bandsaw and the spindle sander. This time around, I just used the sander to clean up the outside edges a bit. Some of these faces will be mostly removed, but others will be nearly flat.  The closer you cut at the bandsaw to the line the less time you spent at the sander. I think the sawdust collection on the spindle sander is a must, no need to throw any more dust into the air than necessary.

Working with the Gramercy Tools Hand Cut Saw Handle Maker’s Rasp.

Now the manual shaping starts. I started by laying out the rough curves with a pencil in the locations where there were supposed to have curves. I am lucky enough to have a Saw Handle Maker’s Rasp that is perfect for parts of this job. The curve in it gives me more teeth contact, and with the safe edges I have less concern of digging in on the edges. It really doesn’t take to long to get all the rough rounding of the edges complete.

More to come, finish sanding and fitting the tote to the body.


To Float Your Mortise (Part 1)

Not that long ago I read a blog post or an article in a magazine about motise floats, I don’t remember who wrote it but it did remind me that I needed to make some. Sure you can buy them from Lie-Nielsen, but one can make them too as they are not that complex.

I happened to have some 1/4″ x 3/8″ O-1 precision stock sitting around for the past 5 years that I purchased for this exact project but never got around to starting. So let’s get started!

Here I have cut the bar stock to approximate length. It’s long enough to get into most motises that I make, and has enough non-toothed area for holding in a handle. I’m making two at the same time as you will see later that I can gang cut most of the teeth making the second one very time efficient. I have applied some layout fluid to help see where I scribe my lines, they are spaced 1/8″ apart.

O-1 1/4" x 3/8" bar stock cut to approximate length and 8tpi layed out.
O-1 1/4″ x 3/8″ bar stock cut to approximate length and 8tpi layed out.

Next I use a small triangle file to cut start the edge of the teeth. A fine toothed file is easy to get started and make a clean starting point for each tooth. Note this is only one of the two floats that I am making.

Small triangle file used to cut an initial groove.
Small triangle file used to cut an initial groove.

Still with a single piece of bar stock I use a hack saw to extend the groove I previously started well across the width. I keep the saw parallel to the scribe lines and perpendicular to the edge the best I can. Counting the number of strokes with the saw and being consistent on the length of the stoke helps keep them consistent in depth.

Hacksaw was used to extend the groove.
Hacksaw was used to extend the groove.

Now I take both pieces of bar stock and put them into the vise. I tried to make the top faces flush and the tips even. Then with the hack saw I extended the cuts across both faces, again being consistent with the number and length of the saw strokes.

Hack saw used to extend the cut onto the second piece of bar stock.
Hack saw used to extend the cut onto the second piece of bar stock.

At this stage I have used the hack saw to deepen the cut to near full tooth depth. Note the scuff marks on the surface between the teeth are not critical at this point as that material will be removed later. Consistent depth of cut is the most important at this stage.

Hack saw was used to get consistent depth of cut on each tooth.
Hack saw was used to get consistent depth of cut on each tooth.

Layout fluid was applied to all the saw kerfs and the faces of the teeth.

Layout fluid applied to the surface.
Layout fluid applied to the surface.

Here I am using the largest flat file that I own. The goal is quick removal of material. The large teeth cut fast and leave a nice surface. The layout fluid is used to help with consistency, you want to remove the same amount of material from each tooth. This is the step that typically takes the most amount of time, be patient and consistent.

Large file used to remove material quickly.
Large file used to remove material quickly.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the faces of the bar stock exactly flush when putting them into the vise and you can see it here. I have removed most of the material with the large file for the teeth and have made them reasonably consistent.

The teeth are near full depth and made consistent at each step in the process.
The teeth are near full depth and made consistent at each step in the process.

Next I have taken the saw and layed it flat on the teeth to undercut the gullet of the tooth slightly. This is a quick method of removing the bulk of the material to help establish the rake of the tooth. Once that’s complete I use a large triangle file to help define the rake angle a bit more. Layout fluid was used once again to help with my consistency. Note there is a small amount of layout fluid still remaining on the flat tip of each tooth.

Hack saw and large triangle file were used to establish the rake angle of each tooth.
Hack saw and large triangle file were used to establish the rake angle of each tooth.

At this point I like working with only one float as we are starting to get close. I progress through several sizes of files, the larger ones cut quicker, the smaller ones cut deeper into the gullet and produce a smoother cut. I continue to use consistent amounts of pressure, length and number of strokes are also important. The goal is to make each tooth as close to the same as practical.

The teeth are very near completion. They still have a small amount of flat face on them that shows the layout fluid. All the heavy metal work has been done.

There are quite a few steps left to do such as: grind front tooth, heat treating, attaching a handle, jointing the teeth, and the final sharpening.

The Great Exodus

One thing leads to another and yet another, life smacks me firmly in the face and here I am. Getting past all the crappy excuses, the last few months have been the final push to get out old house on the market.

One of the many projects at the old house was to redo the front entry steps. Big plans were scaled back to be a bit more realistic in time and expenses. The project still took longer than I had liked, but it was ultimately a lot of fun and an interesting challenge.

A shot of the front steps after refacing.
A shot of the front steps after refacing. All edging is oak and cut by hand.

Other projects at the house included a full paint job, inside and out, every room ceilings and walls, including the paneling in the basement. There were a few landscaping things dealt with, power wash the exterior walls, and concrete. All the carpet removed and we found hardwood floors in great condition in all of the bedrooms. New carpet and vinyl in appropriate locations. Yup, we even paint a bath tub and made it look great with the right paint and patience.

Not only did the house go on the market, we had two offers on the second day, one of which was well over our asking price. With all this and more behind us, I can finally start working on more planes and other woodworking projects at the new house. Oh and hopefully more Instagram and blog posts too.

All that really matters is the top of the sign SOLD.
All that really matters is the top of the sign SOLD.

Thanks to our friends and family for all the help!

Portable Work Bench (Part 28) Ode to be Flat

An update on the portable bench, there are a lot of little things done, but all good steps to getting it near completion.

Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.
Cutting the last end to length with a back saw.

Each half of the bench top was cut to length by hand. Unfortunately I don’t have a good crosscut panel saw so I had to use a back saw. This made a bit of extra work as I had to go around the entire work surface as the saw wasn’t deep enough to cut all the way through. Due to my lack of consistency, or more likely impatience I messed up the cut and had a lot of cleanup to do. My hand made floats to the rescue, and a lot of extra work than just taking my time initially.

Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench.
Pile of shavings from flattening the top of the work bench by hand.

Then onto flattening the top. I started out with a Stanley #6 setup as a fore plane and it did pretty well to remove a reasonable amount of material but I was getting a little bit of tear out once in a while despite I was going cross grain. I figured I would try out a smoother and get my process down before I screwed something up. I tried a Stanley #4 set super fine and made a few passes and was amazed at the amount of tear out I was getting. Cross grain, with the grain, diagonal, skewed, it didn’t matter what I did it just continued to tear out. I gave up on the smoother and reached for the Stanley #8 with a small radius on the iron. I figured I would go back to just getting it flat. Sure enough, no tear out at all, though it was all cross grain and diagonal cuts. I had a fairly substantial belly in the middle of both glued up boards to remove. After a great deal of planing I managed to get them flat, but I was impressed on how easy it was to do this, just time consuming. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the tear out removed, but the surface was flat at least.

Bench top just before adding finish.
Bench top just before adding finish.

The next time I was in the big shop we discussed running it through the planer and seeing if we could get the bottom closer to flat than it was. I know, totally not needed, but what the heck. We run it through the planer bottom side up a few passes. This removed a bit of glue and we got rid of most of the imperfections on the bottom. Then I wanted to run a light pass on the top surface to see how close I ended up with the hand plane and possibly remove most of the tear out that was left. First pass was very light, and it only touched the peaks, which just happen to line up with the spots between the hand plane, it was quite apparent that the hand plane did an amazing job at getting it flat. We dropped the head 1/8 of a turn, which we considered a glorified whisper and turned it to a finishing cut and ran it through again. This removed the slightest amount of material which was the rest of the depth of the hand plan arc, it was as close to perfect as I could have ever imagined. It removed most of the tear out, and the only negative was a little bit of snipe on one end of one of the boards, which I can totally live with. Once home from the big shop I added a coat of Danish Oil to the work surface. The quarter sawn grain popped at this point. So much that my wife noticed it when she glanced over.

Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.
Bench dogs with suede attached and ready to be trimmed.

I also worked on final touches to the bench dogs. I chamfered most of the edges. Then used hide glue to attach a small piece of suede to the face. The suede is probably over kill but I will give it a try and see if I like it or not. Once the glue was dry I trimmed up the suede and applied finish to the rest of the dog. Now I can officially say I am done with the dogs.

Bench dogs finally complete, suede trimmed and finish applied.
Bench dogs finally complete and drying, suede trimmed and finish applied.

Maybe these weren’t as little of steps as I thought. Cut to length, flattened, finish applied to work surface, and the bench dogs complete. This is big progress, but I have a lot more to do before it’s actually complete.

Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.
Work surface flattened with finish and completed dogs in place.

Work Space Lighting

Every shop I have had has started in a dimly lite space, a corner in the basement, or garage were common examples. I typically just hung a 4 foot florescent light fixture above and lived with it. This isn’t exactly a bad situation, but none of them were what I would call optimum. At our new home, my wife has graciously allowed me to setup my primary hand tool work bench in our great room.

WP_20160204_011While I certainly have a lot of great windows to help with lighting, they only work during daylight hours. The overhead ceiling fan light is not close enough to my bench area, so additional lighting is needed. With the assistance of my wife we picked out an interesting light fixture that works well with the vaulted ceilings. It has 5 halogen bulbs that are 50 watts each, eventually we will change them to LEDs to save electricity. This provides a lot of light that I can direct where I want.

A second fixture will be placed on the other side of the great room where we commonly setup a table for games when we have guests.

WP_20160204_009This is certainly a big step in the right direction, lets see how well it works over the next few weeks.

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