stevenbunn Sun, 10/18/2015 - 19:55
Shaping the convex sole of a chair-makers plane
 
It has been an interesting week. Two weeks ago I called around to my usual hardwood suppliers asking if they had on hand, or could order, beech or boxwood. Up now I have made the majority of my handplanes using quartersawn cherry. The beech I am using in the laminated body of the chair-makers plane was cut on a neighbor's property. All well and good, but I need to establish a more reliable supply. The word I got back from a number of dealers was that both species of wood was unobtainable. I was able to purchase some quartersawn cherry, which was a start. Then I remembered friends of mine mentioning a guy up country who carried hundreds of species of exotic hardwoods.
Thursday found me driving two hours north to Mexico, Maine, on the lookout for Rare Woods, USA. Rare Woods does indeed carry almost two-hundred species of imported hardwood. I walked by pallet loads of wood species I have never seen before. I could have spent the day there, but focus, focus! There is nothing nicer than being able to personally inspect and rummage through a pile of quatersawn european beech looking for, and finding exactly what I wanted. Boxwood was pricey, $10.00 a pound. The chunk I bought cost me over $100.00. But, all in all, it was worth it, as the piece of wood should provide enough boxing material for a lot of planes. On top of what was already a great day, I found out that the owner of Rare Woods also sells antique tools which he picks up at auction. I walked out the door with an early Disston #7, with split-nuts, a Henry Disston, no son or sons, etching on the blade, and a Disston eagle medallion which dates the saw to 1860-1865. A great find for $19.00.
 
Back in the shop. Yes I did finally have to leave Mexico. The drive there and back was beautiful, trees at the height of fall color, and next to no traffic. My small chair-maker planes listed on ebay have started to sell. So I started work on another batch of ten of the planes. The stock is glued up using tiger maple for the cheeks and american beech for the in-fill pieces. In the photo above I have rounded the convex curves on the sole of one of the planes using a spoke-shave. To save my back from bending over all day, I am using the small detail bench, made earlier this year, which clamps to my large work-bench. A good day work.
Thanks for dropping by.
stevenbunn Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:18
Steve demonstrating the use of a spring-pole lathe at the fair
 
Naturally, I forgot my camera. This shot was taken by Ann when she arrived mid-morning. The lathe was swamped for three days. I encourage fair visitors to try the lathe out. This way they get a sense of what turning parts for furniture or chairs meant in terms of physical work in the 1800s. Ann of course, picked a time when the crowds around the lathe were sparse, so you can't judge the degree of interest from this shot. Thank you again to MOFGA member and fair volunter Jimmy Stewart, who acted as both a demonstrator, and interpreter working with scores of people showing on-lookers how the lathe works and talking each inexperienced user through all the details of stance, tool positioning, amd balance. Jim has been kind enough to volunter as my helper on the lathe for the last three years. His presence has allowed me to demonstrate Windsor chair-making without being torn away every few minutes to answer questions about the lathe.
 
I haven't posted anything much for the past few weeks as I have been revising many of my designs for my wooden hand-planes. I have arrived at a satisfactory look for my hollow and round planes. This past weekend I reworked my side-rounding and snipes bill plane planes. Like a lot of plane-makers, I have found that locating  a reliable  source of Beech is a hunt for the holy grail. I am currently using beech cut off a friend's property locally. He has kindly offered to let me cut some beech trees out of his wood lot. Which is great, except when I try to figure out when this is going to fit into schedule. Then the cut and split wood has to dry. All of the hardwood dealers I normally talk to tell me that they can't get Beech. I finally found a dealer up in the wilds of the Maine woods who says he has quarter-sawn european beech and boxwood available. Looks like I am going for a long car trip in the next couple of days.
stevenbunn Wed, 09/23/2015 - 16:19
Steve with Anu' Dudley at the 2013 Common Ground Country Fair
 
This year I have to take a camera with me to the fair. Usually I'm working away like mad, or talking my head off. It never occurs to me to document the experience. I have been filmed by local TV stations, and lots of people take photographs as I work. This picture was taken on a Sunday afternoon two years ago, as the fair wound down. Anu Dudley has been the Crafts Coordinator at the fair for over twenty-five years. In the back, behind my right leg you can make out the treadle for my spring-pole lathe lying on the ground. I bring the lathe every year and let the crowd try it out. For many of them it is the first time in their lives that they have ever realized what "hand-made" really meant for our ancestors.
 
Anu' is holding a Tracy pattern fan-back that I constructed that year while at the fair.
 
This year will I take pictures of the lathe in use. It's a sight.
stevenbunn Wed, 09/23/2015 - 07:04

The Common Ground Country Fair is this weekend, the 25th thru 27th of September, in Unity, Maine. I will be there, in the traditional crafts area, demonstrating Windsor chair-making. This will be my twentith year demonstrating at the fair. I am looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends, both among the crafters and the visitors, some of whom stop by yearly to say hello and talk about woodworking. I hope to see you there.

stevenbunn Sun, 09/20/2015 - 20:55
Bonney, Frank and I at Saturday's Bowdoinham Historical Society yard sale
 
This is one of those pictures that shatters one's self image. I've got to be younger than  the guy standing at the right in this picture. Bummer! Frank is my old neighbor from across the street. He and his wife Jane welcomed Ann and I to Bowdoinham thirty years ago, with hot tea and freshly made apple pie. We had recently purchased the derelict old house across the road from their cape, and were freezing in the unheated house as we began several months worth of weekends starting to refurbish it before moving in. The warm food and good company were greatly appreciated. The house came with lots of history. Frank's grand-parents owned the house, but then traded their larger house for the small house their kids owned. Frank would always point out the room over the kitchen which he grew up in. There was a murder down the street, and the kid that did the murder hid out in the attic of our house for several days.
 
Bonney asked us if either of us knew what the cannister Frank is holding was made for. My guess was that it was a steamer for cooking pudding. I was pretty sure that I was right. I am leaning in to get a better eye on what I thought was a thermometer. It turned out to be a dial measuring the level of the fluid in the tank. Frank immediately recognized it as a removable kerosene tank for an old fashioned home heating stove. Back in the 50's when he was a kid, he drove a fuel delivery truck for his step-father, and he remembered filling these old tanks up for people around town. Bonnie pulled out her I-phone and entered the brand marked on the tank. Immediately several complete antique stoves with similar tanks popped up on google. They aren't cheap.
I had a great time talking with friends, discussing people's experiences with various solar power panel installations, and looking at lots of great stuff. I made it home with an antique quilt. I mean, after all, you can't go to a yard sale and not buy something, right?
 
Have a good day. Thanks for stopping by.
stevenbunn Tue, 09/15/2015 - 20:47

Last week I spent a number of evenings sitting at the kitchen table drawing cross sections for each pair of hollow and round planes which make up a traditional half set of planes. I have made a number of hollow and round planes previously. But because I was basing each individual pair on an example from my collection of planes, the planes I built didn't look like they belonged in the same set. So I felt the need to step back and draw a set of planes in cross section to work out what I wanted a set to look like.. To start with I down loaded a page from the Sandusky Company catalog which showed a number of their h&r planes in cross section. I increased the size of the pdf until the outline of each plane's height equalled 3 1/2 inches. With that dimension established I was able to use a six inch ruler to measure all the other dimensions of each plane directly off my computer screen. Two interesting facts resulted from this all this repetitive drawing. The first is that if my scaling is correct, Sandusky planes are on average an 1/8th inch thicker in width than those of many other historic manufacturers. In my collection I only have a few hollow and round planes produced by Sandusky. These few fitted well with in the penciled cross sections I had drawn. Most of my other planes were definately thinner in the body by about an 1/8th. The second interesting point concerned the bevel cut on the outside face of a hollow and round plane. The vertical height of the bevel when viewed from the side is usually 1 inch on most other manufacturer's profiles. Every Sandusky plane I measured had a bevel 3/4 inches high. One thing I discovered by doing the drawings of a complete set is that given a consistant height of bevel across planes of varying widths, the angles of the bevel of each pair of planes is different for each pair of planes. This was a surprise. In the past, I have cut the bevel on a batch of different width planes at one set angle, thinking that this was the proper thing to do. Live and learn.

The other thing I did this week end was to sit down with a note book in the shop and start writting out a production plan, detailing every step involved in creating a plane. The purpose of all this work is to record the machine settings for each set-up for each step. To test my mental step by step plan, I ran a test pair of planes through the plane-making process. A lot of little things I do without thinking had to be added to the draft work plan. I started to think that maybe this might make an article.....Who knows.

In the past, I have cut the angled sides of the plane's bed and throat using a tenon saw and an angled guide block to keep the saw on line and perpendicular. Becuse I want to cut all the bed and throat angles for each pair of planes at the same time, for uniformity, I worked out a table-saw set up which allows me to make these cuts while only having to reset the angle of a miter-fence twice.

 
The bevel of each pair of planes is cut on a 22 to 24 inch length of stock planed to thickness. Saw cuts forming the bevel and upper grip are made while the work piece is still in one length. The throat cuts seen here were also made before the work piece was cut in two. This is a dummied up shot showing the set up, because I can't be behind the camera and operating the saw at the same time. Blade height needs to be raised by 1/8th inch for each wider pair of plane bodies as you work thru a set. The line where the bevel meets the plane' sole determines the blade height.
Thanks for stopping by.

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stevenbunn Wed, 09/02/2015 - 15:04
A three-quarter rear view of one of my 5/8 inch rabbet planes
 
I am posting several views of the rabbet planes I am currently working on. Over the weekend I spent quite a bit of time working on fitting' wedges, test fitting, sanding and refining the fit of each wedge. Right now I have two good "user" planes. Which would be fine if I were just making them for myself. My goal is to offer these planes for sale. This means that I have to refine both the design and the construction process down to a point where I am confident that I can reproduce small batches of planes that when compared against one another over time will be recognizably consistent. Paring and filing the bed of each of these two planes to insure that it's iron fitted without any light showing between iron and bed was time consuming. That I accepted as a given. I was more concerned that the width of the two wedge mortises as measured on the top of the plane varied by an 1/8th of an inch. That one wedge is slightly wider where it fits into it's plane isn't an issue if I view each plane as a 'one-off' product. But it means I need to come up with a jig and tool set up that results in a more consistant wedge mortise width.
 
The other issues that I need to settle on revolve around fit and finish. How fine a grit should I sand the plane's stock to? What finish is going to be attreactive, hard wearing, easy to apply, and acceptable to potential customers? If there are fine crumbs or chips broken off the arris where the bed of the iron meets the side face of the stock, how much is acceptable? At the moment I have more questions than answers. If I get the done by the time of the Common Ground Fair, I will take them with me and see what kind of comments or criticisms I receive from other woodworkers attending the fair. The problem is most people when shown something tend to be complimentary so they won't hurt your feelings, but hesitate to actually buy what your selling. You can't eat compliments.
 
Having read the blogs of plane-makers Raney Nelson, of DAED Toolworks and Karl Holtey, of Holtey Planes, and admired their work, I have quite a hill to climb to match their work.
stevenbunn Wed, 09/02/2015 - 15:01
A side view of the plane's mouth, wedge and iron
 
The plane iron has been fitted so that it seats tightly against the bed. The wedge has been fitted to it's mortise and the iron, but is still a tad over length. The iron is over width. I need to grind it's width down to match the 5/8 inch wide stock of the plane. After that I still have grind the bevel and heat treat the iron.
stevenbunn Wed, 09/02/2015 - 14:59
Fitted wedges and irons
 
It does not show up well in this photo, but one of these wedge mortises is slightly wider than it's nieghbor. This is the result of problems with consistantly cleaning out and paring the mortises to size. To improve the consistancy of wedge mortises in a batch of planes, I ordered extra-long brad point bits in fractional sizes less than the tang widths offered on LN plane irons. The next time I work up a batch of planes I intend to use these new bits to drill out the waste in the wedge mortises. I hope that this will reduce the chances of inadvertantly opening up the mortise width in relation to the tang being fitted. We will see if this solves the problem.
stevenbunn Mon, 08/24/2015 - 07:33

In my last post I was bemoaning my some what irrational urge to build a Moxon vise. Making a fixture or tool if I can is in my opinion always better than buying a new tool unless there are no other options. When I started out I had a very limited amount of money to invest in tools. Luckily, flea markets and garage sales were a great source of inexpensive basic tools.  At some point as your skills improve it makes sense to try making your own simple tools and jigs. The worst that can happen is that you fail, and the piece goes into the woodstove. You fail, you try again. That's how we learn.

 

As much as I think making a new Moxon vise is, for me personaly, a waste of my time, the latest issue of Popular Woodworking had several articles that appealed to me. A marquetry decorated tool box lid is wonderful. My personal marquetry skills are nil. This is the kind of over the top project that proclaims the skill of it's creator, but is beyound the reach of most of us. Note to self: schedule marquetry for my eighth life time. But the raamtang was interesting. So last night I found myself rummaging around in the attic of my shop looking for some white oak. Laugh at self, after complaining about one vise I am considering making a Raamtang. A what???? According to Zachary Dillinger, a raamtang is dutch for window pliers, a fixture used to clamp narrow lengths of window stock for planing. Stupidly, this fixture makes sense to me. It has been at least ten years since I last made window sash by hand. That project involved making multiple window sash for a local historic home which had been damaged in a house fire. Right now I have three Windsor chairs which need to be finish sanded and painted in time for next month's Common Ground CountryFair, and a bench full of molding plane bodies for which I need to grind and fit irons. And with all these projects sitting on the bench, here I am thinking of building another shop fixture. At least I am building the jig, not buying the finished product.

If I can offer a small word of advice, it would be to if at all possible, make as many of your own tools and jigs as possible. Doing so saves both money and  improves your skill as a woodworker. Money was my main objection to the Moxon Vise being sold by Lake Erie Toolworks. The vise is a simple project. And, if you buy a tap and die set (they aren't that expensive) you will find yourself using it over and over. Spend your money somewhere else.

I realize that all woodworking magazines have to sell advertizing in order to survive. Every issue is packed with attractive tools and gadgets that according to an ad or indorsement will make you and I better craftsman. So think about the dicotamy between the thinly veiled advertizing in Chris's endorsement of the Moxon vise, and the subject of his book "The Anarchist's Tool-box." The book looked at the number and kinds of tools found in woodworkers'toolboxes over the last three-hundred years using funeral inventories recorded at the death of a craftsman.The take-away from the book is that over this period of time the number of tools owned by most woodworkers grew from about forty tools to sixty. But at all times the number was limited by the need to be portable. The number of tools also tended to be restricted to those most essential to a man's particular craft. Now we have hundreds of products on offer, and in my not so humble opinion most are unnecessary. Which, again, was one of the points of Schwarz's book.

Given my rant on tools and money, what have I spent my money on recently? Well, I slurged on a ForgeMaster single burner propane forge to better heat treat my plane irons. The small forge costs $489.00. Worth it if I can raise the number of hand planes I sell. And then last week I special ordered some extra long brad point bits from the Fuller Company. In drilling out the throat for the wedges in my planes I have found that the jaws of the chuck bump into and marr the top of the plane's stock if I drill too deeply. The extra long bits should solve this issue.

All of this comes down to, make what you can. Buy what you can't make for yourself. Remember that a tool you have made yourself, even if flawed is more valuable in the long run than a shiney store bought thing that looks great on a shelf.

Have a good day.

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