Category Archives: Tools


Frankenstein’s Dust Port

Dust Collector 4

Stop laughing, it works.

I mentioned last time that I would cover the dust collection for my planer as a separate item, and now you understand why.

First, the reason for this madness.  If you look closely (and are old enough to remember), this is one of the original Ryobi 10″ lunchbox planers – one of the first portable planers ever made.  I have been using it for around 25 years, and it’s still going strong.  Made with reusable blades, and a unique set of fixtures for installing and aligning them, it was revolutionary.

The problem is that dust collection was truly an afterthought with this thing.  It came with a dust chute that ejected the shavings back on top of the board, and a vacuum adapter.  This “adapter”, however, had to be sized UP to fit a standard shop vac – not a paragon of efficiency.  When I added my new dust collector, I started searching for a solution.  My inspiration came when I was browsing through the local box store’s HVAC section, looking for something that would fit the bill.  When I saw a 10″ floor duct, the light bulb went on.

The port is a simple box, with 1/4″ plywood top and bottom sandwiching spacers the same height as the ejection port of the planer.  The long, extended top matches the area normally covered by the stock dust chute, and is secured by two rather flimsy little screws.  This is the source of the sag you see, since this was never intended to hold something that has the weight on the outside of the planer.  I’m playing with adding some sort of hose support, but haven’t settled on a design yet.

There is a hole the shape of the floor duct in the top surface, and 1×1 cleats are used to secure the duct to the body.  The beauty of the floor duct is that it allows a more efficient “funneling” of the airflow to the hose, rather than the abrupt transition of a simple 4″ connector.  Connecting this to the hose was a chore, requiring creative crimping of the duct outlet to allow the hose to slip into place.  This was further complicated by the fact that this is the “boa constrictor” hose of the previous post.  As you can see from the photo above, it has no desire to expand, preferring to stay in its contracted state, and vigorously resisting any attempts to persuade it otherwise.  I’m thinking of using that to my advantage when I rig a support, letting that pull hold the collector in position as I raise and lower the cutterhead.

How does it work?  Beautifully!  The only chips lost are the ones that blow back out the infeed side from time to time – less than a cupful after a typical thicknessing session.  Total cost?  Under $10.

Not bad.

Dust (not) In the Wind

Dust collection has never been a high-priority subject for me.  It’s not that I wasn’t a believer in shop safety.   Indeed, I always wore a dust mask when sanding, running a router, etc.  However, most of my tools were a low enough output that the shop vacuum could take care of extraction.  For the really messy stuff, I have a 3′ gable fan near the roof that exhausts a prodigious amount of air, taking the suspended dust along with it.  With it on one end, and a roll-up door on the other,  I could generate a veritable hurricane while planing or routing.

Hand tools, of course, are a different animal entirely.  Dust collection there primarily involves a broom and dust pan.  Simple.

However, a couple of factors have emerged that changed my approach to these things.

First was the purchase of a SawStop contractor’s table saw.  This machine has an excellent dust shroud around the blade that efficiently traps the majority of the sawdust and sends it towards the dust port.  The problem arises if you don’t have some sort of vacuum source attached to pull said dust out of the shroud.  In this case, the sawdust tends to pack up around the jack screw that raises and lowers the blade assembly, making operation very difficult until all is made clean again.

The other is shop kittens.  When they’re young, they see every soft pile of absorbent material as a litter box.

Yes.  Eeww.

These things caused me to rethink the subject of dust collection.  Obviously, I needed to do something, but what?  The shop vacuum was clearly inadequate for bigger things like tablesaws and planers.  Like many woodworkers, I originally envisioned a magnificent 5hp cyclone system with metal ductwork running all over the shop.  Of course, I also envisioned myself retired at 50 and supplementing my magnificent retirement income with the odd shop project.  Once I stopped laughing, I started looking for something more realistic.

Dust Collector 1

I decided on the Shop Fox 1.5hp single-stage collector.  My original choice had been a similar model by Grizzly, but the Shop Fox was available locally.  Though the Grizzly list price was less, shipping pushed it higher, and the specifications were practically identical.  The 1280 CFM pull of the Shop Fox (1300 for the Grizzly) was more than adequate for any single machine I would run, so we threw it in the truck and off I went.

Dust Collector 2

Single-stage units have their drawbacks, such as difficulty of emptying and wear on the impeller from debris.  To help alleviate these, I added Woodcraft’s Trash-Can Cyclone Lid and a 31-gallon galvanized trash can as a pre-collector.  People tend to blow hot or cold on these, but I’ve found this approach very effective.  It traps the majority of shavings and larger dust, reducing the load on the collector itself.  The results are most dramatic when performing an operation like surface planing, which produces large volumes of coarse shavings.  Emptying is easy for me – just lift the lid and dump the trash can on the burn  pile.

Dust Collector 3

Why am I showing a picture of the hose?  Because I want to sing the praises of Rockler’s Dust-Right system.  I have three different 4″ flexible hoses.  One “collapsible” one is more akin to fighting with a boa constricter, and subsequently has earned a place permanently attached to my planer.  The other, which runs from the cyclone to the dust collector, is just a hose – nothing special.  But this Rockler Dust-Right hose, which extends to 28 feet, is another matter entirely.  While it’s easy to pull out to its full length, it will also smoothly retract into a contracted position without making you feel like you’ve been in a tug-of-war.  I recommend it highly.

Dust Right Port

Their Dust Right Quick Release System uses a slip-fit connector that let you attach the hose quickly to any tool with a 4″ port.  With this, you can change the hose from one tool to another in seconds without the need for any sort of tool.  For other tools, Rockler sells a series of adapters that will convert something like a 2 1/2″ port to a 4″ port for use with the Dust Right connecter.  The only problem with this system is if the port is in a location that won’t allow the 4″ adapter to connect – my old Craftsman 6″ belt sander is a good example.  For these, I’m going to have to rig up some sort of extension.  If any of you have done this, leave a comment and let me know your solution.

So far, I’ve set up dust collection on the tablesaw, bandsaw, and planer.  I’ll be adding the belt sander when I figure out an adapter, and will be modifying my router table to accept connections as well.  The planer deserves a post all to itself, and that will be coming in the near future.

I have to say that the difference has been beyond dramatic.  Besides things simply being cleaner, my cleanup time during and after a project has been slashed to a fraction of its former self, giving more time for the fun stuff.

As for the shop kittens, it’s back to the litter box.

Stay tuned!

Review – Lee Valley Dowel and Tenon Cutter

Dowels have always frustrated me.  They always seemed to come in two sizes:  too big and too small.  Even ordered online, species selection is often limited, and don’t even try to guess what species that “hardwood” at the box store really is.  Without a doubt, making your own would be superior, but how?

I know many are fans of the classic doweling plate.  This is essentially a steel plate with holes of varying sizes bored through it.  Slightly oversized pieces of wood are driven through the holes to make dowels of the desired diameter.  The problem for me is that the hole sizes are fixed, and fine-tuning is difficult.  When I drawbore or peg a joint, I generally use an auger bit in a brace, and the size of mine is just a hair over a stock 3/8″.  I suppose you could make a plate yourself with the requisite holes using machinist’s bits, but then you’re often left with a rough finish on the dowel.

Dowel Cutter

Since I use primarily 3/8″ dowels, I chose a different approach.  Veritas’ Dowel and Tenon Cutter was just the ticket for me.  This tool’s sole purpose in life is to take a piece of 7/16-1/2″ square stock and convert it into a 3/8″ dowel, and it does it well.

The overall design is strongly reminiscent of a handheld pencil sharpener, and works in much the same way.  The square stock is fed in one end using a square socket in a drill or brace, and a round dowel emerges from the other.  Simple.  The real beauty, though, is that it’s adjustable.  Loosening the screws holding the curved blade with the supplied allen wrench allows you to alter the dowel size by gently tweaking the position and angle of the cutter.  I can’t give you a hard and fast formula for doing this – you just have to fiddle with it.  However, once you get the knack, you can perfectly adapt the size of the dowel to your particular bored hole.

It comes in three sizes – 3/8″, 7/16″ and 1/2″.  The 3/8″ has met all my needs so far, though I could see adding a 1/2″ for larger projects.  With a price of under $30 each, that certainly wouldn’t be a big expense.

Besides, where else can you get such cool shavings?

Krenov Smoother 5 – All Together Now

Once the glue is dry, it’s time to turn this block of wood into a plane. This is definitely a case of all the little details coming together to determine if you have a great plane or just an okay plane. Assuming that the bed is flat and square from the previous steps, we are left with two more crucial points: the sole and the mouth.

Smoothing Plane 15

To properly flatten the sole, the plane must be in tension, just like a metal plane. To accomplish this, I fashioned a temporary wedge with the proper slope, but thick enough to take up the space of both the wedge and plane iron assembly. I chose walnut for this, not for its esthetic color contrast, but because it was a little softer. It seemed to me that a slightly “squishier” wood would tend to hold in place better than a harder wood like the white oak of the body. With the wedge tapped firmly in place, I worked the plane sole over a strip of sandpaper attached to the top of my tablesaw. In this case, this only took a few strokes until the sole was completely flat. It was my good fortune that the sides were square to the sole, so no additional work was necessary there.

While we’re here, take a moment to note the direction of the grain in the side of the body. As you can see, it slopes slightly down toward the rear of the plane. This is the desired configuration, as opposed to a slope in the opposite direction. This tends to make for a smoother sole and reduced wear. Keep this in mind when selecting your wood.

Wedge Diagram

After truing up the plane body, I made the final wedge from the temporary wedge.  I scribed a line parallel to the bottom of the wedge block as shown above, and cut out the rough final wedge.  This preserves the wedge angle while removing the wood that was taking the place of the plane iron assembly.  There are probably as many different wedge styles as there are woodworkers, and you can shape the end of the wedge to suit you.  The key point to remember is that the two faces of the wedge need to be parallel, at least in the area where contact is made with the crosspin.  To check this, wedge and iron assembly in place with the iron retracted, shine a light up through the mouth of the plane, and look for gaps.  Go ahead and correct this before going any further.

Once the sole is flattened, the last, crucial step in adjustment is performed – the mouth is adjusted. In theory, the mouth opening should be as small as possible, while still allowing the desired shaving to pass. This size can vary depending on the intended use of the plane.  A scrub plane removes a large amount of material with each pass, and needs a large mouth opening to match.  A general purpose plane will need less, and a dedicated smoother such as this one will need the smallest of all.  The smaller the mouth, the more support the wood has in front of the iron, reducing tearout.  However, a very fine opening will only allow very light passes.  This is where you have the perfect opportunity to tune the plane for your intended use.

Smoothing Plane 16

This is the point where you need to get comfortable, turn on some music, whatever – you don’t need to rush this.  I used a fine float-type file to gradually remove material from the edge of the insert.  As you can see above, I held the file at approximately 5-10 degrees and gradually removed material across the width of the opening.  I kept this opening fairly blunt to increase support at the edge, and reduce the effects of wear on the mouth.  I took my time and checked the fit after every few strokes.  As I got close, I took the trouble to insert the wedge with the fully-sharpened iron assembly and tapped things into place.  Just like truing the sole, things change when under tension.  I really wanted to sneak up on this, because changes happen fast once the iron pokes through.  When things looked right, I adjusted the iron and took a few shavings.  The first test clogged immediately, so I removed the iron and took two light full-width strokes with the file.  Perfect.

Smoothing Plane 17

The last step was to cut the body to shape on the bandsaw.  I drew a rough outline based on some of Finck’s designs, and cut it out.  Then came the process of rounding over the corners with a rasp.  Finck recommends sneaking up on this – remove a bit and work with it for a while.  Then, remove some of what doesn’t feel right.  For me, that process is still going on.  Eventually, I’ll probably sand everything down, but for now I’m leaving it rough from the rasp and using it until something doesn’t feel right.  Then, I remove a bit more.  Yes, the wood is a bit scorched.  My bandsaw blade was dull, and the replacement hadn’t come in yet.  It’s OK, this is a shop tool, and most of the marks will be removed as shaping progresses.

Smoother Final

And here we have the final product being tested on some pine.  These shavings are about the thickest it will produce, and I normally use it set a bit finer.  The projection of the iron is a bit higher than I anticipated, and my hand is having to reach around it.  I may get a shorter iron to replace it, and use this iron on a shooting board plane I plan on making in the near future.  Since this photo was taken, the body has been rounded some more, and the shaping goes on yet.  It’s not a pretty plane, but I take comfort in the fact that most of James Krenov’s planes were “ugly as a mud fence”.  However, the proof is in the pudding:

Smoother Thin Wispies

This plane has proven to be a real workhorse for large-scale smoothing.  However, a wooden-body plane with a 2″ iron is a real handful to grip, and not something I’d recommend for anything but flat panel-type work.  For work where you really need to hold the plane rather than just push, I suggest a narrower iron.  Considering the cost of construction, I plan on making several of these in different widths, customized for particular tasks.  Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when I do.

Krenov Smoother 4 – The Pin and Reassembly

Smoothing Plane 11
All the subsequent operations require that the parts remain in what will be their final positions relative to each other.  I started this process by aligning the bed block by touch with one cheek piece so that it was flush with the bottom and back corner.  I clamped these to the bench, and then moved on to the ramp block.  I wanted it positioned so that the plane iron would not quite clear it when in position as shown above.  This would allow me to sneak up on the ideal mouth opening during final tuning.  Once I was satisfied, I clamped it in position while I penciled the edge of the ramp’s location onto the inside of the cheek.

Smoothing Plane 12
The next step was to clamp all four pieces together with the bed and ramp in proper alignment with each other.  Take the time at this point to recheck the relation between the iron and mouth opening, just to be safe.  Once I was satisfied with my alignment, I bored holes for dowels in both sides of the cheeks and blocks as shown.  Finck only uses one dowel per block on each side, but I liked the idea of using two to lock everything immovably together for the following steps.  Short lengths of dowel are tapped into the holes and trimmed flush.  They don’t have to go far into the blocks – 3/8 – 1/2″ is more than sufficient.  They aren’t glued in – they just provide alignment during subsequent disassembly and reassembly, and will be trimmed away completely when the body is given its final shape.

The next step is location of the crosspin that the wedge “wedges” against.  Finck recommends that the holes in the cheeks be located 1 1/4″ up from the sole, and 7/16″ above the chipbreaker.  This last measurement is made at a right angle to the bed.  I did this by setting the blade of a small combination square flush with the end, and then directly measuring up from the top of the chipbreaker.

Smoothing Plane Pin
I opted for a traditional crosspin for my first plane.  This is a piece of wood that is 1/2″ square, D-shaped in cross-section, and has a 5/16″ round tenon on each end.  This allows the pin to pivot so that the flat surface bears against the wedge for proper friction.  The fit in the holes should be loose enough for the pin to pivot, but not rattle.

I have noticed that Ron Hock and others have used simple dowels in place of this arrangement.  I don’t know if this approach is as effective as the traditional pin or not.  It seems instinctively that the smaller bearing surface of a circle would make it easier for the wedge to slip, but I haven’t tried it to say for sure.  If someone has knowledge of the relative merits of these approaches, I would appreciate a comment on the subject.  A dowel would certainly make this step easier.

Smoothing Plane 13
After cutting the piece square, I made a saw kerf 1/2″ long on each end, allowing 2″ length for the actual pin section in the middle.  I then used a knife and file to bring the tenon to round, being careful to keep it centered and straight.  To create the “D” shape. I clamped a block plane inverted in the vise, and passed the pin over it as shown above.  The rounding makes it easier to clear shavings from the throat of the plane in use, as space is at a premium in front of the pin.

Smoothing Plane 14
Once this is done, glue is applied and all the parts are reassembled.  You can see how the dowels ensure that everything stays in alignment during the glue-up.  Also note the layout marks on the cheek piece that show the relative placement of the bed and ramp blocks.  Be sure that you don’t put glue on the crosspin.  This mistake will render all your work so far worthless, and you will find yourself repeating the entire process.  At this point, it’s simply a matter of applying clamps and waiting for the glue to dry.

Next time, we’ll finish things up and make some shavings.  Stay tuned!

Krenov Smoother 3 – Bed and Ramp

A perfect bed is imperative for proper plane performance. Irregularities will allow the iron to shift or chatter as you are planing, which is exactly what you DON’T want.  Take extra time on this step.  Make sure that the bed is absolutely flat and at a perfect right angle to the side of the body.  I used a block plane and a file to get everything just so.  One good trick is to get in the ballpark, and then fine-tune the bed after cutting the slot for the chipbreaker knob.  This allows you to only have to work with the outer edges and front of the bed, much like flattening a hollow-ground chisel.

Most plane irons with a chipbreaker have a knob that screws into it from the opposite side of the plane iron to hold the two firmly together.  Since this knob is on the beveled (bed) side of the iron, a slot must be cut into the bed to allow it to project while the iron still sits firmly on the bed.  In the case of Hock’s Krenov-style iron, this knob will fit comfortably in a 3/4″ wide slot.  While there are several different ways to make this slot, I chose to do it on the router table.

I realized during editing that one of the shop cats had jarred the tripod during the shot, rendering this particular picture unusably blurry.  Due to this, the picture below is a reshoot with a different piece of wood.  You will notice that the bed piece in the picture  is longer than the original – waste not, want not – but the setup is the same.  Just remember that the end of the bed piece actually will project slightly above the top of the fence.

Smoothing Plane 18
I set the fence to center the groove in the body, and set up a 45 degree stop block to match the angle of the piece.  This was necessary to ensure that I didn’t rout all the way through the sole of the plane.  I had marked a line to indicate the stop point on the bed of the body, and wrapped this line around the side.  The blue tape was used to mark the location of the end of the bit so that the stop block could be positioned accurately and clamped in position.  While a groove depth of 1/4″ was sufficient, I still routed the slot in two passes.  The last thing I wanted was for the wood to be grabbed by the bit with my hand that close, and light passes were good insurance.

Smoothing Plane 8
This is what the finished bed block looked like.  You can see the stop-mark at the bottom of the groove.  You can also see how much easier it is to do a final truing of the bed with this chunk of wood gone.  The only place that presents any difficulty is near the mouth, where a continuous strip remains.  However, with the upper parts trued, this last bit becomes much easier.  Once again, take all the time necessary to get things perfect – not only flat in all directions, but at a right angle to at least one cheek of the block.  Check, recheck, take a break, and check again.  You’ll be glad you did.

Next, it was time to turn my attention to the ramp block.  The surface of this part doesn’t need nearly the amount of precision required by the bed block, since it merely forms the front of the mouth opening, and this will be tuned later.  This is where I decided to modify things a little (as you knew I would).  The greatest point of wear on a plane sole is the point just in front of the mouth, since this is where the shaving starts to curl up in front of the blade.  White oak is a relatively tough wood, but I wanted to make sure that this plane would have a long life.  As a result, I decided to add a mouth insert.

Smoothing Plane 19
I had some 1/4″ ebony left over from the grooving plane project and, knowing how high it rates on the Janka hardness scale, had decided it would make a perfect mouth insert.  I started by scribing a line slightly less than the thickness of the insert and cutting just short of it with the bandsaw.  Then, I clamped the ramp block between two pieces of scrap wood level with the bottom of the block, and routed the opening to give a level surface.  I used a small router plane, but an electric router would work as well.

Smoothing Plane 10
I cut the insert slightly oversize, and prepared to glue it into the opening.  At this point I realized that I didn’t have a good clamping surface.  I should have followed Finck’s recommendation and installed the insert before cutting off the wedge that created the face of the ramp.  Oh well, spilled milk.  I decided to take advantage of my face vise’s natural tendency to open up a bit at the top, and, after applying liquid hide glue, placed the block and insert completely in the vise with the insert pointing down.  The slight angling tendency of the vise applied more pressure at the bottom than top, holding the insert firmly in place.

24 hours later, a little plane work had the block looking like the picture above.  The insert is flush on both sides, and just a bit proud of the sole.  This will get flattened after glue-up.  I left the intersection of the sole and ramp a bit blunt, as this will give me more room for error when adjusting the mouth opening later.

Next time, we’ll make the pin and put the whole thing back together.  Stay tuned!

Krenov Smoother 2 – From One Block to Four

Smoothing Plane 4
When we left off last time, the body blank for the Krenov smoother was clamped up while the glue set.  I allowed 24 hours before continuing.  I realize the glue sets faster, but since I have a SawStop tablesaw, I didn’t want to chance an accidental triggering due to a damp glue line – something that has been known to happen.  What came out of the clamps was a piece of white oak 4” wide, 3 ½” high, and 10” long.  Granted, this is oversize, but it allows plenty of room for mistakes I may make.

After making light rip cuts on the tablesaw to clean everything up, the first step was to rip the two cheek pieces.  This approach is central to the Krenov style of plane.  Separating all the components makes it much easier to true up the internal surfaces before putting everything back together.  Once the 7/16″ cheeks were removed, the remaining block was ripped down to 2 ⅛” wide.  This provided a slight gap on either side of the iron to allow for wood movement over the seasons.  If I were making this in dry winter weather, I would have reduced this to 2 1/16” or 2 3/32”, since the wood would have expanded as summer humidy hit.  I tried to keep the glue-line centered as I did this.  I doubt it really mattered, but it made me feel better.  I went ahead at this point and smoothed up the cut surfaces of the cheeks and center block before cutting the rest of the pieces since larger pieces are easier to work with.

Smoothing Plane 5
The next step was to separate the central block into a back bed section that supports the plane iron and sets the blade angle, and a front ramp section that defines the mouth opening.  These two pieces, operating in concert, determine the performance of the plane.  Since I was making a basic smoother, the bed angle was to be 45 degrees.  I originally planned to make this cut on the tablesaw but, as you see above, my standard miter gauge wouldn’t even come close without modification.  I sighed and made the cut on the bandsaw.  The remaining (front) section of the block is cut at a 62 degree angle to form the front ramp.  According to Finck, this angle is the best compromise between tightness and the ability to clear out jammed shavings.  I presume that if you’re going to have a higher bed angle than 45 degrees, the front ramp should be lowered accordingly to keep the opening angle approximately the same.  Once this is cut, the resulting pieces will look like this:

Smoothing Plane 6
You’ll notice a bit of burning on the near side of the front block.  I cut the sides on my tablesaw, which meant a rip cut in white oak almost 4″ thick.  My saw is only a 1.75hp, so this cut was a bit of a stretch.  If I did a lot of this kind of work, I’d have to move up to a 3hp 220V. saw.  As it is, the cuts were completed with some effort.  Maybe I should at least invest in a narrow-kerf rip blade.  As it is, the piece is smooth despite showing some discoloration, and should be fine to glue.

The next steps in the process will end with the parts of the plane ready to be put back together again.  However, there’s a bit of painstaking work to be done before we reach that point.  Stay tuned!

Krenov Smoother 1 – Making the Blank

One of my personal joys in woodworking is making my own tools.  While most could have been bought, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from making things yourself.  Not only do you save money, but you have a chance to create exactly what you want instead of settling for what’s available on the market.  Over the years I have made things such as marking gauges, mallets, reamers, jigs,  and grooving planes.  These and others have done much to improve my abilities as a woodworker without spending a ton of money.

Something I always wanted to make was a Krenov-style hand plane.  I already have a fairly good selection of planes, but making my own was seen very much as a rite of passage for me.  Korean swordsmanship has a tradition that a student must eventually make his own sword to truly be a complete swordsman.  I felt much the same way about handplanes and woodworking.  So, after recently completing a pair of grooving planes, I felt the time had come to take the next step.

Accordingly, I ordered David Finck’s “Making and Mastering Wooden Planes”.  This book is considered by many to the THE guide to building Krenov-style planes.  I had decided to make a smooth plane with a 2” iron and 45 degree bed angle – pretty much the definitive Krenov plane, which embodies all the principles of this style.  My thought was that if I could make one of those, I could adjust the design later to make planes for different tasks.  Once the book arrived, I studied up on the design and principles until I felt reasonably comfortable with the concept, and then got to work.

Smoothing Plane 1
After ordering a 2” iron from Ron Hock (see my blade review post), I surveyed my available wood supply.  Since my tools are for work and not for sale, I tend to keep the eye candy to a minimum.  I had several pieces of wood that could fit the bill, but in the end I turned to my rapidly-dwindling supply of white oak pallet wood.  It’s not the prettiest stuff on the planet, but it’s relatively hard and well-cured, having been in my shop for almost 20 years.  This piece, cut right through the center of the tree, has the typical pith checking.  But, if you rip off one side of the board and crosscut it:

Smoothing Plane 2
Voila!  Two pieces ready to be joined together into a plane blank.  While not as aesthetically pleasing as a one-piece blank, laminated plane bodies are perfectly acceptable and often more stable.  As per Finck’s recommendation, I oriented the wood so that the sole of the plane would be parallel to the growth rings for maximum stability.  The grain starts to get a bit ratty towards the top of the blank, but this part will be cut away in the final step of construction, and so is not a real concern.

Smoothing Plane 3
This selection looked pretty good to me, so the only thing left to do was spread the glue and clamp it up.  Notice that in addition to the parallel clamps holding the halves together, I added a couple of F-clamps across the glue line to hold the two halves in alignment and eliminate any creep.  Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the glue to dry.

We’ll pick up there next time.  Stay tuned!

Grooving Planes 4 – Tweaking and Tuning

Once the plane bodies were out of the clamps and trimmed up nice and neat, it was time to turn them into planes. As constructed, they wouldn’t cut, because the shavings had no place to go. Most planes eject their shavings through the top opening parallel to the blade. However, this space was closed by body and wedge, so another path had to be created – a side escapement.

Grooving Plane 13
To make this opening, I drilled a ⅞” hole all the way through the body of the plane. The trick here was the placement. The hole needed to just above the bottom edge of the plane body, and right next to the blade ramp, but not touching it. You can see in some of the following photos where I marked a pencil line on the body corresponding to the internal location of the ramp. This allowed me to just miss it with the forstner bit.

I sawed through the little tag at the bottom of the hole on the short side of the body, then trimmed it with a chisel until it matched the opening in the ebony skate. The plane was now physically complete. However, it still needed a bit of work to cut well. The following tuning steps are listed separately, but there was actually some overlap as I tweaked first one, then the other until the action suited me.

Grooving Plane 15The skate components had been located to give very little clearance between the front edge of the iron and the skate. I used a file to gradually open this mouth until I got a good shaving to clear. Since this plane cut a groove instead of finishing a board, the cut was to be more aggressive. Setting the plane up to produce thin wispy shavings would cause me to take all day to fit a drawer bottom, so I went with a wider mouth for a larger shaving.

Grooving Plane 16I found out during this process that my wedge needed to be adjusted. If you look back at the pictures from the last post, you will see that the wedge extends almost to the bottom of the skate. This restricted shaving flow and rapidly caused the mouth to fill. To solve this, I cut an angle to shorten the end of the wedge and allow the shavings to curl around in the escapement. I later determined that the angle shown above was too steep, and caused shavings to quickly jam the escapement. I flattened this end-angle somewhat, and things worked much better.

Grooving Plane 17
The skate was made ¼” wide, exactly the same width as the iron, which resulted in binding and a difficult cut. I narrowed the skate, being careful to keep it centered behind the blade. To do this, I started by using a file on the side next to the fence, working by feel until the blade projected slightly. It’s amazing how well the sense of touch will work for this. The difficult thing is ensuring that the file stays vertical, and you don’t end up with a tapered skate.

Grooving Plane 18
The shoulder plane works well for the open side of the skate. Only about 4 passes were needed. I ended up with a skate thickness of 0.22”, which allowed for a fast, clean cut.

Grooving Plane 19
The original plans called for rounding the corners with a large roundover bit in a router table. I found it simpler to take a rasp and file and give a generous rounding to the back area where my hand would rest, and then used a block plane and file to ease the rest of the edges. This was followed with a little 120 and 180 grit sandpaper and some boiled linseed oil, and I called the job done.

Grooving Plane 20
And here we are, a matched pair of grooving planes! The tails of the irons were cut to extend slightly farther than the wide blade section. This way, the entire length of the iron can be used prior to replacement. If the tails were cut shorter, they would wind up below the level of the wedges as the blades got sharpened down.

All in all, the planes work very well. However, if I were to do it again, I would make the bodies a little longer and taller, something more in line with a traditional molding plane. The original, designed for 1/8″ grooves, would require less force to push, and would generally be used on shorter stock. This would work very well with these small bodies. However, my hand feels just a bit “underfilled” by these when planing. If you decide to make these 1/4″ planes, I highly recommend scaling the bodies up somewhat.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. My next project will be a Krenov-style smoothing plane – my first! Come back to see how I do on a “real” plane. This may open a whole new world for me.

Grooving Planes 3 – Wedge and Edge

One final task remained before final glue-up of the plane bodies – the wedge had to be roughed out.  I had saved a small piece of ebony for this purpose, and began by making a rectangle of appropriate dimensions.

Grooving Plane 11
The plans specified a rectangular footprint of 3 ¾” x ⅜”.  I added ⅛” to the width to allow for the kerf and trimming, and cut the rectangle on the diagonal with the bandsaw to make two wedge blanks.  I put the blade in place in the open body and inserted the wedge in position.  I used 120 grit sandpaper flat on the benchtop to smooth out any irregularities in the wedge and get a good fit to the channel.

It’s important to identify the individual wedges, and not get them crossed up.  No matter how much care you take to make the planes identical, there will inevitably be some variation in cavity geometry, and the two wedges probably won’t interchange.

The original plans called for the end of the wedge to be rounded with a finger grip scoop, which is a very classic look.  However, past experience has taught me that, while ebony is very hard, it also has a tendency to be a bit “chippy”.  This indicates to me a certain brittleness.  With this in mind, I decided against any complex shaping of the end of the wedge.  Instead, I simply rounded over the front corner and sanded everything smooth.  This provided a large, flat tapping surface, and the wedge shape was easy enough to pull without a finger grip.  The last thing I wanted was to shear off part of the wedge while tapping with a mallet.

Grooving Plane 12
Once the fit of the wedges is suitable, the other side of the plane can be glued into place.  Be sure to wax the channel surfaces to prevent glue from sticking, and clean out any glue squeeze-out before it dries completely.  The iron blank works quite well for this purpose.

Now, it was time to turn my attention to the iron.  This was the part I had been dreading, since I had never heat-treated steel before.  It actually turned out to be much simpler than I feared.  Since the steel was O1 (oil-hardening), it was simply a matter of heating the steel to cherry red and quenching in oil.  With larger blanks this can be quite involved due to the amount of heat required and the dynamics of the way it moves through the steel.  However, with these ¼” irons, most of these factors didn’t apply.  I was even able to use a regular propane torch – something that was out of the question with larger irons.  My basic guidelines came from Peter Berglund’s website page: “A Woodworker’s Guide to Tool Steel”.

I set up my equipment on a metal tool chest and rolled it to the middle of the open shop bay.  This put me under a 18’ ceiling well clear of anything flammable.  Outside is recommended, but with just a propane torch, I really couldn’t afford the airflow from the wind.  For a quench bucket, I used a tin can from the kitchen filled with used motor oil.  Not seen is a metal lid to cover the can if the oil caught fire.  I realize this isn’t much of a risk with a small piece of steel, but better safe than sorry.

I had already narrowed the irons slightly to give a touch of clearance as they passed through the channel in the plane body.  Also, I had flattened the back and ground a preliminary 25 degree bevel on the WorkSharp.  I left the edge very blunt to avoid any focal points while heating – just formed the basic shape of the bevel.  These operations were much easier while the metal was still soft.

I did the hardening in near-darkness to see the colors better.  No pictures, sorry.  That would have required two more hands and a tail.  It was a simple matter of holding the iron edge-first in the heart of the flame.  As the front part heated up, I eased the edge down and out to balance the heat and color over the wide part of the blade.  This sounds complicated, but becomes self-apparent the first time you do it.  Just watch the colors.  Once the wide part of the iron hit bright cherry red, I plunged the iron edge-first into the oil, moving it up and down rapidly to even the quench.

Grooving Plane 14
Tempering came next, and was easy as pie – literally.  I simply placed the irons in a 350 degree Farenheit oven for one hour.  I think 90% of oven recipes bake at 350 degrees – and steel does too!  This, according to the charts, would yield a hardness of R62-64 – perfect.  All that was left was a regular honing with a 25 degree primary bevel and 30 degree secondary.

All the parts are ready to go now.  Next time, I’ll put everything together and tweak the setup.  Stay tuned!