First Usable Plane!

So this weekend turned out to be a big one for me, as I finished off my Millers Falls #9 and tried it out on wood for the first time. I’d been coming up on this for a while now, since there were very few tools that I haven’t messed with so far. The only other new thing (offhand) that I could have done was get a saw into working shape.

There were three things remaining on the plane before this weekend: the sole needed lapping, the iron needed honing, and the screw for the tote needed some sort of washer. This latter one was easy, I just bought a little o-ring and threw it in there.

[edit: I don’t lap my plane soles anymore, unless something’s seriously messed up, and usually, nothing is. This lapping stuff seems like it’s blown out of proportion, and sometimes, doing it can make your plane sole worse. That said, I’ll often quickly rub a plane’s sole on a piece of Norton 3X sandpaper on the surface plate, but this is usually more to remove rust than to “make it flat”.]

Lapping the sole was something I’d never done before, but had heard tons about. My method was to spray-glue some acetate drafting film to my glass plate, add oil and silicon carbide grit, and start rubbing. The acetate turned out to be a great idea, because the grit quickly became embedded. The only thing that might have been better could have been Mylar drafting film, which is more durable, but costs about six times as much. I used sunflower oil because it’s fairly light and isn’t smelly and toxic.

I had a little help in lapping. My friend JJ decided that she wanted to come over, and I warned her that I’d put her to work. It didn’t take as long as the horror stories I’ve heard from this before, though, so I was happy. I’m not sure about my friend though; something tells me that she may have not had a day of plane rehab in mind.

What did take forever, though, was lapping the back of the iron. I’d been dreading this ever since I did the chisel, because it took forever on that. I decided it was time to pull out the wallet to try to buy off some time here. In other words, I bought a coarse diamond stone. It still took forever, especially because there was one corner that was the tiniest bit convex. Argh.

And of course, wouldn’t you know that there were a bunch of pits on the bevel, too. Now here was where I was really happy that I got the diamond stone, because I don’t have a grinder. I just locked the sucker in the honing guide, plopped it on the diamond stone, and rolled like mad, and finally ground past the pits and the other really nice deficiencies.

After the requisite arm-hair shavings, it was time to try it out on some poplar:

Of course, you never get it right the first time. I’d never used anything like this before, so naturally it took a lot of gouging and fiddling to finally arrive at something passable.

This is going to take some practice to get to where I need to be, but you gotta love it when your floor looks like this:

Thank goodness for vacuum cleaners…

First honing

So I had my first attempt at honing today. My 3/4″ chisel was my first victim of the Scary Sharp system. I was a bit nervous about it because, well, this was it, you know… the last thing that I needed to do in order to have a usable tool. That, and I’d been reading about how to sharpen stuff for a long time.

It actually worked. I used a variety of sandpaper grits with repositionable spray adhesive on glass. I learned the following:

  • Don’t use too much adhesive. Just a little bit makes the sandpaper stick and keeps it from sliding around. Too much makes it goopy and slippery. Repositionable is great because you can clean it with citrus cleaner.
  • Lapping the back of a blade is the hardest part and takes a long time. Thank goodness you really only have to do this once. I need some more sandpaper grits to do this more quickly; it took me a long time to work out the original milling marks and skip between the various grits.
  • Corollary: It’s gonna take forever to lap the soles of my planes.
  • Honing the bevel is pretty fast and easy, especially when you have a honing guide.
  • A mirror finish on a blade makes things really, really interesting.
  • It’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve done it right. You really can shave your arm hair, and a sharp blade cuts across endgrain with the greatest of ease.
  • I need a real strop.

I still need more practice. But the today’s results are much better than I expected.

So close!

Through the last few weeks, I’ve been getting the final pieces necessary for me to start cutting wood. I finally got a piece of plate glass for sharpening and lapping. For that, I went to a salvage yard and, well, it might have been overkill, but I found a 4-foot piece of 3/8″-thick tempered glass (for almost nothing). You can’t cut tempered glass, but I thought that it might be nice to have something this big for lapping plane soles.

I also broke down and bought a Veritas honing guide.

To give you an idea of the budget I’ve been using, this is definitely the most expensive tool that I’ve bought so far. Now that I’ve got it, I’m glad that I splurged on this, because it’s gonna be awfully handy in getting bevel angles correct.

So at this point, there’s just one thing separating me from sharpening: spray adhesive. To lap planes, I also need a sheet of Mylar. So I’m going to work on this stuff this week. And then I’m gonna get some actual wood!