More plane practice

I got out the gear from last week to try to improve my planing and sharpening skills. We definitely have progress here.

It turned out that I messed up the primary bevel last week; I had it somewhere near 25 degrees, but it should be much higher. So earlier this week, I took out the honing guide and diamond stone and (groan) reworked the bevel. This made a big difference; sharpening also went much faster this time. And I have yet fewer arm hairs.

What took a long time was the sole preparation. I was wondering about the “friction” people talk about on plane soles, so I tried a test run on my MF #9 with the iron retracted on a board. Well, I’ll be–“friction” is real. Man, that thing was hard to drag around. So I decided to see if I could get the bottom a little smoother. I probably should not have done that, it was likely a waste of time and it took forever to get all the crud off the bottom and out of the plane. But I couldn’t help myself, and I polished up the sides to a semi-shine while I was at it. Oooh, purty.

After this, I waxed the sole. Now that really did the trick. Wow. I will not skip this step again. It amounts to Friction-B-Gone, and now I’m wondering if hot waxing (as you would do on a snowboard or skis) would be even better. The nice thing about hot wax is that there aren’t any awful chemicals in the wax paste that have to evaporate before you smooth it.

I’m experiencing all of the usual problems you get when you’re still learning how to use a plane and those that you experience in a plane that needs some fine-tuning. My biggest problem is getting the shavings not to jam. The solution I finally ended up at was just to open the throat a little wider. Of course, this was after who-knows-how-long, and the iron was dull at that point, but that’s not a big deal. I’m at least getting good chipbreaking action. My practice board is much smoother this week than it was last week, but I can probably improve on this still by getting better shaving control. I was getting a bunch of single-fiber shavings today. That was neat.

Before cleaning up, I sharpened another chisel, my 1/2″ one, including lapping the back. This was much faster now, not only because I’m getting better at it, but also the lapping took virtually no time on the diamond stone. Then I tried it out on some wood, and that was really cool. I love how a sharp tool gives a glass-smooth finish. Endgrain? No problem.

One thing that’s becoming painfully obvious (and I knew this was going to be an issue) is that the ‘ol workmate just isn’t cutting it when I use a plane, and I need to solve this problem. I need to hold it down with one foot to keep it from tipping up because I’m putting too much force on it. It would work in a somewhat adequate manner if I could find some way to bolster it against a wall. But what I’ll probably need to do is make some cheap ‘n dirty workbench that’s a little more stable (and one that I can do an end vise number on). This would be more useful anyway, because I eventually want to be able to use the workmate for sawing.

Well, there’s that problem, and also that my apartment isn’t a good workshop. But there are solutions.

In the near future, I need to get one of my jack planes working, as well as a few saws. I had the opportunity to use my 99-cent Jackson backsaw today. Even in the wretched shape that it’s in, it cut surprisingly quickly.

It’d also be nice to get one of the fore planes up and running, even though I’m not sure what I’d use it for. I’m so close on my Stanley #6 that I might just try to get it finished before a jack (which is going to require rust removal, some serious grind-o-rama, and who knows what else).

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