Yesterday I went down the peninsula to visit some friends. They’d been asking me for help on a smoothing plane for a while. Specifically, the blade needed sharpening, so I packed up the sandpaper, waterstones, honing guide, and drove down.
Before starting anything, we went to the Woodcraft store. I had been thinking about getting a granite surface plate for a long time. Since I was eager to try out anything that would lessen the pain of flattening the face of a chisel or plane blade, especially the one that was about to be flattened, I bought one. It was at least cheaper than a Hock plane blade.
Well, I’d been hearing stories about people and their surface plates. How they wanted to get married to their surface plates, they loved them so much. How they might have children–you know, that sort of thing. And now I know why. For some reason, it’s a lot easier to flatten stuff on the plate than on glass or diamond stones or whatever. Perhaps it’s because it’s heavier, or maybe there’s more friction? I don’t know for sure, but it works. Using a little water to hold Norton 3x 220-grit paper in place, it took almost no time to get the face of the 2″ blade flat. The blade’s milling helped a lot, too.
I still had the surface plate buzz lingering today, so I decided to see how quickly it would do the job on this little Stanley #75 bullnose rabbet plane:
Very quick, as it turns out. That silly little plane works surprisingly well, too. It’s kind of a pain to adjust at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not bad.
It’s taken forever, but I finally got around to drawing the scrub plane, or at least the side view.
I’m still a little unsure of these dimensions. Most wooden scrub planes have the blade set a little further back. But since I want a tote on this thing, I had to shift a few things around. The basic tote shape comes from the small Lee Valley tote that I got for my low-angle block plane. It’s likely that even if it works out for me, it will not be comfortable for those with larger hands. In any case, the tote is not meant to be grabbed with four fingers; the index finger should go along the side.
I’m not sure what to do about the front. I suppose that it’s possible to put a knob or something on there, but I’m not going to bother with it until I try it out.
My Winchester No. 16 handsaw has been sitting around waiting for me to do something to it since time began. I’ve had this saw for nearly five years. When I finally decided to do something about it, it was back in March, when I discovered that it was a Winchester:
I didn’t know what to do with it at that point. It’s a mildly rare saw, so one option was to try to sell it for something useful, for example, a pile of Disston D-8s. But the handle was in crap condition, and it had the less-snazzy “Warranted Superior” medallion, so I decided to restore it and keep it as a user. I don’t know when I decided to do that, but it was a long time ago, and as such, I’ve had the blade sitting around, derusted and waxed, waiting for sharpening. I took the handle off, and procrastinated on the refinishing.
About three weeks ago, I decided to do something about it. I finished today:
The saw was filed to 6TPI. That’s pretty coarse for a crosscut saw, so I was originally going to make this a ripsaw to replace my beat-up D-7. However, the handle has that funny notch on the top that would make ripping uncomfortable with two hands, so I figured decided that this would, in fact, remain a crosscut saw. The rake angle is 15 degrees, with the fleam angle at 20 degrees. I had initially filed a 20-degree rake angle, but I screwed up pointing it (of course), so on my second try, I decided that since it was so coarse that I should make it a little more aggressive. It was probably a good idea; it does saw very efficiently. The cut is fairly clean for 6TPI.
I spent about a million years refinishing the handle. It was dented, nicked, and beat up. This photo also shows how the top horn was mangled:
The first thing I did (several months ago) was strip the original finish. At the same time, I cleaned the sawnuts:
And then it sat. And sat. And sat, until about three weeks ago. Even after stripping the original finish, it was still really uneven, so I sanded around the curved parts. For the flat parts, I just skimmed it with a smoothing plane. At this time, I also learned what the wood in the handle was for the first time–American Beech (fagus grandfolia). OK, well, that’s not a big surprise.
Then there were decisions. Should I stain it? With what? I finally settled on few thin coats of a “Colonial Maple” pigment stain. I used a washcoat beforehand. Though it would result in accented nicks and dents, it would even out the flat parts, and who’s going to try to hide the fact that this saw hasn’t been used, anyway?
Finally, I decided to use the same flat-sheen polyurethane that I used on the mallet as a protective top layer. I went from a thin coat to thicker coats, then back down to thin coats for the final one. Several coats were necessary, because the varnish would run down the surfaces that were vertical, depending on the way you held the handle. I did the first coats with the handle held upright, then the later ones held flat. A close-up of the finished handle:
I used a progression of 320 grit sandpaper, #0000 steel wool, 1500 grit sandpaper, and rottenstone, all lubricated with mineral oil, to rub out the finish. There’s still a scratch here and there from the coarse-grit paper (because polyurethane is tough), but overall, it looks nice, and it’s very smooth to the touch.
It’s been a busy few weeks with practically no time for woodwork. However, there has been a little progress. Today, I finally got around to milling the two faces of the board that will eventually become the scrub plane. As with the mallet, the plane will be made of European beech. What a pain–gave myself a blister doing it, too. The only thing left to do on the board is hit it with a smoothing plane, but that’s easy.
I still need to draw the thing. I think I’m going to go with at least a 10-inch length so that I have enough room for a tote in the back, but I don’t know how tall it should be, nor do I know how far forward the blade will be, and I don’t even know what design I’ll use for the handle.
Other minor activity is that I’ve finally gotten around to finishing the Winchester saw handle that’s been sitting around for at least a half a year. There are lots of nicks in the handle. I used a smoothing plane to knock out the most superficial of those. A washcoat and a coat of stain (a pigment-colored varnish) is now on. I’ll do another coat of that tomorrow, and probably follow up with a some polyurethane. One of these days, someone tell me why it’s so impossible to pour anything out of a paint can. There has got to be a better way.
Another fix for the junkie arrived from Lee Valley today. This shipment included the high carbon blade for the scrub plane. I don’t know why the HCS blade costs $18 and the A2 blade $38. It’s surprisingly heavy.
Also in the package were a small tote and front knob add-on for my low-angle block plane (a sort of silly extragavance, but that plane is really nifty), and two 4″ 2x slim taper handsaw files.
My waterstones had started to dish a little, so I flattened them with my diamond stone. That was delightfully easy.
In a previous episode, I had just given the mallet an oil/varnish blend finish to give it its color. Then I left for two weeks of vacation, and a week ago, I came back, ready to hit it with some polyurethane.
I wanted to use polyurethane for two reasons: first, I’d never really done much with varnish before, and I thought it was about time to start. Second, it’s good stuff against dirt and sweat, and it’s tough. So off I went and thinned it way too much, so it took a week to get all of the coats on.
I used a “satin sheen” on it, because I’m not big on shiny stuff. Today, I was able to finally hit it with some rottenstone and get the final result:
It’s sitting on top of a piece of the same roughsawn european beech board that it was made from. I guess that’s progress.
Here’s a shot of the top. I managed to get the ray fleck there, so I left it as-is. I’m fairly pleased at the way the end grain turned out.
There are a few flaws. But this is, after all, a striking tool, and I don’t know how pretty it’s gonna look after a period of using it as intended. Incidentally, I am pleased at how it has performed in a few tests so far. The real test comes when I try to make a mortise and tenon (or pretty much anything) again, and I reach for this thing.
I’m back from two weeks of being in PA. For some strange reason, I paid a lot more attention to the trees this time. Gee, I wonder why. Penn State’s campus has some great native trees.
I fooled around with polyurethane on the mallet today. No pictures yet, but they wouldn’t be earthshattering, especially since it isn’t a gloss version. I used way too much thinner, so I’m not getting a very thick film on there. On the upside, I’m not getting any bubbles or brushstrokes or anything.
Something is happening, at least. I’ll probably need at least four coats with this thickness. That’s okay, I’m not in a hurry.
This morning, I took out the chamfering attachment to my low-angle block plane and set to work on the head. This was relatively easy work, and soon I had moved to the handle. I tried to work out some funny stuff that was going on in the handle, but wasn’t altogether successful. This is okay, because this (and one flaw on the head) does not affect the operational aspects of the tool.
When it was all said and done, I had this:
Groovy. I tested its grip and balance a little. It’s mostly to my liking; when I make the next one, I may put a thicker handle on it.
That left the finish. I went to the local hardware store and found nothing that I could stand. So I decided to use the same oil/varnish blend (“danish oil”) that I put on the workbench. This means that the mallet will show camouflage with the bench (because it’s made of the same wood), but this is okay.
I was a little disappointed at having to use the same finish as earlier because I really want to get started with varnishes. What I will probably do, however, is apply clear non-gloss polyurethane on top once the oil/varnish cures. This should provide a lot more protection against sweat and grime.
I cut out the handle with a combination of a dovetail saw, a coping saw, a chisel, and a low-angle block plane. I would do a few things differently when marking next time, but it’s not like it’s a big deal.
The mallet components now looked like this:
Not bad. The handle fits the head, and it definitely feels like something you can whack stuff with. Except for those nasty sharp edges. I marked out the cross-section on the end of the handle and set about it with a spokeshave:
This was the first time I used a spokeshave! That was fun. Though I might want to try getting my Stanley #151 in working shape. It’s not easy to adjust the depth on the #51 I was using, but then again, it wasn’t that bad.
There was the very edge of a knot on one side of the handle, so that made it difficult to avoid tearout. So I used a little sandpaper to even out that part, and now we’re getting somewhere:
Still left to do is chamfer some edges, even up the head faces, and apply a finish. I have decided against an additional bevel on the top of the head, partly because I like the ray-fleck pattern, and partly because I feel lazy.
I marked out three sections of the milled lumber in the shape of the mallet head and cut them out. Except that I didn’t do the top bevel; I figure that I can do it after I glued the thing up.
I picked out a piece for the center and marked out the part where the handle will go through. After paring to the knife edge, I sawed partway down the sides. Finally, I knocked out a little bit off the top area between the saw kerfs so that it ended up looking like this:
The reason for removing that piece was that my plan was to glue that face to another piece like this:
The theory is that when the glue is dry, I’ll be able to saw from the other side, remove the center (where the handle will eventually go), clean it up, then glue on the last piece. The center will now comprise of two parts, perfectly in-line. Well, I hope I used enough glue.