Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Early dovetaling

Like I wrote earlier, I use some rather primitive dovetailing technique for the three small drawers in my medicine chest. They have a single tail on each corner, instead of the neat row of tails and pins you see in slightly newer stuff. This is all based on the time when the dovetail made its first presence in drawer construction, the 17th century.

Making them is also a little different, allthough I believe these techniques survived for a long time. Even the fanciest pieces from the 19th century show overcuts in the corners and marking lines still present. Only in the modern eye, used to machined perfectness, this looks a bit odd.

Making the drawers starts out innocent enough. After sawing the one big tail (overcutting the corners a liberal amoubt), I mark the pins with a pencil. I like the pencil better then a knife these days, because it is easier to see. This is a modernism of course, pencils were probably too expensive back then for a simple joiner.

The sides of this socket are then sawn out. Here the overcutting continues. I cut a long way into the face. This is a half blind dovetail so it is always difficult to clear out the corners of this socket. Overcutting helps enormously. You can even do better on this, really dig the point of the saw into the corner. These overcuts will be inside the drawer and can hardly been seen.

The rest of the waste is chiseled out in the usual fashion. To get at the last fibers in the corner of the sockets, I use a utility knife. I don't have skew chisels, and this works plenty well enough.

And the result. They fit nicely. Corners are clearly overcut in this picture. You can also still see the marking lines. All that doesn't matter in this kind of stuff. The bottom is nailed on, it was rather difficult to mail into these 1/4" thick sidewalls! I had to repair a few spots where a nail had gone astray.

It looks like most of the contruction work is finished by now. Time to sharpen the gouges for some carving work!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The medicine chest continued.The drawers.

It took a while to regain enough interest to continuing the build of the medicine chest. No idea why I came to a halt, but such things happen, I suppose also to others. I have been working on the door, but not much interesting to report on that job. Just chopping four mortises, cut four tenons and did a bit of adjusting to get a nice flat door with tight shoulder lines. I also flattened the door panel which had cupped quite a bit since the winter. No surprise there either. It has been stable for a few weeks now.

But before I start with the carvings on the door, I decided to get all the construction work out of the way. I made a start with the drawers. My cabinet is loosely inspired by the 17th century spice cabinets, like I wrote last autumn . These cabinets always had a bunch of small drawers, usually behind a door. These drawers were often crudely made and simply nailed together. But the 17th century also saw the rise of the dovetail joint in drawer construction. Usually very crude too, and the first examples often had a single dovetail per corner. Like in this example (with some nails to be on the safe side).

Dovetails, not for show, for construction purposes only. Showy dovetails in drawer design is more an 18th century invention.

Because I am only loosely basing my design on the 17th century I can do whatever I like. I happen to like these kinds of crude details, so that's what I made. One single dovetail. Half lapped in the front and a through dovetail in the back. The bottom is going to be nailed on.

A crude drawer. Dovetail not super tight, overcut in some places. Cherry front and back, while the sides and the bottom are made from oak.

One drawer dovetailed. Two more to go.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tuning up the Stanley planes

The planes look nice enough to me, so I won't do much restoration work. But as they came to me they were far from ready to work. Especially the blades need attention, the chipbreakers need to be fitted and the two smaller planes have a concave (hollow) sole.

First the blades. As usual they have rust damage, pitting and the face of the blade is convex. Especially the corners are heavilly dubbed over. This is quite normal with most old planes. I don't know how they worked with them back in the days, but I prefer a little better condition. The dubbing and the pitting make sharpening difficult and the convexity of the face makes fitting the capiron a frustrating experience.

I start with loose SiC grit on a marble floor tile. I have bought a package of these tiles years ago especially for this kind of work. The tiles are very flat. The grit quickly cuts through a lot of nastiness and is easilly replenished when the cutting slows down. After the grit I switch to a 400 Bester waterstone. This is an agressive stone but it loves to loose its flatness in a hurry. No other way then to religously flatten the stone often with a DMT diamond plate. Next up is my 1000 grit Sigma. Also kept flat as good as I can. Each and every step starts with removing the dissimilarities in flatness between the stones. So all in all it is always a lot of work. After the 1000 stone reached every corner of the blade, polishing is a doddle.

Then the capiron. It needs to fit seamlessly on the polished face of the blade. All of them were twisted and had lost a lot of spring tension. Here is how I put a some new spring into it. Clamp it just under the hump in a vise and wack the hump with a block of wood and a big hammer.

And untwisting it is shown in this picture.

And then it's onto an oilstone to lap the face where it meets the blade. This is again a long winded little job, always taking more time then expected. I managed to rescue two capirons and two blades. The third set was too far gone and I have replaced it with a Ray Iles plane blade with a newer capiron.

The frogs of all three planes were fine. I couldn't detect any rocking motion of the frog on the bottom of the plane, so I left it all alone. I had to retighten the rivet holding the lateral lever, which is easilly but carefully done with a small hamer on a corner of the steel vise. Support the rivet on the vise and hammer the top of the rivet with the fin of the hammer until it's a tight but smooth fit again.

Flattening the sole of a plane is a hot subject. Webpages and youtubes full of advice, but I still think my approach is a little different. First, I am lucky this time. The long #6 has a very flat sole with a slight convexity towards the nose and heel. But that's fine and won't harm the performance of the plane. The two smoothers were concave, hollow, and that inhibits the plane to take fine shavings, which is the job of a smoothing plane of course. As usual they have a worn out depression in front of the mouth and a bit of a belly behind it.

I use a flat piece of glass on the flat workbench with some 120 grit glued down on it. I also have a real straight edge which is only used for measuring stuff, never used in combination with a marking knife or anything else that can damage the edges. This is my ultimate reference. And then I use a marker and a smooth cut file.

First I squigle a bunch of lines on the sole of the plane. Then I put it on the sandpaper and move it back and forth a few times to see what I got. I turn the plane over and clamp it carefully (don't crack the sides of the plane!) in the vise. And I file the sanded spots.

In the above picture you can see how I need to file a lot behind the mouth, while I can still see some markings just in front of the mouth, especially in the middle. The file is much quicker then the sandpaper, so it speeds up the work a lot. But you do need to recheck regularly, both with the straight edge and the sandpaper on glass. At last I polish up the sole a bit on the 120 grit sandpaper and something a little finer. I certainly don't go overboard and when the plane is flat enough to be able to take a fine shaving, I call it quits.

For the apearance of the planes I just cleaned them with some mineral spirits and a brush, and a Scotchbrite pad on the rusty spots. I coat the japaning and the small rusty spots with some boiled linseed oil which gives a bit of sheen and protects. One of the knobs looked like a black rubber ball, so I sanded it down, together with the ascociated handle and shellacked a new finish. Luckily I am pretty horrible at finishing, so it still doesn't look like new, but a lot better then beforehand.

That's about it. Testing on some pine.

And a group shot, together with my #7 jointer.

Now I only need a #5 and perhaps I should make a nice cabinet for them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Very old Stanley planes

A long time allready I lusted for a set of really old Stanley planes, the so called "low knob" models. Until the type 11, that is up to 1918, the front knob of the Stanley planes was smaller and lower then the later ones. There are a lot of other details, like the plain levercap, the smaller adjusting wheel or a different frog design. I allready had a type 11 plane, my #7 jointer and I always liked the looks of this plane a lot better then the later models, especially the made in the UK ones which are mostly offered overhere in The Netherlands.

So, when I had a little bit of money on my hands, I decided to bite the bullet. We have a dealer overhere (ducotools) who imports antique tools from all over the world, and he happened to have some promissing stuff available. I bought a #3, a #4 and a #6, two smoothers and a short jointer.

On first inspection the planes looked nice enough for a carefull preservation instead of a restoration. The sides and lever cap have that nice mellow brown patina, the japaning is mostly complete and the wooden handles didn't look too bad and looked like a light polish would be enough. This is exactly how I like my tools to look like, in good condition but clearly showing their age.

According to the Stanley type studies the #4 and the #6 are type 7 and type 8 resp. That means they were made between 1893 and 1902. They allready have a lot of the later features, like the lateral lever, but they don't have the frog adjustment screw. Now, I never adjust the frog after it has been set initially, so that doesn't bother me at all. The small #3 was a bit of a mystery at first. It seemed to have characteristics from at least 3 types. After much looking around I found another type study which seems to be a little better, This one mentions an in between type 6a which has features from the types 6 and 7. It also gives a later date for the right hand depth adjuster which was replaced with left hand threads in the type 7. Conclusion, this is a type 6a, made in 1891-1892. And I will have to get used to a depth adjuster on this plane which works the other way round.

All this historical stuff is of course pretty unimportant, but it is fun to know how old your tools are. I was very happy with my purchase allready, But before using them I will have to take care of the technical details of the planes, which is a topic for another blog.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Karl Holtey retires!

And I wish him all the best! According to his website he is now making his last plane.

Karl Holtey is a legend in the woodworking handplane world. His drive was to make the absolute best handplanes a man can make. And he delivered. His planes are immaculate. With a matching price of course. The price often was topic of heated debate, a bit silly at times. He was also leading in the use of A2 and powdered metal tool steels in the handtool world.

I have never had a Holtey plane (far, far above my pay grade!), not even ever touched one or seen in the flesh. But I have enjoyed his blog for years, and in a sence been inspired by it. Mind you, my taste runs more to the mundane things in life, I like old and worn and rescued from a certain death. But I can apreciate a dedicated and highly skilled craftsman.

If ever you read this mr. Holtey, I wish you good health and a lot of fun in your retirement.