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In:In the Shop

Comments Off on #KIDDWRCKBENCH part 1

One of my daughters breaking down lumber for her future bench.

I have kids. 3 of them. All girls. They all enjoy spending time in the shop with me and as they’ve grown, their interest in using tools and building things has taken off.  I would occasionally set them up on my bench with some tools, but everything is too big for them and watching them plane wood while sitting on top of the bench and the board they’re trying to plane was just sad. So for a year or so I started thinking about what kind of bench to make them, but I couldn’t figure out what type of vise to get.  Ideally it would be a seriously functional vise, but move smoothly and easily enough for a 4 year old to use.  I didn’t make much progress until Handworks 2017 when Benchcrafted did a kid bench giveaway using their scaled-down vise hardware as a front vise (the hardware is normally used in their portable HiVise product).  Seeing that vise was the missing link for me, so I bought the HiVise kit and started designing my kids’ bench when Handworks was over.

The BenchCrafted kid bench from Handworks 2017.

In the end, my design was based around the bench from Charles Hayward’s The Woodworker Vol. 4, the same design Benchcrafted used for their giveaway bench. By that I mean it’s a bench with a tool tray and lower shelf, front vise but no tail vise, and a front apron with dog-holes for supporting wood (as opposed to a sliding deadman). There’s a variety of ways to incorporate these features into a bench ranging from fast and simple to more complicated and time consuming… I’m making this for my kids and want it to be something that expresses how much they mean to me, so naturally I opted for the complicated and time consuming route. That’s not to say the extra effort is just for show, there’s a lot of logic driving most of the decisions I made so without further adieu, let’s get into it.

The Plans

This was my first draft of the bench, final version available for download below. I don’t usually go into nearly this much detail on my plans, but with a bench it’s easy to misplace a dog hole or mortise location and suddenly things won’t assemble correctly.

I designed my bench to ideally fit a ~7-8 year old and uses almost exclusively 8/4 lumber.  It’s smaller than the bench made by BenchCrafted, but I think it’s a good compromise for my kids.  It’s not so tall that a 4-5 year old couldn’t use it, but not so short to prevent a 10-11 year old.  After that, I plan on either shimming the bench up a few inches or transition my kids over to my full-sized bench.  If you’re interested in making this bench, the plans are available here for free.

The Base I knew from the beginning that my kids’ bench would have a painted base. Our WMT travel bench (which is also my daily user) has a black base painted with milk paint and I love it. It’s also what my kids are used to, so they just expected their bench to have a painted base. Given the painted finish, I didn’t use a more expensive wood (like Maple) nor an open-grain wood (like Oak). My preferred lumber of choice for this kind of situation in Poplar. It’s readily available, inexpensive, cuts well with machines or hand tools, and looks great when painted. So with the wood selected, I got it milled square and to size so the joinery could begin. The base is assembled with drawbored mortise and tenons. I typically make the mortise first, hogging out most of the waste on the drill press and then cleaning it up with chisels. The tenons were roughed out on the band saw with the fit being tuned via a router plane until it fit the mortise perfectly.

The pile-o-lumber for the base awaiting joinery.

Lay out the mortises referencing off the same face. This can be done with 2 different gauges or a dual mortise gauge like this one from Veritas.

The tenons were roughed out on the band saw and refined using a router plane until it just presses into the mortise using hand pressure.

The joints in the back of the base were a little tricky because they aren’t square, but angled. For these, it was faster to just do everything by hand.  I laid out the angles and locations, cut to my lines with hand saws, and again tuned the fit with a router plane.

Cutting the angled tenon shoulder.

Cutting the angled tenon cheeks.

With all the joinery cut, the prep for drawboring can begin.  If you aren’t familiar with drawboring, it’s basically just sending a wooden peg through a hole that’s drilled through the mortise walls and tenon to pin the joint together. The one trick is you don’t just drill a straight hole. First, drill the hole through the mortise, then insert the tenon and mark the hole’s center location to the tenon and remove it. Now, shift that center location toward the shoulder by a small amount (~1/16″), the exact amount can vary based on wood species and the size of the joint. Reinsert the tenon and you’ll see the hole from the mortise is offset from the hole in the tenon. Now when you pound your wooden peg through the offset holes, it tries to pull the tenon deeper into the mortise.  This pulls the joint extremely tight at the shoulders and locks the peg in place, even with no glue everything would stay locked in place. Now go ahead and add glue to the mortise and tenon, assemble the joint, and pound the pegs through. Note, the pegs should be tapered at their ends so they can snake their way through the holes and if you have drawbore pins (aka, just a tapered rod) you can twist that into both ends of the hole before inserting the peg which also helps ease the path of the peg through the offset holes.

Pounding wooden pegs through a dowel plate brings them to a precise final diameter.

After drilling the hole through the mortise, insert the tenon and mark the hole’s center location with a transfer punch.

A drawbore pin gets pressed and twisted into the hole from both sides before pounding the peg through. This crushes some fibers and helps smooth the path of the peg through the hole.

After the pegs are driven home they will get cut off on each side with a flush cut saw. Notice the pointed tips of the peg.

Getting the base glued up and drawbored.

After the base is assembled, there’s a few final details before it can get painted. First, there’s a few cuts at the top of the front legs that the bench top apron will sit in and an extra block gets glued to the left leg that’s necessary for mounting the vise hardware, but I feel that’s best left until the bench top is finished. Then use the top itself to locate those cuts, otherwise you’re asking for issues. You can cut the feet flat at this point and if you haven’t done it already (which I hadn’t) you can drill the holes through the top stretchers for the bolts to pass through which will attach the top to the base. Finally, add all your chamfers or whatever edge detailing you like and you can move onto the top which is what I’ll cover next time.

Until then…

 

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In:In the Shop, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Miller’s Patent Plow Plane

A little while back I acquired a Miller’s Patent plow plane, near as I can tell, it’s a model No. 43 Type 5.  It came with 3 cutters and was in good shape overall, but I felt like it could use a little attention before I put it to work. Here’s a quick summary for those who may be looking to restore a similar tool.

The tool as I received it

As shown, the tool is in decent shape, but the body is grimy, the handle is dirty, and the brass components are dull and worn.

One more picture of the tool before I began cleaning it up.

Before the restoration can begin, one of the most useful things to do is disassemble the entire tool.  This reveals several details that may have otherwise gone unnoticed: a cracked part, a missing screw, a mechanism that’s corroded and no longer functioning properly, etc.  If you do nothing else with a new-to-you vintage tool, take it apart, verify everything is there and working properly, and put it back together.

A plow plane in pieces.

One area to pay special attention to with a plow plane is the chip deflector.  This part not only provides the downward clamping pressure on the cutter to hold it in place, but also sends the shaving being cut out of the tool and away from the user.  If the face of the deflector is dented, rough, or has any kind of tacky residue on it, the shavings may not flow out as they should and could get jammed up in the tool which can be annoying.  I used a smooth, half-round file to remove some of the dents and burrs, then smoothed the face with fine sandpaper.

Before…

…After (apologies on the out-of-focus photo)

Next, I had to address the depth stop.  This was pretty badly worn.  There are two critical surfaces: the face that touches the body and the bottom face that ultimately touches the work when the final depth has been reached.  These two surfaces need to be flat and perpendicular to one another.  As you can see in the pictures, they were not.  I lapped them on with sandpaper on a granite surface plate, checking for flatness and perpendicularity as I went.

This face gets clamped against the body. It should be flat, but clearly has a deep hollow in the middle.

The bottom surface also needed to be re-flattened. Additionally, I eased the edges when I was done to ensure no sharp corners would scratch up my work when the depth stop makes contact.

After addressing the few functional issues above, I took all the small brass and steel bits and threw them in my tumbler for a few hours to clean them up.  This gave everything a nice, uniform finish and removed any remaining grime from the parts.  Steel parts were oiled to prevent rust.

I didn’t do much with the body, just a quick cleaning and scrubbing to brighten it up.  This, along with a bath in Evaporust went a long way to making it look new(ish) again.  Finally, I lightly sanded the handle and hit it with some Watco Danish Oil to freshen it up.

The result of my modest efforts were well worth it. I debated re-painting the body since most of the original japanning had worn off, but decided to leave it alone.

…and a shot of the other side.

Detailed shot of some of the brass bits. Nice.

With the tool brought back to glory, I sharpened up the cutters and took it for a spin.  The results are excellent.  These tools can take very aggressive shavings compared to most because the grooves are typically narrow (1/4″ – 1/2″ wide).  A narrow shaving means low material removal and low push-force, so the cut can be a lot deeper to compensate.  These are also not cutting a show-surface, so some tear-out on the inside of the groove isn’t a concern.  This style plow doesn’t even have a depth adjustment for the cutter. Why not?  Because it doesn’t matter and it’s not critical.  Just sight the distance the cutter is projecting by eye and lock it down.  If you really set it too heavy or too light, one quick re-adjustment is usually all it will take to dial it in.  The point being, it’s a PLOW plane, plow through the work with the heaviest shaving possible.  If you do, a typical groove can be completed in under a minute, maybe 2-3 if it’s a longer board and/or harder material requiring a lighter shaving.

Testing the plow for a 1/4″ groove.

And the results.

Overall, this was a pretty minimal restoration, more of a basic tune-up and cleaning, but it pays dividends in the long run.  Next up, a few posts on making a work bench for my kids.  Cheers.

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In:In the Shop, Our Tools

Comments Off on Router Update: May 2017

After roughly a year of delays, the WMT 2500 Router Plane is coming back into production.  We were just able to squeak out a small run of routers for Handworks last weekend and they sold out in a matter of hours.  The information that follows is a brief account of what we’ve been up to for the past year and when routers will be available for purchase again on our website.

As many of you know, we’ve been finished with our router design for some time, but casting issues have prevented us from scaling up production.  We had to scrap roughly 1/3 of our first production run due to cosmetic defects (pits in the castings) and hoped we could simply talk to the foundry, tweak a few things, and be back in business.  That was not the case.  The foundry tried to work with us, but it took weeks for them to change their parameters and pour a test batch.  When the new parts finally arrived, they were often times worse than before (scrap).  This cycle repeated itself several times (more scrap).  We learned a lot of the finer points about casting during this time and it became more and more obvious that this foundry wasn’t going to be able to meet our needs.  The result was a lot of wasted cash, a lot of lost time, and ultimately a new foundry.

Issues on the sole of the castings before milling: sumps and pits

Issues on the surface of the castings after milling and polishing: more pitting

Pitting on the fences as well.

When we switched to a new foundry we started to make some headway, but few people pour manganese bronze these days and this new foundry had to come up a learning curve as well.  We changed the patterns several times and adjusted the casting process as well.  It took several iterations (again, more lost time and money) but at least we were seeing improvements.  The surface quality of the castings is smoother, the letters are more clear, and the pitting has been nearly eliminated.  That brings us up to about a month ago.  We got our latest batch of routers in and started getting them ready for Handworks.  After machining, polishing, and lapping, the only pitting we see is small and restricted to the sole of the plane.  The top surfaces are clean and the pits aren’t nearly as large as they used to be.  The images below are examples of what we’re getting at this point.

Very light pitting

Moderate size pits

So here’s where we stand today.  Casting perfect parts is tough.  Casting them in mag-bronze is very tough.  This may be as good as we can ever get our castings and if that’s the case, we can live with that at this point.  None of our customers have balked at the castings when they see them, the usual reaction is something like, “Is that all?”  And if we have to choose between selling them with tiny pits in the sole or not selling them at all, we’re ready to sell them and stand behind that decision.  In a way, to scrap every tool with a minor pit would be like throwing out every board in your shop with a bit of grain reversal or a knot.  It just happens sometimes and that shouldn’t automatically mean it becomes scrap.  Having said that, we’re not going to stop trying to improve them any way we can.  We still have some minor things to try, maybe we can reduce the pitting further or eliminate it entirely, but maybe not.  Either way, we’re moving forward and ramping up production again.

In the meantime, we haven’t sat around twiddling our thumbs for the past year waiting for good castings.  We have already designed and released our set of Compass Guides and have prototypes of our WMT No. 25 Router which we had for people to try out at Handworks (you can see it on our bench in the photo below).  The small router has a few little tricks up its sleeve, but we’ll get into that when it gets closer to the release, probably 2-3 months from now.

Our bench at Handworks.

Finally, when can you order a No. 2500 router off our site?  Likely in just a few months.  After Handworks wiped out our inventory we’ve come back and ordered another batch of castings.  Our plan for now is to upload around 30 routers a month onto our site, when they sell out, they’re gone for the month.  But a month later another 30 will go on the site.  This will help us deliver consistently each month rather than take on a large number of sales and then have to stop order-taking the site down for months at a time.  As the foundry gets more consistent and we have more confidence in our process we can order larger batches and start getting 40 or 50 routers up each month, but we’re going to walk before we run based on how the last year has gone.

So hopefully that helps people understand what’s been going on.  We’re not a foundry and this issue has been frustrating and largely out of our control.  Finding the right people to work with can take time, but at least we’re nearly through it and for that we are grateful.  We look forward to putting these tools in the hands of more woodworkers soon and greatly appreciate everyone’s support and patience in the matter.

Until next time, have a great day. -WMT

In our previous post, we discussed using other manufacturer’s cutters in our 2500 router plane.  Why would you want to use another manufacturer’s cutter?  Because right now we only have one size, 1/2″ square tipped.  We may offer a spear point, possibly one other size like 1/4″, but that may be a little while and we currently have no plans to offer the wide range of sizes companies like Veritas produce.  Fortunately, it is possible to use many other cutters in our router… unfortunately it requires a permanent modification to that cutter: adding a secondary notch.

Adding the second notch isn’t hard, but take your time and check the fit often.

The reason for this second notch is simple; without it you won’t be able to take a cut less than 1/2″-1″ deep depending on the cutter you’re using.  That’s not good considering almost any cut you’d want to make with a narrow blade will tend to be very shallow.  (This is usually where people ask why we didn’t just make the threaded posts taller like other router planes… it’s because the 2500’s cutter can move to the side positions and a taller post would stick up through the handles, so they have to be somewhat short.  This is true of the original Preston design as well.)  So, by adding a secondary notch you can use many other manufacturer’s blades.  Lie-Nielsen is a no-go because they use a square shank, but any diamond shank measuring around 3/8″ square should fit.  To make this notch you will likely need to use a Dremel tool with a grinding wheel which can be further refined with diamond files if you have them.  Standard files won’t work (at least not on Veritas’ cutters) as the shanks are heat treated.  Work slowly, keep the notch as square as possible, and check your progress frequently.

A variety of cutters, from left to right: a vintage Record, an unaltered Veritas, the WMT cutter, and finally a modified Veritas.

The notch is technically 0.155″ tall and 0.130″ deep, but that doesn’t really matter.  What matters is making it just tall enough to fit around the depth adjustment nut and deep enough that it won’t bottom out on the adjustment nut.  There should be clearance all the way around the nut when installed and clamped down.  The position of the notch is about 0.8″ below the top notch, but that’s on the Veritas cutter.  It may differ on other cutters based on how tall the shank is.  Basically make the notch such that the adjustment nut keeps the cutting edge of the blade slightly above the sole of the tool (so no cutting occurs) when it’s at it’s maximum height.  Then as you lower the nut, you start to take a cut which naturally gets thicker as the nut drives the blade lower and lower.  When you bottom the nut out on the body of the tool, you should be able to move back to the upper notch and continue.  It’s a good idea to layout the notch and check all these positions before actually cutting the blade.

Location of the second notch, just under 13/16″ below the upper notch for a Veritas cutter.

This vintage Record cutter would also work well in the WMT 2500 router.

Now for a few important notes, disclaimers, etc.  The most obvious thing to state here is you’re modifying these cutters at your own risk.  Second, the Veritas cutters neck-down on the shank width fairly high up which means you aren’t getting the usual amount of support for the cutter when it’s clamped in the tool.  As a result, you may find it doesn’t align perfectly straight every time or can shift if pushed on hard enough.  For me, this has been a minor inconvenience at the most.  I make sure the blade is straight as I clamp it in place, if it’s not I simply turn it slightly with my fingers until it looks good, then clamp it down.  At that point it shouldn’t shift.  Yes, it’s possible if you push on it sideways with high force, but small blades are typically only going to see light forces and usually take them head on, not side ways.  Finally, you obviously can’t rotate the cutter 90 deg in the side positions simply by adding a notch.  This is true, but I would ask why would you want to?  Smaller cutters are generally for smaller work so using it in the standard middle position is ideal.  For larger sweeping cuts where the 90 deg rotation is desirable, use our cutter.

Note the narrowing effect of the Veritas cutter.

This is roughly the starting point for the blade where a flush cut would be taken. Notice how there isn’t a lot of supporting material on the shank to align the cutter in the V-groove.

The narrow cutter installed with the added notch. Not too shabby.

And that’s all there is to it.  A small change to cutters many of you probably already own or can purchase at a reasonable price and routing in any sized area becomes nbd (that’s “no big deal” folks).

-WMT

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In:In the Shop

Comments Off on Tripod Accessory: The Boom Arm

After making the phone clamp to mount my phone to a tripod I decided to add a boom arm as well.  This is extremely useful for top-down shooting, reaching over the bench for videos, or just keeping the tripod farther away so I don’t kick its legs while I’m working.  The arm is 30″ long overall and has an effective reach of about 24″.  There isn’t much to cover in the general design of the arm.  I used one brass insert, installed in the same manner that was described in the phone clamp post.  The slots along the arm obviously allow the clamp to get positioned anywhere over its length.  One detail worth mentioning is what I call the “head” which is to one side of the brass insert vs. the “arm” which is on the other.  You’ll notice I left the head large (about 6″ x 2″ x 3/4″) where as the arm gets thinner, narrower, and has the slot material removed.  This is to allow the head to counterbalance the long reach of the arm.  It’s not perfectly balanced, but it helps a lot. I can add the weight of the clamp and phone all the way to the end of the arm and things stay nicely in place, however I am considering adding a brass weight to the head to improve the balance further.

Roughing out the shape of the arm.

Brass insert installed, holes added to define the ends of the slots.

Slots roughed in, ready for a test drive.

Tripod mounting plate installed on the boom arm.

Testing the arm before final clean up and finishing.

Close up of the test shot.

Completed boom arm in Sapele, finished in Watco danish oil.

Finished shot of the arm and slot details.

For now I used a simple 1/4×20 Allen head screw with a knurled head to attach the clamp. It’s a bit small, but I can use it as a thumb screw, no need for an Allen wrench. Eventually I may switch to a proper thumb screw with a larger head, but this works well enough for the moment.

Detail shot of the underside of the arm.

These two simple accessories have already made things so much simpler in the shop for shooting pictures and especially videos.  Each one took only a couple hours to make so if you’re doing a lot of phone/camera juggling in the shop take some time and make these two pieces.  Or don’t.  This is America people, what you do in your shop is your business.

Cheers, -WMT

I recently got around to making some accessories for my tripod (a phone mount/clamp and a boom arm for said clamp) to make life easier when shooting video in the shop.  I’ve wanted to do this for about a year now, but only just got around to it.  After sharing some pictures via Instagram I got several requests for selling or sharing plans for these two accessories, but we’re not in the phone/camera business so we don’t plan on selling them.  We are in the hope-this-makes-your-life-better-for-free business, however, so enjoy.  This first post will cover the phone holder (a.k.a. clamp) that mounts the phone to the tripod.  The next entry will cover the boom arm attachment.

Disclaimer:  If you make a phone holder/clamp like ours be aware there’s nothing to stop you from cranking down on the nut and cracking your screen… use common sense because we won’t be replacing any phones.

The holder is based on our Drawer Slip Clamps and uses one standard set of stainless steel hardware.  The jaws are 4″ long and 3/4″ thick just like our clamps, but to hold the phone they were made wider at 2″ (this was to hold an iPhone 6s, your phone may be different so size the width accordingly).  Brass inserts were installed in the bottom and end of the clamp for the tripod attachment plate and a 3/4″ notch was cut out of the sliding jaw to provide access to the Home and Photo button on the phone.  Finally, some thick leather was glued (I used contact cement) on the ends of the jaws to provide some extra grip and cushion.

The fixed jaw gets drilled and tapped to receive the threaded rods. The tap table keeps everything perfectly perpendicular.

With the sliding jaw roughed out, two clearance holes were drilled for the threaded rod to pass through, then a 3/4″ hole was bored out for access to the Home button. After drilling the hole, cut through to the end to form the U-shaped notch.

I don’t love brass inserts and avoid them when possible, but this application was well suited for them. To install the inserts accurately, I threaded a 1/4-20 post into the insert, then jammed a nut against the insert to lock everything in place…

Next, I chucked this assembly into the drill and applied downward pressure while turning the chuck by hand. This kept the insert from threading in crooked.

The inserts installed cleanly, but I left the split portion proud of the jaw so I could grind it flush. FYI- if you try to use a flathead screwdriver to install the insert you will likely snap it.

The completed clamp, inserts ground flush.

The U-notch allows access to the Home button and Photo button.

Final product, made from Sapele and finished with Watco danish oil.

Close up of the leather padding.

This is the standard camera attachment piece that comes with most tripods. The 1/4×20 screw normally gets threaded directly into the bottom of the camera, but phone’s don’t include that feature… hence the reason for this build.

Here’s the basic setup. The tripod’s attachment piece screws into the clamp via the brass inserts. The clamp holds the phone, and this entire assembly gets mounted to the tripod.

 

There you have it, the phone mounted to the tripod.

Put out a camera, my daughters instantly strike a pose.

The 1/4×20 inserts can also mount directly into desk-top tripods, double bonus.

It’s been several months since the last router-related blog post, we were busy finalizing the prototypes and preparing for two Lie-Nielsen events we just wrapped up in Philly and Cinci.  So a quick status on the tools: pre-orders are now available on our site as most of you know already and we’re just waiting on our final pattern changes to come in so we can place our production order at the foundry.  We will soon be finishing our cutter prototype and ramping up production on everything else.  Tools are set to begin shipping in June.

Now for the overview of blade positioning in the 2500 router.  This is by far the most distinguishing feature of the 2500 when compared to the #71 that Stanley made so popular.  With the 71, the blade mounts in the center and can, in certain versions of the tool, be mounted on the back of the center post to give an open throat or bullnose style setup.  Preston’s 2500P could mount the blade in four locations: standard closed throat, reverse open throat (or bullnose), inboard of the right-hand post, and outboard of the left-hand post.  When mounted on the left or right-hand post, the cutter could only face to the left, perpendicular to the standard direction of cutting.  This allowed the tool to be pushed sideways, presumably for working on narrower edges or in situations where a short-wide sole interfered with something on the work piece but and long-narrow sole did not.

blade in the standard closed-throat position

Blade in open throat position

Inboard position on right-hand post

Outboard position on left-hand post

The WMT 2500 router maintains the same four blade positions, but we’ve added the ability to rotate the cutter in 90 deg increments when positioned on the left or right-hand posts.  This allows the user to hang to tool over an edge and make sweeping cuts, such as when working with tenons.  Many woodworkers have done this with the 71, but you can only go out about 1.5″ before the tool becomes unstable.  Then the standard practice is to support the other end of the tool with a block of wood that matches the height of your work piece so the tool doesn’t tip… of course problems arise if the support block isn’t exactly the same thickness of your work piece.  You also have to take the time to get a piece of scrap and size it accordingly.  With the 2500, you can simply move the blade to the side position, rotate the cutter 90 deg, and hanging the tool out 5″ or more is no problem.

Cleaning up a large tenon with the cutter rotated in the outboard position.  Note how well the tool is supported on the work piece despite the fact that this tenon is over 2.5″ long.

Before wrapping this up there are a few details I’d like to point out.  First is simply that the cutter shown in these pictures is not our production design.  We are still finishing the prototype and will cover that in more detail once it’s ready.  Second is that the minimum depth of cut is limited when the blade is in the outer post positions AND rotated 90 deg.  The tip of the cutter needs to stick down almost 3/16″ so that the top of the cutter clears the sole of the tool.  At first glance you might think, “Why not machine a pocket into the body of the tool that the cutter recess into?” And that’s a fair question.  Here’s why we left it alone.  Machining into the sole that deep and that wide breaks through the inner corner of the casting and looks awful.  Adding more material in that area to prevent this also looks confusing and poorly designed.  Next is cost.  Milling a pocket in the side of the tool would require another setup and more time which means more money.  But the final and most important reason for not bringing the cutter higher into the body is because it really didn’t seem necessary.  Small shoulders (less than 3/16″ deep) are typically found on smaller scale work where the tenons don’t stick out very far, simply use the tool in its normal configuration.  Long tenons, where you’d want to move the blade out and overhang the work piece quite a distance, are typically found on larger scale work which means the shoulder will generally be 1/4″ deep or more and the minimum depth of cut won’t pose any problems.

Until next time, -WMT

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In:On the Road

Comments Off on WMT in Cinci this weekend

WMT will be guest demonstrators at the Lie-Nielsen hand tool event this weekend just outside Cincinnati.  We will have our prototype 2500 router to try out and will be taking pre-orders.  If you can’t make it to the show, orders can also be placed on our website beginning at noon on Wednesday, March 9th.  Hope to see you there.

For a long time I had a hard time calling myself a “woodworker”.  I have no formal training and no certificates or diplomas to support such a claim.  So to go around saying “I’m a legitimate woodworker” just because I pushed some tools through wood before (or vice versa) felt like an insult to those who truly put in the time and effort to become proficient in the craft.  But I really enjoyed working with wood and hand tools and building furniture, so I continued working and learning until eventually I felt comfortable acknowledging that yes, I am in fact a “woodworker” or “furniture maker”, etc.

On the other hand, I was formally trained as a mechanical engineer which included working with various metal lathes, mills, and other equipment, all of which I enjoyed using, but since graduating college I’ve had little to no access to such equipment.  So unlike woodworking, where I had tools and a lack of skill, when it came to working with metal I had skill and no tools.  Until now that is.  Being partner in a toolmaking business finally gave me a good excuse to purchase a metal lathe, a dream lathe really, and set it up on the non-woodworking side of my shop.  I even have space for a mill to go next to it someday, if I can figure out how to get one down there.

Anyway, the ability to make custom parts, tooling, prototype hardware, or anything else I feel like making is a huge benefit for the business and I love being able to put my metal working background to use again.  So without further reading (yawn), here’s a few shots of the most recent addition to my shop.  And because every lathe seems to operate a little differently, I included some basic descriptions of what each lever and dial is used for.

Rockwell 11×36 Lathe

Clean, level, and ready for work.

The carriage assembly with the cross and compound slide. The bottom lever engages the auto feed. The middle lever selects between auto-feeding the carriage, cross slide, or screw chaser. And if you’re in screw chasing mode, the lever on the right engages the drive when the correct number is aligned.

Detailed shot of the headstock. The lever on the left is for the auto feed. 3 positions for forward drive, backwards, or neither (head spins only, not the auto feed screw). The two tumblers (levers) at the bottom change the gearing for different feed rates. The large handle on the upper-right area near the chuck is for selecting direct drive, back gearing, neutral, or locked.  Additionally, spindle itself can also be driven forward or reverse.

The drive selector lever can be used for driving the spindle directly from the motor belts (position shown), putting the spindle in neurtal so it spins freely (if you need to rotate a part around for inspecting, laying something out, etc), locking the spindle (typically for chuck removal), or driving the spindle via the back gears.

The back gears cut the spindle RPM and increase the torque by a 6:1 ratio. This is desirable for screw cutting, knurling, or high-torque applications. The lever also allows for forward or reverse drive of the auto feed screw or it can be left neutral so only the spindle is turning.

Adjusting the RPM of the lathe is as simple as turning the wheel. Notice there are two sets of numbers on the dial, one for direct drive and one for drive through the back gears (1/6 the RPM)

One last detail is the custom drawers the previous owner had installed. Beautiful work and it adds plenty of storage.

A quick shot of my main measuring and inspecting drawer.

And here’s the tooling that came with the lathe. I’m sure I’ll be adding to this over time, but there’s plenty here to get started with.  The other drawers are largely empty right now, storing only a few miscellaneous items, some rags, and the manual for the lathe.

And if the drawers aren’t enough, I still have the default drawer. Maybe for some extra chucks or collets down the line.

That’s the jist of it.  And if you noticed that chart on the right of the second lathe picture, it’s an extremely handy Starrett drilling and tapping chart.  It’s the simplest, most complete one I’ve ever used so if you’ve never seen it before, download it here.

If you have any questions or are looking for the manual for this lathe feel free to leave a comment or send us an email.  Merry Christmas. -WMT

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In:Our Tools

Comments Off on WMT Router Plane- Securing the Blade

Securing the blade at any given position in a router plane is a simple but critical task the tool must perform.  It should be easy, fast, and require no tools as it will be adjusted often.  It also needs to hold the blade securely so it doesn’t shift during use.  To accomplish these goals a few basic elements of the tool need to be understood.  As far as I know, all metal-bodied router planes secure their blades using one of two methods: either using a thumb screw to tighten down a blade-locking collar (typically on larger planes) or by driving a screw directly against the blade shank itself to clamp it against the body of the tool (common on smaller scale planes).  Note that wooden-bodied routers often use a wedge to lock the blade.

Thumb screw behind the tool pulls the collar tight against the blade shank, clamping it to the body.

Next is the geometry of the blade shank itself: round, diamond, and square.

Top view of the three typical shank configurations.

A round shank allows the blade to be positioned at any angle (which is rarely, if ever, necessary), but it can rotate unexpectedly during use which is completely undesirable.  It’s the cheapest method of manufacturing, however, as it requires only a simple hole in the body with a screw running into the side of the shank to lock it down.  And while this isn’t typically seen on larger tools which see much higher cutting forces in use, it does appear on many small scale router planes where the reduced force is usually not a problem and the blade won’t spin in the body… much.  If you are having trouble with a round shank that spins, scuff up the sides of the shank along its length with course sandpaper, that will typically do the trick.

This small router plane from Record uses a round shank secured with a screw.

The Diamond shank (where the shank face is rotated 45 deg to the cutting edge) is the most common configuration for large router planes for two reasons.  First, the non-roundness of the body means it won’t rotate during use.  Second, the diamond, which gets drawn into a V-notch in the body, is self centering and self aligning.  It can’t rotate, tilt, or shift side to side.

Veritas, like Stanley, Record, and Millers Falls, uses the Diamond configuration for its blade shank.

The only downside is that when the collar is loosened so the depth of cut can be adjusted, the collar tends to fall down the body, sometimes binding on the blade making the adjustment a bit of a headache.  Modern manufacturers have resolved this in two ways.  Veritas uses a spring-loaded collar so that while the clamping pressure is removed during depth adjustments, there is enough pressure to hold the collar where it belongs and it functions very well.  Lie-Nielsen did away with the collar entirely, opting to apply pressure to the shank directly with a brass screw which again, works perfectly.  Preston fixed their collar problem by trapping the collar in position with a locating pin which is incorporated into the collar locking screw itself.

Notice how the tip of the collar locking screw (collar removed for visibility) is essentially a pin which locates in a hole in the body. This means when pressure is removed from the blade for depth of cut adjustments the collar won’t flop around or bind up on the shank as it’s moving.

The Square configuration (where the shank face is parallel to the cutting edge) is rare.  Lie-Nielsen uses it, but they drive a screw against the edge of the shank, not its face.  This pushes the blade into the back corner of the body, essentially clamping it against a V-notch just like the diamond shank blades.  Preston, however, typically used a square shank with a collar that simply pulls the shank tight against its back face.

Lie-Nielsen’s square shank is driven into a corner with the brass screw mounted at 45 degrees.

The Preston router simply pulls the back face of the blade shank against the tool body.  It is not held in a V of any kind which can result in blade shift during use.

The problem with the Preston method is there must be clearance between the side faces of the shank and the notch in the body.  As a result, nothing constrains the shank except the friction between the shank and body which is produced by the collar.  During heavy cuts, the blade can shift laterally or tilt slightly, neither of which is acceptable.  For our design, we’re using the preferred Diamond configuration, but we are going to utilize Preston’s clever pin locator on the collar screw to keep the collar in position when loosened.

Next time, blade positioning.  It’s exciting stuff…

-WMT