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.
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.
Next is the geometry of the blade shank itself: round, diamond, and square.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Producing handles or knobs for any tool is a tricky thing. Everyone’s hand is a little different as are their preferences as to what “feels” right. It’s not surprising then that with the six router planes we studied the shape, diameter, and height of the knobs were all different. Stanley, for instance, had the shortest and fattest knob while Millers Falls had the tallest and second narrowest. Lie-Nielsen’s knob fell right in the middle of height and diameter and I would say theirs is the most balanced of them all. Veritas, on the other hand, was the most unique with handles that tilt roughly 30 deg off vertical and were some of the tallest in the group.
The Preston 2500P knobs were unusual due to the fact that they are designed to be quickly unscrewed and moved to different positions on the tool (more on that in a later post). The knob itself is not very tall, but its height ends up right in the middle of the other planes because of how the body is designed. The diameter, however, is by far the smallest of the six measuring only slightly larger than 1.5″ where as the others average about 1.7″. That may not sound like a lot, but you can feel the difference as soon as you put the tool to work. This left us with a decision to make; remain as faithful to the original as possible or deliver what we think is the best all-around knob we can. Ultimately we decided to leave it up to our customers. We’re going to offer knobs that are replicas of the original as well as knobs based off the Stanley which are a little over 1.75″ in diameter and have a mushroom style profile. The Stanley was our personal favorite among the all the profiles we tested so we wanted to make them available, but offering the Preston style has historical significance and will undoubtedly be preferred by some portion of the woodworkers out there. We will also be happy to sell either style knob to those of you who may own an original Preston plane with knobs that need to be replaced.
So that’s the story behind the knobs. We haven’t finalized our material yet (feel free to comment on cherry vs. walnut), but we will be offering two styles which hopefully counts for something. Next time we’ll discuss a few changes we’ve made to the original design and how that benefits the user.
WMT will soon be releasing our newest tool, the No. 2500 router plane, which is based on the Preston 2500P. Because there are so many details to cover on this tool we will be sharing a series of blog posts roughly once a week, each of which will cover one readily digestible chunk of information at a time.
I’d like to get the fundamentals out of the way up front before talking about the features and benefits of the tool compared to what already exists today, so lets get started. First are the physical dimensions of the tool. As far as we know, our router plane will have the largest footprint to ever hit the market. When studying several new and vintage planes, most of which are based on the Stanley No. 71, their soles ranged in width from 5-5/8″ to 8-1/4″ with the average measuring about 7-1/2″ wide. However, these planes all have soles that are longest in the center and then diminish as you get towards the outside edges of the tool. This makes the tool less useful when straddling a large surface, such as leveling the face of a tenon. The length of the sole on the Preston, which measures slightly more than 8-1/4″ wide, remains constant over its width (aka: a rectangle). The sole of our router plane was bumped up to an even 8-1/2″ x 3-1/2″.
And while some may think a small sole is no big problem because a secondary wooden sole can be attached to most planes making it any size you want, you’re correct… sort of. A secondary sole is one more thing you have to make and you need to keep it as thin as possible so the tool’s depth of cut isn’t greatly reduced. However, a thin secondary sole that isn’t well supported will deflect, which can make the cutting action of the tool range from problematic to useless. By having a large rectangular sole, adding a secondary sole isn’t as necessary, but when it is desired it is well supported even at a minimum thickness.
The next detail is one of the thing’s we’re most excited about: offering the tool in manganese bronze. Again, as far as we know, this is a first among router planes. The bronze not only looks fantastic, but there are the added benefits of extra weight (this will be the heaviest router plane ever sold) and zero concerns when it comes to corrosion. It was not easy to find a suitable foundry for casting this tool in bronze, but persistence paid off and we’re proud to make it our mainline offering (we may or may not offer ductile iron in the future). The non-bronze components will either be brass or stainless steel, with the one obvious exception of the cutter which will be O1.
One final detail I’ll throw in is our removal of one part of the original Preston design. The doo-hicky (that’s its technical name) on the front is quite confusing in appearance as well as function. It is comprised of a small casting which can move front-to-back in a pair of slots and is locked down with two small screws. Once locked down, a threaded post can be raised or lowered, then locked in position. I figured this could be used as a crude depth stop, but then why make it adjustable front-to-back? I emailed Paul Sellers about this as he’s a big proponent of the Preston style router (and if you don’t follow his blog I’d recommend it) and he said it was designed as a guide when running the tool in a recess to prevent the cutter from gouging the side wall. I still don’t understand why it needs to slide a fraction of an inch in slots though… possibly as a throat-closing device of some sort as I read some speculate online, but this seems like a poor way to go about it and downright unnecessary. The added cost and tools required to make an adjustment made it hard to justify keeping in our version of the tool. It also blocks visibility and isn’t included in Preston’s 1399P model router, so we decided to eliminate it. If you’re wondering why ours is a model 2500 and not a 1399, it’s because we are including the adjust fence which was never available on the 1399P.
That’s all for now, but we still have knobs, cutter configuration, cutter orientation and more to discuss in the following weeks so stay tuned. And as a status report, our patterns are being made and hardware is being prototyped. We should have the hardware within a week, but the patterns will take roughly a month to complete. Then we’ll get our first look at the castings.
It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything on our blog. Why? Because when you’re just filling orders and sorting out details with manufacturers for a new tool there just isn’t much interesting work to blog about. Well that’s about to change. We are on the verge of beginning production of our new router plane. Final drawings have been sent to the foundry for review and other prototype hardware is on order. It will be roughly two more months before prototypes are finished, then another month or two before we can start filling orders, but at least the tedious work is behind us and now the fun can begin.
In any event, be prepared for several blog posts in the near future outlining the details of our router, how it compares to other models (modern and vintage), and when it will be released to the public. We are also planning to attend a few Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events in early 2016 and we’ll be sharing more about those as well.
So stay tuned and our apologies for the blogging hiatus… I think it will be worth it.
Walke Moore Tools now has distribution of some of our tools through Tools for Working Wood. We’ve been a big fan of these guys for some time, their holdfasts are particularly noteworthy and they’re the only kind I use in my shop.
A couple months ago I picked up my first (and presumably last) bandsaw for my shop. I’ve spent the last decade or so getting by with jigsaws, bow saws, and avoiding certain work that I wasn’t willing to tackle without a bandsaw (resawing 12″ boards for example). I could have bought something small as a temporary solution, but I hate putting money into something I won’t really want to use. I could have bought a beefy new saw, but $2,000-$3,000 seemed like a lot of cash for an imported saw and I got several conflicting reports about the performance of Jet, Powermatic, Grizzly, Laguna, etc. In the end, I found a vintage Rockwell 20″ bandsaw a little over an hour from my house. It was in great shape, all American made, heavy castings, a large table, 20″ throat… it even came with the fence and miter gauge. All I had to do was get it home.
That last sentence was not nearly as simple to do as it was to type. Nevertheless, after about two hours of trial-and-error we had the saw loaded and headed home. To get the saw off the truck, we backed it into my garage, ran some rope up to the rafters and around some pulleys, then had three guys raise the saw slightly (it’s around 650 lbs) while the truck was driven out from underneath. The saw was lowered to the floor where it sat for a few days. Eventually I convinced five friends to come over and help me wheel my new toy around the house, down a steady slope (which was slightly muddy), and into my walk-out basement door which leads into my shop.
I found the a downloadable copy of the manual (which you can download here: Delta_Rockwell bandsaw manual) and went through just about every part. There were a few miscellaneous tune-ups to make, but nothing major. I did upgrade the worn steel blade guides with new ceramic guides.
One minor issue I have is how far the fence rails stick out past the saw. This isn’t common with bandsaws today, but that’s how this saw works. I’d like to find (or make) a shorter set of rails and keep the long set as a back-up in case a particularly wide cut needs to be made (which I doubt will happen often). But for now, I’ll have to live with the fact that the rails stick into my walk way slightly… this also presents a safety issue for my daughters who are often in the shop. The rails are at the perfect give-your-kid-a-concussion height.
Once everything was cleaned up, I had a friend CNC a new aluminum throat plate. The old one wasn’t original, didn’t fit well, and was warped.
The last thing I did was install a blade and align the table.
Now that I’ve had a few months to work with the saw I can confidently say I have no regrets in my decision to go for a vintage saw. This thing eats lumber like it’s not even there, here are a few examples:
All that remains is to replace the worn out fence faces, I’m thinking walnut.
2 years ago I had the good fortune to attend Handworks 2013. Last weekend I attended round 2 of this awesome handtool extravaganza. If it comes up again do everything in your power to attend. I only captured a handful of the tools on camera and the pictures aren’t all great… apologies for that, it wasn’t easy getting pictures with so many people moving around. In any event, here’s a taste of Handworks 2015 and here’s hoping many more will follow.
One of the major side attractions this year was the chance to view the privately owned H.O. Studley Tool Chest. Tickets had to be purchased in advance and the viewing was about 20 minutes from Amana, near Cedar Rapids. Guests were given a 50 minute slot to hear a brief talk from Don Williams (who wrote the book and arranged the viewing event) and photograph the chest. The owner of the chest also owns Studley’s bench which was there for the viewing pleasure as well. Finally, Don made a reproduction version of this bench and mounted his collection of piano-makers vises to it for people to play with. Don also molded some replica parts used by Studley so people could get a better look at the details incorporated into the Studley chest. Overall, it was well worth the price of admission (a mere $25) and it was a woodworking experience I won’t soon forget.
This is the actual chest and bench, photographed during the prep for the book. None of my well-lit shots of the chest look nearly this good so I’d rather show this photo than one of my own.