Archive for the ‘Vintage Tool Talk’ Category

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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, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on A Custom Fishtail Chisel

We make winding sticks… lots of them.  Each set has four trapezoidal pieces of inlay, each with two sharp corners that need to be cleared out.  So for a batch of 50 sets of sticks I have 400 corners to clear.  Thus far I have used my Lie-Nielsen 3/8″ fishtail chisel, but it’s too narrow and the fishtail angle is too shallow to really reach the corners, so I have to reach down from above and scoop out the waste.  It works, but it’s not ideal.

My first thought was to buy their largest size chisel (5/8″), but I scoped it out at the Lie-Nielsen event in Brooklyn a few weeks back and found it was also too narrow and too shallow on the side angles to give me what I wanted.  I decided to try modifying a vintage chisel if I could find one suitable for the job, so here’s the rundown:

I found this Stanley chisel (with steel through the entire body) which had been ground down quite a ways for $9.  Normally I wouldn’t want to pay even $9 for a chisel that was so short, but for this task where I want to be closer to the work it was perfect.  The steel running through the handle also puts good weight in the hand and balances the tool nicely, so $9 was worth it.

The chisel as purchased, prepare to be decimated.

I painted on some machinist layout fluid, scratched in some general guide lines to grind to, and started hogging off material.  I’ve had a few people as about the risk of removing the temper from the steel during this process so I want to address that up front.  To avoid ruining the steel, you need to avoid over heating it.  This starts by using fresh abrasives.  I was grinding with a freshly dressed grinding wheel from Norton.  I held the tool with my bare hands so I could feel when it started to warm up, then I cooled it in water.  I also don’t grind up by the tip of the tool, this material is so thin that it will heat up too quickly and be ruined.  Any final grinding of the tip was done by hand on sandpaper and finished on waterstones.

Heavy material removal completed from the bench grinder. Time for the belt sander.

When I had the sides brought in I needed to refine the shape so I switched to my belt sander outfitted with metal grinding belts (Alumina Zirconia).  This worked extremely well and was basically trial-and-error process.  I’d grind some metal, check my progress, draw new target lines occasionally, and grind some more.  Eventually I got the shape I wanted and went from a 40 grit belt to an 80.  Refined things a bit further, then polished it up with a 220 grit belt.

My restored belt grinder… too pretty to just grind metal on, so I covered the walnut with some thick paper to avoid getting metal embedded in the wood.  Worked like a charm.

Shape being refined on the belt sander.

After the grinding was finished, I hand filed a few areas and then sharpened the blade.  I started with sandpaper as this was the initial sharpening/flattening of the tool.  After sanding up to 320 grit I switched to my waterstones and polished the tool up to 8,000 grit.  This was a freehand operation given the shape of the tool doesn’t really fit the standard sharpening jigs.  I use the sharpening jigs whenever possible and am not ashamed to admit it, but I can freehand when necessary.

The finished tool compared to my 3/8″ Lie-Nielsen. I had a slight ding on the bevel near the cutting edge, but it’s not at the cutting edge and will be ground off in future sharpenings. I didn’t remove it now because I’d be wasting several sharpenings over a small cosmetic flaw.

The chisel being used as designed. You can see that it can reach all the way to the corner of the inlay pocket and still has a little clearance between the chisel and the pocket’s side wall.

I tried the chisel out briefly and it works brilliantly.  Overall it took $9 and between three and four hours of work, and that’s from the time the tool was untouched to completely finished.  I did give the handle a quick sanding and refinishing, but nothing fancy and now it’s ready for years of service.  Time to get some work done.

-WMT

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In:In the Shop, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Mead Belt Sander- Part 3

The Chicago manufactured Mead belt sander is finally finished.  It took a while as I was working on it between other jobs and trying to prepare for Woodworking in America, but it was worth the wait.  Picking up where the last blog entry left off, the only thing I had left to finish was the sanding deck.  This is my one complaint with the design of the sander, the entire deck has to be removed to change the belt.  The belt change itself couldn’t be simpler: push the head of the sander down, slide the old belt off, slide the new belt on, release the head.  It literally takes me 10 seconds to swap belts… except every time I do I have to unscrew the wing nut from underside of the deck, the swap belts, put the deck back on, re-thread the wing nut to its post (you don’t loosen it, you have to remove the nut completely), then get my square, make sure the deck is square to the belt, lock it down, and put my square away.  It turns a 10 second operation into a couple minutes.  This may sound trivial, but I intend to use this sander for working with wood and metal and I have several belt types and grits to suit my needs.  I want to change belts quickly and get back to work.  I also don’t want to take the chance that the deck isn’t square to the belt every time I change a belt.  My solution was to modify the casting that supports the wooden deck by cutting off the inside portion to the right of the belt.  I hate to hack up the castings on a vintage piece of equipment, I can’t just go buy a new one if I don’t like my finished product, but in this case the benefits outweigh the risks and hack it up I did.  I opened up a slot just wide enough to slip the belt off, slide it through the back of the decking, and then replace with a new belt in the same fashion.  This was completely worth doing in my opinion and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product now that I’ve had a chance to take it for a spin.

No room to get the belt out without removing the entire deck. I marked out the area I wanted to cut away, used a hack saw rough it out, then filed the rough cuts to their final finish and location.

Casting cut apart.

The restored sander now up and running.  I finished the walnut with Watco Danish Oil followed by a few coats of wipe-on polyurethane followed by wax.  A lot of people seem to have the impression I’m going to all this effort to keep the tool shut away in pristine condition.  Let me assure you, I will be putting this thing to work without reservation.  But whenever possible, I think restoring a tool like this is more than just an exercise in fashionably toolery.  Going through every part reveals a lot of hidden flaws in the tool (in this project alone I found the tilted deck, frayed wiring in the old switch box, a poorly aligned drive belt, and a non-flat sole to the sander casting) as well as several cosmetic (cracked wooden base, ugly switch box, and poor wiring path).  You also gain an intimate knowledge of the tool, just like restoring your first hand plane, that will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each tool you own and how to use them most appropriately to yield the best possible results.  Now let me step down from my soap box and show the finished product.  Enjoy.

Finished sanding deck.

Deck is now square to the belt. Notice the slot to the right of the belt for quick belt changes without needing to remove the deck.

The completed belt sander in all its simple glory.

As for the belts, I ordered a wide range from Klingspor.  The blue are Alumina Zirconia for grinding metal, the yellow are Aluminum Oxide with “gold coating” which can be used for wood or metal, and the brown belts are basic Aluminum Oxide wood belts.  I purchased a few grit levels of each style.  I also purchased a linen belt that can be loaded with a honing compound in case we end up selling marking knives or something similar where several identical edges need to be honed quickly, this might prove very useful.

Various 1″x42″ Klingspor belts for abrading wood and metal, as well as a linen belt for honing.

Finally, here’s a shot of the motor specifications for those who care about such things. (And now I have to get back to prepping for WIA)

Sunlight motor

-WMT

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In:In the Shop, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Mead Belt Sander- Part 2

Things have progressed nicely with the sander.  The base is now finished, the sander and motor are mounted, and the wiring is installed, all that remains is the modification and installation of the sanding deck itself.  I did re-design the switch box since my last entry, here’s why:  My original box was small and clean looking (which I liked) but it didn’t allow access to the switch once everything was installed.  This may or may not be fine for my lifetime, but sooner or later something will come loose, the switch will die, a wire will get cut and need replacing… something, and at that point I would need to destroy the old switch box, make the repairs, and install a new custom box.  Eventually this bothered me enough to design a switch box with a removable cover plate.  It’s larger than my first box and has four screws holding the front plate on, but I think it’s for the best and I’m happy with how it looks.  I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking until my third and final entry on this restoration project.

Old and new switch boxes.

Unfinished base, simple (but classy) chamfers.

Relief notch where the motor cord rubs against the edge. Without this, the cord and/or edge would be worn through over time due to the vibration of the sander when running.

Finished wire hold-downs.

Wire path on the underside of the base.

Motor mounted

Completed switch box installed. Nice.

Everything finished… except the sanding deck.

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In:In the Shop, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Mead Belt Sander- Part 1

FYI- This is probably my most unnecessary and awesome restorations to date.

The Mead belt sander when I purchased it.

About a month ago I picked up a vintage, Chicago-made Mead 1″ belt sander off craigslist for a measly $60.  It was in great shape, the previous owner had it for decades and he took the time to re-paint the body of the sander and the motor as well as grease up all the pulleys.  He did a great job on these parts and I could have just plugged it in and started sanding.  Being ridiculous, however, I decided to take it from classy to world-class.  There were a few minor things that bothered me (the belt wasn’t aligned precisely between the motor and sander pulleys, the wire path was ugly, the wood used for the base and sanding deck was cheap and cracked, and the deck wasn’t square to the belt) and one major point of irritation (the on/off switch).

Ugly switch, clumsy wire path.

Crooked deck.

The first thing I addressed was the tilted table.  The previous owner used a copper shim to correct the table but I wanted to fix it for good.  I painted the body with red layout fluid, then loosely installed the deck.  After pivoting the deck a few times I removed it and could clearly see the high spots in the casting that needed to be knocked down with a round file.  I repeated this process a couple times and after about 10 minutes had the table nicely squared up to the belt.

Machinist layout fluid.

Casting painted with layout fluid.

High spots identified.

Finished filing. The deck was now square, all I did after this was some light sanding to remove any burrs and the remaining fluid.

Next I swapped out the switch with a vintage style toggle switch that seemed appropriate and made a simple wooden box to house it.  I also took the time to inlay the face plate into the housing.

New switch…

…in a new housing.

Face plate inlay.

The last thing I will cover in this post is the new base.  I used walnut that was a little thicker than the original base, but otherwise I left the dimensions nearly the same.  The feet were made from the same board, cut free from either end of the base.  I could have cut long-grain feet instead of short-grain, but then I’d have to deal with differential expansion and the grain pattern wouldn’t be continuous.  The short grain feet aren’t as strong, but given that they’re thick and trapped in a dado I think they will be fine… they certainly look nicer to me, especially when you don’t see end grain on the sides of the board.  I used an old router template I had lying around to cut an arch in the feet and a stacked dado set (that I was already using for a larger job) to dado the base.  One note on dado sets, they leave small V’s in the corners of the cut where the outer blades score the fibers.  This is great for clean cross-cuts, but I don’t like the small V it leaves after the cut.  I correct this is seconds with a router plane set to a depth that aligns to the tip of the V.  Run the plane through the dado and you’ve got a perfectly square recess for the feet to sit in.

V’s in the corners after using a stacked dado blade on the table saw. (They’re a bit more obvious in person)

Planing the dado to final depth, removing the V’s.

Dado squared off after using the router plane.

For the wire path I wanted something as clean and hidden as possible.  The motor wire runs immediately underneath the base where it is captured by a series of custom made wooden hold-downs.  The wires pass through the base where the front foot gets installed, into the switch box, and finally out the back of the base.  Overall I think it will look very nice when finished.

Wire path preview.

Wire hold-downs.

The last operation for the base was laying out the hole locations for mounting the motor and sander.  I couldn’t simply copy the original because as I said before they weren’t aligned very well, but after a few minutes of measuring double checking the belt everything was ready for drilling.  When I went to dry-fit everything I noticed the belt sander had some wobble to it, so I touched that off on a larger belt sander and got the casting dead flat in a matter of minutes.

New base getting the motor and sander holes laid out.

Flattened casting base.

That’s all for now, in two following entries I will wrap up the (improved) deck, overall assembly, detailing and finishing.  I’ll also discuss the belts I use and a few of the things that make this sander so useful.  Stay tuned.

-WMT

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In:Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Dissecting a Stanley #62 Folding Rule

So if you read this you’ll know why I decided to gut my folding rule.  I’ve been playing with the idea of making these rules from scratch and after my restoration debacle I figured I’d take a closer look at how Stanley made theirs.  Disclaimer: I am not a folding rule expert, these are simply the observations I made while examining the only #62 rule I had at my disposal.

First, some overall dimensions.  The length of a 4 fold rule is 24″ broken into four equal sections (6″ per section, duh).  Each section 1/2″ wide and 11/64″ thick (I think 11/64″ is an unusual number to land on, but it was exactly that dimension and it does feel correct in use, so 11/64″ it is).

The binding is made from strips of brass that were slightly over 1/32″ thick.  They are held to the wooden body with steel pins (~1/16″ diameter) that run through the entire body and are deformed, or swaged, at the ends to prevent them from falling out.  One thing I found curious was the location of these pins varied greatly.  They were not perfectly or consistently centered along the thickness of the tool and the spacing between pins was also very inconsistent (it averages around 1-1/4″).  There were, however, five pins used per section so at least that was constant.  This variability makes me assume the pinning was done manually which is surprising for the number of 4 fold rules Stanley turned out, but maybe trying to automate the placement of so many fine holes was unreasonable at that time and manual labor was just easier…

The brass binding strips, just over 1/32″ thick.

Steel pin running through the body.

The far ends of the rule are also capped in brass, the side strips run right to the end, but a C-shaped cap is sleeved over the faces for added wear protection.

The upper cap is in its original state, the lower cap was ground through exposing the wood underneath.

Here you can see the C-shaped cap surrounding the wood and brass banding.

Finally the hinges.  There are two types of hinges used, one for the center joint that acts like a pair of scissors and another used in two places to fold the end sections inward over the middle sections.  The scissor joint used is similar to a rule joint used on tables.  One section of the ruler has a brass plate pinned to both faces.  This is the only time brass pins were used instead of steel.  The brass pins are virtually invisible which means they won’t distract the user when reading the markings on the face.  These outer plates are sandwhiched (if that’s a word) over a thick piece a brass attached to the opposite half of the rule.  The layers are then pinned in the middle and the joint if free to rotate.

Pinned scissor joint.

The two folding joints are similar, but not the same.  There are again two outer strips of brass attached to one section of the rule (it’s actually just part of the edge banding), but the opposing section then has extra brass strips added below the surface of the edge banding.  These extend about 5/8″ into the body of the rule and are pinned.  Finally, a floating brass barrel takes up the space between the upper and lower brass strips.  A steel pin passes through the joint.

Folding hinge joint.

The final step would be to add the markings which would be challenging without a stamp.  Lasers don’t cooperate with brass and any form of “painted on” markings would wear off, especially where the brass needs marking.  A difficult tool to make properly for sure, especially in small batches.  As I said in my last post, it’s back to the vintage market to find a functional #62 for the shop.

Have a great day. -WMT

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In:Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Folding Rule (what not to do)

Things don’t always go as planned… so here was a failed attempt at cleaning up a Stanley #62 brass bound 4-fold rule.

I purchased the tool for $10 and it was in decent shape, just missing the pins that help keep it aligned when closed.  That’s easy enough to fix, but the face was a little dirty so I thought I’d try cleaning it up.  I knew it would be a gamble given that I would be working with thin brass, wood, and printed letters, but it was only $10 so I took a shot (and missed completely).

The Stanley #62 rule when I bought it.

This is what I was trying to clean up, just a bit too much grime for me to ignore.

I didn’t want to use an abrasive method for cleaning as I knew I would wear through the lines and numbers quickly so I started with a chemical treatment.  I had some oxygen bleach on hand from cleaning my cedar siding and was hoping it wouldn’t effect the print much… it did.

After treating with oxygen bleach, the wood looks great, but the print became faded in many areas.

I figured I’d had it at this point, but the printed areas were pressed to a reasonable depth in the wood so I took it a step further.  I tried painting the face with black paint then quickly wiped off the excess, leaving the bulk of the remaining paint in the indented areas, right where I want it.

After the paint was rubbed off.

This made the 4-fold rule look as bad as when I bought it, maybe worse.  Finally, with nothing left to lose I gave abrasive cleaning a shot.  This left the tool a mess; some areas looking like new, some just okay, and some downright terrible.  My $10 and 45 minutes were wasted, but at least I learned a few things.

Rather than simply throwing it out, I decided to cut it apart and get a better look at the binding and joints.  I will share the details of how these rules were constructed in a following post.

Guess I have to find another rule for the shop… -WMT

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Comments Off on Disston D-8 Crosscut Handsaw Restoration

Last week I picked up an excellent 26″ Disston D-8 crosscut saw with 8ppi.  When looking for saws I shoot for a plate that is in decent shape, some rust is okay, but I’ll pass on blades that are kinked, have damaged teeth, or excessive pitting on the tooth line.  A nice handle is a bonus, but those can be restored or remade entirely if necessary.  I also look for hardware that is complete and hasn’t been chewed up by screwdrivers.  Below is the saw I purchased through Craigslist for $10 and considering what these go for on eBay (when you don’t really know what you’re getting) this was a steal.

The “before” picture. minor rust, perfectly straight plate, the handle shows only minor wear.

The Saw Plate: The saw comes apart easily, but use an appropriate screwdriver so the brass screws don’t get chewed up.  My Lie-Nielsen #3 driver worked nicely.  To clean up the plate, I started by scraping the surface with a razor blade scraper.  This knocks down any surface rust and removes any old finish or residue that may have dried on the plate which will prevent the rust remover from reaching the steel.

A razor blade scraper quickly preps the saw plate for the following rust removal procedure.

After the scraping I soaked the plate for 12 hours in Evaporust.  I made a simple trough by wrapping some scrapwood  with a garbage bag.  It’s just large enough and deep enough to hold the plate and minimizes the amount of Evaporust required to keep the plate submerged.  After a 12 hours soak, I scrubbed the surface with a Scotch pad, then soaked for an additional 12 hours.  Finally, I cleaned the plate with a brass-bristle brush, Scotch pad, and steel wool.  Rinse the plate off with water, dry, and oil immediately.  The plate is now ready for sharpening.

Soaking the saw plate in Evaporust thanks to a crudely made trash bag trough.

A brass-bristle brush helps clean out any rust pits, then the entire plate gets scrubbed with a scotch pad and fine steel wool.

I won’t get into sharpening handsaws specifically.  That’s an enormous topic with several books, DVDs, and websites dedicated to it.  I would, however, recommend Ron Herman’s DVD on sharpening handsaws if you’re looking for more information.  For a quick overview of file guides for saw sharpening, click here.

Sharpening the plate. Normally this is done with the handle attached, but I had the saw apart so I chose to sharpen it before putting it back together.

The Hardware: The brass saw nuts are easy to clean up, though you can leave them alone if you like the patina.  I gently chuck each half of nut into my drill press using only light hand pressure.  Too much pressure will damage the brass threads or crush the tapped housing.  I run the press at a moderate speed, somewhere in the 700-1,200 rpm is a good place to start, then start working the face with abrasives.  I start with 220 grit sandpaper and finish at 320.  Each grit only gets 5-10 seconds of light pressure to do its job.  The 220 removes and surface patina or any various types of shop grime.  It also eliminates (or at least smooths out) dents and scratches.  The 320 simply refines the scratch marks left by the 220.  After sanding, polish up the face with a Scotch pad and finally 0000 steel wool.  This leaves a relatively scratch-free, shiny surface.  You can also use fine sandpaper (up to around 1,000 grit), but I don’t keep much of that on hand, so I chose the Scotch pad and steel wool as it was more readily available.

From left to right: 220 grit, 320 grit, Scotch pad, and finally 0000 steel wool.  The whole process takes less than a minute per nut.

Chuch the nut in gently and smooth the face with light hand pressure.

Before and After

The payoff

The Handle: Saw handles vary in condition.  They can be so bad that they should be discarded and a new handle fitted, they can require some simple clean up and refinishing, or they can be left alone entirely.  This saw had a handle in great condition, just some minor wear on a few edges.  I’m tempted to make it look like new again, but there’s really no need and I have enough to keep me busy at the moment so for now I simply re-attached it as-is.  For more information on making a handle from scratch, click here and here.

The Finished Product: I ended up putting about 1.5 hours into the saw as well as the $10 it cost to purchase.  I’m quite pleased overall, now I just need a full sized rip saw and then I’ll probably have to make a new saw till to hold everything.

The completed D-8 crosscut saw.

Handle and Hardware.

Logo detail nicely intact.

-WMT

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In:In the Shop, Tool Review, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on File Guides for Saw Sharpening

Sharpening hand saws is intimidating for most people, but there are some readily available options that simplify the process greatly.  Here’s a quick overview:

Angles: Before sharpening, you need to determine the angles you want to file into the teeth of your saw.  The rake angle is the angle between the face of a saw tooth and an imaginary line perpendicular to the baseline of the saw teeth seen when viewing a saw from the side. It is generally 12 to 15 degrees on a crosscut saw and 0 to 8 degrees on a rip saw.  You also need to control the fleam angle, the angle that is filed across the face of the teeth, creating a knife edge that slices wood fibers when cutting. On crosscut saws fleam typically ranges from 15 to 25 degrees, rip saws typically have little to no fleam.  (read Understanding Western Handsaws for more info)

Control: Once you know the angles you want to create, holding a file consistently and accurately for dozens of teeth in a row is tough.  Fortunately, there are several options available to you that make saw sharpening fairly straightforward.

Option one is to make your own file guide.  I picked this up from Ron Herman’s DVD and it works great.  I made my guide out of some scrap cherry in about 15 minutes.  The pictures will help explain the details, but the idea is to hold the file handle in your dominant hand and the file guide (with the tip of the file buried in it) in your off hand.  Hold the file level and the edge of the file guide perpendicular to the saw plate.  If you can do this, the guide will control the rake and fleam angles for you, it’s easier than it sounds.  (You may notice my guide is using a 30 deg rake and fleam angle, this is fairly steep for both but it was deliberate for this saw.  You typically want something closer to the angles listed above.)

File guide cut from scrapwood.

Cut the sides of the guide at the desired rake angle. In use, hold the angled face perpendicular to the saw plate which will skew the file to the correct angle.

Bury the file in a slightly undersized hole. The angle it’s bedded at off vertical will be the rake angle you induce during sharpening.

So this guide works well in a pinch, but if you have several saws to sharpen you’ll quickly realize you need a new file guide for every angle combination you want… this may only mean making 2 or 3 guides, but for others it would mean making many more.  So for all your file guiding needs there are a couple adjustable file guides you can purchase.  A reasonably priced option was recently released from Veritas and functions along the same principles as the wooden block, but you’ll notice a variety of angle combinations and file sizes can be accommodated with this single device. A second option from Blackburn Tools gives you the same functionality, but in a much classier package and at a premium price.

I have not purchased a file guide from Veritas or Blackburn so far, but I have more sharpening on the horizon so I intend to shortly.  Hopefully this gives you the confidence to pick up a saw (preferably a cheap one that you won’t mind practicing on) and get sharpening.  It’s really very simple and Ron’s DVD, as well as various free videos from youtube and Lie-Nielsen, will provide you with all the information you need.

Half the teeth sharpened, half to go.

-WMT

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In:Tool Review, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on #112 Scraper Plane Comparison

Scrapers are the secret weapon of many woodworkers in the fight against tear out (a quick overview of their function can be read here).  Many woodworkers have never heard of them and in my experience the few who have struggle to get them to perform as they should.  Once you become comfortable with them, however, they become one of your best friends in the shop.  If you are already using scrapers with great success pat yourself on the back, you’re part of an elite woodworking minority.

Scrapers fit into three major categories (at that’s how I view them).  First is the simplest, least expensive, and most useful form of the tool, the card scraper.  Just a piece of steel typically rectangular in shape, though curved scrapers exist for handling (not surprisingly) curved profiles.  The edges are sharpened and honed like you would a chisel or plane iron, but unlike other hand tools these edges are honed 90 degrees to the faces.  A burnisher is then used to turn a hook, or burr, which is what actually allows the tool to remove a small shaving (not dust) and leave a tear-out free surface.  Many good card scrapers exist from companies like Lie-Nielsen, Bahco, and more.

Example of some common card scrapers

The second category is basically a card scraper held in a jig (I’m not sure what to actually call this category), the most famous arguably being the Stanley #80 which Veritas did a wonderful job recreating (and improving).  There were dozens of these contraptions put out by Stanley and others over the years, their advantage being that the handles keep you thumbs from burning (which happens with heavy use on a card scraper), they leave a flatter surface (card scrapers can easily dish out a localized area, this is both an advantage and disadvantage of card scrapers), and they are easier to sharpen since the cutter looks like a traditional plane iron (though a hook is often added after sharpening).  

Veritas #80

Finally, the third category is that of the scraper plane.  The large sole keeps the surface being worked extremely flat, they are comfortable to use, and unlike the category 2 tools, scraper planes have an angle adjustment that allows the user to optimize the cutting angle based on the hook.  Since turning a hook/burr is typically done by hand it will tend to vary slightly from one sharpening to another, being able to adjust the angle in the tool to account for this is an excellent feature not offered by the category 2 option.

The two premium options available today are from Lie-Nielsen and Veritas and both are modeled after the Stanley #112.  I recently picked up the Lie-Nielsen and Alan (Walke) owns a vintage Stanley, so I decided to compare the two and pass that information along.

Stanley and Lie-Nielsen #112 scraper planes.

The LN is almost identical in size and shape compared to the Stanley.  Some notable differences were the slightly larger angle adjustment knobs (from 1″ on the Stanley to 1-1/8″ on the LN) and two ribs added across the body for rigidity.

 

Note the thick blade, larger adjustment wheels and extra rib just below these wheels on the LN.

You can see the added rib in front of the mouth on the LN.  The only downside here is clearing shavings is a bit more difficult with the rib in the way.

To test their performance, I used each tool on Bubinga and curly Maple, both prone to tearing.  Each tool was capable of delivering good results, but I had an easier time on the LN, largely due to the blade.  The blade in the Stanley was very thin and was so short it was difficult to adjust… this may not be the original blade, so I don’t want to fault it too much, the tool itself is well made and felt solid in use.  On the downside, I tried using the LN blade in the Stanley tool, but it was too thick and would not fit in the Stanley.  The blade on the Stanley was also thin enough that I could feel it flexing in use which limited how thick of a shaving I could get from it.

Tear out in curly maple

When using scraper planes, you’ll want a few extra accessories compared to standard hand planes.  A 4 oz hammer (brass prevents dinging up the blade) is crucial for fine depth and skew adjustments and waxing the sole helps to reduce the force to push the tool in use (same as with a hand plane).  I found a small brush to clear the mouth to be essential as well.  Unlike hand planes where shavings tend to flow out of the tool, scraper shavings bunch up and are often so thin that they break apart.  And because such a small amount of material is being removed, even the slightest shaving hanging out of the mouth can get pinched under the tool and lift the blade off the wood.  I found my self brushing the mouth clean every four or five strokes.  This is a bit tedious, but if you’re using the tool appropriately you shouldn’t have too many strokes to take before you’re done so it didn’t really bother me and the results were worth it.

Useful accessories for scraper planes

And how were the results?  Well, I was able to take full shavings that measured just over 0.001″ thick.  This is about as thick as you’d go with a scraper plane, it gets very difficult to push the tool if a thicker shaving is being taken (remember you’re scraping the wood, not slicing it, so you can’t take nearly as thick of a cut as you could using a hand plane).  In general, I was scraping shavings a little under 0.001″ and leaving clean, smooth surfaces behind.  I also found you could hold the tool comfortably by gripping the front knob alone, or by wrapping your fingers around the knob and placing your thumb behind the bronze blade holder, which lead to a little trick I am calling the “thumb trick”.  If the shaving is a bit on the light side using a normal grip, try placing your thumb behind the blade holder and applying some pressure during the stroke.  This deflected things enough to give the blade just a bit more bite in use.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it allowed for some control over heavy vs light shavings without having to reset the tool (not the easiest operation to complete with a scraper plane).  I should note that I don’t over-tighten the blade clamp wheel, if you do you may stiffen things up so much that the thumb trick is not effective.

Bubinga shavings

Full shavings in curly Maple

Final results, right off the tool, no finish or additional clean up to the wood at this point.

So should you go out and buy a scraper plane?  For most the answer is probably no, at least not yet.  They are a bit tricky to master, both in their setup and their use.  If you aren’t comfortable with card scrapers yet, start with those.  They are cheap and will be used far more often than a dedicated scraper plane.  If you’re comfortable with card scrapers, do you work tricky woods, particularly larger surfaces you want to keep as flat as possible?  If not, again there is probably little benefit of owning a scraper plane.  However, if you’re answering “yes” to the previous statements, a scraper plane might really be useful for you, just be patient with them, it may take some time to come up the curve.

A few final comments, I purchased the LN #112 used and it arrived with some damaged handles.  I contacted Lie-Nielsen about getting some replacements and they sent them for free.  What a great company to work with and purchase tools from.  Also, I focused on the #112, but LN sells a smaller version, a rabbet version, and offers toothed blades if you’re trying to rough up a surface slightly for veneer work.  They also have helpful videos on their website discussing the setup and use of their scrapers.

-WMT