Posts Tagged ‘hand plane’
Many have asked what Winding Sticks are, how they’re used, and why we are making them. In short, winding sticks locate and exaggerate twist in a board so a woodworker can plane it flat. Hand planes alone do a great job of automatically (with proper technique) flattening a board in its width and (within reason) its length. Twist, however, typically requires a little more feedback, especially on long boards. That’s where winding sticks come in. Place the sticks at either end of a board (inlay facing in on both sticks), then sight over the top of one stick and compare the inlay on the other. If the sticks are parallel the inlay will be evenly exposed at both ends. If more inlay is visible on one side than the other, the sticks are not parallel and twist is present. To demonstrate, here’s a typical example of how I use winding sticks and what beneficial features we’ve incorporated into the sticks we sell.
The board I am flattening is an air-dried piece of cherry, 4′ long and a little over 6″ wide. It came with excessive twist (more than I would expect from a decent lumber dealer), but this board was free from a friend who had a tree come down and milled it into boards. Here’s what I was dealing with:
Notice on that last picture that sticks are showing the near-left-to-far-right corners of the board are higher than the near-right-to-far-left corners. This tells me where to focus my planing efforts. Another point to make is winding sticks not only locate the twist, they exaggerate it. How much? That depends on the length of your sticks and the width of your board. These sticks are 24″ long and the board is about 6″ wide, so the sticks are exaggerating the twist by roughly 4x in this case. If I think there’s 1/2″ height change in the sticks over their 24″ length, I would expect there to be about 1/8″ twist in the actual board across its width. We are offering three standard sizes, 18″, 24″, and 30″. I tend to like sticks that are 2x-4x the width of board I’m working. Less than 2x works (and for wide surfaces like a table you may not have a choice, who really owns 8′ long sticks after all?) you just won’t get the exaggeration effect that makes spotting twist easier. Too much length is usually not a problem (though excessive exaggeration of twist can leave you chasing your tail), but storing and maintaining sticks much over 30″ can be a hassle in itself. So when choosing sticks, think about the typical width of board you work on, multiply by 2x-4x and see where you land. We also offer a couple wood options. This is purely a decision based on looks and what you think will be easier to see in your shop: light wood with dark inlay or dark wood with light inlay.
Moving on, I now begin the planing process. This “process” is obviously a huge area of confusion (especially beginners who think they know nothing) and a huge area of debate (especially for seasoned workers who think they know everything).
Since this post is not about how to plane, I’ll just say you should start with a jack, taking heavy shavings (maybe 0.010″+). Plane until all the rough, off-the-mill marks are gone. Do your best to get things as flat and twist-free as possible before switching tools. The biggest mistake for beginners is switching tools too early. You may feel like you’re making progress faster because you moved to the next tool in the series, but if you weren’t done with the jack, you just added a lot of time to your jointer. When you are done with the jack, move to the jointer for final flattening, checking your progress periodically with your straight-edge and winding sticks. Finish off with a few passes from a smoother to leave a clean surface and you’re done. The video below is a rushed, but entertaining demonstration of the procedure.
So how do you know when your board is truly done? I check for three things. Is the board flat over its length? Is it flat across its width (checking several locations)? Is the twist removed (proven by parallel winding sticks)? When all three of those criteria are met, you have a flat board.
So there you have it, that face is now flat and work can begin on the opposite face and edges. If winding sticks are new to you I hope their value is evident when flattening boards by hand. They can be made as simply or extravagant as you like and any two parallel sticks will do the job. They can be metal, wood, or something else entirely. They can also make a great project for beginners. We sell them because not everyone has the time or interest in making tools, they’d prefer to make furniture with their time. Others have simply never heard of winding sticks before, so whether we’re selling you a pair or simply exposing you to their existence, we hope more woodworkers will add them to their collection.
Have a great day (preferably in your shop) -WMT
Note: depending when you’re reading this, our winding sticks may not be listed on the website for sale. We are shooting to have the website updated between Feb-Mar of 2014. Until then, you can have your name put on the waiting list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been asked a few times about what tools are required to get started in woodworking… specifically working wood by hand. Chris Schwarz compiled an excellent list of necessary hand tools for his book The Anarchist’s Tool Chest. To see that list, check here. And while that is an excellent list, it assumes you are not using any power tools and doesn’t really give any ranking in terms of what to buy first and what can come a little later. The following is my opinion on what to buy and when to buy it (the tools I mention first are the ones I would buy first), especially if you’re going to be using the hybrid approach of some work done by hand, some with the assistance of electricity.
A Bench – Sounds obvious, but without something to hold wood flat, on its edge, and vertically, you won’t get very far.
Bench Planes – Get three: a jack, jointer, and smoother. Ideally you will have all three, but the jack will be used a lot and a vintage one will do fine (low cost) as it is primarily a roughing tool. This is also the easiest plane to learn on as many of its properties (mouth opening, sole flatness, etc) are not critical for it to function properly. The jointer is next and will leave your surfaces flat… but powered jointers and planers can replace this if you so choose (though not in my shop). Finally, a smoother is another work-horse in my shop, but the reality is that once your surface is flat, you can (and a lot of people do) use sandpaper to get the final finish. Again, a smoother is better for a lot of reasons, but if money is tight it can be purchased last (and if you’re able, buy a premium model). Purchasing this last also allows you to get comfortable with hand planes before getting into the most temperamental of all models. A smoother must have a razor sharp blade and be tuned to perfection if you want the results we all dream about in our sleep (we do all dream about hand planes, yes?). And on a similar note, a card scraper is critical in my shop while others go their whole careers never even seeing one and get by with sandpaper. Oh, and you’ll need a way to sharpen these tools (and a grinder isn’t it).
Chisels – 1/8″, 1/4″, 1/2″, and 3/4″. A bit bigger is nice as is a skewed pair or fishtail chisel, but not essential. Mortise chisels are also nice, but if you drill the waste out or use a mortising machine, they aren’t going to see any use.
Saws – Start with a dovetail saw, next I’d get a carcass (or crosscut) saw. That will be all many woodworkers need. Full sized hand saws, tenon saws, or bow saws are commonly replaced by table saws and bandsaws today, but a backsaw filed rip and another crosscut are worth their weight in gold.
Specialty Planes – A spokeshave, block plane, and large router plane will see a lot of use, even in a power tool shop. I’m not going to get into the uses of these tools, the router plane especially may seem foreign to some, but they are critical in my shop. I’m not recommending shoulder, rabbet, or plow planes because, while they are essential in a hand tool shop, many will be just fine using a table saw or router for these operations so I wouldn’t rate these as essential (unless you’re not using any power tools).
Drills – I can’t say these are essential, most people have a cordless drill and/or drill press, but for the cost I find an “egg beater” drill and hand brace to be very useful and more responsive for fine woodworking. For more info on drills, see here.
And finally, the usual mix of hammers, dividers, marking gauges, a tape measure, clamps, etc. are all necessary in any shop. Schwarz’s list does a good job outlining those tools, plus some useful shop accessories like bench hooks and shooting boards, but above are the critical tools I believe everyone in every shop will use, regardless of your woodworking preferences.
Hopefully that helps. It can be overwhelming to see a complete hand tool shop, the cost and time associated with purchasing and learning to use those tools is substantial. If you start with what I recommend above, you can slowly add to it as your skills and preferences take over. Good luck, get working.
I recently returned from the Handworks event in Amana, Iowa, held on 5/24 & 5/25. It was an awesome trip featuring only hand tool vendors and only the best of the best. The chance to meet so many talented tool makers and try out so many premium tools in one sitting was unparalleled. Hopefully this becomes an annual event and maybe even moves around the country year to year to give more people a chance to attend.