Posts Tagged ‘hand tools’
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
If you’re new to scraper planes or scrapers in general, you may want to read this first.
My Lie-Nielsen #112 scraper plane has become indispensable to me since I purchased it about a year ago. Whether I’m dealing with exotic woods, interlocking grain, or just smoothing a knot with the usual grain reversal surrounding it the scraper plane does it all and I would not be without one at this point. But maintaining a scraper plane can be tricky and unlike hand planes, there isn’t a lot of information out there on how to set them up. Hopefully this will help (so please tell your woodworking nerd friends).
I start by taking the blade out (TIP: push it out through the bottom of the sole so you don’t ding the cutting edge) and cleaning out any debris. My handles were a bit loose, so I snugged them up while I was at it. I also removed the cap screw, cleaned off the threads, and added some oil to it before re-installing it.
Next I took some freehand test cuts with the blade to see if it was still sharp. It produced mostly dust so it was time to sharpen.
The blade is sharpened just like a plane iron, except I use a straight edge (not cambered) with my scraper plane. The bevel is also honed at 45 degrees, much higher than the 25-30 degrees found on a typical bench plane.
With the blade polished, I turn a hook. This is similar to forming a hook on a card scraper, but because the edge is at 45 degrees (card scrapers are honed at 90 degrees), I just apply some pressure to the tip of the bevel with a burnisher to create the burr or hook. This can take a little practice, but you will quickly learn what a “good burr” feels like.
With the hook formed, I start taking test cuts by hand and look for two things. First, is the hook where I want it? If it’s too large I’d have to grind it off and re-sharpen (though that’s never happened), if it’s too small I can put it back in the vise and increase the hook with more pressure and more passes from the burnisher. The second thing I look for is the optimal cutting angle, which is a little different every time as the hook is turned by hand and isn’t 100% identical from one sharpening to another. I hold the blade at the desired angle and adjust the frog assembly to match. This way I know when the blade is installed I’ll be getting the best shavings possible. The adjustable frog is not a feature found on smaller scraper jigs like the Stanley #80 and it’s one of the major benefits of using a dedicated scraper plane.
Now I simply install the blade (again, through the bottom of the plane so the hook isn’t damaged by sliding through the frog assembly) and set everything flat on the bench. Make sure there are no shavings or debris preventing the tool from laying dead flat. Press the blade down so it touches the bench firmly, then tighten the cap screw. This should leave the blade more or less parallel to and flush or just below the sole of the plane. Take a test cut. If the blade is skewed or not protruding far enough, minor adjustments are made with light taps from a small hammer. Brass is preferable so the blade isn’t damaged. I own one from Lie-Nielsen and another from Sterling Tool Works. Both work great.
After a little trial-and-error you should be getting wide, fluffy shavings with a tear-out free surface left behind. Once I was satisfied on my scrap piece of walnut I had some actual work to accomplish on some Bocote and Chakte Viga. No problem… except that Bocote smells like a wet dog.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re back from our first Lie-Nielsen event. Being a guest demonstrator was a lot of fun and we were able to meet several enthusiastic woodworkers, many of whom follow us on instagram (@walkemooretools). It’s always nice to put real faces to the virtual identities shared through instagram, so thanks for making the effort to come see us.
In addition to the Lie-Nielsen staff, we were also able to meet several other woodworking professionals for the first time including Matt Kenney (from Fine Woodworking Mag), Christopher Schwarz, and the folks from Tools for Working Wood. Overall it was a great time and if you ever have a chance to attend a Lie-Nielsen event, I encourage you get there.
When fitting a dovetail joint I cut the tails first, align the tail-board over the pin-board, and transfer the tails with a marking knife. Pretty straightforward, but it can be tricky keeping the joint aligned while transferring the tails to the pin-board. If the tail-board is cooked the drawer/case/etc will be racked when assembled, there will also be gaps at the joint’s baseline. If the tail-board is square, but slides a little forward or back relative to the baseline the joint will have gaps or may not assemble at all. Finally, if the board is perfectly aligned to begin with but then shifts while marking… good luck realigning.
For all these reasons, I put a small rabbet on the tail-board which creates a barely visible shoulder. This shoulder slides against the pin-board and instantly aligns everything except the sides of the boards, but that’s simple to do. If you don’t rabbet your boards already, you should. At least give it a shot. Once you decide to use the rabbet you have to figure out how to make it. The generic answer for a large number of joints is to set up a table saw or router. That works great, but for working on a few joints (making a box or just a couple drawers) it’s faster by hand. Since you’re cutting a rabbet, it makes sense to reach for a rabbet plane or fillister. After all, this technique is known as “the 140 trick” named after the model #140 block plane often used to cut the rabbet. These planes work well for larger cases or drawers, but I find them completely unsuited when working with narrow parts. The planes can be sensitive to set up and a narrow board doesn’t give much surface area for the plane to rest on or the fence to register against. Clamping small pieces securely for use with a rabbet plane can also be a challenge.
Enter the router plane. I typically have two boards (a left and right side) to rabbet, so I lay them next to each other on the bench, throw a clamp on the back side and let the front register against a bench dog or some other backstop. Using the router plane, I support half of the tool on each board (which should be the same thickness), set the depth with extreme simplicity and accuracy, and cut across the grain to my baseline. The baseline is already cut into the board with a marking gauge as part of the dovetailing process so no extra work there, but you do have to be careful not to cut across the baseline. This may sound difficult, but I’ve never had an issue. The knifeline from the marking gauge severs the fibers should cut deep enough that as the router plane gets close the fibers simply lift up and fall off. When all is said and done I find this approach far superior for narrow components. Less tool set up time, no risk of tipping the tool resulting in a non-square rabbet, and work holding is much easier. If that’s doesn’t convince you, check out the video of the technique in action, then give it a try.
For some time we have been considering various ways to clip our winding sticks together for storage purposes. Some traditional designs use a peg-in-hole method where one stick has two pegs protruding out of it and, you guessed it, the other stick has matching holes. Fit the pegs to the holes and the sticks hold each other reasonably well. We weren’t crazy about this design for two reasons: it’s not very attractive (in our opinion) and as the pegs and/or holes wear, their hold becomes less effective. We also considered some classy leather straps or end caps, but the added cost was a deterrent, as was the bulk it would add to an otherwise narrow set of sticks that would typically to be stored in a tool chest or on a shelf.
In the end, we designed our own method of holding the sticks together using rare earth magnets. Each stick gets a pair of magnets set just below the woods surface. The back of the hole is filled with a matching face-grain plug that typically goes unnoticed (unless you’re looking for it of course). The end result is a pair of winding sticks that looks as clean and beautiful as our standard pair, but put the faces together and they hold each other with just the right amount of force. (check out a brief video here)
WMT just returned from an action packed weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, which hosted Woodworking in America for 2014. This was our first show, but thanks to a strong presence from the Instagram woodworking community, it felt like we were old pros. We were located within a booth or two from several popular and/or up and coming tool makers who we’ve known through Instagram for some time, but were able to meet in person for the first time this weekend. (Check out their sites and their instagram profiles: Texas Heritage, Sterling Tool Works, Caleb James Planemaker, Peter Galbert, Scott Meeks Woodworks, & Plate 11 Bench Co)
We had a great time, met countless enthusiastic woodworkers (who were very gracious with their feedback on our tools), and drank some of the local brew (which was delicious). If you didn’t make it this year, try for next year. It’s worth the effort.
See you next year. -WMT
In just a few days WMT will be on the tool floor of Woodworking in America. This is our first public event with a fair amount of preparation leading up to this point, but we’re excited and will be sharing a booth with some other premium tool makers who are also relatively new to the woodworking world. We will be side-by-side with Sterling Tool Works and Texas Heritage Woodworks with several other makers very near by such as Blue Spruce Toolworks, Vesper Tools, Scott Meeks Woodworks, Plate 11 Bench Co. and the list goes on. So if you’re at the show be sure to stop over and say hi. We’ll have some tools available for sale at the show, other new tools and prototypes to try out and pre-order, and all unfilled orders placed at the show will ship for free. Hope to see you there.