Posts Tagged ‘handtools’
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our winding sticks are made from quartersawn material and are perfectly parallel when they leave our shop. However, wood is wood and depending on your shop conditions you may need to tune them up periodically.
The first step is getting the bottom edge straight. You can check the sticks against themselves by touching the their edges together and looking for gaps or set them on a flat surface, like the top of a table saw, and check to see if they sit flat. If the bottom edges aren’t straight you’ll need to plane off a few shavings. Given their tapered height, we recommend using a long grain shooting board. You’ll want to shim the top edge of the stick off the shooting board or you will end up planing a square edge on the sticks, which is fine except they will tip over a little easier in use.
Once the bottom edges are done, the top edges need to be made parallel to one another. This does not mean they need to be dead parallel to their bottom edges, a slight taper over their length won’t matter (more on that later). The best way to do this is to place the sticks on your bench with the inlaid surfaces facing each other. Leave a gap of roughly 1″ between the sticks to make plane-balancing easier, gently pinch them between some bench dogs, and use a light cut on a jointer plane to remove some material. When you’re getting a full shaving off each stick you’re done.
Lightly chamfer the edges and a block plane or sandpaper and apply some Watco Danish Oil (“natural” color) to the sticks and they will look like new.
The main thing to be aware of with winding sticks is to use them in the same orientation every time. Let’s say your freshly tuned sticks are tapered across their length a total of 0.008″. That’s not bad and because both sticks are equally tapered (due to planing them simultaneously) they cancel out their error and work perfectly. However, if you flip one stick in use you just doubled the error to 0.016″ and will be unintentionally planing some of that error back into your board. This is one of the reasons we use inlay on both sticks. As long as the sticks are tuned up with the inlay facing in and then used in that same orientation every time you don’t need to worry about the top and bottom edges being exactly parallel.
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.
One of the best parts about attending Handworks last week was the opportunity to try various brands of similar tools or variation of the same tool by the same maker. Here are my thoughts:
Dovetail Saws: While there weren’t many individual premium saw makers at the show (Bad Axe, Wenzloff, etc) the bigger companies like Lie-Nielsen and Veritas were there, as was Gramercy. Veritas saws don’t do it for me, period. I’m not a fan of the black backs or brushed saw plates (but you can’t argue with their price-point if you’re on a budget). As for Gramercy, their teeth are too fine for my liking when it comes to a dovetail saw and the handles feel a bit thin for me, but that’s obviously going to vary person to person, hand to hand.
What I really want to talk about is the wide variety Lie-Nielsen now offers. When I bought my dovetail saw from LN I only had one choice to make, 15ppi or progressive pitch teeth (I chose progressive). A few years later, the 9″ saw I have is discontinued as they are all 10, both dovetail and carcass. This is a definite improvement. When you consider most people only use 7″-8″ of their 9″ plate (if you’re good at sawing, some only use 3″-4″) adding the extra 1″ is around a 13% increase in your efficiency. The saw does not feel unbalanced in the least, in fact I felt it balanced the saw slightly better than the 9″ version. About the only thing going for my 9″ at this point is that it’s now a collectors item (if someone wants to offer me $500 it’s theirs).
Anyway, beyond the increased length, LN also offers a thin plate version (0.015″ thick vs 0.020″) as well as tapered blades. I’d not had the opportunity to try any of these until last week and the differences are noticeable. After playing with all the variations, two stand out to me as my favorites: The progressive pitch and the thin plate, no taper for either. The taper, in general, I do not care for on backsaws. I understand why it’s there, but it’s a preference thing and I prefer a non-tapered blade. The thin plate cuts faster than the standard saw because it’s removing less material, and it cuts very smoothly at 15ppi. The progressive pitch also cuts smoothly (with fine teeth getting the cut started) but also quickly (with the aggressive teeth at the heel of the saw). And again, thanks to the 10″ plate, they both cut faster than the saw I use today. I still do not care for the standard plate at 15ppi. It’s fine teeth cut smoothly, but without the thinner plate it’s a bit slow. How should you choose? If you’re new to sawing go for the progressive pitch, the blade is less kink-prone. If you like super-fine pins, get the thin plate.
Hand Stitched Rasps: Most woodworkers are aware of the French rasp manufacturer, Auriou (pronounced are-you). These are most readily available through Lie-Nielsen and come fitted with a LN maple handle. More recently, Tools for Working Wood started carrying their own hand stitched rasps under their Gramercy label. These are made in Pakistan, handles made in USA. I tried the Gramercy rasps at Handworks and noticed a couple of things I thought were worth mentioning. First, they are nice tools and could be a welcome addition to any shop. However, when compared to Auriou, I felt that the Gramercy handles were too small (and I don’t have particularly large hands either). A woman or younger woodworker might prefer these handles, but I immediately felt like the handle needed replacing. As far as the cutting is concerned, these bite the wood more than I’m used to after using my Auriou rasps for a few years. The teeth seem taller, more pointed than the Auriou rasps and made starting the cut a little more difficult. Once moving, however, they removed material in a hurry. This can be a good thing, but I’m more of a mind set that if you want to remove material faster get a courser rasp, not taller teeth (if that makes sense). I would imagine you could get used to the feel of how these rasps cut and they do leave an excellent finish, but I’d have to give Auriou the edge in user-friendliness. Auriou also has a wider range of rasp sizes, grain, etc. if you have extensive rasp needs.
Infill Hand Planes: The most unpredictable part of traveling to the Handworks event was winning one of the door prizes… in fact, I took home the most valuable door prize being awarded, a $1,200 Ron Brese block plane. I spent a few minutes trying out some of Ron’s larger planes at his bench (which cost between $2,000-$3,000) and they are sweet. But now that I’ve had some time to play with his block plane at home and compare it to my Lie-Nielsen low angle block plane, a lot of people have asked the obvious question, “does it work better than the Lie-Nielsen?”
In short, my answer is no, an infill block plane cannot do anything for you that any other well tuned plane can do. My Lie-Nielsen is just as sharp as the Brese plane, the bed angles are comparable, the soles on both tools are flat, and the mouth opening is very tight on the Brese plane, the Lie-Nielsen is adjustable. I planed some cherry and both tools gave fantastic results, as they should. So if the wood doesn’t care what is being used to cut it, why is a premium Lie-Nielsen $165 (already too much for some people) and a Brese plane $1,200? And why even buy one if it doesn’t leave a better finish? Here are my thoughts. First understand Ron’s price is not over-inflated. It’s a high price tag because each plane is hand made, the machining and woodworking are impeccable, and the tool performs beautifully. And that’s what you’re really paying for, the privilege of owning a functional work of art. Most woodworkers will never even see an infill plane in person, far fewer will own one, if you want to be in that group it comes at a cost. If all you’re after, however, is high-end performance, buy a Lie-Nielsen and don’t look back. It works great and to be honest, it’s more comfortable to use than an infill plane, it’s easier to adjust the depth of cut, and the mouth can be opened up for heavy material removal. So while my Brese plane will be put to use in my shop and cherished for generations, it will not be the workhorse. That remains the role of my LN 60.5 block plane.
That’s all for now, have a great day.
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.