Posts Tagged ‘lie nielsen’

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In:In the Shop

Comments Off on Setting up a Scraper Plane

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).

The 112 in need of some maintenance.

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.

Disassembled for cleaning.

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.

Dust means the blade is dull. You want to see shavings.

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.

The bevel is honed at 45 degrees.

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.

Clamp the blade in a vise and turn a small hook with a burnisher.  Test the cut, increase the hook if needed.

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.

I’m getting shavings, not dust. The blade is held at the desired angle and the fog assembly is adjusted to match.

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.

Nice full-width shavings with a perfect surface left behind means the tool is working as it should. Depth and lateral adjustments to the blade are made with a small brass hammer.

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.

Fancy pants woods giving you tear-out problems?                 Not anymore.

-WMT

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In:On the Road

Comments Off on WMT in Brooklyn

WMT will be a guest demonstrator at the Lie-Nielsen event in Brooklyn from Jan 2nd-3rd, 2015.  This promises to be an exciting show with a slew of talented demonstrators, plus all the Lie-Nielsen swag you can handle.  So head out to the big apple for New Year’s Eve, take Jan 1st to recover, then enjoy some sweet hand tools on the 2nd and 3rd.  More info available here.

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In:In the Shop

Comments Off on Router plane rabbets

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.

Enjoy, -WMT

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In:Tool Review

Comments Off on Glen-Drake tite-mark review

There aren’t many “wheel-style” marking gauges out there.  A few cheap options not worth talking about, then there’s a respectable model from Veritas, but the king of gauges is the Glen-Drake Tite-Mark.  I’ve used the Veritas marking gauge for years (with the micro-adjust feature, don’t buy the standard gauge) and at around $40 it’s a nice tool at a great price, but the Tite-Mark at $89 is awesome and worth every penny.  Here’s a run-down of the features:

Tite-Mark “wheel style” marking gauge

First, the materials are quality steel and brass, precision machining all around.  The cutter is A2 tool steel and can be removed for sharpening.  The cutter also buries in the head to protect it when not in use (a common feature for these tools).  The lower knob locks in the head at its approximate location, then you simply rotate the knurled brass cylinder for micro-adjustment and tighten the top knob to hold your final setting.

Brass head with Knurled adjustment knob.

Two things to point out here, the micro-adjustment is designed for use with one hand which leaves your other hand free to hold your work or a scale if you’re aiming for a specific measurement.  This is a unique and highly desirable features on a marking gauge.  In addition to one-handed use, the head micro-adjusts approximately 3/4″, that’s roughly double what I get out of my Veritas gauge.

Next, there is a small nylon screw in the back of the head.  This allows the user to adjust the resistance between the head and rod.  If you want things to move freely you can loosen it slightly with your thumbnail.  If you want the head to stay put until you push on it, just tighten the screw a bit.  Most likely you will set this once and then never think about it again.

Nylon thumb screw for drag adjustment.

Unlike most gauges where the heads spin freely around the steel rod, the Tite-Mark locking screws ride in a groove.  This is necessary to enable the one-handed adjustment feature, but G-D took the extra effort to make it a stopped groove which prevents the head from accidentally sliding off the rod and potentially landing on an unkind surface (concrete floors).

Stopped groove

Finally, the Tite-Mark is the only gauge I know of that has numerous accessories and variations to meet your specific needs.  They offer a mini version for working on smaller parts, a longer rod version (9″ vs. standard 6″), and rod extensions to increase the rod length even further (making it more of a panel gauge).  There are also double-beveled cutters for laying out both walls of a mortise simultaneously.  These cutters can also be ganged up for double mortise layout, marking four separate walls in a single pass and with perfect repeatability between parts.

If you’re only going to buy one gauge I highly recommend the Tite-Mark.  I will not be getting rid of my Veritas gauge, however, as it will make a nice back up when I have multiple settings to maintain.

-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

 

 

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In:Our Tools

Comments Off on Winding Sticks

The WMT winding sticks. Ash with Walnut or Walnut with Maple.

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:

Rough-sawn cherry as I received it. 4’x6″

Place the sticks at either end of the board. A few tips: place the sticks so the inlaid surfaces face each other, place the center marker on the middle of the board, and make sure the sticks are perpendicular to the board’s edge and parallel to one another.

Center marker on the winding sticks simplifies setup.

 

By sighting over the near stick, the inlay on the far stick is clearly visible.

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).

For flattening a board, start with a jack plane (back), move to a jointer (middle) and finish with a smoother (front). Winding sticks and a straight-edge also provide useful feedback on your progress and where to focus your efforts.

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.

Flat over its length? I often turn a straight-edge on its corner and look for daylight sneaking under the edge. This looks good to me.

Flat across its width? An accurate scale, straight piece of wood, or the edge of your plane can tell you this. Check in multiple areas.

Has the twist been removed? Notice the sticks are now parallel. Sighting over the top edge of the near stick, the inlay on the far stick is evenly exposed and I’m confident the twist is gone (in fact, I’m 4x as confident as what I can see on the sticks due to their exaggeration factor).

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 aaron.moore@walkemooretools.com

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In:Tool Review, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Which Drills and Why

The biggest issue when getting started in working wood with hand tools is wondering, “what tools do I need?”  I remember thinking I needed all bench planes #1 – #8 and every saw or chisel size sold by a given manufacturer.  After all, if I didn’t need all the sizes they wouldn’t be offering them, right?

Well, as you spend some time in the shop and read a few books you will quickly learn that is very wrong.  And while there is a lot of information out there on which planes or saws you should get, I’ve seen little to no words of wisdom around what drills are useful and why.  So here is what I’ve found most useful:

First, no single drill will handle all your hole-boring needs (or to some, your boring hole needs, but I digress).  The diameter of the hole you want to drill determines how much torque your drill will need to provide.  A traditional hand drill (or “egg-beater drill” as they’re often called) can only handle small holes, up to about a 1/4″ in diameter.  They are fantastic tools that can be easily found on the vintage market at a very affordable price.  Take the time to get a decent one that is complete and in good shape and/or fix it up yourself (see my restoration advice here).  I own two of these drills, one smaller than the other.  The larger (a Millers Falls #2) is my workhorse.  It does the bulk of the drilling in my shop and if I had to live with the absolute minimum number of tools, this would be one of the two drills I would own (I actually own five drills total).  My second hand drill is smaller (a Millers Falls #5a) and is nice to have on hand for very delicate work or if I’m alternating between different drill bit sizes, I can dedicate each of my drills to a different bit size rather than switching bits back and forth between the same drill.  I also find these drills easier to keep vertical compared to a cordless drill which is always trying to tip over due to the offset handle and battery weight.

My Millers Falls #2 and #5a hand drills

Perfect for general drilling up to 1/4″

When I need to drill small holes horizontally, I prefer a breast drill.  The name is derived from how the tool is used; the pad at the top is pressed under your… well… breast and your hands align and crank the drill.  I own a two-speed version (a Stanley 905) that allows me to choose between faster drilling or more torque, just like with a battery powered drill.  I find this drill easier to support, keep flat, and crank when drilling horizontally, but as this is not something most woodworkers do very often I wouldn’t go nuts trying to track one down.

My Stanley 905 breast drill

Tool-free speed change. Just press a button, pop out the drive gear, and place it in the other hole.

My favorite method for drilling holes up to 1/4″ horizontally

Now for the larger holes.  From about 1/4″ – 1″ diameter holes, hand braces are awesome and readily available… the bits (called auger bits), on the other hand, can be a little tough to find in a complete set (sets typically range from 1/4″ – 1″ sizes in 1/16″ increments).

Vintage auger bits made by Irwin

The term “brace” is based on the older wooden versions of this drill which were reinforced with brass plates, or braces, to avoid cracking the wooden frame during use.  Hand braces have two major features that differentiate one from another.  First is the sweep size.  A 10″ brace, for instance, is one which has a handle offset 5″ from the chuck, thus creating a 10″ diameter circle you must sweep the brace around to turn the bit.  The larger the sweep distance, the more torque you can generate (nice for your largest drilling needs), where smaller sweep distances allow for faster drilling (preferable for smaller bits).  The second feature to look for in a brace is ratcheting chucks vs solid chucks.  Ratchets allow for reversing the direction of rotation when an obstruction prevents the brace from making a complete circle.  This sounds like a big advantage and indeed if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t make a full sweep of the brace you will want a ratcheting chuck.  However, this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence and the ratcheting mechanism can add a sloppy feel to the drill (depending who made the tool and how well it’s been cared for).  Thus, I have two braces.  The first is an original (before Stanley bought them out) North Brothers Yankee 2101A brace with a ratcheting chuck and 12″ sweep.  This would be the second of my two essential drills and can handle any large-hole-drilling need I may have.  However, when drilling a smaller hole (maybe 5/8″ or less) and assuming there is nothing in my way, I will often reach for my Millers Falls brace without a ratcheting head.  These tools are so cheap it’s worth having a couple around, especially if you vary the features they bring to your shop.  These tools work well drilling vertically or horizontally, but the way I use them differs based on the situation.

My Millers Falls brace (top) with a 10″ sweep and solid chuck, followed by my Yankee brace with ratcheting chuck and 12″ sweep.

For vertical drilling, the right hand holds the pad, the left hand spins the drill.

For horizontal drilling, I hold the pad against my chest with my left hand and drive the drill with my right. Here I was adding holes in my bench legs to store my holdfasts when not in use.

A few tips on the bits themselves.  For hand drills, you can use the vintage bits that accompany some drills, but I just use brad point bits.  They are just easier to find and cut cleaner.  For the auger bits, two common styles exist: Jennings and Irwin.  I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but if they get dull they can be tuned up with an auger bit file (check Lie-Nielsen’s website to buy one, they are only $8.50).  Finally, if your auger bits are blowing out the back of your board, stop drilling as soon as the lead screw pokes through the back.  Then flip the board over, line the bit up with hole, and finish drilling from the backside.

Brad point bit in a hand drill

Auger bit file

Have a great day, -WMT

 

 

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In:On the Road, Tool Review

Comments Off on Tool Comparison

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.

Gramercy rasps

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?”

Ron Brese planes at his bench at Handworks

The block plane I won as a door prize… wow.

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.

Lie-Nielsen cut on the left, Ron Brese on the right.

That’s all for now, have a great day.

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In:On the Road

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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.

The event was held in a large barn in the Amana colonies.

Benchcrafted leg vise

Moulding planes from Old Street Tools

Infill planes by Daed Toolworks

Various Lie-Nielsen tools

Veritas took the opportunity to get feedback on their shooting plane prototype. The body of this tool was rapid prototyped, not cast metal.

Jeff Miller was also there to talk a little shop

On Saturday, a brief presentation was put on by Don Williams and Chris Schwarz covering an upcoming H. O. Studley book.