Triumph of the Planes

So the big news first–I’ve finally made some serious headway in planing. Basically, I got another plane in working order, did some fine-tuning, honed my blades to death, and here we are with a full-length shaving:

It’s hard to describe how much of an improvement this is over my previous attempts. I was getting a few good shavings before, but here, every last shaving was awesome. The surface is like people say; it’s smooth and shines (and this with a silly workmate!). I’d been dreaming of being able to do this for many years.

Here are the two planes I used:

The smoothing plane is the same one from before, but I’ve been working on it. I flattened the lip of the chipbreaker, and flatted the frog base and mating surfaces with my diamond stone. I cleaned out the mouth a little.

Now, the jack plane is the Millers Falls #14C that I was talking about before as my next restoration project. I said that this was a pretty plane. Here’s what it looked like when I got it:

And the after (wow):

This plane is a type 4, made between 1955 and 1966. Some say that this was the pinnacle of the Millers Falls bench planes. There are superficial differences. The adjuster nut is solid brass and the wood in the tote and knob are superior, but there is one major difference between this and my other older Millers Falls planes that can affect function–the iron is much thicker, about as thick as a Hock iron. It has “solid tool steel” stamped on the top, which concerned me at first, because I thought it might not be of the usual good stuff, but it takes and holds an edge very well.

Gradual Progress

Millers Falls #14C: I took the blade up to Tahoe last weekend and flattened the back. I also shaped the bevel; it’s ready for true honing now. This week, I worked on cleaning it up. It had more rust than the other stuff I’ve worked on, but it wasn’t too bad. All of the parts are clean now except for the nuts that hold on the tote and knob. The only other thing that needs to be done is lapping the sole.

[edit: See the edits in this post about my current thoughts on lapping.]

I have also flattened the frog bases of this and my #9. I don’t know if this is going to reduce chatter or not, but it was very easy to do with my diamond stone, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

Stanley #6: blade flattened, bevel shaped (what a pain). Probably will be done about the same time as the MF #14C, maybe tomorrow.

I made some improvised bench dogs for my silly bench by drilling holes through 3/4″ dowels, then pounding thin dowels through those holes. I used my old Jackson crosscut backsaw to cut the big dowels. It’s as dull as a hoe, has terribly-formed teeth, is kinda rusty, has a loose handle, and still cuts better than any other saw I’ve ever used. I really need to schedule rehab of that thing.

The Usual Suspects

So dubido asked for a plane lineup. Here are all of my current bench planes (meaning that this excludes block planes, spokeshaves, and other weird stuff):

From left to right, they are:

  • Stanley #8 jointer (24″), type 5 (1885-1888). This is in the worst condition of all of my planes, and is also my most expensive (hey, let’s see you try to be a cheapskate and get a jointer). It will clean up and work, especially now that I have a frog that’s less broken than the original.
  • Millers Falls #18 fore (18″), type 2 (probably 1936-1941). Some serious rust on the sole of this guy, otherwise should be easy to clean.
  • Stanley #6 fore (18″), type 16-ish (1933-1941). My first bench plane purchase. Almost ready to use.
  • Millers Falls #14 jack (14″), type 3 (1941-1949). Rust-o-rama, almost certainly needs electrolysis.
  • Millers Falls #14C jack (14″), type 4 (1955-1966). My next restoration project. A very pretty plane, as you will see in weeks to come.
  • Stanley #5C jack (14″), type 11 (1910-1918). Kinda beat up, with a cracked tote and stuff, but should eventually work fine.
  • Millers Falls #900 smoother (9″) sometime after 1949. An “economy” version of the #9, this does not have the frog depth adjustment screw, the three-point lever cap, or the spiffy handles, but probably will work just as well when tuned, since it’s otherwise almost identical to the #9.
  • Millers Falls #9 smoother (9″), type 3 (1941-1949). My first completed, tuned, and used plane; see previous posts. A nice user, that’s for sure.

More plane practice

I got out the gear from last week to try to improve my planing and sharpening skills. We definitely have progress here.

It turned out that I messed up the primary bevel last week; I had it somewhere near 25 degrees, but it should be much higher. So earlier this week, I took out the honing guide and diamond stone and (groan) reworked the bevel. This made a big difference; sharpening also went much faster this time. And I have yet fewer arm hairs.

What took a long time was the sole preparation. I was wondering about the “friction” people talk about on plane soles, so I tried a test run on my MF #9 with the iron retracted on a board. Well, I’ll be–“friction” is real. Man, that thing was hard to drag around. So I decided to see if I could get the bottom a little smoother. I probably should not have done that, it was likely a waste of time and it took forever to get all the crud off the bottom and out of the plane. But I couldn’t help myself, and I polished up the sides to a semi-shine while I was at it. Oooh, purty.

After this, I waxed the sole. Now that really did the trick. Wow. I will not skip this step again. It amounts to Friction-B-Gone, and now I’m wondering if hot waxing (as you would do on a snowboard or skis) would be even better. The nice thing about hot wax is that there aren’t any awful chemicals in the wax paste that have to evaporate before you smooth it.

I’m experiencing all of the usual problems you get when you’re still learning how to use a plane and those that you experience in a plane that needs some fine-tuning. My biggest problem is getting the shavings not to jam. The solution I finally ended up at was just to open the throat a little wider. Of course, this was after who-knows-how-long, and the iron was dull at that point, but that’s not a big deal. I’m at least getting good chipbreaking action. My practice board is much smoother this week than it was last week, but I can probably improve on this still by getting better shaving control. I was getting a bunch of single-fiber shavings today. That was neat.

Before cleaning up, I sharpened another chisel, my 1/2″ one, including lapping the back. This was much faster now, not only because I’m getting better at it, but also the lapping took virtually no time on the diamond stone. Then I tried it out on some wood, and that was really cool. I love how a sharp tool gives a glass-smooth finish. Endgrain? No problem.

One thing that’s becoming painfully obvious (and I knew this was going to be an issue) is that the ‘ol workmate just isn’t cutting it when I use a plane, and I need to solve this problem. I need to hold it down with one foot to keep it from tipping up because I’m putting too much force on it. It would work in a somewhat adequate manner if I could find some way to bolster it against a wall. But what I’ll probably need to do is make some cheap ‘n dirty workbench that’s a little more stable (and one that I can do an end vise number on). This would be more useful anyway, because I eventually want to be able to use the workmate for sawing.

Well, there’s that problem, and also that my apartment isn’t a good workshop. But there are solutions.

In the near future, I need to get one of my jack planes working, as well as a few saws. I had the opportunity to use my 99-cent Jackson backsaw today. Even in the wretched shape that it’s in, it cut surprisingly quickly.

It’d also be nice to get one of the fore planes up and running, even though I’m not sure what I’d use it for. I’m so close on my Stanley #6 that I might just try to get it finished before a jack (which is going to require rust removal, some serious grind-o-rama, and who knows what else).