Plane and Sharpening Notes

I bought a Norton 220x waterstone today to add to the lower end of my arsenal. I was really eager to see how quickly it would flatten the back of a blade, so I tried it on the big Hock blade for my #7. It’s pretty impressive–that would have taken a million years on almost anything else. I would imagine that the only way to do it faster would be to scrape it with a file, but I’m not sure that I am comfortable doing that.

It’s fairly clear that I should get an 8000x stone. The 4000x/honing compound combination works adequately, but it takes longer with the compound than I would like. It seems to me that going 4000x-8000x-compound would work very quickly with better results, because you can get the whole blade on the stone at once.

Over the past few weeks, I’d been fiddling with my two Millers Falls #9 smoothing planes, trying to work out the kinks in them. I accomplished that goal (I think), but I’m now starting to think that the fancy-schmancy frog adjusting screw that Stanley introduced in 1902 is the devil. On my type 4 plane, the boss wasn’t tapped hard enough or something, so the frog wouldn’t move forward as much as it should have. I fixed that by using my socket wrench, a big screwdriver bit, and some lubricant to drive the screw farther in.

On the other plane, a type 3 (wartime) model, I couldn’t figure out why the stupid frog wouldn’t seat straight on its mating surface. It turns out that the stupid frog adjusting screw boss was tapped off-center. I fixed this by shoving the little pressed plate with the notch that fits into the adjusting screw off to the side as well.

Neither of these planes would have had any problems if they didn’t have frog adjusting screws, and that feature just doesn’t seem like it’s really that great anyway. I even thought about removing the plate.

On the brighter side, I don’t think that any of my other planes have these problems. In addition, my #7 definitely doesn’t have this problem because it doesn’t have the screw. Neither does my Millers Falls #900. My guess is that the MF #900 can be made to perform as well as any of the other smoothers because it’s basically like a #9 without the frog adjustment screw and a simple lever cap instead of the three-pointer. Not that I feel the need to prove this point at the moment…

First Waterstones

My waterstones arrived today. They are 800x and 4000x.

Of course, I was very eager to try them out. Goodness, what a difference. I flattened a plane blade back, and that took a little bit of time, but once flat on the 800x, the 4000x did its job with amazing speed.

Then I honed the bevel–in just a few minutes. But the real surprise came when I did the final hone with the green compound on wood. I knew that the edge was pretty sharp, but it didn’t look too shiny. Well, the green compound made the blade shine like nothing I’ve ever done before.

Well, that’s all fine and good. And I did shave off the requisite arm hair. But I really wanted to see how the blade worked, so I put that bad boy back into its type 4 Millers Falls smoothing plane, clamped in a yellow-poplar board, and set the blade for a very fine cut.

Holy crap. Now, granted, I’d been fiddling around with this plane recently, but I did not expect so see shavings so consistent and thin. The blade zipped through like it was almost nothing and left my best surface yet. Even on the part of the board where the grain reversed direction!

I guess it’s so long for Scary Sharp for me–it was a nice cheap way to get started, but even though waterstones are slightly messy, the speed, ease, and consistency of results are really hard to deny.

[edit: I still use sandpaper (Norton 3X, then grit progressions) on a surface plate to initially flatten faces of tools. It’s faster and less error-prone because you don’t have to worry about keeping a stone flat. But I always turn to my waterstones for final sharpening, and I generally don’t use the sandpaper after the initial flattening.]

Small Planning Hiatus

I’m going to take a break for a few days from doing anything in particular. I have a few odds and ends to catch up on, including these wood-related things:

  • Figure out a way to mount the vise on the front of the workbench. Well, okay, I know how I’m going to mount it, but I don’t know what materials I’m going to use yet.
  • Affix the roof rack to my car, so that I can carry boards on it.
  • Drive to a lumberyard with said car (and rack) and get some roughsawn wood. There are a couple of sources here in the city, and since I’m just getting some fairly cheap wood, this should not be a big deal.
  • Wait for my newly-ordered waterstones to arrive, and practice sharpening on those.

It’s supposed to be hot here this week, so I don’t really want to work up much of a sweat anyway.