Saturday, September 17, 2016

Shenandoah Awls

Previously I've written about the business I operate with Jeff Fleisher, called Shenandoah Tool Works, and the woodworker's mallets we introduced in 2013.  We since have added a new product, which we call the Shenandoah Awl.

Tiger Maple Awl
The Shenandoah Awl is a birdcage awl that incorporates a unique design for the handle, a large round bulb shape that allows the user to easily apply plenty of torque in use.  In addition, the steel shafts, made of oil-hardened (O1) steel, are shaped in a twist that gives them a decorative touch.  The shafts are hand-forged by a local blacksmith.  As with the Shenandoah Mallets, the handles are hand-turned from a variety of domestic and exotic hardwoods, the most popular of which are those made with crotch walnut and tiger maple.

Birdcage awls differ from scratch awls, which are intended to mark lines in wood.  Birdcage awls have a square shaft that, when twisted in the wood, is capable of drilling holes to start screws, install locks, or simply to mark the location to start a drill bit.

The awls have been selling very well and have received good reviews from other woodworkers, including Popular Woodworking magazine.  They are available at the Shenandoah Tool Works website and are priced at $54.99 USD.


Monday, August 22, 2016

My Planes are Finished; Well, Almost!

Today was the sixth and final day of the wooden bodied planemaking class with Scott Meek.  The class, held in Scott's basement workshop in Asheville, North Carolina, was a great learning device, not to mention a lot of fun!

Today we sharpened and honed one blade so we would know how to do it.  I already have learned to sharpen freehand on diamond plates so for me, this served more to get one blade prepared for a trial run with the new planes.

Here is the blade I honed, using a solution of Hone Rite on DMT's Diasharp diamond plates

Then we opened up the mouths of our plane bodies just so the blade would protrude through the base with enough room to spare for the desired shaving to pass through.

We spent additional time refining the shape of our plane bodies to fit our aesthetic objectives and also to fit out individual hands, given the differing ways we hold our planes.  They are our unique creations.  We didn't finish this part of the work and will further refine the fit and then the finish at home.

My 22 inch jointer plane, showing it rough shape; I'll refine it further after I put it to use
Finally, we put our planes to the acid test--taking shavings with each of them on the famous 2X6 Scott has taken to woodworking shows for years and that is now closer to a 2X2.  What a great thrill it is so see a wonderful full width shaving curl off the board and feel the mirror-like finish it leaves behind.

My Osage orange smoother, white oak jointer and teak jack planes

In addition to what I learned about planemaking, I got to use a Benchcrafted leg vise and plan to get and install one of these in my own woodshop.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Planes are Taking Shape!

On the fourth day of the Scott Meek class on making wooden planes, we shaped the wedges that will hold our blades in place and then began to cut the now rectangular plane bodies to their final shapes.
For my Osage orange smoothing plane, which has a 50 degree bed angle, I decided to create my own body style and so I strayed from the traditional design. 
The Osage orange smoother body before shaping
My idea was to incorporate handle-like curves in the toe and rear of the plane to make it more easily fit my hand in use.  So I left the front and rear sections higher so I could shape them to fit my hand.
Some of the shaping is visible on the front of the plane; I did less shaping on the rear
I will probably not make any more changes to this plane, except to polish the rasped areas.  I can do additional changes to fit my hand when I'm back in my own woodshop and after I have spent some time using the plane.
My teak jack plane in the process of being shaped
The teak 12 inch jack plane is still being shaped.  I'm following Scott's pattern for this plane, which will have Scott's "wave" pattern on the rear section.  That not only makes it easy to hold and use, but beautiful as well.

I've not yet started on shaping the 22 inch white oak jointer.  That will come tomorrow.
My teak jointer and Osage orange smoother as they near completion

Some of the 12 planes being built in the class this week
Tomorrow we'll finish shaping the bodies and then work the mouths so the blades protrude just the right amount.

Need I say that I'm having a lot of fun--and learning a lot too!--in this class?  When I update my book on handplanes, Choosing and Using Handplanes, I plan to include a chapter on wooden handplanes, which are quickly becoming favorites in my handplane collection.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Starting to Look Like Planes

In yesterday's class, we made the cross pins, against which the wedges will secure the blade in place, and cut the cheeks off the sides of the plane blocks; until now they had been whole blocks.  Then we cut the center block into two with the correct slopes to bed the plane blade at the desired angle.  My smoother is being crafted from Osage orange, a very hard and beautiful yellow wood.  Domestic varieties are also known as hedge apple and by other names.

I then marked the location for the crosspin, drilled holes through the body to accept it, and glued the cheeks back onto the center blocks.

The Osage orange smoother in clamps after the cheeks were re-glued to the center blocks
The clamps came off after a few hours.  I centered the crosspin between the checks, trimmed off the crosspins where they stood proud, and laid out the profile for the plane on one side.  Then it was off to the bandsaw to create the rough outline shown below.

After the clamps came off, the boxy plane body was sawn to rough shape
Next steps are to refine the body shape, hone the blade and fit the blade and the wedge to the plane body.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Day 2--Scott Meek Plane Class

We made great progress in constructing our planes today. Those blanks, like the Osage orange shown, that were glued with epoxy, came out of the clamps this morning.  We jointed the bottom and one reference edge, then planed the blanks to rough width.
Osage orange plane blank with applied sole in Ipe glued on

The Osage orange blank viewed from the end on; doesn't look like much does it?
 Then we cut the cheeks from the edges, leaving behind a center block to be further cut to accommodate a blade. 
The center sections of two planes marked and partially bandsawn, awaiting further work
We marked up the center blocks for a plane blade bed angle of 45 degrees, except for my Osage orange smoother, which will have a 50 degree bed angle.  We also marked the reverse slope, the shape of which is less critical, needing mainly enough room to get the fingers into the opening to remove stubborn shavings.  These cuts were made freehand (following a line) on the bandsaw.  The bedding angle cut was made on the table saw.

The forward slope was sanded on a belt sander, the bedding slope on a strip of sandpaper attached to a slab of marble.  We filed slight 90 degree bevels on the bottom of the bedding slope.

We measured and made crosspins (not shown) and rounded their tops.

Tomorrow we will drill the locations for the crosspins, install dowels in the front and back corners and glue the cheeks back onto the center blocks.  After allowing time for the glue to set up, we will begin the process of shaping the blanks into something more closely resembling the planes we will take home with us.


Making Wooden Planes

I'm in Asheville, North Carolina, this week, learning to make wooden planes from Scott Meek.  Yesterday was our first day, and it was a busy one,

Our first job was to choose the woods we wanted and to assemble the blanks. I'll be making three planes, a smoother from Osage orange with an applied sole of Ipe and a wedge and retaining rod of the same wood; a 12 inch jack plane from a nice block of teak and a 22 inch jointer of quartersawn white oak that will have an insert just in front of the blade to help with wear at this critical spot.  The jack and jointer will have wedges and retaining rods from bubinga.
Assembling the wood blanks
 One thing I learned is you don't have to have a 4X4 inch blank to make a plane body.  You can glue up two 2X4 inch boards to get the size needed for a jack or jointer.  Here is my jointer in clamps.  We used Titebond 3 glue for the oak, but an epoxy glue for the woods like teak, bubinga and Osage orange that have more natural oils and would resist normal glue.

Gluing up two white oak boards; squeeze-out is good!

The white oak boards clamped up

Teak blank for jack plane

After selecting our wood, we jointed a smooth edge for the bottom and also one side.  When glue-ups were called for we did those, rough cut our wedges to shape (we'll rasp and sand them later) and cut off the cheese so we can get to the interior.

More to come!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Handplanes Book Now Available in Europe

My recently-released book on handplanes--Choosing and Using Handplanes: All You Need to Know to Start Planing By Hand--is now available from Amazon in Europe.  It will be priced there in Euros or British pounds.

Front and back cover

If you are looking for information about handplanes and how to get started using them, this book is written for you.  I hope you will find it useful.


Preparing to Make Wooden Planes

Over the last few years, I've acquired a few wooden handplanes.  Several of them are older planes that I've not yet restored to working condition and they are basically sitting on the shelf for display.  But I also purchased a pair of planes--a smoothing plane and a 16" jack plane--from Scott Meek and I'm finding them really lovely to use.

Scott Meek jointer (rear) and smoothing planes
Scott offers plane-building classes in his Asheville, NC, workshop and in a few weeks I am scheduled for a week-long class to build three planes:
  • A smoothing plane
  • A jack plane
  • A jointer plane
To get ready for the class, I've been reading and watching DVDs.  There are some good resources available.  In case you are interested in learning about making wooden planes, here's what I've found so far:
  •  David Finck's Making & Mastering Wood Planes -- an excellent resource on making a Krenov-style smoothing plane; he also has a DVD set on making and using wooden planes
  • John Whelan's Making Traditional Wooden Planes -- a brief description of how you can make not only a smoothing plane but also many other specialized types of planes
  • David Perch and Robert Lee's Wooden Planes and How to Make Them -- similar to Whelan's book in that it covers many types of planes, but not the same ones as Whelan
  • Scott Meek has a DVD set that shows his method for making Krenov-style planes
The books are mostly available from or Highland Woodworking.  Perch and Lee is sold by Lee Valley.  The Meek DVDs are available from Popular Woodworking.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Handplanes Book Now Sold at Highland Woodworking

I'm pleased to report that my recently-released book, Choosing and Using Handplanes: All You Need to Know to Get Started Planing by Hand, is now being sold by Highland Woodworking.  They are a fine family-owned and operated company that sells a wide array of tools and other resources for woodworkers at their Atlanta store and via the web.

If you are interested in purchasing the book from Highland Woodworking, here's the link.

If you do purchase the book, I hope you find it helpful and enjoyable.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

New Book on Handplanes Released

My new book, Choosing and Using Handplanes, has just been released.  Intended for the beginning and newer handplane user, its 90 pages include nearly 100 color illustrations.  In this book, you will learn:
  • The types of handplanes, names and functions
  • The first planes you should get
  • How to set up and adjust your planes
  • How to sharpen your plane blades
  • The kinds of sharpening stones
  • The different bevels you’ll want on your blades
  • How to hold your work for planing
  • The body positions that work best
  • How to determine the direction to plane boards
  • How to plane cupped, bowed, and twisted boards
  • How to plane end grain
  • How to buy and restore old planes
  • How to store and care for your planes
  • Sources of new and used handplanes
  • How to solve handplane problems
Choosing and Using Handplanes is now available from Amazon and CreateSpace.

If you are hankering to learn how to use handplanes, I think you'll find this a useful guide.