Ok, sorry again for the lack of recent posts, but my last post hopefully informed everyone as to why I’ve been away from the site.
I bought some more material for knife blades, even though it wasn’t quite as thick, and had a different “feature”. The blanks I bought had some holes in them, and the location of the holes presented an issue, where I would need to either make the tang much more narrow or include a section of a hole. I decided on the latter, which had some positive aspect (stronger), and not quite negative, but I suppose challenging (tang shape other than rectangular adds some extra work) aspect to it.
As I do regularly now, I placed the tang of a blade on the inside of one half of the handle, and trace around the tang with a pencil. As this batch of knives is a little bit smaller than the most recent knife I wrote about (here, in case you haven’t yet read about it), the tang isn’t as wide. Both the width of the tang, as well as the shape (with the small portion of a circle), changed my work strategy a bit. On the last knife, the tang was wide enough to comfortably use the standard iron in my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 (Large Router Plane) to excavate the waste wood, and providing a flat and level “floor” which the tang rests upon.
The smaller tang on the current knives is too narrow to effectively use the No. 71, unless I was to shift to one of the small blades made for the Lie-Nielsen No. 271 (Small Router Plane), but I currently only have the 3/32″ Pointed Tip blade which wouldn’t really be very efficient. They do offer a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, and with the area nearest the hole/circle pinching in to even more narrow width, it would still fit nicely.
I don’t presently have a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, for my No. 71, so it was time to improvise. I recall seeing an old home-made tool, that used a small block of wood for its body, and a narrow chisel as the blade, to create a router plane. I quickly went through my off-cuts and found a small piece of white oak (this could have been a section of 2 x 4, or other softwood, as well), and an old Stanley chisel. I made sure the chosen chisel would fit into the tang recess areas, and then compared the chisel’s dimensions with my drill bits, and made sure the bit was just slightly smaller than the chisel. On a regular router plane, the blade is made from an “L” shaped piece of steel, and the cutting portion of the blade is held so there is a clearance angle between the heal of the blade and the work surface. Knowing this, I held the chisel I planned to use as my router plane’s blade, and when I saw a similar clearance, I set my adjustable angle gauge so it mimicked the angle of the chisel’s shaft. I held the angle gauge up against the side of the oak body, making sure to pay attention to where the blade would come through, which I wanted to have just behind the leading edge of the body. After determining where the blade would exit, I again used the angle gauge to locate the entry point for the blade, and the drill bit. Before I started drilling, I placed the angle gauge off to the side of the entry point, so I could use it as a visual guide to make sure I drilled the hole at the correct angle, similar to what Peter Galbert does when drilling into his Windsor seat blanks.
With the hole drilled (which is the basic path the chisel will follow), I used the same chisel planned as the blade, to remove some of the excess wood, but also used some narrow Japanese chisels to speed up the process. I worked mostly from the top side of the body, but as it got closer to coming through the bottom of the body, I sighted in a few well placed strikes with my most narrow Japanese chisel, to create an opening much closer to the size of the chisel. This helped prevent the wood breaking out, when the main chisel first came through the sole, and the location of the smaller chisel cuts made sure I didn’t create a loose fit. The chisel/blade will only advance with a firm strike, which gives me confidence the “blade” won’t shift either in or out, during use.
After I had the blade all the way through, I traced out an area surrounding the blade, which I removed so it wouldn’t jam up as quickly.
Using the new tool
After I chiseled away bulk wood in the tang-waste area of the knife handle, I used this new tool to make sure all of the tang area was the same depth. When I shifted to the second half of the knife handle, I decided to see if I could get the tool to behave decently, with it already set to full depth. I simply rotated the whole tool up on it’s leading edge, which raised the cutter away from the wood. I slowly pivoted the tool down until it was lightly cutting, and went over the whole tang area. I pivoted the tool’s sole down closer to the work, removing material until even again, and repeated until I was at final depth. This made for a fairly rapid process, without the need to stop and change the projection of the blade.
While this purpose-made tool worked decently, I still prefer the blade presentation the adjustable metal router planes provide, as I noticed more chattering on my new tool. One thing I did, after I was finishing up, was to take another similarly small chisel and use it as a scraper. I held it almost vertical, then tilt it slightly towards myself (around 15 degrees), making sure the flat back of the chisel was facing me, and pull this “scraper” towards me, to take super-controlled “cuts”. You really don’t need to create a hook on a chisel’s cutting edge that you put into use as a scraper, and I think you’ll find it amazing just how much control you have, and how fine the resulting surface is. One must, and this is for both the router plane build as well as when using it for scraping: make sure your chisel is sharp! It truly makes all the difference.
Thank you for stopping by to check out the article, and I hope you will find the information useful. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I’ve been doing a lot of hand planing lately, with a good portion of that in the “flattening” mode, as opposed to a more general “smoothing” mode. While I was working today, I was checking my progress with a pair of Winding Sticks, and as I used them I wondered if others do the same thing.
So, I’ll start with a basic description of using the winding sticks, for anyone not familiar, and then share my trick of the trade, but I also made a short video earlier, that I’ll post down below.
When I’m preparing to use a hand plane in order to flatten a board, if the board is fairly large, I can usually feel whether there is a crowning in the center or not. If the board is fairly narrow, the only really good option is to use my pair of winding sticks, as they amplify the differences making it much easier to see even small discrepancies.
As I progress on the larger boards, it is less and less easy to feel the shape of the board, and the winding sticks again are required. On larger, and wider boards, it can be difficult to know for sure just where you need to remove wood, even if you’ve determine there is a crowning on your board. After I set the winding sticks on the board I wish to test, with the winding sticks’ center dots close to the centerline of the board, I sight over the stick closest to me, and lower my sight until the first portion of the far stick’s top edge is obscured. This will either be the right corner, the left corner, or the whole stick. The first two results indicate there is still twist/wind in the length of the board, which requires further work. The last results indicates the two sections where the winding sticks are sitting, are in the same plane. This doesn’t automatically mean the board is flat, so you need to test in multiple locations down the board. I usually leave the winding stick alone, the farthest from me, and move the closer one towards the other stick, in about 6″ increments. If you get the same “in plane” reading all along the board, just make sure to check for flat along the length of the board, with the longest straight edge that you have.
Now, back to the tip portion of the article. After I check the winding sticks, and find there is still twist/wind as well as a slight crowning, I lightly tap the end of one of the sticks, and watch to see where it’s center of rotation is located (the highest part will be very close to the center of rotation). I made my winding sticks out of cocobolo, and they will spin quite easily on any raised section, but metal winding sticks may not spin as freely. In either case, you can also lightly hold the winding stick towards it’s center, and while applying extremely light downward pressure, try to rotate the stick. If the stick still rotates fairly easy, the center of rotation will again be very close to the highest point. If you feel some friction, even if it still spins, you are likely getting pretty close to flat.
Click on the link below, to watch the included video:
I hope this helps anyone that is having some trouble working wood flat, with hand tools. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. You can also find me on Twitter as @LeeLairdWW and on Instagram as LeeLairdWoodworking.
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