For the majority of the knives I’ve made, I split the handle down the middle (lengthwise) and fit it around the tang of my knife’s blade. On many of my smaller knives I have a hidden tang, so the tang doesn’t show at any point around the handle, except where it extends out the front.
For some of the knives, the tang is fairly narrow, but still strong for the intended type of work. With this size though, it can be a bit limiting as to the tools I can use when evacuating the wood where the tang will fit.
The width of the handle scales (when laid on there side) is also an issue, as one of the tools I’d normally choose would be my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 or my old Stanley No. 71. Even with the closed mouth version that I have, it is very difficult, if not impossible to stay registered on the outer wood, so the small square blade for the No. 271 is of no real use. As for shifting to the No. 271, I really prefer to have a fine screw-adjust, when sneaking up on a final depth.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine showed me a gift he received from his kids, and it was one of the Lee Valley mini planes, which got some chuckles from everyone around. He went on to share that it was truly completely functional, which I know it says on the website, but it was still hard for me to wrap my head around. Ok, shift back to present time, and I decided to take a chance and ordered one of the Lee Valley Mini Router Planes (shown above in the lower portion of the photo), hoping my results might surprise me.
I opened the packaging and my heart sort of sunk. The presentation box this little router plane comes in is so tiny, almost to the point where I was afraid I’d made a mistake. I opened the box and the plane was so amazingly small, but all of the parts worked super smooth. I took the blade out of the plane and took it to my Shapton 1000-grit Glass Stone (as this blade is quite narrow, the Glass series stone is one of the few stones I trust will not create a long dado in the stone in rapid order) and worked the bottom of the blade. This blade is made from A2 steel, and it took a fair amount of time to work so it showed a consistent scratch pattern.
This wasn’t because the blade was out of square or warped, just because the steel was so hard! It felt like I was working a super high Rc valued Japanese iron, or something on that magnitude. I followed doing the same on the bevel side of the blade, but since this is such a small blade, I could only make short back and forth movements. All of the sharpening was freehand, as no guides that I have would work with this blade. After both mating surfaces were complete on the 1000-grit, and I had a small burr, I very lightly worked both surfaces on my Norton 8000-grit water stone. This stone is much softer and I was very cautious not to stay in one spot for too long. I brought in my Glass Stone 16000-grit to finish up the blade, and brought both edges to a razor sharpness.
While I had the mini Router Plane apart, I noticed it’s sole still had mill marks from manufacturing, so I put some sandpaper down on my flat granite plate and worked it until all of the milling marks were gone. I applied some wax to the sole, which is what I do to the sole on all of my hand planes, so the friction between the wood and plane is almost nil. There is no good reason to leave the sole unworked, and basically fight against the wood.
After re-assembling the mini router plane, I took it to a knife handle where I’d already cut along the shape of the tang, with an Exacto knife, and removed a fair amount with a very sharp chisel. When I set the mini router plane onto the handle blank, it looked like this might actually work. The size of the little router plane just looked like it was the proper scale for the work needed. I was so pleasantly amazed when I started removing wood, as the blade in the router plane was cutting through the wood like it was butter. And this feeling didn’t stop anytime soon. I finished both inside areas of the handle for this knife blade, and it was still going strong. Part of this is the small cross-section of area it is cutting, but still, the A2 in this blade is really holding its edge like a champ!
I hope you enjoyed the read and perhaps will test the same for yourself. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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I recently got a pair of Hand Chisel Pliers (mentioned in my previous post here) from my local Tandy store, as I was experiencing some negative issues when trying to pierce two or more layers of leather, from one side. This tool looks like it would be one of the most simple tools to use, and while the actual functional aspect is quite easy, I learned really quick there are some nuances everyone should know.
If you were to ask me if I could use a set of pliers, before knowing about these chisel pliers, I would have laughed so hard that I’d truly roll on the floor. The idea that I might not know how to use pliers would have seemed so absurd! So this set can take a little bit to get used to, especially if you are someone that is detail oriented.
When I got home with the Chisel Pliers, I was ready to tackle the world, and nothing could cause the rare outlier of holes that was out of line with the masses (or almost missed the edge of the leather completely, jeez!). I’ll give you a brief run-down on my initial plan of action, and then the solution to get the best results.
Most of my work is using two layers of leather, although I have added a third layer on certain pieces. This work-flow will handle either. After I’ve cut my leather into the desired shapes, I mark a line along the edge where I will punch, so my results are as consistent as possible. I use the actual 4-toothed thonging chisel to lightly cut into the leather, creating my layout, by pressing the sharp chisel teeth gently into the leather. I follow this using my Japanese hammer to drive this same chisel deep enough so the teeth just come out the other side of the leather. I shift to my single-toothed chisel as design and shape require. After all of the stitching holes are complete on the first side, I apply contact cement to the inside mating surfaces of both pieces of leather (assuming just two layers on this example), and leave them to dry for about 25 minutes. When this time has elapsed, I carefully align the two pieces of leather, and press the areas that received contact cement, bonding them together. It is now time for the Chisel Pliers.
On my first piece, I put one of the plier’s teeth into one of the existing holes from my chisel, and squeezed the handles together. How much easier could it get, right? Well, I did this on four or five holes, since I “knew” this was so simple. Then I flipped the piece over to see my handy work. OMG! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked all snaggle-toothed, with one hole above my intended line, and the next below, and one really close to another. Wow, talk about brought back to reality! I grabbed a scrap piece of leather, from an earlier piece, that was already two layers thick. I laid out my stitching line on both sides, and then tried to make the chisel teeth from the pliers, hit the line on both sides. After a couple of tries I found something that worked. (I repeated this test, but on a single layer of leather, to show the difference.)
If I place one of the plier’s chisels into the pre-chiseled hole (on the first side), and sight along the top of the Chisel Plier’s head so it is in line with my stitching line, the rear chisel hits my line or so close that after stitching it is irrelevant. At first it may feel like this is adding a lot of extra time to the work, but after a couple of pieces, I noticed it has become automatic and flows at least as quickly as before, with better no damage to either side’s holes. (The results aspect is related to the thonging chisel not needing to cut as deep, and the damage from the chisel’s shoulders when using the multiple-head thonging chisel.)
On two-layer pieces, I don’t usually need to follow behind the Chisel Plier’s cut on the rear piece with my single-toothed chisel. This tool was extremely sharp out of the packaging, and required no additional sharpening or honing, and as it arrived, cut the leather as though it was butter; And this is with very minimal squeezing pressure on the handles. When I have 3-layer pieces, I still create the holes on the first side, glue up and then use the Chisel Pliers to generate the rear hole/alignment. I follow up with my single-toothed chisel, to connect the two outside holes, and as long as it is sharp, it only requires a gentle tap. Even though you’ve already created the alignment with the earlier process, you can potentially drive the chisel in a position that isn’t in alignment, and cut through at another position on the first side. Just try to be light-handed at first, and pay attention to how you hold the chisel and it’s alignment.
These Hand Chisel Pliers are a great addition for my work, since everything I make is hand-stitched. You might want to get yourself a pair if you’ve experienced any of the random error holes like I did, which can quickly cause a super leather piece to diminish in worth, or even kick it to the discard pile!
I hope this will help others to better use this type of tool, or perhaps give one a try, if you haven’t already. Thanks for stopping by to check out my article. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comment. You can also check out my other social sites, and reach me at them, too.
@LeeLairdWW on Twitter
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I’ll start this with the premise that a good marking knife is extremely valuable, if not critical, for marking fine woodworking. I have a number of different styles and types that I’ve used over the years, from a basic utility knife to a lower-end laminated Japanese knife, to all things in between. Most styles/designs will […]