Tuesday 24 April 2012

Vintage Woodies Is Slowly Growing...

My second site, Vintage Woodies, is slowly growing. Last month I was able to post information I had gathered about Hollows and Rounds Planes and this morning I posted my first instalment about Bead Planes.

The biggest impediment to getting a handle on old wooden planes, or any other category of tools, for that matter, is the educational material available. I haven't found one yet that didn't raise more questions than it answered. I think most authors write with their feet in their own shoes, and not their readers'. As a result, they assume because they know something, all their readers do as well. Aww, duh? If I knew it, I wouldn't be reading your damned book.

The second issue is an inability to correlate content. Wow, do these books bounce around a lot. One minute their discussing Ovolos, and before you realize it, you just read two paragraphs discussing Ogees. Damn.

Then there are the illustrations. In the text, they will call a plane by its most common name, say, a Reverse Ogee. When you go off to find the illustration of it, it turns out to be labeled by it's second name, a Back Ogee. What the hell...

I shouldn't complain, should I? We all pay good money to read what these authors know while my knowledge is worth exactly what I get for it - nothing.

One thing did surprise me, though. After finishing posting for the day, I checked Vintage Woodies' stats. For the limited information available, there seems to be a considerable amount of interest. It would appear that over 2,000 woodworkers visited the site last month, with almost as many dropping by so far this month.

The one thing that doesn't surprise me, however, is out of the thousands that have taken advantage of the work posted, not one has contributed a word for its content. It would appear I'm on my own with this one.



Friday 20 April 2012

When You Say It Will Never Happen...It Will...

I love looking at old tools, in my hand or in photographs, it doesn't matter. Because of that, I look forward to receiving Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools' biweekly tool listings. There are always packed with the coolest tools out there and the biggest buzz is that I can try and buy the ones I like.

In the preamble that lead up to their Indianapolis Spring Antique Tool Auction that took place the end of last month, there was a Stanley No.51 listed. It had a chipped mouth at the lower corner and it appeared that someone might have re-japanned it. It's saving grace was that the bare metal looked clean and unpitted. A true user if there ever was one. As I have seen examples of this plane that were in far worse shape than this one go for more than 300-bucks, I placed an absentee bid that I thought was absolutely whacko and would never win.

A couple of weeks later, there was a listing for a Stanley No.72 Nose Section. In all the auctions and dealers listings that I have looked at over the past six years or so, I think I have seen maybe three other regular nose sections listed on their own. Thinking, what the hell, I placed another absentee bid that I thought was way below what it should bring.

Guess what?

You got it!

Have a look at my latest acquisitions...

I have no idea what happened at that auction, but they both came in below what I thought were a crazy bids.

The No.51 isn't bad, so I think I'll keep it around for a while and put it through its paces.

As it turns out, the No.72 Toe Section is "good", or maybe even "good +". The wood is great and, thankfully, the rest hasn't been beaten to death. It also has about 70% of its original japanning left.

What really makes it sweet, though, is this...

That's right...it is a "B" casting.

There are two other facts about this piece that I would like to mention...you can buy it, or you can trade me a No.72 bull nose for it. Now how great is that?



Tuesday 17 April 2012


Stay tuned. The "Fight of the Century" is coming soon!

Thursday 5 April 2012

My New Rock And Roll Saw...

My next major project is a new combo tool cabinet come bench. I have everything for it worked out on paper so I am now in "collection" mode; finding the materials and specialty tools needed to get the thing built.

I posted about this design back in June of last year and I'm mentioning this now because the design is in the Campaign style and I wanted you all to know that I was working with this style long before Chris Schwarz started his campaign build. 

The design calls for drawers and lots of them, all installed in multiple carcass cases that will make up two storage units each made up from stacking three carcass cases on top of each other. The bottom case for each will be 11" high, one for a saw till and the other for other high items, and the remaining two cases in each will be 7" high each with its own unique number of drawers. With them stacked on the base stand and the bench top placed across them, I'll end up with a bench at proper height. The reason for this type of design is its versatility. I can stack them as explained for a workbench, or I can do away with one of the bases and stack them all together on one base. The design will also allow me to change the stacking order to best suit my work habits, or to suit my mood, whichever the case may be.

As each pair of drawers in the individual cases will require a divider, and I can't think of a better joint to use for them than a sliding dovetail. I love this joint as it is strong and seeing a dovetail on the end of a wide piece is just downright cool. I made them all the time when I worked with a table saw, but not so much now that I'm a tool pusher. They are both complicated and a hell of a lot of work to make by hand. The blind variety are also a royal pain in the butt to make. With that in mind, I have been working with Matt Cianci over on The Saw Blog on coming up with a new saw design, one specifically designed for cutting the two sides of all the blind sliding dovetails this project calls for.

While sliding dovetail saws are not something new, our design does have a few unusual features.

One of the biggest problems with cutting a blind sliding dovetail across a carcass wall is that the toe of the saw always digs in and makes a royal mess of things. Doing some experimenting, I came up with the idea that if the saw's plate was arched, the digging in problem could be overcome. By giving an 11" long plate a 58" radius, it ends up arching up ¼-inch front and rear. Using the centre section to cut across the wider width of a carcass, the toe will not be able to bury itself during the cut. If the cut is blind, tilting down the heel of the saw as you go deeper will keep it from nose-diving and when the majority of the cut is done in this manner, you can tilt the heel up and use the toe to finish it off blind.

As the two cuts need to be equal in depth, I figured a depth gauge would be just the ticket so I came up with a design for a curved one to match the curvature of the blade's arch. I then took a page from the old filletster planes and came up with an adjustable setup. I think the design will allow me to cut pretty accurate depths whether cutting across the board, or tilted up while cutting the blind with the toe. I designed the gauge to also work as a fence, planning to have it run up against the cleat instead of the blade. I just think this will be easier to work as there will be some distance between my hand and the cleat, keeping the skin on my knuckles in the process, not to mention saving the saw's set for another day.

Matt was a lot of help to me coming up with the handle's "hang", or angle of attack. At first I had it set to 34º, but Matt suggested it would be too difficult to work and suggested I bring it down to 24º, which is still higher than a normal handle hang. We did agree on the placement, though, as bringing it forward so the grip is over the heel of the saw will help to keep it against the cleat.

Wanting the thing to look good as well, I decided on making the body out of zebra wood and the handle and horn out of ebony. I think these two woods work well together with their strong contrast in tones.

The result of all of this is that Matt is now looking for an old piece of .028" plate stock and I'm sourcing out a place to buy a hunk of ebony that won't cost me more than what I paid for my last new car.

The project should be fun to put together, but with a total cost probably in the $250 to $300 range, I sure hope the damned thing works.