Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spiers plane re-assembled.

Per Konrad's advice, I got set up to drill the shell and the infill for bigger pins. This is where things took a turn.

I clamped the infill into the plane, clamped the plane in the cradle, squared the sole to the drill press table, and drilled the first hole. And if the original hole had been oriented this way, things would have gone better. (No, I didn't check.)

In the picture, part of the problem is pretty obvious: the holes don't line up on the exit side. What's not obvious is that because the bit didn't squarely engage the inside of the second hole, it shook a few things up, and the infill shifted in the shell during the procedure. So the hole through the infill was not as clean as it should have been, and when the pin was inserted in the resulting hole, it pushed the infill up, and out of alignment with the shell. I had to file the hole in the shell a little bit, and file the hole through the infill a lot. What eventually I figured out that setting up the iron would help. The lever cap clamps the iron down to the infill... and clamps the infill down, in this case, to the shell. So I did that, and chased the hole with a cordless drill. I had to insert some bits of wood into the infill to patch the hole and get everything to line up, but the end result worked fine.

I have to admit, it was hard not to succumb to the 'Oh, no, all is lost,' feeling that I had in the moment. But it helped knowing that the plane was not immaculate to begin with, and to know that a repair was (almost) always possible. 

Setting up the iron was a minor issue. The patch for the handle shifted its position a little bit, and the iron came to rest on the end of the handle, instead of the bed, so I needed to reshape the handle.

For the second pin, I did everything with a cordless drill; drilled into the shell, chased the hole through the infill, and drilled back out. Much easier.

Peining the pins wasn't too hard. It would have been easier if I had a real anvil, or big block of steel to work on... maybe a chunk of railroad track or something. But no, all I had was this cocked-up wad of self-delusion. --->

It worked, for which I'm grateful. But a 4 lb hammer clamped to the bench is not an anvil. I'm gonna have to find myself an anvil, or some old, abandoned railroad track if I'm gonna keep doing this kind of thing.

I should have taken more pictures of the peining process, but truth be told, it was pretty nerve wracking, and I was more worried about getting my favorite plane back to normal than I was about sharing the train wreck experience. For a while, it just didn't feel like it was going to happen. The wallowed out hole just wasn't filling up, the pins were feeling loose, and the infill felt like it was loosening in the shell. In the end, everything snugged up just fine, which was a relief. But it was pretty obvious, pretty quickly, that making infill planes involves several skills that could be developed a lot further. Cutting pins to proper length, drilling a better hole, reaming the hole the right amount... if reaming is even really required... there are a lot of small factors that would very clearly make the whole process a lot smoother and faster.

After everything was put back together, I had to give the plane a good going-over. One side of the bed, despite my best efforts, was still a little bit high. And all of the peining had distorted the sole by a thou or two... enough to prevent me from getting a good, full width shaving at the finer settings. But these weren't too hard to remedy. I may still need to tweak the plane a bit here and there, and I do need to touch up the finish.  But it's done, and it works.

The whole re-assembly made me feel like a rank beginner... which was uncomfortable. But I AM a rank beginner when it comes to this kind of work. The point of the project was to get the handle solidly re-attached to the rear infill, and the handle feels solid now. And the plane still works. So even if it wasn't what I consider an expert repair, it was successful. Considering that I regularly use this plane, and don't need a conservation-level repair, that's good enough for this go around.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A grand experiment

So, for about 6 months or so, we went without the Internet at home. It was mostly an extension of our TV-less lifestyle, which has stuck very well. We do watch DVDs on the laptop when we feel the need, but the habit of plopping down, and mashing the remote for an hour an a half with the mantra  'There has to be something on... 100 F****** channels... There has to be something on...' is long dead.

The basic logic behind disconnecting was, we both have iPhones, so we had basic access to information and email. She had web access at work, I could use wifi at a local coffee house for blogging, and either way, it would feel less like a mindless plug-in. I think that on the whole, it was a good experiment. I took some getting used to, but it definitely made clear that the Internet had simply been providing a new outlet for mindless time wasting. And I'm trying to be more conscious of where my time goes these days.

There were a number of factors that led to re-connecting. First and foremost, there are some required things that really require Internet access... Working with banks, emailing documents to insurance companies, even allowing doctors to access medical records... Internet access has become as necessary as the telephone. There are certainly work-arounds if you don't have it, but it was cramping our style.

Among other things, it really torpedo'd this blog. It's not so much that you can't blog with an iPhone, you can. But it's not the same as having a real keyboard. That, and google decided to update the blogger interface, and they don't bother supporting Safari anymore. It's marginally functional, but working with links, adding more than one phot, etc, was problematic at best. 

The upside is that I'm now more practiced at phoning in short updates from the shop, like the recent posts about the Spiers plane. But now that I'm back online, I'll be able to get back to writing longer, more thoughtful pieces again. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The road to recovery (Spiers plane rehab update)

Tending to business has kept me away from this side project. Here's where things are right now with the coffin smoother.

In the photo, you should see a few things:

-A wedge that is now firmly glued into the underside of the infill.
-The tapered tongue on the tote that has made the wedge necessary.

The tongue was cleaned up the other night, and everything fitted together. I glued the wedge in last night, but the tote didn't fully cure, so I'm re-gluing again today. This is one of the great things about hide glue... It will give you second chances. And, according to the paper that came with my glue pot, it will forgive up to 1/16" gaps. Good news all around.

It will also give you stinky fingers, but I digress.

The shot above should also show a few other things, such as

-It's clear they used something resembling a dado stack to run the groove in the infill. That implies uniform depth, which is why the tapered tongue was problematic.

-Paper shims. These planes were NOT immaculately made. That doesn't mean they don't do a damn fine job. But that element of human error is reassuring to me. It tells me that nothing is perfect, and mistakes can be corrected without diminishing the end result.

I like that. This was the best performing plane that I owned before I cracked it open, and I was really worried that I'd mess that up in the process of fixing the handle.

Coming up after Thanksgiving, I get to clamp in the repaired infill, drill new holes for 5/16" replacement rods, (Per Konrad's advice) ream the holes, put everything back together, and pein the new pins.

After that, it's the slow, arduous task of filing, and cleaning everything back up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Infernal smoothing plane obsession. Or, 7.5 years later.

It seems I've gone through a smoothing plane growth spurt lately. I'm still settling the collection out after this summer's discussion of the Kato/ Kawai chip breaker study. Two infill planes came screaming into my favorites list after lingering for years. And today, I had the thought to revisit my Japanese planes.

The chamfer plane was first, and was the banana peel that got this afternoon's ridiculousness under way. (This, after I had to reset jointer knives this morning.) The blade was in rough shape, and I remember reading about the blade preserving effect of a properly set chip breaker.

Given, sharpening always gives the most and best improvements, but I figured I'd try the chip breaker out, too, since the plane did come with one. Once it was set, the plane handled grain reversals in soft maple very, very easily. Second banana peel...

My Japanese smoothing plane hasn't really been used much since I bought it for a class 7.5 years ago. But after my success with the chamfer plane, I pulled it out of the storage closet, and re-installed the chip breaker pin.

Once all of the parts were sharpened and tuned, I set about re-acquainting myself with the plane. It took some time to get used to hammer-adjusting the chip breaker separately from the blade. But within half an hour, I was taking sub-thou shavings, easily. And I also came to understand that the chip breaker doubles as a wedge to really lock up the plane, once it's properly set. The other side effect of this is that a more tightly held blade moves in smaller increments when it's hit with the hammer. Finer adjustments are never a bad thing...

So, the Japanese plane is going in the drawer with my other actively used planes. That makes 7 smoothing planes. I seriously have a problem. Is there a 12-step program for hand plane junkies?

I bet Chris Schwarz would know...

Monday, November 12, 2012

The compound evolution of jigs

This is a simple enough jig in theory. The idea is to center a domino in the middle of a louver that will be part of a radiator cover. The mortise is centered in the stock thickness thanks to the Domino Plate that Ron Wenner made. (A search on this blog + Ron's name will take you to those entries)

Width-wise, the block that cradles each louver is cut to fit exactly (+/- a couple of thousandths of an inch) between the locating paddles on the Domino. To make that happen, each side piece was ripped on the table saw with the micro-adjuster that I made.

They say that practice makes perfect, and that it will get you to Carnegie hall. In this case, jigs made to allow me to be more precise have led to other jigs that I couldn't have made otherwise. Skills build on skills, tools and jigs build off of what came before, and today, I can do things that I literally wouldn't have been able to do a few years ago.