Sunday, April 7, 2013

Woodworking Plane Seminar at Woodworkers Emporium, Las Vegas

Beginning of the Seminar
     This weekend, Woodworker's Emporium here in Las Vegas had their first of what is being called First Saturday seminar at their location on Arville.  I was lucky enough to lead it and we had a very good group of 11 people who chose to spend Saturday morning hoping to pick up some tips and techniques they could use in their woodworking endeavors.  Friday afternoon, Christian and I figured out how to accommodate woodworkers and their planes and find a way to hold a piece of wood so they could practice what I planned to teach them.
     When I arrived Saturday morning him and Jeri had come up with another bench, a box of donuts, and a big pot of coffee so we were set!  Started the session off with some background on different types of planes and their use and then to what they came to learn about -- how to go about setting that plane up to get those whisper thin shavings that indicate we've got it right.  They brought in planes of all types, from fresh out of the box to fresh out of a garage with the cobwebs and dust to prove it.  After 30 to 40 minutes of hands on practice it was time to get into a bit of sharpening.  As we discussed there are a variety of ways to get that "perfect edge" and which ever one a woodworker uses they'll tell you that it's the best and only way to go.  Truth is, as I told them, research all of the ways out there and experiment with them.  Once you find a way that works for you stick with it and perfect it to the best of your ability.
     One item that is always of interest is how to fine tune and rehab an Ebay or garage sale plane that you got at a great price.  With premium planes running into the hundreds of dollars it's not something that you just go out and buy 4 or 5 of!  I used this Stanley #7 Jointer plane of mine that dates to the mid 1930's or so:

Stanley Jointer Plane
     It's one that I use on every project and got in trade for building some bookshelves probably 30 years ago.  I had noticed that it didn't plane an edge in the middle of a board at first, only the ends.  Obviously, that's not going to make a good joint!  On checking it I could see that although it was flat it cupped up by the throat.  Along with the flatness of the sole, I also disassembled the plane to show the other areas that should be worked over when rehabbing a plane.

Checking for Flatness
     You can't tell from this picture but by using a known straight edge and bringing the blade completely up I could see space near the throat.  How much?, well less than my smallest feeler gauge could measure but enough to where I could see the light.  I resorted to a more primitive way to measure that  gap -- paper!  By trial and error I found that by folding a piece of binder paper four times, very crisply, I could slip it under the straight edge. Now I knew how much it was off.
     It's important to leave the blade in when you do this since it will put pressure on the plane.  You can use any surface that is known to be level and firm.  A piece of float glass, the table of your saw or jointer, or in my case; a granite back splash that wasn't used for our bathroom remodel.

Granite Backsplash with Wall Sand Sheets 
     Norton makes a very strong sandpaper designed for use with drywall mud.  It just happened to be the same width as the backsplash and is available in 80 and 100 grit and was attached with spray adhesive.  To start, I used a sharpie to draw lines at the heel and toe and also on either side of the throat.  Flip it over onto the paper and start working but check your progress from time to time.  At first, the lines were sanded down by the heel and toe only since those were the higher areas. The process is to remake the lines and continue sanding and checking until all 4 lines seem to disappear at about the same time.

Lines Pretty Much Gone
     Then came the practical test, how will it do on a piece of wood?  Well, here is a continuous shaving from a 3' long board:

The Proof is in the Shaving

     It was still a little thinner at the mid point so careful checking on the tablesaw showed me that I could still get a single thickness of binder paper under the sole.  Remember, at the beginning of all of this I could get 4 thicknesses of the paper under it.

Almost but …. need a bit more Work

     A single thickness of paper measures .002 so I've made a lot of progress.  I need to replenish the paper so that means a trip to Home Depot  which I'll complete in the morning.  Figure if I've invested this much time in it might as well spend a little more and get as close to perfection as we can.
     All in all, the First Saturday Seminar went really well.  I knew I had a lot of information I wanted to try and cover and the people who attended were great to work with.  Good questions, good hands on work, and I think we all gained something positive.  Looking forward to doing this again, I'm scheduled for a seminar in dovetails for June.

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