Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bevel Up Jack Plane - Will It Work as Your Only Plane?

A few weeks ago, one of my very favorite woodworking heroes, Richard Maguire, wrote a blog post about low angle planes. I've been thinking hard about this post for a while, because I have in the past advocated big time for my Veritas bevel up jack plane (BU jack).

I have to say that Richard's conclusions about the BU jack are spot on, 100%.

Does this mean I am recanting my endorsement of this tool? Absolutely not.
Richard's premise in his blog post is that BU planes work better than other planes at the extremes of the spectrum - basically that they do one thing really great. That is planing end grain.
This plane is really great at end grain.
I whole heartedly agree. They are much better at end grain due to the low angle possible with the BU design.

What about the rest?
Can one joint with this plane?
Well, I agree with Richard. Other planes do a better job at basic tasks than this plane. A 24 inch jointer does joint better than this jack plane. A dedicated jack with a cambered blade does better at hogging out lots of material than this plane. A #4 smoothing plane with a finely set chip breaker will do a better job at smoothing than this plane.
This thing works great shooting end grain. Did I already say that?
Then why do I endorse this plane so enthusiastically?

Well, I have to say that while those other planes do better at those tasks than this plane, the BU jack will indeed do them all.
I almost always do all my jointing with this plane.
A while back, I spent more than a whole year using only this plane and no other bench plane, for no other reason than to put my money where my mouth was regarding being able to build with an extremely limited tool set.

I had noticed that many great woodworkers had recommended "beginner's tool sets" that required many thousands of dollars to fill out before a beginning student could feel like they could do "proper" woodworking.

I thought that was baloney then, and I think it is baloney now. A jack plane (whether BU or bevel down, new or vintage), is a great first tool to get because of the versatility.

Other tools work better for those everyday tasks, but one plane instead of four can be a deal maker for a beginner.

After my exclusive use of this plane for the time I used it, I found out that "plane monogamy" (as Christopher Schwarz puts it), is a wonder.

Face it, there are all kinds of situations where even the largest hand tool shops require making a plane do a bit more than what's in it's name.

To be able to do these amazing tricks with a plane, one really, REALLY needs to know their tool.

I learned that it really is true that you can't buy skill by purchasing a new tool. One should learn how far they can push (get it?) a tool they have before deciding if another is needed in their situation.
Plus, using the same tool is faster: you already have it out.
There are a few things I do to make it easier on myself.

For rough work, I do my best to avoid having to thickness stock very much. My wooden jack plane with an eight inch camber on the blade hogs off wood like crazy and in no time flat. A BU plane is difficult to put a camber on the blade because of the angle of the bed. Taking 1/16" thick or thicker shavings isn't going to happen.

It will take medium sized shavings. If your wood is roughly the thickness you need it, and mostly flat to start with, it is a breeze to bring it to good working dimensions with this plane.

For fine smoothing, again, choose your wood wisely. This plane will easily achieve a finish quality surface without much work. Even without going crazy with steep sharpening angles. Make sure the blade is as sharp as you can get it, and you will be fine. At least until you try to plane against the grain. Even then, lighten the cut a little more and close the adjustable mouth as tight as you can.

For jointing, I find this plane to be long enough to joint nearly anything I can throw at it accurate enough for gluing up a panel. It does take some skill. One will get good at making edges flat eventually with this tool. Just keep checking with a good straight edge, and practice removing the parts that aren't flat. Follow that up with a fine shaving from one end to the other. I find it rare that I need to pull a jointer out for edge jointing anymore.
In conclusion, I would just like to agree with Richard again that this plane shouldn't replace everything in your plane corral. However, if you are looking for your first bench plane, this might be a good place to start.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wall Shelf Build Off - Part VII - Final - Or Is It?

Sunday turned out to be very busy for me in the shop. So busy, that I found it too difficult to keep up with my progress here. I did, however, post a few pics on Instagram.

I finished the shelf, but did not yet finish the drawers that were supposed to be an integral part of the design. It looks a little funny with that one strip of dark wood on the divider. That's because that is the same wood that will be the two drawer fronts. Maybe I can get them in over the next few days. In the meantime, I'll submit this shelf as it was Sunday night when I completed it.

Here are some pics of what I did on Sunday after my last post.
I have an idea for the divider that requires stopped dadoes. It's only a little more complicated than through dadoes.
No router? No problem.
Except this part. This part was a little harder.
Not perfect, but this will suit just fine.
All parts for the carcase are done.
I wanted to pre-finish the parts, so before glue-up I burnished all of the pieces,
And applied a home-made soap finish.
This was actually the only parts I glued. Everything else is only nails.
First I lay out the nail holes. I learned the hard way that pencil lines are hard to get off after nailing.
Drill pilot holes with a tapered drill bit.
Insert the nails,
and drive them home.
I had a hard time figuring out how to lay out the nails for the cross-piece. The top of my shelf is angled, so measuring wasn't simple. And, I wanted to leave too many pencil marks off of the finished side. My solution? Lay out from the inside of the joint.
I marked where I wanted the nail holes, then drilled with the tapered bit just until...
It starts to poke out the other side. Then...
Put the joint together and drill the entire pilot hole.
Everything is together surprisingly well!
Now it's time for the back. I cut three pieces to length.
Then I used my self-made ship lap plane. This thing is coming in way more useful than I ever thought it would.
Once the ship laps are done, lay out the pilot holes and drill.
Nailed it!
All that is left is to trim the top pieces. I used a jack plane and a flat bottomed spokeshave.
Finished! At least, as finished as it will get for this Build-Off.
The last step I took on Monday morning was to photograph my masterpiece in the sunlight. If it isn't the best shelf ever seen, at least it will be photographed in a spectacular location!
It involved a hike.
But the view is great!
Make sure you go over to Flair Woodworks and vote for your favorite shelf builds from last weekend!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wall Shelf Build Off - Part Six - 14:00 Day 2

Wow. Two o'clock already.

Today so far has been a lot of little stuff that you can't really see any progress with.

Hopefully I'll be able to nail the carcass together soon and get started on the drawers.
I figured out why this toggle doesn't close right - a crack!
Easy fix with hide glue. On to regular programming...
Working on the spacer.
Glued a dark bit to the front.
Top rail being rabbeted in.
One step closer to glue up!
This spacer goes between the two drawers.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wall Shelf Build Off - Part V - 20:15

And I'm done for the day. Time for dinner.

Before just dropping my tools like I usually do, I had to ask myself, "What would Alex do?"
Trying out the newly sharpened rabbet plane.

Oh, this is way easier than doing it with only a saw and a chisel!
Saw and chisel for a dado is easy, though.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What Would Alex Do?
I was hoping to get just a little farther today. Nail this together and maybe before that to put some finish on these parts.

I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow. The Frau hates it when I pound nails on Sundays. Maybe I'll have to send her to the beach or something.

Just so I know where I left off and don't jump ahead tomorrow, the next steps are to cut some stopped dadoes in the shelves for the center support/drawer divider. Before I install that, I have to laminate a strip of black wattle to the front of it so everything is pretty. ONLY THEN am I permitted to finish these parts and then nail them together.

Wall Shelf Build Off - Part IV - 18:30

Not sure how much more patience the Frau will have for me working tonight. It doesn't look like I'm getting too far, but the carcase is nearly roughed out.
Cross cutting shelves to length.
Right length.
Now they are the right width.
Here's a sneak peek of the finished project.