Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Box for a New Oil Stone

I recently bought a new natural oil stone that I really like. I thought it might be good to make a box to keep it in.
Oil stone box.
After a little searching on the old YouTube, I came across a video with Bill Carter making a traditional box for an oil stone. It's a brilliant little series of short videos, and he made it look easy enough for me to do.

I had the perfect leftover cutoff of golden dumpster wood: a section a little less than two feet long. In a previous life it was a handrail from a stairwell. I liberated as much of the handrails as I could along with a bunch of the stair treads. It's weird to me that this kind of thing winds  up in a dumpster, but good for me. I suspect this wood is sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum), but I don't really know.
Golden Dumpster wood.
I planed the board until all the finish was removed, except the stuff on the round overs which will disappear once I chamfer everything at the end. Once it was uniform width and thickness along the whole length, I measured and cut it in the middle to get the largest pieces I could: in this case 11 1/8 inches in length.
I planed the board down until the groove disappeared.

My new Stay-Set 4 1/2 did a fine job with this.
I laid the stone on the board to mark the cavity. This stone, like most natural stones, was not uniform in width and thickness. It is close, but once it's done the stone will only go in the box one way.

Bill used a big mortise chisel in his video to excavate the sides of his cavity. This worked well for him. I found that a regular bench chisel doesn't really do that job as well, so I went with a 10mm brad point bit in my tiny little eggbeater drill instead. This seemed to work just fine.
I used a piece of blue tape as a depth stop.

I used the 10mm bit to drill holes all around the periphery of the cavity.
To hog the rest out, I used a gouge. I like the gouge for purposes like this because it removes a lot of wood fast just like a scrub plane. It works with or perpendicular to the grain, and does it giving you a lot of control.
I started at one end and moved back.
Once I got close to the bottom, I pulled out my router plane. This tool provided a quick way to smooth the bottom and get to the correct depth.

I found using the front shoe on this open mouthed router plane to be critical for this job. The Lie-Nielsen #71 doesn't have one. A #71 1/2 with the closed throat would do a fine job, too.
Easy peasy as long as the front shoe is level with the sole of the plane.
Incidentally, I used half the thickness of the stone to be the correct depth. I had briefly considered just leaving 1/4" or so sticking out at the top, but that will just necessitate having to make another box in twenty years or so. This one should last a lifetime with this stone.
Same thing for the top. Except I didn't feel like drilling so many holes.
With a little care, this worked just as well.
It was necessary to use a chisel and a mallet to clean up the sides. I focused on those first, and left the ends until the stone sat firmly in the cavity and the lid went on properly.
The stone fits.
The extra space at the ends is for some end-grain wood blocks. Mine wound up being 13/16", but I think a full inch would have been better. These blocks allow you to use the whole length of the stone. They are like little extenders.

Sharpening Stone Aside:

 I have found that 8" x 2" is a common size for natural oil stones. I have been using stones of this size for the last couple of years, and find that they work just fine. I really liked my waterstones in 3" x 10" sizes, but oilstones in those sizes can be very expensive. The longer sizes of stone really help when using a honing guide, but you only wind up using five inches or so of the stone.

While using my oilstones, I have taken to freehand sharpening. I like to use a honing guide once to set up the angles on a blade, but after that I find it a pretty quick thing to touch it up freehand.

Being able to use slightly smaller stones is a big advantage to the prohibitive cost of some really great stones.

Aside Over.

Once everything fit in the box nicely, I moved to the outside of the box to make it pretty. To plane the bevel on the lid evenly, I marked it out with a pencil and put a board under one half of the box lid. This way I could just plane a flat to get close to the line with my jack plane, then use a smoothing plane (I have plenty to choose from) to finish it off.
Making the beveled lid.
Once all the chamfers were done, I slathered on a coat of my linseed oil. Once that was wiped off, I put three coats of shellac on it. I used a gray scratchy pad to rub it down after each coat dried. Finally, I added a coat of my soft wax and buffed it with a paper towel.
The finish came out stunning.
My thought in spending so much time finishing it was a hope that the dirty oil slurry will wipe off and clean up easily when I'm done using the stone. Time will tell if that plan works.

Alternatively I could have left it unfinished and allowed years of patina to work itself in. For now, I like the shellac finish.
I bought the stone on eBay in the UK. The seller said it is Welsh purple slate, and I am happy with it as a finishing stone before stropping. With this stone, I'll retire my Dan's black Arkansas stone to kitchen knife duty.

As far as this box goes, it was a very satisfying project. I would recommend it even if your stone is already in a box. The wooden spacers let you get to the very end of the stone when sharpening. I bet if one of them was even longer, it would make using an eight inch stone a lot better with a honing guide, too.

Bill Carter's videos were a big help with this project, and I highly recommend you watch them.

Let me know if you make one, I'd love to see it.

Monday, May 6, 2019

No. 4 Plane Review: Part IV - Record Stay-Set 04 1⁄2

While this one isn't technically a No. 4, it does have a number four in it's name, so we'll go with it.
Record Stay-Set No. 041⁄2
This beautiful old plane came to me by everyone's favorite auction site in England again. It really wasn't in too bad of shape when I got it.
Before I "rehabbed" it.
There was one glaring issue that kept the price on this one down from what many collectible Stay-Set planes are going for these days:
Not pretty.
The seller mentioned in the description there was a chip on the sole that didn't affect the plane's use. I decided to take a gamble since the price was low.

The chip is pretty big, but it really doesn't affect the plane in use that I can find. Likely it is the result of a casting error that wasn't seen until much later when the plane was already in someone's hands.

From what I can tell, the only difference between a Stay-Set Record plane and a regular Record plane is the "SS" cast into the lever cap, and the two-part Stay-Set chip breaker. I hadn't ever seen a Stay-Set chip breaker up close, so I was looking forward to this one.
Stay-Set 2-piece chip breaker.
Theoretically the advantage of this chip breaker is the possibility to leave the upper part of the chip breaker firmly set on the iron, and the lower part can be removed. Thus once it is sharpened, the front of the lever cap can be replaced and the blade assembly is ready to go again with no adjustment required.

I think the idea is a little silly, given the way I work. Re-attaching a chip breaker to a freshly sharpened iron is really not hard. In fact, I would say it takes just about as much effort to attach a regular chip breaker as attaching the second piece of the Stay-Set chip breaker to the blade assembly.

In my opinion the real benefit of this chip breaker is in the increased mass of the chip breaker. I've long thought that the single best upgrade you can make to a vintage Bailey type plane is to add a heavier chip breaker. This one definitely has more mass.

There are some other differences between this plane and the previous Record No. 04 that I reviewed. Let's take a closer look:
The new to me Stay-Set No. 041⁄2 next to my other Record 04.
This Stay-Set No. 041⁄2 comes from an earlier vintage than the 04. From what I found, it was manufactured between 1935 and 1939, which puts it in the more desirable pre-war class.
A close up of the cap iron.
The fit and finish of the plane (other than the giant hork in the sole) are much finer than in the later model, which I date at late 1960s or early 1970s.
Much better attention to detail on the older plane.
It also has a nice, flat frog. Something which many people really like, but I have come to think doesn't really make a difference in the functioning of the plane.

I went a bit wild with the rehab of this plane. I don't really like to "brand-new-ify" really old or somewhat collectible planes, but this one isn't particularly rare, and it also has a giant defect in the casting that will never allow this plane to fetch top dollar. 

Brand-new-ifying it is.
As good as new.
I chose to take the rusty bits on this one to a gentle wire wheel to clean, then I lapped the frog and the casting on 80 grit sandpaper on a glass plate.
Before and after.
I'm surprised how much I liked this. It was quick and easy, and stripped everything back to brand-new. It even stripped the rust off of the lever cap while leaving the nickel plating that was stable where it was.

The knob and tote on this older plane were rosewood. I stripped them with a scraper and gently sanded them back. I finished them with some of my linseed oil followed by a coat of shellac and some paste wax.
I can fit it in my honing guide this way. Why? Because I can. That's why!
Once everything was fettled and tuned to my satisfaction, I turned my attention to the blade. I was pleased to see that the blade was practically brand new. In fact, I was able to lap the back like I would a brand-new blade. There was no need for the ruler trick on this one. Usually I just skip lapping and go right to the ruler trick because I don't like hours upon hours of lapping a blade flat.

The most difficult part was the chip breaker. It's usually a pretty simple thing to sharpen the underside of the leading edge to ensure a tight fit, but with this short cap iron, I found it difficult to hold for that purpose. I'll have to think about this and try something else. I did the best I could, but it isn't perfect.

Luckily, it seems to work just fine.
Beautiful wispy shavings.
The plane cleaned up and seems to work beautifully. I've never used a plane this size before, and I look forward to getting to know it.

My first impression is that I now know why many people really love the 41⁄2. It is a little longer than the No. 4, and has the same width as a No. 7. I think my favorite part about it is the extra mass in this plane. It feels very solid. I think it weighs about a pound more than the others:

Type 12:  1632 grams
Record 04: 1670 grams
English Stanley:  1680 grams
Record Stay-Set  041⁄2:  2272 grams

The extra weight is both a blessing and a curse. It's a nice, big, beefy plane that I'm sure will make you tired faster after a lot of use than a regular No. 4.

As far as the blade goes, I didn't get the same warm-fuzzy feeling with this steel that I got with the later Record blade. Perhaps I need to use it a bit more to get used to it. It's good, but not as fantastic as the one that is on my later model.

That's all pretty subjective. In the end, it seems to work just as perfectly on the wood as the others.
I think it is a beautiful plane.
So far I haven't run across a plane in my testing that isn't worth buying if you can do a little cleaning up to them. I'm thinking that much of the mysticism regarding Bailey style smoothing planes mostly runs down to personal preference.

Peter Schickele, the voice of P.D.Q. Bach said about music, "If it sounds good, it is good."

Perhaps we could change this saying a bit to suit smoothing planes:

If it works, it works.

Part I Type 11 Stanley
Part II English Stanley
Part III Record

More to come... (Sigh)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Charles Hayward's Tea Tray

I recently built this tea tray from Charles Hayward's writings in the Lost Art Press' printing of his works, The Woodworker, Vol. III.
Tea tray in sycamore and scots pine.
I've made a quick slideshow that shows the entire build:
This build was a lot of fun. I don't often build strictly to a plan. Usually I substitute joints for ones I think would work better either for the design or for my tool set. Sometimes I build a piece on the fly, and design as I go with a general idea of what I want to do in my head. For this project, I decided to stay as close to the printed instructions as I could, just to see how it would work.

Most of the work for me was in milling the lumber on hand into thicknesses equal to what Charles Hayward used. I resawed some laminated pine I had for the main panel from 18mm down to 1/2". I also had some sycamore two inch posts that I cut down to 5/8" widths.

I did run in to a few problems with this build. Just in case you would like to build one, perhaps this info will help you.

First up, I re-did the cut list because there was an error in quantities. It was also listed in feet and inches. Iprefer than just inches.
Edited cut list in inches and millimeters.
Next I cut the pins on a board in the wrong spot. Notice the long pieces are a different width than the short pieces. This facilitates rounding over the top edges of the tray without having to figure out how to deal with the roundover where the dovetails meet.

I chose to repair this goof rather than cut it off and make the tray a little shorter. I wanted to see if it could be repaired with a decent looking patch. I think next time I do this I'll do a better job, but it looks good enough for now.

After that was a giant goof-up on my part. There aren't many pictures in the article, and I was mistaken in what I thought it said to glue up. For some reason, I didn't even question it in my head. I glued the base to the upper part rather than screw it from below, as stated in the instructions.
Don't do this.

The problem with gluing the base is you are locking the panel in the base to a specific width, without allowing for the fact that the panel will expand and contract over time. I have no doubt that it won't take too long before I get this tray back with a cracked base or some other catastrophic failure. When that happens, I'll fix it by doing it the correct way: no glue, screwed from the bottom with the clearance holes in the base a little oblong so the wood can move past the screws.

I might have even just nailed the bottom on if I had been thinking.

I might get lucky, because pine can be a pretty stable wood once it has fully cured. Time will tell.

Last, I had a difficult time understanding what I was looking at in this picture:
It looks like the handle rests on top of the tab.
I thought it was a bit odd that Charles Hayward was going to trust a small, cross-grain glue joint to hold the tray, a hot pot of tea and who knows what else without the tray crashing to the floor. I wrote this concern off because I figured if Charles Hayward thought glue alone was enough to hold it, then it must be fine.

I came up with making these parts in 1/8" sycamore:
What I realized later is that CH said to make a slanted rabbet which would give this part a bit more support:
This is one piece of wood, not the support with the handle on top of it, like I thought.
I've made a couple drawings to better illustrate what I mean:
Looking at it from the side, this is the shape of the piece I made.
This is the shape the piece should be.
The dotted line represents the rabbet.
I think if I were to do this again, I would make this piece out of 1/4" stock, so I would have a full 1/8" for the rabbet. I probably also would sink a dowel through the support and into the endgrain of the handle in case the glue joint fails.

Once I figured out my way wasn't going to hold, I had to come up with a way to fix it. I decided to use bamboo skewers as dowels to reinforce the joint at a 45 degree angle.
They can only be seen if the tray is turned upside down, and you can hardly feel them when the tray is grasped.
I kind of like the look of this joint.
After I did this I realized an easier fix would have been to use another piece with a square top to laminate to the side of the tab. This would indeed be a valid way to make the piece from the beginning, bypassing the fiddly job of making such a small, angled rabbet.

In the end, I decided all the faults of this tray did not detract from it enough to prevent giving it to the intended recipient. She was thrilled, and thought it looked very nice.

I just told her if the base starts to rock or if it cracks, to bring it back and I'll fix it.

At least I used hide glue, which is reversible.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

No. 4 Plane Review: Part III - Record

Here's my third Number 4 smoothing plane. A Record made in England during the late '60s or early '70s. I'm not really too knowledgeable about this brand of plane.
Here's what it looked like when I got it.
As you can see, it arrived with in pretty good shape. I think the seller tried to clean it up some, and also tried to make the handles look better. You can see in the above picture that the stain was sanded away in one spot on the base of the tote.
This was my first look at the frog.
I used to not have a good opinion about frogs that had cavities like this in them. I thought it was the manufacturer trying to cut corners. After my experience with the English Stanley, I have a bit more open mind. What I don't like is it looks pretty rusty.
The blade and chipbreaker.
The blade and chipbreaker didn't come in very good shape. I think they were superficially cleaned, but they weren't sharp or tuned at all. I didn't even try to make a cut with it yet.
The front knob. At least it's wood. Notice the front of the casting.
The finishing touches on this casting have a little to be desired. I thought I'd give it due diligence, however. I did have to run the casting and the frog on sandpaper on a glass plate.
The casting. I don't like there being Japanning on the parts that touch the frog, but I left it for now.
One thing I really did like was the design of the chipbreaker. Below is a picture of the blade assembly from the Stanley as well as this one.
Blade assemblies: English Stanley on the top, Record on the bottom.
The chipbreaker on this Record is much beefier than any stock chipbreaker I've seen in the past. Experience tells me that a solid chipbreaker is a fantastic upgrade to any plane. This one came from the factory with a chipbreaker that I would say is an upgrade over the Stanley design.

To tune this up I ran the edge on my stones until I had a nice flat all the way across,
Then I rounded and polished the front of the chipbreaker to make it easy for the shavings to glide past it.
I decided to give the same shiney-up treatment to the brass on this plane as I did the Stanley. This time, I started by letting the brass sit in some salted vinegar for a minute. This was a good time saver. Most of the gunk and "patina" just wiped off. It was then an easy job to polish the brass with toothpaste. This step saved a lot of time over starting with the toothpaste.
Left - after the vinegar and salt treatment, right - before.

The blade adjustment wheel shined up nice, too.
The handles were pretty easy. They were in decent shape. I just sanded them down to a fine grit, then I waxed them with my homemade wax, and I finished up with a coat of shellac. It's the first time in years that I've used shellac, and I think it is perfect for this job.
Shellac looks nice.
After the shellac dried, I went over it with a maroon scrubby and gave it another coat of my soft wax.
Here is how it turned out.
It isn't the most beautiful plane I've ever seen, but it does have a nice character to it.
The other side. The blue Japanning is growing on me.
Enough of the rehab. How does it work?
Wispy shavings.

I have to say it again.


This plane really surprised me. It works fantastic.

I expected it to work well after my experience with the Stanley. But I was expecting the blade to be of lesser quality, or for it to chatter or something.

None of that.

I was a bit worried about the blade being in bad enough shape that shavings would get under the chipbreaker. I did have to resort to using the ruler trick to avoid spending two days lapping the back. That didn't happen, however. It is as good of a blade assembly as any I have.

This next part might sound a bit snooty and wonkish, but if you use oilstones to sharpen you will know what I mean:

The steel in the blade is superb. A lot of what I base that on is how it "feels" on the stone, as well as the sound it makes. Both when sharpening and when planing wood. This is one reason I don't like A2 steel and waterstones. Not because they don't work well, but that "feel" isn't there.

The Stanley blade feels course. Even on my finest stone. And when I plane wood, it gives a raspy, hollow sound. It works great while it is sharp, but it must be sharpened often.

The Ray Iles blade I have is superb O2 steel, and it sharpens up very nice. It sits very solid in the plane and the noise it makes is very satisfying. I must say that I didn't try this blade in the Record yet.

The Record blade has a really nice, slick feel on the stones. It sharpens up to a razor edge in no time, and it seems to stay sharp a long time. I would guess longer than the Ray Iles blade. It's amazing! And paired with that beefy stock chipbreaker the blade assembly is fantastic. The sound the plane makes when cutting wood is very satisfying.

I used this plane to get to know it exclusively during my humidor build. After that I finished a shelf and started another project. I've had my choice of three No. 4 smoothers to use for these projects, and I found myself reaching for the Record every time.
Stanley type 12, English Stanley, Record.

I'll certainly have to do some more playing around with these planes to see which one winds up permanently in my tool chest. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was this Record.

I'd love to hear what you think of your Record plane, or any plane for that matter.

I've looked at three planes so far, and you can find my thoughts on the Stanley USA type 12, and a Stanley made in England.

Will there be more?