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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

What Happened to Working Wood 3?

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 5:30pm

Many of you have asked me about this knowing that I planned to continue the series.

If you purchased my book Working Wood 1&2: the Artisan Course with Paul Sellers, you know that in that book and the accompanying DVDs I stated that I would be adding further publications to this first series.

The publisher of that work, Artisan Media Ltd, and I, parted company in April 2012. However, I now understand that they plan to continue the series with the future release of a book and DVD series entitled Working Wood 3. You might wrongly assume that this or any other continuation of the series by the same publishers might be my continuation of the course I started in Working Wood 1&2.

This is not the case. I am not the author of this book, Working Wood 3, or any other upcoming works for this publisher.

I am telling you all this in the hope of preventing any confusion.

I am dedicated to releasing new content in book and DVD format but will be doing so through a different publisher.

The post What Happened to Working Wood 3? appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Making a Shining Star for Christmas Decor

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 2:30am

DSC_0114Christmas in the US starts after Thanksgiving Thursday for the busiest shopping day of the year (USA), but for those of us living around the rest of the globe making gifts and decor begins when we find half a day to do it. To give you a heads-up we made this video for Woodworking Masterclasses last year and thought you might like to see how making beautiful stars from hand-made thin stock can be easily done with dead-on accuracy. These stars make stunning gifts for family trees and table decor too and scraps cost nothing to make them.


Here is the link to the YouTube video for stars above. I hope that you enjoy this one!

DSC_0029You may also be looking for unique Christmas gift for friends and relatives and the YouTube series on making the wall clock is fun series too, especially at the gift-giving end of it. Here is the link to the first one we did via Woodworking Masterclasses last year.


The post Making a Shining Star for Christmas Decor appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Custom Sharpening – Bevel-ups and Jack Planes

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 2:32am


Hi Paul,

I recently bought a LA jack plane from LV and I was wondering something : would you sharpen the bevel of your BU plane like your BD plane ? I’ve search on the internet and I even watched all your videos on sharpening + your DVD. I didn’t find what we could call a definitive answer.  Can I use the convex bevel technique ? How much camber do you need more on the BU plane ? Do I really need more camber on the BU plane ? Could you please enlighten me a little more on sharpening BU plane iron.

Thank you,




Well, in my experience, using the LV planes and other makes over several years now, makes me ever conscious that woodworkers often look for additional planes to somehow cope with what our present arsenal of planes might seem ill-equipped to handle. Surprisingly, and you might be glad to hear this, the fact is some woods will not plane well no matter the plane used, the iron used or the skill of the worker. Sharpness is of course always the most key element and especially is this so with BU planes. I say that to say it’s not necessarily the pitch of the blade the presentation of the bevel up or down or any other such thing although either plane can work better over the other in certain circumstances. With so much information out there coming from “experts in the field” and novices alike it is indeed difficult to know what’s essential, what’s preference alone and what biases are out there that have little or no foundation beyond just one person’s opinion. Our modern day versions are of course nothing new except to claim better engineering standards with some innovative addition as a sort of copyright quirk. Replicated #62 planes are now available as import copycat knockoffs from Asia via the Woodcraft’s Woodriver version, Quang Sheng or Amazon and eBay selling Stanley’s own current version of their old plane or Lie Nielsen in the USA. Only Lie Nielsen is domestically made to the USA. All others are imports from Asian makers who have by the way upped the anti in terms of quality I must say. I suppose it’s true to say that they either all copied the original or one another or they are made in the same factory somewhere. Only the LV is original as an original design I believe.  One day we will see true innovation in plane making that creates affordable functional working working models again but as they say in Texas, “If it ain’t broke don’t fixit.” Oh, I think you can also choose to buy an old and original model #62 for a hefty sum more than the newer versions, but I am sure whichever you choose you will fare well.

There are of course issues with all of the planes and when you run them side by side you see them, but sharpen them up well, adjust them accurately and such, and you may not find one any better than the other.


There may well be differences between irons you will need to know about as different irons are made from different steels, Hard, softer, harder. I suggest that go with the O1 steel cutting irons as they need less sharpening and take a good edge. With the O1 steel plane irons you sharpen them exactly the same in general as you would a standard Stanley or Record bevel-down iron. Same bevel angle, everything. That’s if you are in fact using the O1 blades and not say A2 steel irons which are harder and more brittle. On A2 irons I suggest a steeper pitch of around 35-degrees as a minimum as the edges fracture more readily and even at that they will need more frequent work and lots of it to reestablish the cutting edge.

Reading between the lines becomes ever important when considering plane makers. Most if not all of the bevel-up low-angle plane makers, sellers and so on currently producing and or selling BU planes will write in their promotions stating the plane irons are ground and polished out at 25-degrees primarily to prove that the planes present the lowered bevel cutting edge at a the lower angle than the bench planes with bevel down irons installed, which are generally bedded on a regular bed of 44-degrees. This really isn’t altogether true. They state that the combined angle will be 12-degrees for the bed and 25-degrees for the iron and so total the two out as a presentation of 37-degrees. In reality the cutting edge is quite weak and you’d be better off grinding and polishing out at at least 30-degrees on an O1 blade and the very least 35- degrees for A2 blades. DSC_0058That would mean the O1 steel iron would present very close to the bevel down plane at 42-degrees and the A2 iron would in fact be higher at 47-degrees.


Looking at our recent findings in more at-the-real-bench work this could all be thrown out because we realise more and more that both sides of the cutting edge do indeed fracture and cause even higher angles and this is a problem on bevel up planes because edge fracture on the under face, the larger flat face, means the blade soon starts to ride the bevel of the blade as the edge fracture moves from a presentable angle to the point (or the edge) where the actual edge can no longer reach the wood. This then means many more frequent sharpenings than the conventional bevel-down planes. On a controversial element, I find only minimal differences between bevel up and bevel down planes when it comes to working the planes and when I take the planes to the wood, regardless of thick and thin irons, BU or BD, both planes seem quite parallel in cut quality and ease. If there is a difference in favour of BU planes then it’s indiscernible to me.

Below shows the camber I like on all my plane irons. This method has proven to serve best for and was the preferred method used for centuries by craftsmen.

DSC_0047 DSC_0048

Above images show the bevel and flat faces of the LV iron showing rounded corner edges.

At the end of the day then, bevel-up, bevel-down is a matter of preference for a particular task. I like using both plane types and enjoy the luxury of choice. If I ever had to choose one plane it would always be the bevel down plane, but that doesn’t mean the BU planes have no place. Indeed they do and they are of great value.


Above you see thin and thicker irons side by side with the corners rounded to prevent any step down on wider boards.

The BU plane iron meets the same demands as the bevel down and you should treat the iron the same way after determining the pitch of the bevel in relation to the steel type if you so decide to change it. That is the corner can be rounded slightly to eliminate tram lines ion the surface when planing boards wider than the iron. If you only intend to use the plane on a shooting board which i cannot imagine why you would unless thats all the work type you do then keep the corners square. You can also camber the iron slightly along the length or width of the cutting iron for pure smoothing if you want to. One sales outlet describes the Quangsheng BU jack plane as the “Swiss Army knife of planes”, I suppose because they offer three cutting irons with the plane sharpened at different bevel pitches. Not sure if that meets the same criteria really, but I like the humour.

The post Custom Sharpening – Bevel-ups and Jack Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Spring Edge Edge-jointing Boards

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 1:59am


Paul (and Team)

I was curious if you could give us your thoughts on spring joints.  I’ve seen them mentioned in various places when discussing panel glue ups.  I think I understand them in principle.  By creating the slight concavity in the middle of the two boards to be joined, the ends are automatically pulled tight during glue up.  My questions have to do with the purpose of such a joint and if they are practical for everyday use.  Does this make for a tighter joint?  Does this help to reduce the number of clamps needed for a glue up?  Is there any benefit in strength of the joint compared to joining two parallel edges or even match planed edges?

Thanks for all you and your team do!



This was first presented as an article in one of the famed US woodworking mags back in the early 90s I think, but the concept originates from the days and centuries before we had screw-threaded cramps or clamps. The idea is to create as you say an even convex along two long board edges and then glue along the edges to form wider panels.

DSC_0030 DSC_0027

The panels can then be clamped using only two clamps or you can use two timber dogs or nail dogs as they are also called to pull the two ends tight, which automatically pulls the joint gap-lessly together along the centre section and indeed along the whole length of the joint line. Of course the convex only has to be small, the article showed a lot, but any slight, slight belly works and the more belly you have the greater the applied or necessary pressure to either end to close up the gaps. The problem that can occur with too large a gap is the boards can result in a dishing hollow, so get the camber as slight as possible if you choose this method.DSC_0010

The practicality of it was that you didn’t need too many clamps; two only per panel as I said.


Dogs were indeed commonly used for such glue ups; I have several pairs and they can be useful to have because some times clamps don’t work in some situations.DSC_0008


The dogs had the angles inside and this effectively applied pressure on the extreme end of the board and pulled the two together as shown above.

Also, it’s good to remember that screw-threaded clamps were not at all always as common to woodworkers as they are today and so were not commonly used in earlier centuries. Wedges and dogs took care of many glue ups; and also remember that that was the age of no alternative glue to animal glues such as hide and fish glues either. Glues such as PVA and epoxies are new kids on the block. These old glues were different in that they ‘snatched’, which meant that during the cure the glue ‘pulled’ surfaces together.


The most common of all methods for jointing for edge joining was not clamping, wedging or dogging but simply rub-jointing. This is where we rub the two glued edges to be joined along one another moving one back and forth against the other, which is held in the vise, until the glue is evenly and thinly dispersed. During this process the glue gets as thin as possible between the surfaces and then, at a certain point, the glue ‘grabs’ or ‘snatches’ and the parts no longer move.


Leaning two or three sticks inclined and sighted in against one another (to ensure no twist in them) against a wall was a resting place for the glued boards to stand leaning in toward the wall on edge but flat against the sticks. The boards were left unclamped until the next day when full cure was achieved. Of course this latter method, being the more common of, all meant that the board edges were first trued by plane exactly and with no gaps or convexed edges. The practice of convexed edges may well have been common in earlier centuries purely because of the lack of screw-threaded clamps or even nail-dogs. Dogs work remarkably well, but of course they leave their telltale square holes in the endgrain of the boards.


For some work this is of no consequence.


Once clamps or dogs are applied the boards at the other end open dramatically because of the compression of the cells. It’s a good idea to have the clamps or dogs in place and started so the boards don’t part too much as shown.

Below you can see that the method is effective as the nearest clamps are 36″ apart and yet the glue can be seen in the mid section.


I suppose the point here is is convexing the board or boards better than clamping? My answer would be probably no. I have always found it best to go the extra mile and remove all contention between parts so long as it relies on me. Yes the boards will hold, but it may well have been more a lazy way with good and plausible excuses. We generally work to move the materials we work to their extreme limits as say we do in the fitting of dovetail joints and mortise and tenons and also in making musical instruments such as cellos and violins, guitars and so on. That is, we want extreme fits of perfection for tightness without splits or too much pressure and so on. It’s always a thin line, pun intended. After we have created the harmony between the parts they are united in the common cause of serving the owner and it’s at this point when what we make is subjected from here on to the highest levels of stress imaginable. A chair is scooted, cocked, leaned back on with an excess of 150lbs every day and all day in some cases. And a violin with strings taut and played is stretched to its most extreme limits in the hands of a maestro. Creating harmony relies on the crafting artisan to ensure he has done his utmost to remove any and all contention so that what he or she makes can indeed withstand the pressures of life.

The post Questions Answered – Spring Edge Edge-jointing Boards appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – A Free Tree Source ?

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 1:04pm


Hi Paul,

About a year ago I came across your videos and was inspired to begin traditional woodworking including carving bowls and various other items. I’m still learning and probably will be for some time to come. Your blog entries have helped me considerably though.

All of the wood that I use is sourced locally. It is either given to me by a network of tree surgeons that support my work or members of the public that are removing trees from their gardens for some reason or other, mainly storm damage.

Anyway, the reason for my email is that I’m looking for some advice. Someone contacted me yesterday saying that they had to take down a large cherry tree in their front garden and would I be interested in the bottom part of the tree. They provided me with a couple of photos but unfortunately I’m not able to attach them.

What I would like to know is how would you go about cutting the stump into good blanks? The stump has four large limbs coming out on each side of the trunk close to the bottom and the trunk central. Would you cut the limb sections off as close to the trunk as possible leaving one large trunk section? I’m troubled by this as it’s a beautiful piece and I don’t want to mess it up.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my mail and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


(Scotland UK)


I do have a couple of thoughts on this. Many tree surgeons and garden maintenance workers operate their business on a risk potential basis and price according to task and that includes an additional risk factor. A tree at the bottom of a garden with no risk to people and buildings, underground stuff can be dropped and removed for a reasonable price, but when it is near to a house or overhead lines, a neighbours property or whatever, the price can escalate rapidly.



I’ve taken down hundreds of trees and I once took down a tree between two close houses because the wood I wanted was highly prized. The invitation needed no second thought but after I downed the tree and removed to trunk, branches and so on, the owner said he was so glad I had done the work and done it for free. I asked why and he told me he’d had an estimate for $2,000 because of the risk to his neighbours building and his own foundations to his house. No damage occurred and I got wood worth the effort.

I say all of that because, depending on the size of the trunk, removing the stem can be a lot of work. On the other hand it can be generous of someone to give you the wood like this and you alone have to decide whether this is in fact a gift horse to you. Limbs can be useable wood for a wide range of projects ranging from turned work to spoons, spatulas and more. If it’s cherry you may want to decide on whether the wood has much sapwood or little. Heartwood is always a premium in wider sections and boards. It’s a fruitwood which means for the main part has or shows little if any visible difference between seasons of growth in the growth rings and so it has that evenness across the whole that’s so characteristic of fruitwoods. It turns beautifully whether green or dry and makes great kitchen utensils including cutting boards.


It’s also good for cot spindles and children’s toys too and is perfectly safe for these sensitive items. Personally I would take the limbs off and slab the wood with a Woodmizer mobile dimensions mill if you have access to one and this of course depends on the tree’s size?
Few things in woodworking give greater reward than agonising over a tree to maximise yield and customise cuts to a project or series of projects. Wood turners are privileged in using the wood straight from the tree and of course beings able to use their material within a few weeks. Furniture makers must plan their strategy differently to keep the wood at its best and season it well. Patience pays in the process and n the delivery to the bench in a year or two down the road. It is surprising where the time goes in this and I am now using wood bought just a few years ago. I also have mesquite wood from 2007 which I used on making the Cabinet pieces for the White House in 2008/9 stowed safely in Texas storage. One day I will be working on that again for a special piece I am sure. I look forward to that.

The post Questions Answered – A Free Tree Source ? appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Advice Needed on #5 Stanley Planes

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 2:15pm


Hi Paul,

My name is Jamie. I’m 18 and just starting out in woodwork (specifically Luthery, however I really enjoy all kinds). I was wondering if you’d be able to help. I am looking for a number 5 plane and really don’t know where to start. I know you have a beautiful collection and probably have some useful information to help me. My options are to either purchase a cheap hand plane like Silverline. Or pick up an old stanley and restore it. Restoring does scare me a fair bit but I’d give it a go. I thought i’d ask if either you’d advise restoring, or would you advise buying new. (if you have a number 5 for sale for me to restore, please let me know!) I think car boots are going to be my best option. But would love too hear your opinion.

Thank you for being such an amazing inspiration.




Hello Jamie,

Thanks for the question. It’s unlikely that I would ever advise someone to buy a new plane over a secondhand or older model because in functionality, older made Stanley or Record bench planes work just as well as any of the new ones once they are restored if that is indeed needed at all. They are reliable lifetime planes too. Not sure about Silverline products. I feel less inlined to recommend them generally. It’s not that I necessarily prefer old planes or that I am nostalgic. I just prefer using what’s available and well proven. Hundreds of thousands of users through a century and half can’t be wrong surely. The other issue surrounding your question is that we tend to put off learning what we feel uncomfortable with. I understand that, but really, there’s not much to truing up and fettling the Bailey pattern bench planes and included in those is the #5 jack plane.

A #5 jack is excellent for luthier work and will straighten and thin all of your stock for fronts, backs and sides and it will do that within thousandths of an inch as needed. The jack plane measures around 35.5cm (14”) long and has an overall width of  64mm (2 1/2”). More than sized for making guitars, violins and cellos too.

DSC_0008 DSC_0011

Here are the steps for restoring your #5. Don’t be intimidated by your thoughts, anyone can do this. It’s not particularly demanding or skilful. More sensitive than anything.


My #5 is a typical eBay find. The sole isn’t flat at all. Almost make a good boomerang.


It’s also hollow across it’s short width too and at first you’d look at the pictures and think it would take forever to flatten. In actuality this one took me about 15 minutes so don’t be daunted and though the eBay find might not be as bad as this one, it’s not unusual to find one as bad as this one.


In fact it’s quite common to find planes hollow across the width because many joiners use their jack planes to plane narrow boards of wood, MDF, melamine faced pressed fibre boards and much more abrasive stuff such as plastic laminates and plastics too.


I happen to own a proven dead flat granite slab so placing 140-grit abrasive paper on the block gave me the right start. You can use float glass or even a tile if you test it for flatness first. Sometimes, machine tables are close enough too. I have used wooden 4” x 4”  lengths of wood and MDF. Choose your flattest surface.

I used 4 feet of 140-grit abrasive paper 4” wide for the first level major abrading and then polished further to 600-grit. Plenty fine enough.


Make sure you keep the lever cap locked in place at normal pressure with the blade retracted. This keeps the sole in tension and so maintains as closely as possible how the plane will be in its final tensioned state during use.

It’s not necessary to abrade to a finer level, but you can if you like. Wood is surprisingly abrasive and soon undoes what polish you might attain. I went to 600-grit straight from the 140.DSC_0041

DSC_0056I cleaned up the sides with abrasive paper but it’s not necessary to square the sides to the sole. DSC_0042

Using the light and a true straightedge is usually enough to check for flatness. I first offered mine to the light and even fractional glimpses of light is not necessarily more than a thousandth of an inch.

DSC_0052 DSC_0051 DSC_0043

I used a 1/1000” feeler gauge on my test slab and the gauge penetrated only around the rim where I had bevelled the outer edges as I always do.

DSC_0065 DSC_0075 DSC_0078

To additionally prove my surface flatness I plane two boards independently and placed the edges together and they joint line was perfect.

The post Questions Answered – Advice Needed on #5 Stanley Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part II

Sat, 10/25/2014 - 1:46pm

DSC_0042With one high end chisel sharpened to as near perfection as PS could gain, I pressed the chisel into pine wood for paring cross-grain and, moving across from one side to the other in swathes 1″ wide, cleared an area 1/8” deep 3” across from front to back and 4” long.


I then pared with the grain over the same area and then chopped 6 times hard onto the chisel edge with the same number of blows and equal force each time. The steel is new and specially formulated.

DSC_0022 2

One of the hardest things for a chisel edge is scraping it on end along the surface of rough grain. Students do it all the time at first, until I explain how much damage they do to their chisel edges. So, I then scraped the chisels tested across the surface of the same grain as shown and applying much pressure. I did the same to all the makers including an unnamed maker from the late 1800s. The end results was surprising. Once treated so harshly, the high end chisels fared more poorly than I expected. Instead of boring photograph showing results we tested the damage by seeing how high the chisels had to be elevated on the surface of the wood before the edge bit the wood sufficient to start a cut.


In my tests all of the chisels bit the surface after sharpening at about the same angle of presentation.


The above measurement show the chisel elevated to 2mm before the bite was effective.

After the pressure and hammer tests the low end Aldi chisel and the old chisels continued to cut without further elevation. The high end chisels that fractured much more had to be elevated by 12mm to even start the cuts. This effectively meant that the surface fracture on the edge was so cratered, compensation had to be made to make the chisel effective. The old chisel, having undergone the same treatment, needed elevating only 2mm. This chisel continued working for hours afterwards and I was cutting and paring oak shoulders across end grain and paring the faces of tenons the whole time for demoing to students.


I took an angled shaving with one of the chisels I had run through the test, a reputable maker sold by high end dealers in the UK and USA. This had faired quite poorly in the tests and this is what we got.


I then took the Aldi chisel that had gone through exactly the same treatment and pared the same surface and it gave me a clean surface.

DSC_0043 DSC_0045

Therein was my deciding factor. It wasn’t based on cost but work. The Aldi chisel proved to be the better chisel. Others looked more prestigious and looked nice on the benchtop. Its all about choice then.


This then does tell us that the relief on the underside of all plane irons bar none was a development based on practical application and not because science itself contributed much if anything at all. A man at his bench saw that a chisel needed elevating to the work to make it work and lifted the chisel slightly higher. When the chisel was too high he took it to a stone and honed it. Now some salesman from a distant office and of unknown background or perhaps a magazine says hone to 25.000 grit on glass covered with abrasive paper and we jump through all of legalistic hoops. The scary-sharp method is just OK to get those first sharp chisel and plane edges when starting out in woodworking, but its wow factor leaves a few big questions because it’s far from an economic or practical solution to good sharpening practice. At first glance it look feasible, logical, practical. It’s not. Abrasive films are extremely expensive long term and well worth the money for some applications, but for sharpening edge tools for woodworking in general I think it is obsessive at best. It’s all become quite silly. I would say the same too for steel makes and so on.


My research shows that fracture takes place the very second the chisel touches the wood; so much so the bevel edge top fracture and the flat face bottom or under-fracture fractures equally and at the same time. Most people don’t know this.


Immediately after sharpening, chisels with dead flat faces must in some measure be elevated to engage the wood.

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The less the edge fracture the less the incline needed. Within a few seconds of use, depending on the wood and the work type, the chisel elevation increases to effect a similar cut. It’s at this point then, when the rate of edge fracture diminishes dramatically, that we are given a practical working edge to chop, pare and plane with. The angle between the two faces forming the edge may well now be altered, increased as it were by fracture wear to around 40-degrees as both faces fracture along the edge equally.


Because edge fracture occurs immediately, we should be aware when we sharpen that it’s the diminished return that gives us the strength we actually need  for real work not temporary or prissy work. After a few minutes of use, newly made chisels by a major UK maker of chisels left me with a chisel that I could not cut myself with. But, that said and established, they are still sharp enough for 95% of general woodworking tasks surrounding furniture making. If you indeed doubt anything I am saying. Run the same experiments. Use any plane for a few minutes on a pine board with or without knots and remove the blade. Feel the edge and tell me the truth, as you (carefully) pull the fingers perpendicular to the edge, do your fingertips glide over the edge or does the edge catch ready to cut. Do the same trial with your chisels and you then see how the wood and the work affects the router plane cutter.

I made a facsimile from styrofoam to show an enlarged approximation view of what happens at the cutting edges of edge tools.

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This post may seem to ramble between chisels and router cutters and bluntness, dullness, motives and so on, but for me they are apart of the same issue. Our world is all the more fractured into tiny bytes where media projects tiny informational pockets into our lives and there is really no conclusive result because everything is negotiable in a world of no absolutes. I can’t separate the cutters from routers from chisels and planes because of the various realities uniting them. Two flat faces set at an angle creates a sharp edge. The most practical angle for this to be used and restored and at optimal strength is 30-degrees. Knives and axes, chisels and planes all have angle around 30-degrees. This may vary with shearing-cut actions as on scissors and guillotines, but generally 30-degrees is accepted universally and this is because the material dictates.

The post On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part II appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part I

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 12:38pm

My thoughts are these. I am afraid we do tend toward living more obsessive lives thinking it’s this or that that makes us good craftsmen and women when in actuality most woodworkers we know don’t earn their living from the work they do in woodworking. This strange condition has created an equally strange dichotomy that then directly influences how we prioritise what we do to be woodworkers. If for instance we are 55 years old and retired with a half decent pension we might spend half a day sharpening a few chisels and know that there are no real consequences that affect other things and in those few hours we simply enjoy the freedom from the various constraints we once had to live with. On the other hand we might work two jobs, have a spouse and kids to be with during non-work time and  want ensure everything is done to maximise efficiency. Our personal circumstances are all diversely different and so too then the criteria we set ourselves for working wood.


One thing I see is that somehow, often, we might find ourselves proving to the rest of society that we are not just, well, ordinary when ordinary is actually a good place to be for any artisan. It’s respectful and honest, open and transparent and modestly humble – hopefully anyway. When you meet a true craftsman it’s almost always very humbling to watch him at his work. You always feel as though you invaded his or her workspace, albeit unintentionally and quietly. Very different than with entertainment guru woodworkers. It’s really a very rare experience if and when it happens to us and we treasure the moments. I suppose my thought is that we should leave the super-manhood, super-womanhood to politicians and actors, one and the same often, and get on with what we feel called to do with our hands. Some people say, “Just do what your passionate about.” Well, that’s not really always too realistic and it’s not so easy in today’s culture because it takes more a made up mind, not passion alone. Being passionate can be one of the ingredients to driving an issue, but not the whole and it doesn’t often pay the bills. People who say follow your passion should possibly review the word and reconsider whether determination might be better, or convictions or dare I say it without sounding old fashioned, your calling or vocation. Being practical does fit too and that’s what being a craftsman is about much of the time; resolving different materials into creative pieces to wear, sit on, sit at, lay on, lift from, place on and even ride in and fly in or listen to. Of course the list is unending. Being a crafting artisan is more about honesty and integrity than being a business person or a smart alecky bod trying to sell something only to make money and building a bank account. We artisans, we’ve mastered our craft and in addition have speculatively invested much time and energy and finance in our making and now we must sell or starve. We stand in the freezing weather and conditions no employee would for hours and days to make our business work. We’re not born salesmen but we must sell what we make. We didn’t make a hotdog from a can or flip a burger and add mayo and mustard and a piece of lettuce, we made something with our hands we feel has real value. We’re not managers but we manage. We do these things without a contract of employment and with no job description mostly because no one else could, would or even should do it. Craft shows tend to have a large  percentage of  ‘here I am, entertain me between meals’ people. They’re not usually looking for furniture or a hand made violin but interested passersby. I say all of that because somehow we crafting artisans, whether arrived or on our way, have started to become increasingly more fanatical about  sharpening and flattening our edge tools than actually mastering craft skills. Somehow it’s become something of a platform for performance and this leads me to what I want to try to help people see.

As I have said, we have become something of an obsessive bunch when it comes to the different elements of working wood; sharpness has become more and more obsessive. Now we are not talking about the violin maker seeking sharp levels for clear tone from the wood and who uses wood so soft, unsharp gouges and planes would bruise rather than cut the fine surfaces he strives to achieve. His standards parallel the levels needed for severing tissue by the surgeon’s hand, not the bench joiner chopping mortises and cutting a few dovetails.


It’s unfortunate that since the demise of ordinary craftsmanship we now turn to guru wood writers and not wood-wrights. Woodwrights  are no longer there to give us our information of course. It’s true too that the sources of information become more and more questionable. Three recent sources of information teaching on sharpening techniques I tracked back to tool catalog and online sales people selling products for sharpening. Most of the information they have is not new but regurgitated. Each phase of sharpening change marks another saleable product and so we see Japanese  water stones added to carborundum stones, Arkansas stones and Washita stones and then came diamonds and abrasive films, diamond paste and flattening stones. The list goes on.


We have survived the different gospels of scary sharp and micro-bevel methodology and are emerging to this very simple reality. As long as you start the cutting edge somewhere around 30-degrees and polish it out it will cut well. If you you sharpen to around 1200-grit it will cut most anything you need in woodworking. If you sharpen to a polished edge of around 15,000-grit you can slice the most delicate of materials effortlessly, but 98% of the time that’s far from necessary. What am I saying? I’m saying that we generally sharpen to task but often sharpen to a higher level because it’s not much extra effort. We all know after a few efforts at sharpening that the greatest effort comes at the start of the process when we have to regain ground to get through a fractured and dulled edge and back to a productive cutting edge. That said, it’s not a big deal, just a few extra strokes on the coarse diamonds gets you there. So, if that is the case, why do we sharpen to higher levels than are usually needed. Well, it is a fact that the more polished the two plains forming the arête for a cutting edge are, the sharper the edge is but the stronger the edge is too. As I said, the extra effort is worth the work because it’s so quick and effective. It’s not so much what we do to the edge to establish it but what we do to the edge after we have prepared it for work. Taking the chisel to the surface of the wood to work the wood begins an immediate process of edge reduction we now know is edge fracture but was once called wear. No matter the steel, edge fracture occurs at some level but some steels fracture more readily than others. What we often do not realise is that it is impossible to find a steel that both takes and retains an edge and at the same time has a level of durability we can rely on forever. All edges wear away by fracture and constantly need restoring. Not without getting into samurai sword making for ordinary work will find an edge retaining steel built to last more than a few hours. In the everyday of life, as a woodworker, we must understand that as soon as the chisel or plane is presented to the wood, edge fracture occurs to some degree. At first the edge fracture comprises usually small amounts of break out and breakdown. That is, in fractions of a second, within the first strokes and chops and pares in the wood, the edge we perfected has now been reduced. Surgery is no longer possible. But, in reality at the bench, we actually rely more on this edge-fractured edge to give us an actual working edge than we do or can the sharpest edge. The opening fracture is very small. Tiny. It is none biased in that it comes from the 30-degree corner we formed not the two facets as such. The facets are both strong and supported but not so the edge itself. The edges always fracture and guess what? It doesn’t really matter. In fact, in the imperfect world of sharpening we might want that to happen. In the imperfect world of sharpening we might even want the softer steels of O1. O1 has good edge retention, strength and durability rolled into one steel type. In the imperfect world of sharpening we can indeed rely on this one thing happening. Edge fracture does in fact give us the most practical working edge for most of our work. That said, continuing edge fracture results in a dull or what we used to call a ‘thick edge and we must constantly refresh the edge to continue our work. This week I did some tests on different steels old and new. It’s not at all scientific but the results did show that we do in fact compensate for edge fracture in the day to day of real work. Part II in this will be out tomorrow, to give you time to digest, so we can look at some of what we found.

The post On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part I appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Router Bevels Reversed

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:29pm

I thought that this was an interesting question and would help everyone better understand some added complexities for all edge tools actually. It’s a well thought through question and Ed is a friend of mine.

Letter from Ed



I was going to post this on your blog, but was afraid it might confuse someone and lead to disaster, so I’ll just put it in an email:

I’ve always wondered why a router plane bladed couldn’t be sharpened “upside down.”  That means, have the top of the blade flat (no bevel) and put the bevel on the bottom, which one sharpens by mounting the blade in the router flush with the base and moving the router over a stone as if trying to rout the stone. Yes, this would give zero relief angle, but since the router is really acting like a paring chisel, why wouldn’t this work? You’d always come out parallel to the sole, which would be good for accuracy.




It’s a mega amount of work for little change. It’s really not a problem to hone the bevel of a regular router but you need to set it up first and so I wrote this blog to address the issue. Firstly, you are right, putting the bevel on the underside would work fine but not really without relief. One key problem I see is that most often out intent is to put say a 30-degree bevel on a cutting edge but often add a few degrees unintentionally when and if we strop. That’s enough to put the heel before the toe and so negate the cutting edge from actually reaching the wood and causing the bevel to more ride the wood rather than cut. This is a very common problem with 151-type spokeshaves too, by the way.

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With regards to relief. With the best intentions in the world a paring cut just will not happen. When you sharpen any edge tool, the immediate response of the tool edge to the wood is a minute, most often indiscernible fracture right along the fragile edge. This thin line of broken edge happens almost without pressure, but, regardless, the edge does edge fracture. At this stage the edge fracture is very long and narrow and the edge is still sharp enough to cut wood. Subsequent edge fracture continues throughout further and subsequent use and eventually you must sharpen up again.

We tend to see the edge as being worn away like water washes over rocks but that’s not only what happens. The edge does indeed fracture into ever increasing sized craters and this is what the dulled edge really becomes. That being so, the two faces forming the cutting edge are now jaggedly cratered rather than the crisp arête. This then is the reason we inevitably elevate a chisel to compensate for edge fracture on the flat surface edge after only a few minutes of use depending on the wood being worked and the way the chisel itself is worked in the wood also.

Routers are really worked hard in much of the work and the more you can get in prep work from the chisel the easier it will be on your router, it’s cutting iron and of course the less sharpening you will need to do to the router cutter too. Now, that said, there is no reason a steeper top flat cannot replace the bevel and a relief of say a few degrees put to the underside. The Preston and Veritas routers both have a shallower presentation to the underside of the cutter so that would be just fine. Just as an aside and another note of interest that somewhat proves my theory is that if you take one light pass, even the lightest pass, along and on the tips of saw teeth as if slightly topping or jointing  the teeth with a flat file, the saw just will not cut at all. Even though the meeting edges are indeed sharp, without the relief of a back bevel they don’t cut.

The post Questions Answered – Router Bevels Reversed appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Are We Obsessing About Sharpening Edge Tools?

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:36pm

I have come to the conclusion that we went through a phase of several decades where people were trained to follow a sort of legality leading to almost obsessing over sharpening without fully realising the criteria we should be perhaps aiming for. As a young apprentice my mentoring craftsman would repeatedly say, “Sharpen up, lad!”, throughout any given day. I dutifully sharpened up on two stones to around 600-grit and got back to task after stropping the burr from the edge on the palm of my hand. My plane never faltered, protested or chattered and the work I did became more and more acceptable through the years. Today I sharpen to higher levels of fineness and encourage others to do the same. That said, I don’t think I am obsessive so much as practical and my practical knowledge comes from my work, not what someone told me or wrote about or showed on a film. My sharpening levels developed through fifty years of sharpening 20-30 times in a day. Evolutionary sharpening has left me knowing my work gets done in a practical way and now it is unlikely that I will change.


We live in a woodworking culture of much head knowledge that has less and less of an application to real life and that might mean real woodworking too. We live in a culture where the shaving has become as much if not more the goal and not the levelled surface or the finished adjustment to the wood being planed. This can lead to a strange and artificial culture that has less a link to working wood as a job or to getting the actual job done in a timely order. My thought is that most people may not be aware that this changes the dynamism of woodworking because they don’t actually work wood for a living but more because they love working wood, using the tools and stretching themselves in spheres of productive craft work that gives them results in seeing something made. My thought though is this. This is all acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying seeing shavings ripple and rise from the throat of a plane. After fifty years of daily doing this I still enjoy these gifts to my work that are indeed priceless. The point in this article and the ones yet to follow are more to address any imbalanced perceptions people have as a result of magazine articles, catalogue companies and online information that often more distort reality than serves it. 


What would you do if I told you that your sharpened edge taken to say 15,000-grit quickly deteriorates in minutes only of use to perhaps the much lower level of under 1,000. The reality is that most woodworkers using hand tools work with chisel and plane edges at this level most of the time. The tools still cut effectively and acceptably for a long time once this level occurs. At this level the edge is strong and degrade speed much diminished. The greatest edge fracture occurs immediately after sharpening when the tool is offered to the wood and the cutting edge is at its thinnest and thereby most fragile.

I have tested new steels and have generally ended up with disappointing results. Someone wrote to me questioning the validity about the Aldi chisels being made from a chrome vanadium steel and said that his chrome vanadium chisels did not take and hold a good edge. DSC_0006 DSC_0004 DSC_0003He then went on to ask if high end chisels really offered a better option, naturally basing his assumption on his personal chisels, non Aldi chisels, deteriorating straight away. Aldi chisels, I can assure anyone, truly hold their sharp edge as well as any high end chisel I ever used and better than any UK maker I have come across to date. This not what people want to hear, I know, but the reality is right here in the everyday of working. This past 10 days we had a classful of students using many chisels each made for Aldi supermarkets and the edges gave perfect service hour by hour. Are they my favourite chisels? No, not really, but I would not choose the tested high-end chisels from my research for their name thus far but firstly for their edge retention and service, balance in the hand, and further functionality. Aldi’s take some beating. Whereas It would be good to expect a higher priced tool to give better results, longevity and so on, more and more the reality is shifting. Many European makers have accepted deterioration in their standards of production and quality of manufacture, in many cases relying on past reputations of founder owners rather than their individual responsibility to hold to standards they set. That being the case, they surely forfeit any rights to unearned loyalty and support. This far I have tested 5 different sets of UK-made chisels made by current makers and none of them match the standards set by their forebears. Edge fracture and crumple has been common to them all within a few minutes of use. Most of the chisels I use from the late 1800s and early 1900s never fail through the same results and so too the Aldi chisels. The proof of the tool is in the use on the bench, the problem is you have to buy the tool to test it out, but you can always send them back if you find what I am saying is indeed true.

More to come on this shortly.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Routing the Past Developments

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 9:44am

DSC_0092In the process of answering the question on pointed router cutters we continued on to undo any misunderstandings surrounding these essential planes. The plane remains one of the most essential tools for hand tool woodworkers and woodworking. The poor man’s router of course leaves you fully equipped should you need one not costing a fortune and not own one, but adjustability of depth of cut provides an added advantage and of course it’s often here that legalists try to lay down the law with regards to which one everyone should buy. I looked through my routers and counted around 20 before I stopped. The school itself takes up half of those so I don’t feel bad at all. DSC_0063 DSC_0079I have bronze ones and brass ones, Preston and Tyzaks, Records and Stanleys and then wooden home mades and manufactured wooden ones made by planemakers of the past. Some you tweak-pinch with your fingertips and tighten with brass wing nuts and then others have micro-adjusters with screw stems and knurled nuts. Those I don’t own I have used at some point or at least tried. Fact is, I love router planes and can’t imagine life without them.

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Modern makers have for the main part taken the basic shape of the old Stanley #71 and might be forgiven for then distancing themselves from creating an actual copy by changing some small features. The footprints of almost all the cast and engineered models is almost identical in shape and size and thereby are essentially the same as the old Stanley #71 and the Record #071. DSC_0080I have not found tighter tolerances in engineering to be of any great advantage, in fact, oftentimes the ‘stuck’ factor can be a little annoying and this is often due to those diminished margins. It’s a small thing to take a file and  fettle whatever’s needed. DSC_0083One router I like the most is the  Preston router of old, which was also made for a few years by Tyzak. I like the extra size of the platen and the positioning  and overall height of the  knobs, which gives optimal inline thrust directly at beside and at cutting iron level. That’s not too helpful because the prices have gone through the roof on eBay and anyone in bronze casting could make good money if they were to take that plane and replicate it. DSC_0010 DSC_0011 DSC_0008As can be seen here, almost all of the metal cast routers old and new use the Stanley mechanism which is a screw-threaded adjusting screw (C) that stands up from the cutter post (D) that then holds a knurled adjusting screw (C). Depending on the maker, the adjusting screw fits into a recess in the cutter (N) that lifts and lowers the cutting iron to the depth needed. A collar surrounding the whole assembly locks the iron to the cutter post. Dead simple and very effective. Until you get used to all metal routers they can seem a little awkward and especially so when it comes to loading the cutting iron into the collar and locating it into the screw nut adjuster, but you get used to it and so you load it more readily.

DSC_0010The Preston router presents the cutter to the wood from a square shank facing squarely to the work forward and so too both of the Lie Nielsen routers. More clearly, the stem of the cutter is square on and slots into vertical, forward-facing channels in the cutter post. This works fine as long as there is no slop in the engineering and of course Lie Nielsen are known for their tight engineering tolerances in making tools. My Tyzak has a little lateral play in the channel and though when locked it is immoveable, I must be conscious not to allow the cutter to misalign to the sole as this leads to slight steps in recesses I might be cutting as I move the plane across from side to side cuts. For dadoes this would generally be fine, but for inlays and such, where unevenness telegraphs through the thin veneer, it would not be acceptable. This leads me to a development in the Stanley version I think many might not see or understand at first glance. Veritas saw it and adopted it in their design. DSC_0017 DSC_0022 DSC_0086The cutting irons in the Record and Stanley models presents the stem of the cutter at 45-degrees and the advantage of this is the automatic locking of the corner of the cutter into a channel that always ensures a vertical alignment of the stem and thereby guarantees that the underside of the cutting iron, when sharpened accurately, aligns parallel to the sole of the plane. In the same way as fettling a regular plane iron or chisel needs flattening and polishing out only once, so too the cutter for the router. Any subsequent sharpening is usually done on the bevel alone. Working the bevel evenly and carefully presents the cutting iron parallel to the surface and it’s here that I would stress the value of taking care not to tilt the iron on the bevel as this alters the alignment of the very cutting edge in its presentation to the surface of the wood.

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It stands to reason that you cannot present the cutter to the work without a relief on the underside of the cutter. If the underside were level it would ride the surface of the wood. Stanley and Record have quite an angle here. DSC_0071 DSC_0065 2 DSC_0059Others are less.

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Because of the relief, the front cutting edge of the cutter is affected by the top bevel of the cutter, so too much tilt lifts or lowers one side of the actual cutting edge. If we could present the underside of the cutter squarely and parallel to the underside of the plane to the surface of the wood we could skew all we want  and not affect the presentation.

The best way to level the top bevel of the cutter is to start with the underside of the cutter first. Load the cutter into the plane and set the iron as close to level with the sole. We want a fractional protrusion of a thou or so. Though it is not necessary at all, if you are bothered that the surface could be marred, and mine have never been thus affected straight on the abrasive, use masking tape to cover the sole as a barrier if it worries you. Or you could put card stock on the abrasive too.

Here I first offered the plane blade to the wood so that I could check for the alignment of the blade to the sole. You can see that the blade takes a deeper cut on the right.


I now take the plane and place it carefully on the abrasive plate, in this case diamonds, and swivel it lightly on the surface.


The goal is to provide a registration face to the underside of the cutter, just to use the light from abraded steel to act as a guide and not so much to reshape it unless it has been badly shaped before. As soon as the iron traces the abrasive, lift it from the surface and look at the underside of the cutter. A white line should appear on the cutter right by the cutting edge. If the line is narrow and parallel, the cutter is aligned well and presented correctly and all further sharpening and remedial work can be carried out. Notice in the picture above that the white lines of abraded metal reflect out of squareness in two directions. The actual cutting edge and the new minor bevel we created. This means that somewhere between these two lines is the square across point we want to abrade to.


Placing the underside on the abrasive will now flatten the surface dead flat and this can be polished out to say 800-grit.


Now it’s looking square.


Once this is done you must work on the top bevel only and it will not usually be necessary to work on the underside ever again. The top bevel is always awkward but holding the blade sideways and rubbing the bevel along the abrasive plate now refines the bevel and you can sharpen to any level you prefer. DSC_0032Most router work can be finished at 800-grit even for the finest work.


Testing out after this work is simply a question of working it on the surface if the wood.


Adjustment by adjusters and tap tapping

With regards to mechanical adjusters, it is always assumed that improved engineering and mechanical adjusters improved our lot, but more and more my experience has proven this not be true.

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Mechanical threads do ease adjustment but pinched adjustment on some more primitive routers work just fine too.


You can pinch to a thou easily and in actuality I find they are equal to more elaborate routers.

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The router referred to disparagingly as the ‘old woman’s tooth’ or ‘hag’s tooth’ is a router that houses a plough plane iron instead of a purpose made shoe-type cutting iron. Above is the one I first used as an apprentice and through my journeyman years. They work fine but rarely give the type of clean surface we might want for veneer inlay and so on. These are adjusted by the same hammer-tap tapping method used generally on wooden-bodied planes on the iron or plane body. These too are effective and practical in general carpentry and joinery.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Added Schematic Drawing for Stanley #71 Router

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:01pm

Both modern-day makers of the router plane, Veritas and Lie Nielsen, sized their planes to the same or similar footprint of the Stanley  #71 and Record 071 plane. Both makers omitted including the depth rod accessory and adjustable shoe for attaching to the arched front of the plane as in the early make of the plane prior to 1900. Obviously the original maker felt that there was an important enough need for this in the improved model so you may want to consider this when you are looking for a hand router. I have used both types without problems but I do like the depth gauge rod for different applications from time to time and also the ability to use the adjustable shoe for the edges of boards and such. Lie Nielsen offers a flat soled router plane and the split soled model emulating the Stanley version of the 71, but of course this means buying two models. Its easier to add the wooden sole and of course costs almost nothing whichever plane or maker type you buy. Having said that, there isn’t provision for screwing a wooden sole to the plane but I surmise that you could use the slot used for adjusting the fence. I would use cheese- or dome-head setscrews and thread the wooden board to do this.

The repeat of the text from the Stanley #71 Router pamphlet from my previous blog yesterday is added because I reproduced a drawing with keys to identify the components parts to the plane.

Stanley router plane No 71

For surfacing the bottom of grooves or other depressions parallel to the surface of the work. There are many applications in pattern making, cabinet work and in fact almost all kinds if woodworking that call for these tools.They are particularly practical for routing dadoes for shelves, stair stringers or where pieces of hardware are to be recessed into the surface or edge of a board, such as large hinges or lock strikes, etc. It is not possible to show all these, but the user will discover places where the tools will prove their value.

CUTTERS-Cutters are made of high grade quality steel and are hardened and tempered. The shanks of the cutters are graduated in 1/16ths for 1″ which makes it possible to reverser for duplicate work and for approximate depth adjustments. Three cutters (N) are furnished, 1/4″ and 1/2″ router cutters and a (3 piece) “V” or smoothing cutter. Cutters are adjustable and depending on type of work can be held on front and back of cutter post (D) by means of clamp (H) and clamp thumbscrew (G).

VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT OF CUTTERS-To adjust cutter to desired depth, loosen thumbscrew  (G), turn adjusting screw nut (B) up or down on adjusting screw (C), and tighten thumbscrew.

SHOE-A shoe (F) for closing the throat is provided for use on narrow work if a closed throat is practical and is fastened to depth gauge rod (A) by means of the shoe thumbscrew (E).

DEPTH GAUGE ROD-This rod (A), fastened by means of thumbscrew (O), may be used to control the depth of each cut, preventing the cutter from taking an excessive cut which would be inconvenient. For example, a cut 1/16″ deep can be cut repeatedly while still allowing the cutter to be set for the final depth of cut. One end of the rod is of small diameter for following in a small groove.

FENCE-An adjustable fence (L) is provided for use where the cutter is to run parallel to an edge. One side of the fence is designed for straight work while the other side is for curved work. Fence may be fastened to either left or right side of working face of plane bottom (K) by means of fence fastening screw and washer (M).

KNOB-The two hardwood knobs (J) are fastened to plane bottom by means of knob bolt and nut (I).

Schematic of Stanley #71 Router plane.


Router plane on wide housing.


The photo shows how to rout openings wider than the plane bottom (should read wider than half the plane bottom). The attachment of a flat board to the plane bottom is the simplest way to span large openings. The plane bottom is provided with screw holes for attaching such boards as necessary.


Here is shown a common job in home construction where this plane can be used – routing the stringer for the step and riser of a staircase. The other pictures show a stopped dado and a routed shape for an inset.

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The post Added Schematic Drawing for Stanley #71 Router appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Unpacking the #71 Router – Last Post Part III

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:54pm

DSC_0128 - Version 3Unpacking the hand router is always a favourite of mine because the tool is one of the most essential tools in hand tool woodworking. Routing recesses and levelling the reception areas for inlays can be almost impossible without them and they far exceed recessing with power routers when it comes to personal and project safety. Let’s plummet the depths a little more at the attributes of the #71 (same as Record #071) hand router developed by Stanley Tool and Level in the last two decades of the 1800s.DSC_0129

Today I worked to give better examples of the tool in use, to show a little more of its substantial merit in the trade for nigh on 130 years. Running the two makers, Stanley and Record (of old), side by side you quickly see that these tools are essentially the same and even some of the parts are interchangeable between the makers. Not all the threads on the set and thumbscrews are the same so watch for that if you are buying to add to an opposite maker.

DSC_0079Chiseling out recesses becomes very accurate with a hand router and of course it’s as fast if not faster than setting up power routers for most operations outside of making a thousand.

In this situation I use the router on the wooden base board to to delineate the depth for a hinge recess.

DSC_0061By using the flap of the hinge as the definitive depth directly to the router blade I can get pin point accuracy right from the start. DSC_0067I then mark the depth directly onto the wood in between the width lines that show the position of the hinge.



After that I chisel the knife wall at the hinge width to deepen the walls and then adjust the depth of cut in the router to remove the waste in incremental depths of about 1mm (almost but not quite 1/32”).

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The recess is ultra smooth and within one thou of an exact overall depth. Translate this into inlay recesses and you start to understand the real value (and safety) in using the hand router and with the wooden sole attached it feels the same advantage all wooden planes have over all metal ones but with the added micro adjustment that makes the work dead-on accurate. Above you can see the steps in hinge recessing with the router.

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I created a double-depth recess on this one within four knife walls and then a hardware recess of the type you might use for extra support for strength.


Chiseling the bulk of the waste saves too much setting and resetting and gets you to final depth very quickly.

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The original Stanley Tool pamphlet that came in the box with the tool is given lastly below, but I added ital and colour for clarity between my work and Stanley. You can work out the parts by the visual look at the pictures. In the pamphlet Stanley have coded the text with Capped letters.

In my last blog on this I talked of the spanning of areas wider than half the plane worth to rout out wider indentations that would otherwise be more difficult. If the cutting iron is well prepped the surface recessed will be as smooth as a planed surface.


For tenons the hand router beats even the shoulder plane for accuracy and smoothness.

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Here you can see the exactness of the surfaces and the alignment with the gauge lines. I have been making a table alongside the class today and all of my tenons look like the one shown and all are interchangeable with the same tightness of fit.


Here is a feature not to obvious at first. Using the back our outboard face of the blade mount gives more access into otherwise inaccessible areas bullnose fashion as in this recess were it up against another board.

Wording from the original Stanley pamphlet accompanying the #71 router plane:

Stanley Router Plane No 71

For surfacing the bottom of grooves or other depressions parallel to the surface of the work. There are many applications in pattern making, cabinet work and in fact almost all kinds if woodworking that call for these tools.They are particularly practical for routing dadoes for shelves, stair stringers or where pieces of hardware are to be recessed into the surface or edge of a board, such as large hinges or lock strikes, etc. It is not possible to show all these, but the user will discover places where the tools will prove their value.

CUTTERS-Cutters are made of high grade quality steel and are hardened and tempered. The shanks of the cutters are graduated in 1/16ths for 1″ which makes it possible to reverser for duplicate work and for approximate depth adjustments. Three cutters (N) are furnished, 1/4″ and 1/2″ router cutters and a (3 piece) “V” or smoothing cutter. Cutters are adjustable and depending on type of work can be held on front and back of cutter post (D) by means of clamp (H) and clamp thumbscrew (G).

VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT OF CUTTERS-To adjust cutter to desired depth, loosen thumbscrew  (G), turn adjusting screw nut (B) up or down on adjusting screw (C), and tighten thumbscrew.

SHOE-A shoe (F) for closing the throat is provided for use on narrow work if a closed throat is practical and is fastened to depth gauge rod (A) by means of the shoe thumbscrew (E).

DEPTH GAUGE ROD-This rod (A), fastened by means of thumbscrew (O), may be used to control the depth of each cut, preventing the cutter from taking an excessive cut which would be inconvenient. For example, a cut 1/16″ deep can be cut repeatedly while still allowing the cutter to be set for the final depth of cut. One end of the rod is of small diameter for following in a small groove.

FENCE-An adjustable fence (L) is provided for use where the cutter is to run parallel to an edge. One side of the fence is designed for straight work while the other side is for curved work. Fence may be fastened to either left or right side of working face of plane bottom (K) by means of fence fastening screw and washer (M).

KNOB-The two hardwood knobs (J) are fastened to plane bottom by means of knob bolt and nut (I).

Drawing of schematic of plane here.

Drawing of plane on wide housing here.

The illustration shows how to rout openings wider than the plane bottom (should read wider than half the plane bottom). The attachment of a flat board to the plane bottom is the simplest way to span large openings. The plane bottom is provided with screw holes for attaching such boards as necessary.

Drawing of options for use, plane and plane parts and assembled plane here.

Here is shown a common job in home construction where this plane can be used – routing the stringer for the step and riser of a staircase. The other piece shows a stopped dado and a routed shape for an inset.

The post Unpacking the #71 Router – Last Post Part III appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Aldi UK Has 4-Set Chisels in Stock

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:15am

The now famous four-piece Aldi chisels are in stock and made to the usual standard with wooden handles. Usually they sell out in a few days but you won’t regret having a set or two of these chisels in your chisel collection of users. Still selling for just under £8 (per set not per chisel) you have a lifetime chisel set that will serve you for years to come. We have used over a hundred of the snow for five years and never broken one. They take and hold a keen edge which cannot be said for some of the high end makers these days. 8mm (5/16″), 12mm (1/2″), 18mm (11/16″) and 24mm (15/16″).

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Categories: Hand Tools

More on Router Planes – Part II

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 1:36pm

Part II

DSC_0128The 071 or 71 router plane has several uses but the primary use of this specialised plane is to guarantee the depth of different types of recesses. It’s the essential tool of hand tool users and surface trims just about everything from inlay recesses to housing dadoes and levelling depths of sliding dovetails and the cheeks of tenons.

The tool comes with additional accoutrements as you can see above, enabling different functions for the plane’s use. DSC_0095The fence fits to the underside of the plane and is two-ended. One end of the fence piece gives a parallel squarely rectangular edge to the fence and the opposite side end a two-point contact fence that facilities turns on the edge of curved work. The fence is adjustable and locks into two square grooves running each side of the blade along the sole. DSC_0106Loosening and tightening the setscrew into the sole secures the fence for use. It’s best to use the fence when running the blade along a narrower recesses to keep the plane square and parallel to the wall of the work if necessary.DSC_0089

Because of a horseshoe shape in the sole that splits most of the forepart of the sole into two halves the plane sole is effectively useless on narrow sections of wood. On such narrow work, with no fore part before the blade, running grooves trips the plane forward because there is nothing to stop the plane from tilting in the direction of the cut when the cutting edge of the blade grabs the wood. Stanley developed an additional unit that locks a post stem into the body of the plane which then holds a shoe to align an auxiliary section level with the sole to fill in the gap between two halves of the sole.


This piece then rides the edge of the board along with the flat of the rear of the plane. DSC_0093In addition, the depth rod that holds the shoe can be used alone inside a groove to align the blade and prevent the cutter from digging into the walls whilst at the same time restraining the plane from digging any deeper than  fractional increments. This effectively works as an additional sole depth guide for grooved work and the rod itself has two diameters, one for wider grooves and one for narrow ones.DSC_0085

We often use both the fence and the depth rod and shoe in conduction with one another to ensure accuracy in the work. The depth rod used alone can follow the rim of inlay recesses to guide the narrow cutter or the smoothing cutter around shaped work too.

Adding a Wooden Sole

It’s quite common to add a wooden sole for general work because sometimes the metal sole on wood tends to mare the surface of the material being worked. DSC_0127Wood on wood works best and makes the sole smooth and free of fence grooves, screw holes and so on that tend to grab shavings that can further mar the surface of the work too. When working wide recess areas, wider than half the plane sole width, we use an auxiliary sole to extend the base so that the router plane can traverse the surface area and be used to trim the recess perfectly to depth. Making an additional sole piece also enables us to use the plane without the additional shoe on narrower work (Pic above). The plane operates more smoothly with the wooden sole.


To make the wooden sole choose section of wood  12mm (1/2”) thick and to a size that suits the task in hand. DSC_0112Bore two holes 1” in diameter  38mm (1 1/2”) on centre and remove the excess with a rasp or chisel.


Screw the base to the sole of the plane by passing screws through the sole into the base piece.

Sometimes, often, router planes bought secondhand have lost the parts you need to have the plane fully functioning. Adding the wooden sole means you can also screw fences or guides to the sole. This also works well.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – What Are Pointed Blades for on Router Planes

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:25pm


Hi Paul,

I have a question. I noticed when you use your hand router, from what I’ve seen anyway, you’ve always used a cutter with a square cutting edge. Some router cutters come to a more pointed edge and I wondered why you don’t use those? And what are they used for? Wouldn’t using one with a pointed edge be a bit risky when finishing off like a housing dado because I figured the edge could cut into the walls of the joint. I don’t know why I was curious about this but I was. Felt like one of those if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it things to me, but I figured there must be at least one situation where maybe a pointed cutter was better.

DSC_0229Winter May


At first glance this might look much more specialised than it really is and though it might be handy, it’s not necessarily essential.

DSC_0217The cutter is what was described as the smoothing cutter in the original Stanley leaflet accompanying the plane back in the 50s and 60s. Two things manage the cutter in the wood; one, the spear point bevels to each side of the centre of the cutter effectively bring the underside of the cutting edge to a level cut and so offset the relief angle of the underside of the cutter. This means that the two cutting edges are levelly present along the cutting edge in relation to the surface of the wood and so smooths the level evenly.


The angles presentation either side of the centre of the spearpoint also provide a sheer cut to the cutting edges and by manipulating the plane to the grain encountered the user can effectively gain optimal advantage in just about any grain.


The end result is a level and smooth cut, which effectively improves on the cut provided by the square edged cutters and is ideal in some situations such as inlays for instance.

Generally 95% of work comes from the square edged cutters satisfactorily and so it’s not necessary to install a spear point.


Visually considering the appearance of the cutter it does look as though in actual use the spear point might dig in to the walls or surface being refined but that is not the way at all.


The drawings below show the diamond point and the angled presentation of the cutter to the housing dado or work surface. 

DSC_0231 DSC_0230

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Categories: Hand Tools

New Series On woodworkingmasterclasses Starts Today

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:38am

DSC_0176Just so you know. We start the new series on making the table I blogged on last night and have mentioned over the past few weeks. I think it really unpacks the past methods of this make and that it introduces methods so very viable today for today’s enthusiasts for real woodworking.

Got to woodworkingmasterclasses.com and enjoy!

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Categories: Hand Tools

A Mixed Day of Bench Banter and Creativity

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 2:30pm

DSC_0148The greatest progress often comes in the face of adversity and without pressure we cannot grow. I demonstrate the steps that need my input to pave the way for everyone as they progress into realms of becoming skilled and I see things I see as growth when others think that have stayed the same. Now the students go to the tools and work the wood with much less conscious effort even though they have uncertainty as to the outcome. The tools, sharp and repeatedly sharpened follow simple and basic patterns yet the basics makes the all the big difference. More than that though, most of the work brings unquantifiable reward, especially when the box lid closes with its unique clunk and you step back into your space and simply stare.

DSC_0268Friendships form and breaks in silence  usually start with a joke about the intensity of concentrations beyond screens and keyboards. The difference is remarkable of course. Who could ever compare touching keys on a key board with the keys of a piano or the key sounds of planes on wood and saws separating waste from wanted wood? Of course one produces present and emerging reality and the other images of the past only. Banter creeps generously between benches and between bouts of dedicated intent to plane the wood and make the joints a tight fit. DSC_0272Phil jumps in to help throughout the day with good advice and so too John who now knows more than I do about hand tools and sharpening and restoring them for future use in Patagonia. Here John has done an exceptional job restoring yet another handsaw. DSC_0152I feel a certain pride in what we are all doing because somehow it validates what I once could only dreamed of. Making woodworkers is as much a creative process as making furniture pieces or musical instruments or canoes and boats. You must have a plan and something to work to but when I started teaching I had no patterns to really follow. When I began teaching it was because people kept asking me if they could learn from me in a class. DSC_0073For a few years I just said no every time and then one day I said OK. I would teach just one one-day class. The result wasn’t to give up making and wear fancy designer work clothes emblazoned with DeWalt and Makita or Bosch and sit on a pedestal but to keep making and add another eight hours a day to my already busy schedule as a maker. One thing that has proven itself time and time again is working with the video team to make over 250 videos to use as a teaching medium for woodworkers around the world. In spite of that I am still a maker and design my work around the added things I do. As I said, without pressure we simply do not grow and without adversity character is rarely formed. DSC_0260 DSC_0239It’s no wonder advertising companies contact us daily to ask us to ‘partner’ with them. These online advertisement companies and promoters promise to screen advertisers to make certain their product falls in line with my work online. The emails usually start out with something like, “Hi, Love your blog, really good way of addressing the issues,” blah, blah, blah. In the first sentence I can see that they didn’t actually read the blog but did do the numbers in terms of hits and page views and so on with regard to our popularity. Mostly I delete the emails and mark them as spam or trash so that we can terminate future pestering. I like our advert-free blogging protocol even though I can see that some adverts might have value.

DSC_0201 DSC_0155Today we began the third project and the intricacies of making shelving units. Of course the tools move more quickly now and the cuts hit the mark exactly. it seems an easier project but soon they will see added features I built in to add the demand and challenges I spoke of above.

DSC_0170I spent much of my time between lectures and demoes restoring the occasional table we filmed for the upcoming series that starts tomorrow. here is the preview of what you will miss if you are not a member. As I said, the students are proving more and more the amazon work we are doing through the online broadcast because they arrive with more knowledge and skills than ever before. Thats been wonderful.

DSC_0176I glued up my table after I removed all of the existing finish, glue and so on. The joints were of course all numbered and they still fit after I stripped everything off. I replaced and scraped all of the surfaces so that the wood would cosily match the one I replicated as a second table. Tomorrow they will stand side by side.

The post A Mixed Day of Bench Banter and Creativity appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Without a Challenge There is No Achievement

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:38am

DSC_0047The nine-day class starts its fourth day on track today and as usual it’s heads down and no need to crack the whip. Already I see new levels of confidence even though at times they may feel they are floundering. The chisels are held more accurately now and so too the plane cleans off the nubs of the dovetailed boxes ready for hingeing the lids. Today we start shelf building and that means stopped housing dadoes and through mortise and tenons.

DSC_0073 DSC_0008 DSC_0098

I see more and more the need for my work and of course some people arrive with skills and knowledge where others come to get them. All in all there is a lit to learn for both camps and those somewhere in between. Most of the time its a smooth flow throughout the day but then glitch comes and everyone learns from what happens. Dealing with high expectations is usually the biggest issue for some. DSC_0026False expectations and a microwave mentality can be difficult to shift from but when I explain that unrealism causes more distress than the real we move on and become increasingly more aware that the process brings fulfilment and not falling into the pit of wanting being approved. If you are already there then there is no achievement. Without a mountain there is no challenge. We are learning that life is indeed like wood in that it comes with knots in it.

All in all we are already making great progress and new reality is beginning for everyone. In this class we have three from the US and one from Switzerland as well as the Brits. Personalities start to show and people relax with one another a little more hour by hour. New friendships are formed and smiles come more quickly. Willie from Switzerland takes the jokes of high expectation because everyone expects his work to be as a Swiss-made watch and Steve, our retired symphony violinist, takes my suggestions of risk at the tool edge alongside my comparisons with tweaking the pressures on the strings to achieve perfect cuts with good humour too.


John made another masterful box with a sliding lid from secondhand oak and mahogany. DSC_0081 DSC_0094 DSC_0075Its very fine with 1/8” mortise and tenoned frame and panel and shaped sliding lid in quartersawn oak. We are al inspired by one another. Fires rarely burn with a single log but when two logs and then a third and fourth and more ignite and spark you start a blaze of spontaneity and inspiration.

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Categories: Hand Tools

From the Past We Can Continue Discovering the Future

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 2:12pm

DSC_0043My search for tools and equipment turns up some amazing finds and I bought this vise partly because it was inexpensive but mostly because it looked so very beautifully made from elm and steel. It’s a simple enough piece of equipment to make, but the decision was based as always on buying art made by a past craftsman. I think these things are exactly that, works of art, and that they are worth investing my time in just to see how a man worked in times past. DSC_0035An engineer made the piece and the woodwork in the form of shaped coves is gracefully executed. It’s too easy to take things for granted in countries like Britain. Common tools sell for very little; planes and tenon saws, saws of all types and of course related equipment like the vise. I think this vise was for working metal with, not wood, because of the metal plating used on the jaws and such.


See how the man inset the plate with his name in it. I think it’s nice to name your work when needed.DSC_0031

A Flotilla of Woodworking Planes

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Here is a collection of beautiful planes of rare worth and scarcely seen anywhere. DSC_0042 DSC_0193 - Version 2Two nice panel raising planes, a sash-rail plane that creates the pane divider and two sash moulding planes are part of a collection of planes used for particular work by joiners making doors and door frames and sliding sash windows. DSC_0038It is rare to find these specific planes individually placed anywhere let alone unique a collection of nine planes. Including shipping the planes came to me for about £30 each on average. They are all made by the same Scottish maker named Mathieson.DSC_0017

What we take for granted is a distant wealth of workmanship and knowledge of past times and working men and the way they did indeed worked. In ignorance tools are listed and misnamed, miscategorized and so misplaced. In ignorance we misunderstand the tool’s significance  and thereby misplace the past. The tools are beautiful working tools that saw little use in work as the age of hand work yielded to the machine age and have been stowed and kept in good conditions for decades now. Now they will begin work again. They need work, but not much, before they can perform well.

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Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut