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Brese Plane

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Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

Yet Another Equipment Upgrade

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 5:46pm
I've been meaning to change to a more appropriate metal cutting bandsaw for quite some time now. The one I've been using is actually a horizontal bandsaw that I use in the vertical position. Frankly some of the processes I used it for were similar to driving a finishing nail with a sledge hammer. Now you know what I mean when using the above term "appropriate".

The problem was finding the correct replacement saw. I've know for some time that what I wanted was a very robust saw with a small throat dimension. There was a bandsaw made in Racine Wisconsin years ago that I thought would work but those saws are few and far between.

Assorted bandsaw parts and one rusty table

The other saws that I thought might meet the criteria were the Powermatic 141/143 bandsaws. The 141 is the woodworking version of this saw and the 143 is the wood/metal version of this saw. The difference being the 143 has a gear box for reducing the speed of the blade.

When you begin to look for one of these Powermatic saws it becomes immediately apparent that the 143 with the gear box is priced significantly higher than the 141 wood cutting saw. On average the difference in price was about $1000. Must be some kind of great gear box huh?

I finally resolved myself to look for a 141 saw with the idea of replacing the motor and drive system with a new C face motor that I would bolt up to a speed reducing gear box. These parts are available off the shelf and the drive transition wouldn't be very complicated.

Here's the saw as I received it from the prior owner
 I put an ad in the "Boyd" forum of the OWWM site stating that I wanted to buy a PM 141 bandsaw. I got a reply from a gentleman that stated he did not have a 141 but he did have a 143 he would be willing to sell. At first I thought I was right back where I started from until he told me the price for the 143. It was reasonable and quite fair and so I agreed to purchase his saw.

I organized all the parts into subassemblies and kept all the related parts together in boxes. As I dis-assembled the saw I also made a list of hardware I would need to re-assemble the saw. Upgrading the hardware on a machine restoration of this type is a sure fire way to enhance the overall look and quality of the machine when completed. I used button socket head screws with the black chrome finish applied the same way I finished the hardware on my PM 90 lathe.

The $1000 gearbox
  Most bandsaws of this size have a casting that consist of a the bottom drive area of the saw with an arm extending up and over the table. The entire back facade of these little Powermatic saws are one very robust webbed casting.

This saw first resided in the Bay area school system shop. This is the area around Panama City, Fla. I guess when the school closed down the shop all the machines were stored in a non climate controlled area. High humidity and salty air are not good for machines. I have no idea why every tool that comes from a school shop has been painted and for some reason the accessories are always missing. No rip fence or miter gauge was included. This saw must have been in a corner when it was painted because it only seemed to be painted on the sides that were easy to access.

Besides the rust this saw was full of sawdust and some kind of strange white residue that looked like it might have been the dust from sawing some form of plastic or other man made material. When I broke the saw down to fit in the back of the car the oil from the gearbox spilled and combined with the saw dust and the mystery material that was in just about every nook and cranny of the saw cavity. I'm glad I laid down 3 layers of poly film in the car beforehand. Fortunately all the functional stuff like bearings and tires seem to be in good shape. That certainly helped to speed up the restoration.

My original plan was to just set the saw up and run it as it was for a while so as not to upset the schedule of work I had planned for the shop. The more I thought about this and the oil soaked material that was in the saw I really feared that sparks from metal cutting might well set this saw on fire. I didn't really want to be that guy that had a saw and a good bit of his shop burn up right in front on him, so before I took the other saw out of service I set about dis-assembling this saw. The next two weeks I spent evenings and weekends restoring this saw.

This saw is built around the main casting so it needed attention first. I cleaned the interior of the casting and was surprised to find sand in some of the corners from when this piece was cast. In lieu of removing the sand it was just painted right over when this saw was manufactured. I first painted the edges of the casting and then painted the interior the contrasting black color. Of course I removed all the lingering sand.

The result of my efforts

 The rusty table now has the nice gray patina that is left when the rust is sanded away and the newly exposed surface is waxed.

All the under parts or basically any parts that reside in the shadows in this saw were painted satin black. The other parts were painted Rustoleum Sage Green. Parts that were not painted were finished with cold gun bluing, then waxed and polished.

I left the wheels the original gold color. It's a nice contrast when you open the wheel covers/guards.

So far this saw is doing it's job quite well. Cutting metal requires more feed pressure as compared to cutting wood and being able to use the leverage of my body weight makes applying the feed pressure much easier. That makes for less toll on my arms and shoulders.

If you frequent the OWWM forum you may know that these saws are sometimes referred to as the "Gumby" saws. If you look at the pic of the Gumby action figure below it's easy to see why. 

Gumby with his sidekick Pokey

My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

Categories: Hand Tools

Wille Davis Winter Smoother #2

Sat, 02/14/2015 - 8:08am
Metals and woods that contrast with one another create an eye catching plane. But metals and woods that compliment each other can create the same effect.

I've recently finish the second Winter Smoothing plane made in the Willie Davis style and it's actually quite similar to the first even though as you'll see no two pieces of olive wood are very similar to each other. In fact there is a large variation in color and figure in this wood and frankly it's important to get the knob and the tote from the same blank in order to have any hopes of them having a similar look. I typically turn the knob end grain so that in and of itself is going to create a different appearance as compared to many of the face grain surfaces of the tote.

The piece of olive that produced this knob and tote had a large degree of color variegation, probably the most I've observed in any piece of olive yet. It's these kind of characteristics that make each plane unique.

I've taken to applying True Oil to all brass parts. I started this process on brass pieces that had the aged patina finish applied to them, as a way to preserved the finish. What I've found is that it's a great process for reducing the maintenance on brass, especially if you're of a mindset to keep the brass bright. The oil enhances the color of the brass and gives it more of a slightly aged gold appearance. With two thorough coats of oil well cured the brass can be handled without the bother of feeling as if you need to re-brighten the brass after every handling that leaves finger prints and the like.

It may be practical to try turning knobs face grain in some of the denser woods. At the least it will probably yield an interesting look.

I'm also very curious to see how this plane will look with a very contrasting color wood like Macassar or Gabon Ebony. Whereas the olive actually compliments and works harmoniously with the oiled brass, either of the ebonies will be in staunch contrast. As I've stated before the different colors and finishes combined yield different results and it's one of the things that keep this work fresh and interesting, that and the feel of a gossamer shaving rising up out the mouth of the plane with very minimal effort. That's always the best reward at the completion of any plane. Look coupled with function......yes, I love my job.


The problem with me taking time off or going on vacation is that “I don’t do nothing well”,

 Ron Brese

Categories: Hand Tools

Right in Your Own Backyard

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 6:55pm

When people look into traveling to see great feats of nature and wonderful accomplishments of mankind it's often suggested to make sure you see what's in your own background before you embark to points elsewhere. Lately I've found that is sound advice and have recently made a discovery very near to where I live that truly amazed me.

I live outside of Thomaston, Ga in Upson county. Where Upson county borders Meriwether county there has for quite a long time resided Camp Thunder Boy Scout camp. I can remember my brother spending weeks at Camp Thunder when I was still too young for scouting. A week during the summer spent at Camp Thunder was a rite of passage for young boys in our area.

Over the decades the facilities at Camp Thunder deteriorated and the place was in a state of disrepair. Fortunately some men hold their years as Boy Scouts as a very formative time and even as adults are proud of their time as Boy Scouts. Obviously Gerald Lawhorn was one of those men. He made his fortune with a chain of gas stations called Petro South and the endowment he gave Camp Thunder has transformed the camp.

I had no clue that a majestic and beautiful oak timber frame structure stood 21 miles from my house. This structure and some other smaller oak timber frame pavilions were constructed as part of the camp upgrade funded by Gerald Lawhorn. The camp is now called the "Gerald Lawhorn Canoe Center at Camp Thunder Boy Scout Camp".

There is also an array of large scale rocking chairs that allow you to rest yourself and marvel at the construction of the structure as you rock.

The structure is decked with tongue and groove 2 x pine to which a slate roof is attached.

There is also a monument at this site that states the ideals of the Boy Scout organization complete with bronze eagle.

This is only a small portion of a most grand playground that is located at this site.

And when you've thoroughly explored the Timber Frame pavilion and the playground you can then take a hike along the Flint river that flows just about 50 yards behind the pavilion.

As you can see this is an almost magical place for kids. My grandchildren loved this place.

Camp Thunder is actually located in Molena, Ga. for those looking to find this location on Google maps or by GPS.


Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.

Categories: Hand Tools

Desert Iron Wood, Unique Material

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 7:15am
Desert Iron wood has the highest specific gravity of any wood that I use whether it be for plane making or otherwise. In the wood data base it is listed as 1.21 specific gravity. If you compare it to Macassar Ebony at 1.01 specific gravity you would think it would be even harder.

The working characteristics are considerably different and in my experience the Macassar Ebony actually seems harder. I first imagined that Desert Iron wood might be particularly hard on the edges of chisels but actually this material gets out of the way of a chisel pretty well, however when trying to chisel in a tight inside corner it has a bad habit of fracturing.

By and large the working characteristics of this material are much different that I had originally thought. The initial whittling with a chisel to excavate material prior to the beginning of the rasping process goes quite well, easier than I had imagined. Rasping can tend to tear the grain and a coarse rasp needs to be followed by a finer tool.

This material is very abrasion resistant. Sanding this material can take up to 3 times longer than any other material I use in plane making.

The grain structure is very unusual which probably explains the tendency to fracture and is just a bit coarser than most dense woods.

Polishing this wood was certainly a learning experience. When applying a shellac polish you certainly will need to apply a couple coats of finish dedicated to filling the pores, otherwise the unique texture of the grain will show prominently.

As much trouble as this wood is to work and finish properly you are rewarded for your efforts in the end. Nothing looks quite like this material. When polished to a high level some pieces remind me of looking into a sunset. Within the same piece it's quite varied and interesting. You see something different everywhere you look.

In other words it's quite a worthwhile pursuit,


"The difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person knows what to say and a wise person knows whether or not to say it." 

Categories: Hand Tools

by Dr. Radut