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Sauer and Steiner

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Updated: 14 min 25 sec ago

finishing the badger plane

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 5:01am

It is a good thing I never throw anything away - especially jigs or fixtures. I do not recall how long it took me to come up with the above fixture the first time, but boy, was I ever grateful I could just grab it off the shelf this time! 

This set-up may strike terror in most machinists. It is a furniture makers approach, using furniture makers tools. Sometimes, it is a real advantage to not have any formal training. I had taken extensive photos of building the first badger plane, and used those images to double check my set-up for the second one. I was pleased that they looked almost identical when I compared them on the laptop.

The cross pin fit perfectly, but I was not out of the woods yet. Just as I was sliding the pin in, I realized I had to pien it. Now normally, piening a cross pin is pretty easy - the pin is perpendicular to the anvil. When you strike the end of the exposed pin, the other end is on the anvil, allowing the struck end to deform and fill the chamfered hole. Not so much with this plane. The pin is at a pretty severe, compound angle, so the force of piening does not transfer the same way. I modified how I piened it and it ‘felt’ and ‘looked’ like it should... but I wouldn’t really find out until the lapping was done.

The cross pin for the lever cap piened.

Needless to say, I lapped this plane as soon as I possibly could. I had to know if the lever cap pin was done correctly. Thankfully, everything came out as expected.

Even positioning the plane to file the mouth felt odd. It looked pretty weird, and I had to be very aware of the tapered shape of the inside of the front bun. I covered it in blue tape just in case. 

The finished mouth.

I am really pleased with how this plane has turned out, but my absolute favourite part is using it. Similar to a spill plane, it creates beautiful tightly coiled shavings. They spill out over the low dip in the sidewall... almost like it was made for it.

(Walnut, Rosewood and Holly)
Categories: Hand Tools

an unconventional lever cap

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:44am

It has been a while since I have made a lever cap from scratch, but given the complex geometry and really odd final shape needed for the badger plane, it was the only option. Besides, sometimes going back to your roots can be a lot of fun.

I had made several test lever caps for the first badger plane, so I was not starting totally from scratch. One of the wooden mock-ups fit the new badger plane quite well - well enough that I could use it as a pretty accurate template.

The reason I am posting these photos, is to show a process and a methodology using very simple workshop tools and woodworking techniques. Starting with a rectangular block of metal and turning it into an accurate, complex shape. I have often joked with people that metal is just a strange wood with strange properties, and this lever cap is a perfect example of that mindset.

I made a set of card stock templates from the wooden model and transferred them to the blank.

 You can see the outline of the lever cap scribed on the blank.

I am often asked why on earth I do so much of this by hand. The reason is fairly simple - I look at all the hand skills as having a cumulative effect. One skill leads to another which impacts another. Taking the time to hand cut all the dovetails for our kitchen drawers was really over the top, but it was another lesson to teach myself how to ‘feel’ when I am sawing level and sawing accurately. It is such a simple thing, but the time taken for all that work has had a tremendously positive impact in many other areas of work - including the shaping of this lever cap. I do not need a reference line on the opposite side - I don't need to stop sawing to check if I am close to the line - I just know where it is, and when it feel right. That sense is transferable to filing as well - and all sorts of other aspects to plane making and woodworking.

The outline of the lever cap, and the waste below.

It also helps to treat yourself to a brand new hacksaw blade.

I cut the outline first to waste out as much material as possible. This greatly reduced the amount of sawing for the profile. I drew the profile with a sharpie and cut some vertical kerfs,

and then started cutting the profile. Just like using a chisel to cut a small notch in a piece of wood to register a saw blade - I saw a small kerf to give me something to register against for such a shallow cut in metal. 

Taking 1/16" off the height here is way easier now that the outline has been defined. 

I only cut part of the profile so I would have more area to clamp while tapping the hole for the screw. The flat surface also gives me a reference face for checking 90 degrees.


Once the screw was fit, it was time to shape the other half of the profile. The two sharpie lines represent the two different shapes on the sides of the lever cap. They are quite different reflecting the dramatic rotation of the lever cap in the plane. 

I cut the angle of the lever cap first - again, to reduce the amount of sawing during profiling. Wasting off this angle was a more efficient way for me to work. If you click on the image, you can see another benefit of hours and hours using a hack saw - being able to saw very close to a line. This greatly reduces the amount of filing later on.

Sawing thin, tapered slices to reflect the two different side profiles and the rotation of the lever cap.

The (rough) profiled lever cap. 

At this point, the top surface of the lever cap has been fully shaped by way of files. I need the profile to be the final shape in order to accurately start fitting it into the plane.

I measured the angle on the wooden test model and transferred it to the lever cap, took a deep breath, and started sawing. With each cut, the risk increases dramatically. I did not cut exactly on the line for this cut - I left about 1/32" so I could further refine the angle during the fitting process.

The fitting process is a lot of back and forth, lots of direct lighting for clarity, and careful file work. I used a wooden hand screw in the blue vise to position the edges of the lever cap level. Positioning things level and/or plumb is always worth the extra few seconds of time, and allows you to take advantage of the muscle memory you have built up.

The screw was a little too long so I cut it down and re-shaped the tip.

A much better screw length.

The next few shots show the odd angles of the sides of the lever cap as well as the overall wedge shape. 

The lever cap fit to the plane. The next step is to drill for the cross pin, and I have to confess.... this is going to require a few antacids.  

Categories: Hand Tools

an unconventional blade assembly

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 8:31pm

Last year, I started working on a plane that I honestly did not think I would ever have the chance to make again. I was thrilled when I was asked, and have been psyching myself up for it. It is by far, the most complicated plane I have ever made. Another badger plane.

The photo above shows the ‘revised’ blade. 

The sides of the blade needed to be ground to 15 degrees to allow it to rest properly against the edge of the tapered sidewall. I re-ground the edges on the grinder shown above, and re-ground the bevel on the other wheel of the grinder.

Getting close to establishing the new bevel. 

Once the blade was re-ground, it was time to start working on the cap iron. I decided the easiest way to do this was to install the cap iron and use the blade as a visual guide for cutting the sides off. Having the blade in place was a great visual cue for the correct angle and it also kept me on my toes! 

In order for the blade to ‘fit’ in the plane, the inside of the sidewall needed to be filed to allow the blade to exit to the outside corner of the plane. On the first badger plane, I relived the corner of the cap iron so I did not need to thin out the sidewall any more than I needed to. I did the same thing on this second badger plane. you can see the sliver of steel being cut off in the photo above.

Here are the re-ground blade and re-shaped cap iron. 

 After rounding over the front edge of the cap iron, I draw file it to further refine the surface. There is a noticeable change to the surface texture of this area - from coarse ‘push’ strokes, to very smooth draw filed strokes. A little sandpaper wrapped around a block and it is all polished up.

Here is a shot of the business end of the blade and cap iron assembly. You can see the 15 degree angle on both sides of the blade as well as the relieved corner of the cap iron (on the left side). 


The blade assembly in position. Next step... the lever cap.

I should mention that I have dipped my toe into social media. Instagram to be specific. And it is not really like dipping your toe... more like grabbing onto that large knotted rope tied to the tree at the lake and swinging... without really knowing what you are in for. Things really clicked for me when I started thinking about Instagram as a short form version of a blog.  And a blog, this blog, as the long form version. I am finding myself thinking about both formats quite a bit, and should be able to use one to help the other and visa versa. I have posted a few photos on Instagram about the badger plane, but this is a better format for a step by step process and for more in-depth information. At least, that is how I am approaching it now.

Categories: Hand Tools

Last plane of 2015 - and a few others

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 8:29pm

The last post was about using texture to help file the mouth on a K18 - here are some photos of that finished plane. This was the last plane of 2015 and is a sibling for an earlier K9 and K13. It was the perfect way to end my year. All three planes came from the same piece of unidentified Rosewood.


The next plane is a Desert Ironwood filled K7. I have done a 180 with regards to sapwood - at least with Desert Ironwood. I am a little surprised actually - I can recall making a fair amount of noise about not liking sapwood on planes... but there is something about the coloration, texture and grain of Desert Ironwood that turned me around. I guess this dog is still learning a few things.

A Honduran Rosewood filled K13. This set is a match to my own K18. It is always interesting to be able to work with specific pieces of wood again. There were several points where things felt very familiar - when I was shaping the handle and the front pad on this plane. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken a photo of it next to my K18.

And last, but certainly not least, is another Desert Ironwood filled plane. This one is a No.4 smoother with a 2" wide blade and bronze sides.

Maybe part of the attraction of working with Desert Ironwood is the randomness of it - and the many happy surprises that happen along the way. When I roughed out the infill set for this No.4, I had no idea how the sapwood and heartwood would interact together, but when I sliced off the front of the bun on the bandsaw and saw the little island of heartwood... I was elated. I was so careful about not removing too much material so the island would be lost.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks to you all for the continued support.

Categories: Hand Tools

A tip for filing a plane mouth - surface texture

Sun, 12/13/2015 - 6:48pm

One of the best reasons to teach, is that it forces you to really think about how you actually do things. This seems obvious, but there have been several times where I have been caught saying one thing, but actually doing something very different when I demonstrate it. I try to remind myself of this as often as I can, and the other day, I realized that a previous blog post was missing a pretty important element - surface texture. Several years ago (I think), I wrote about filing the mouth on a plane but omitted this aspect. So here is the updated version which more accurately reflects what I am actually doing:)

I recently finished lapping a K18 and the next step was to file the mouth. I had fully tuned the blade - flattened the back (no back bevel), and honed the bevel. When I make a plane, the mouth opening is too small for the blade to pass, so I have to file the mouth open to allow the plane to take a shaving. When you are trying to achieve a mouth opening in the 0.006" range, you need a fully tuned blade in order to work accurately. I also know full well that the perfect edge will be damaged during the process, but such is life... and on the plus side - you get pretty good at sharpening!

The shot above shows the set-up. Pretty simple - the plane inverted in a machinists vise with leather lined jaws. There is also a leather pad underneath it to keep the front of the plane from being damaged. 

Here I am scribing a line to file to. In truth, it is not a hard line to file to, but more as a point of reference for filing. It always takes a few strokes to get the muscle memory back for this type of fine work. I use an 8", single cut mill bastard to start with.

I file at 90 degrees to the sole.

If you click on the photo above, you can see the effects of a single file stroke. The texture and therefore the color of the filed area has changed. This gives me a fantastic visual reference for where I have already removed steel. I file across the entire mouth opening, keeping an eye on the scribe line and watching the texture change.

Once I have filed to the scribe line, I will use a No.0 file to draw file - sliding the file side to side instead of a forward push stroke. This once again changes the surface texture and color so you can see where you have filed and where you still need to work. I am only draw filing the 90 degree area I have just filed. A No.0 file is so fine that there is little risk of taking off significant material and affecting the size of the mouth opening. In the photo above, you can see that I had draw filed about half of the leading edge of the mouth opening - the shiny area as opposed to the dull grey area.

This next photo (above) shows the entire mouth edge after draw filing.

Once the draw filing of the mouth edge is done, it is time to file a bevel to reduce the size of the perpendicular surface (the shiny part). I return to the 8" single cut file for more aggressive filing. The photo above shows the file held at an angle, and the photo below shows the change in texture and color of about three quarters of the bevel. Click on the image for a larger view where you can see the shoulder where the filing stopped.

I am careful not to remove the entire shiny, draw filed surface. I want to keep an area perpendicular to the sole that is about 0.015" wide.

After the bevel has been filed, I go back to the No.0 and draw file the bevel to make the texture and color consistent again.

At this point, I re-install the blade - keeping it back from the leading edge of the mouth, and lap the sole on my surface plate. I gently lower the blade to see if it passes through the mouth opening or if I have more filing to do. If there is more filing, I return to the first stage and repeat the process.

There is usually a stage where the blade is really close to passing through, or one side passes through but not across the width. Or sometimes passes through, but is too tight to be useful (a 0.001" mouth for example). If the blade passes but is too fine, I will not proceed with the 8" single cut file, but will use a 1" wide, No.0 file so I am removing very little steel with each stroke. I will still draw file with the narrow No.0 and go through all the stages, but I will not use something as aggressive as the 8" single cut file.

I use surface texture as a point of reference for lots of other shop tasks.  When honing bevels on a plane iron for example. The change in texture and color tells me how far the camber goes towards the center of the blade. I also use it when shaping wood and metal - introducing deliberate texture in a single direction so the next file or rasp will alter the texture telling me where I have worked. This is especially useful when shaping round or curved work. Sometimes you don’t even need to change the file or rasp - simply maintain a single direction of cut over an area and then change direction to see where you are. These textures can become quite complicated, but with some practice, can be used as a road map as you work and eliminate a lot of guess work, and ultimately, reduce the chance of disaster.

Categories: Hand Tools