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Sauer and Steiner

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Konradnoreply@blogger.comBlogger199125
Updated: 2 hours 24 min ago

An afternoon ‘ah-ha‘ moment

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 5:03am
When Joe and I started making planes in 2000, we often commented that we needed a bell or horn to sound whenever we had an ‘ah-ha’ moment about plane making. The bell would have gone off every 30 minutes that first year - there were countless ‘ah-ha’ moments. Changing a process, an order of operation, a 180 degree about face or rethinking about how we were doing something. It was both terrifying and exhilarating to be learning at such a fast pace.

Sadly, there are not nearly as many ‘ah-ha’ moments these days... but I had a little one today.




I am not exactly sure where I got my ball pien hammer, but I do know that I have had it since the beginning. I tried several different ones; long handles, short handles and of course, different weights. The one I settled on is a little heavier than most people would likely use (the old adage of ‘Get a bigger hammer’ does not apply to piening a handplane together!). The head has come loose several times and it is currently wedged with a boxwood off-cut (Riley fixed our camping axe with a Rosewood wedge).




This hammer has become an extension of my hand- I know just where to hold it for various piening tasks and adjust my grip without even thinking about it. I know when to rotate my wrist a bit to direct the blows exactly where they are needed. It would be a very dark day if anything ever happened to it. A year or so ago I realized that the handle had a noticeable curve to it - not sure if I did that or if it came that way... might be a lefty thing.

The ball end has always been highly polished, but there was a fairly deep off centre pit which showed up from time to time on the piened surface. For some very odd reason, that pit annoyed me today so I did something about it right in the middle of piening a K13 shell. I went over to my disc sander and re-shaped the ball and went back to work. No more pit marks, but something had changed. It took piening a few dovetails to realize what it was. The surface of the dovetail was different but more importantly (and alarmingly), I was not able to see the precise location of the piening strike as I was making them. I have very good natural side light in the shop but the strikes were not nearly as clear as I was used to. I have always relied very heavily on light (natural or artificial) for feedback and this experience reiterated this fact. I stopped piening and looked at the end of the ball. It was no longer  polished, so I got out some sandpaper to re-polished it.




It only took a few minutes, and after the first 2 or 3 strikes I was back in business - much clearer piening strikes and the surface finish I was used to.

I am going to assume that this is common knowledge for blacksmiths - keep your hammers polished to aid in locating the hammer blows, but since I have no formal blacksmith training (nor planemaking for that matter!) this was a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. 

The photo below shows the difference between the two.  The freshly disc sanded ball pien blows on the left dovetail and the re-polished ball pien blows on the right dovetail. Click on the image for a larger view - the difference between the two should be very clear.




On another note, I want to thank all the Porsche loving people who wrote to talk about their 911’s, 356’s or their love of Porsche in general. It was great to make another connection. Sadly, the 356 has been returned to its owner, but Moe (who works at the shop) tells me a 911 will be coming in shortly - I can’t wait to see it!

And I may as well toss this out there too... if anyone has, or knows of a 1971 (my birth year) 911 that is for sale please let me know. I could make a heck of a lot of planes... just sayin :)

It does not need to be restored at all, in fact, I would like to take it on as a bit of a restoration project... now that I know how a ball pien hammer is supposed to look. 



Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut