Bevel-Up Wooden Plane How-To

Here’s a great way to make a bevel-up wooden plane! This how-to article by Jacques Breau, available at Canadian Woodworking Magazine’s website, is well-written, with clear illustrations and excellent photos.

The blade specified in the article is HOCK TOOLS’ #PL200, which normally comes with a breaker. In this application the breaker is not used so we’ll be happy to sell the blade without the breaker at a $10 discount if you specify “no breaker” in the comments box when you check out. (The blade will have a slot for the breaker but you’ll just ignore it.)

If you ever wanted to make a wooden plane, Jacques’ article offers an easy path to success. For a quick-paced, only moderately challenging, and very satisfying experience, this plane build is definitely worth a try!

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The Essential Sharpening Collection

One of the Essentials!

One of the Essentials!

There is a real bargain to be had over at Popular Woodworking’s Shop Woodworking store. It’s a package deal with eight of the best resources available to improve your sharpening game. They’ve included an everyone-should-have side-clamping honing guide along with Christopher Schwarz’s DVD, The Last Word on SharpeningRon Herman’s DVD, Sharpen Your Handsaws, Schwarz’s Digital Downloads, A Better Way to Sharpen Scrapers, Understanding Honing Guides, The Speed Demons of Sharpening, and Sharpening Plane Irons and Chiselsas well as, of course, my compendium on sharpening, The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers.

This collection would normally cost you $98.42 but right now it is being offered for $59.99! That’s a great deal! There are only 100 of these discount packages available so… make it so.

If your sharpening game is still on the learning curve – or if you want to add efficiency and ease with tips and tricks from the experts – this wealth of information helps speed your journey.

Just remember that sharpening is a fundamental skill for every woodworker. You simply cannot do good work without sharp tools! And, we each began to learn this task at some point, and many of us continue to – pardon the expression — hone what we’ve already learned. The Essential Sharpening Collection is a great package for any woodworker’s library!

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Make a Krenov-style Wooden Plane

Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov

Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov

It was James Krenov’s love of planes, much like the one in the photo above, that pulled me into the wonderful world of woodworking tools back in 1982. He waxed poetic in his books about the joys of using a wooden hand plane and Krenov’s fine woodworking program here in Fort Bragg starts each class with a thorough unit on plane-making. So to honor that tradition and share that joy I take every opportunity to encourage woodworkers to try their hand at making a wooden plane.

Making a Krenov-style plane may seem demanding, and it does require some precision work, but it’s not rocket science and there are many sources of help available. The help gamut runs from the simplest — Hock Tool’s plane plans or David Welter’s step-by-step instructions — to personal, hands-on instruction at one of the many plane-making classes which are popping up all over the world.

For an assist that’s more than plans but less than in-person instruction David Finck’s book or Scott Meek’s video will walk you through the process.

And I’ve recently found one more excellent online how-to. Many thanks to Mitch Roberson for his four-part step-by-step plane build that he posted on Craftsy*. Roberson’s instructions are clearly written, easy to follow and well photo-documented throughout.

Hock Tools' Plane Kit #KF150

Hock Tools’ Plane Kit #KF150

For the greatest possible boost up the plane-making learning curve consider one of Hock Tools’ kits for a Krenov-style plane. We’ve precision cut all the parts from bubinga so that you need only glue it, tune it and shape it to suit. A simple, reliable and very satisfying build.

Regardless of the plane-making path you choose here’s some advice before getting started: While it may be considered apostasy to Krenov devotees, I learned while designing our kits that the traditional pivoting cross-pin is an unnecessary fiddling. A simple 1/2″ dowel works perfectly well and saves a lot of time and fuss. Also, some still advocate using a dense hardwood like maple or walnut for the body and adding a more wear-resistant sole plate. If you can find the right sized piece of bubinga, jarrah, or other hard, wear-resistant wood, just use it for the whole plane and skip the sole-plate addition.

Give it a try! There’s no other tool quite like a plane you’ve made yourself. It will fit your hands and style of work perfectly, comfortably. And if you’re not happy with the results, well, it’s barely a board-foot of wood. Feed the fire and start over. Your next one’s a cinch.

*Craftsy is a huge resource of how-to craft projects. Navigate to HERE to find woodworking blog entries from a large variety of craftspeople. Great stuff.

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That’s a Lot of Pianos!

The Fibonacci, By Steinway and Pollaro

Steinway and Sons recently unveiled their 600,000th piano, designed by Frank Pollaro:

Named “The Fibonacci,” the piano’s veneer features the iconic Fibonacci spiral made entirely from six individual logs of Macassar Ebony, creating a fluid design that represents the geometric harmony found in nature. The lines of The Fibonacci spiral on the top of the piano’s lid are projected down to its unique curved base. Synthetic ivory inlay adds a breathtaking effect to the design, which also features unique patinated bronze details. In the end, over 6,000 hours of work over a four-year period were devoted to the creation of The Fibonacci, from design to finish. The superior craftsmanship of the piano’s exterior is matched only by the unparalleled craftsmanship that is at the very core of all Steinway & Sons pianos.

It’s been five years since I posted this entry about the documentary film, Note by Note, that follows the building of Steinway #L1037 “from forest to concert hall”. It’s a great film, highly recommended. Needless to say I was quite impressed by the amount of hand woodworking that goes into the world’s finest pianos. This 600,000th Steinway, by Frank Pollaro, is truly stunning. We have just the place for it in the living room.

With the recent public exhibition of piano and organ builder H. O. Studley’s tool cabinet, and the publication of Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley by Lost Art Press, a nod to Steinway’s historic achievement seems apropos.

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A Quick Path to a Fresh Edge

Rob Hanson’s Magstrop Four

My friend and fellow t00l-maker Rob Hanson of Evenfall Studios has developed what may be the ultimate Scary Sharp workstation: the Magstrop Four. He’s designed a 15″ x 15″ bench hook with four abrasive platens that are held down by magnets and kept from sliding around with dowels. The changing of grits or from paper to leather, etc.,  is quick and easy. And there’s no water or oil to mess up your bench.

Rob’s sales pitch for this system (and the simple one-platen Magstrop One) is that, by using abrasive films or paper, you eliminate many of the obstacles that we all encounter when an edge is dull. Many of our sharpening systems are cumbersome or messy. Many of us don’t have room for a dedicated sharpening station. We need a system that’s clean,  simple to store and that sets up ready-to-use easily for a quick honing touch up.

“There are two major ways you can approach sharpening.

Old School, where you run the edges into severe dullness and do a major reworking of them to restore them. (a common practice because people dislike sharpening, and it takes a while.)

New School, which is to sharpen rather continually as you work with fine abrasives so the edges rarely fail and keep cutting nicely.

It might surprise you, that even though the new school method is performed more frequently, it takes less time and effort. It can be done dry and quickly, getting you back to work and in the flow of things.” — Rob Hanson, Evenfall Studios

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Virtuoso! A New Book about H. O. Studley and His Tool Cabinet

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My hat is off to Don Williams. Again. Don’s depth of knowledge about how things are and were made is nearly bottomless. Retired from his post as Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian, Don is anything but just kickin’ back. I recently asked him, now that the Studley extravaganza was moving into the past, what’s next? Here’s his reply:

“Roubo on Furniture Making wrap up, many conservation projects in the studio, begin Historic Finisher’s Manual (two years), finish the models for lost wax cast finger planes, Roubo Glossary, The Furniture Conservation Primer (ebook), Roubo on Trellises and Gardens, Roubo on Trim Carpentry, The Duncan Phyfe Tool Chest book, Roubo on Carriage Making, Technology and Preservation of Tortoiseshell and Ivory book, writing mystery fiction, speaking here and speaking there, working on the barn, projects aplenty on the homestead… ”

Yeah, Don. Just chillin’.

Don communes with Henry

Don communes with Henry

Linda and I had the rare privilege of seeing The Studley Exhibit, Don’s display of the Studley tool cabinet at the Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a couple weeks ago. It was late in the day, after the exhibitors’ get-together after setting up for the Handworks show in Amana (just a half hour away.) Don sold tickets to the Studley exhibit but allowed us tool-makers to get a preview, knowing we’d have no way to break away from our show to come see his show. (Thanks again, Don.) The tool cabinet has gained fetish-icon status in the woodworking community and it doesn’t disappoint in person. In fact its cult status became understandable, for me, anyway, when I saw it in person. I can’t begin to do it justice here which brings me to the meat of this post…

Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley by Don Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar, published by the virtuosi at Lost Art Press. I honestly believe that Don Williams and Henry O. Studley were intended to meet like this. Don is probably the best-suited person on the planet to document Henry’s tool cabinet. Don is the consummate expert and professional throughout Virtuoso. Yet, he describes this incredible artifact and its contents in a warm, friendly and engaging style. Not a moment of stuffiness, Don’s words show that he is a friend to the subject and to the reader.

Williams begins Virtuoso with a compelling description of his own journey leading to the H.O. Studley chest. What began simply enough for Don turned into a 6 year free fall down a rabbit hole, utterly surrounded by the obscurity, the preciousness and swirling specifics of the now famous Studley tool chest. Don continues the narrative with a hard-won biography of the enigmatic H.O. Studley, then segues into the rich and chewy center of the book. Here is where you will find detailed descriptions of each tool and widget contained in the chest; photographed on their own, alone and meticulously “nested” among their peers.

All along the way we are treated to Nayar’s sumptuous photos of the tiniest details of the chest, of the deepest layers inside, and out.

A coffee table book? Yes, in the way large format pictorial books are coffee table books. But, Don Williams’ Virtuoso is one coffee table book that also contains a massive amount of technical and aesthetic information, a book to which you probably won’t bring a cup of coffee even near.

I really don’t have a place in my sense of art/history/sculpture/museum-things/precious-objet-d’art/beautiful-tools for the Studley tool cabinet. It floats in a new zone between practical and fetish, a fine craftsman’s eccentricity, high art and utility. Don lays the question before us as he notes that while the tools appear well used for the most part, the cabinet does not. So, the beautiful and somewhat haunting question remains, “Why such an elaborate and involved monument to the tools Mr. Studley used everyday? Is this H.O. Studley’s masterwork, a final repository for the tools of a past career?” I’ll get the Ouija board. No, wait! Don Williams’ Virtuoso may just be the Ouija board: I’m happy to go through it again, and again, to ruminate on H.O. Studley’s remarkable accomplishment.

Such a simple thing in concept, a tool chest. Amazing.

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Handworks Worked!

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Yes, it was crowded … but in a good way.

Handworks 2015 was hands down the most exciting and satisfying show Linda and I have ever done. The attendance was huge — there must have been a couple thousand of you that showed up from all over the world — we were busy every minute. The weather was, as I understand it, typically Iowan, in that it changed dramatically every few minutes. For the most part it was warm and a bit muggy but otherwise quite comfortable. Not too anything.

We had planned to attend the first Handworks but had to bail at the last minute. Here’s what we did then, instead. So we were doubly primed for a great show. And overwhelmed by its success.

The organizers made sure all the exhibitors got a chance to hang out with the other tool-makers which is a real treat for me. I met many of them at “Plane Day” in Cincinnati in 2005. That was a special day for me in that I realized I was part of a community of tool makers. Really cool tool makers. So a chance to shoot the breeze with them is a rare, special event. But once the doors opened on Friday morning it was enthusiastic woodworkers non-stop for two days. My legs and feet are still a bit sore.

Everyone loved Roy Underhill’s… “talk”? “Performance”? “Song and dance”? Roy is always Roy and we all loved every minute of his delightful “history” lesson.

Thanks to all of you who could make out to the heartland. Those who didn’t/couldn’t, maybe next time? (Here are some pretty great photos taken by Bartee Lamar.) And our deepest gratitude to the Abrahams for their hard work and generosity. They put on one great show.

Oh, yeah, Don Williams was there with the Studley tool cabinet. On display nearby in Cedar Rapids. More about that and his new book, Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley, published by Lost Art Press, in my next post. Stay tuned.

 

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