Friday, January 11, 2013

Horned Smoother Part II

Before cutting up the chunk of cherry that I'm using for the horned smoothing plane, I consulted Philip Edwards of Philly Planes about grain orientation.

I had read that it's best to put the sapwood on the sole and the heartwood on top, but I wanted an expert's opinion.

Philly confirmed that he orients his planes this way, although he has seen antiques that were made heart-side-down and which seem to work fine.

First, the best wood is quartersawn. I did not use the correct section of the log in the photos (I used the flatsawn portion), so my plane will move across the width. When looking at the end of a plane (the heel or toe), the grain should be horizontal, not vertical. With seasonal movement, it's okay for the plane to get taller or shorter, but thinner in width can be a problem because the blade can become locked into the body of the plane. There may be other reasons for running the grain horizontally, but this is the one I know.*

In order to get the optimal grain orientation for my plane, the blank had to be sawn from the cherry at an angle.

I removed adjacent corners with an axe to create 90ยบ angles, and cleaned up the faces with scrub and smoothing planes.

After that—just to be sure the blank was dead-on square—I used my power jointer and planer.

*A reader contacted me to let me know that this paragraph is incorrect—I did not say that your wood should be quartersawn in order to minimize seasonal movement (I've since added that bit). But just to avoid any misinformation, please have a look at the Old Street Tool site (formerly Clark & Williams) where they explain grain direction. 

Blokschaaf Part I

There's a blokschaaf (or six) in that
chunk of wood.
Ah, the thrill of starting a new project.

It's like the beginning of a new romance (except that your project won't stand you up or flirt with other lumber. It may, however, break your heart), and it's one of the most exciting aspects of woodworking.

It's one reason we woodworkers typically have five or more projects going on in our shops at the same time. (My gothic stool that's sat untouched for over a month comes to mind.)

I've been wanting to make a high angle smoother for awhile and was planning to make an18th c. English style coffin smoother, but I've always been drawn to the look of 18th c. Dutch planes with all their scrolly goodness.

In his book The Art of Fine Tools, Sandor Nagyszalanczy explains that small, family-owned shops in the Netherlands cranked out decorative handplanes in the 17th- and 18th-centuries while in England and the colonies, tradesman were making more utilitarian (but still handsome) styles.

Dutch planes were constructed with templates and adhered to standard specifications, but were adorned with varying scroll and other designs by individual craftsmen, making each one unique.

The plane I plan to build is referred to as a blokschaff (smoother). It will have a horn and scrolls, but whether or not it will match the qualifications of its 18th-century archetype remains to be seen.