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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Quangsheng No.1 Smoothing Plane

The Stanley Bailey No.1 smoothing plane was produced from 1869 to 1943 when it was dropped from the range, presumably because of the squeeze on resources brought about by WW2. They were never produced in large numbers so their comparative rarity makes them a favourite with collectors and they now command astonishing sums at auction.

Like the Stanley original, the Quangsheng No.1 has a 1-1/5" wide iron, a bailey pattern frog and no lateral adjuster. Sales volumes of these planes have naturally been lower than those for the full size bench planes and production of them ceased about a year ago. I was able to get a single one made as a special gift to thank a friend - possibly the only time a factory in China has produced one of anything!

Having come face to face with one I wished that I had ordered some while they were still being made.  Three points in particular struck me:

They are perfectly suited for children and much easier for them to use than a block plane. Imagine how fast you would go off woodworking if you had to do all your planing with a 60-1/2 that is the size of a shoe box!

America is now a very much more wealthy nation than it was in the late 1800's and the American people are naturally interested in collecting the tools that their forbear's made. If I had a time machine and could go back to an 19th century tool shop I'd clean them out of mint boxed Stanley No.1's in a heartbeat! Now take a punt on where China is going to be in 100 years time.

If the original was in production for 74 years it must have been bought and used by someone, mint examples are thin on the ground, so the people who owned them must have used them.

Although they are no longer in regular production, we have managed to get a small batch of Quangsheng No.1's made. Whether this will happen again in the future is anyone's guess.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Independence knife!

I have a curious relationship with knifemaking, I might do 15 minutes here and there, sometimes weeks apart, and then get a sudden rush of inspiration and can't stop for anything until I've seen the job completed. Today was one of those days.

There were a couple of useful tips that cropped up in the process, so I thought I share them. The first is using one of these great little cylindrical cork sanding blocks (above) that come with a free bottle of wine. The cork supports the abrasive giving evenly distributed pressure, you can also roll it slightly as you are working to find a fresh bit of grit without having to reposition the paper.

A problem that I came across when shaping the handle with rasps was how to get close enough to the liners and the tang without scratching them. Even using 3M Frecut sanding would still take a while, unless I used really coarse grits and then you are back to the problem of scratches. Instead I tried using a cabinet scraper which proved to be fast, controlled and didn't scratch up the metal anywhere near as badly.

The blade for this knife was made by Chris Grant, a long standing friend and very accomplished bladesmith. It was made from our laminated white paper steel using the stock removal method and then given one of his awesome heat treatments. I won't give away Chris's secrets but he can make steel do wonderful things. You could literally shave with this thing!

As this is going to be more of a working knife than Amelie I went for a slightly blockier handle shape, one bit that turned out really well was a tiny almost imperceptible thumb depression on the top of the blade, this gives a really nice grip for controlled woodworking cuts.

Well I guess that's about it, but I do have one last special surprise for Chris....

.....Tartan Wood!

Beautiful tools, great prices, friendly service!