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Saturday, 30 November 2013

5 Tips For Perfect Christmas Presents

Five years ago my wife gave me a beautiful smoothing plane for Christmas. At the time I already had a smoother, but it had no sentimental significance and I had no qualms whatsoever about selling it to make room for my beautiful new one. That handplane is the one that I use to put the final surface on a piece of timber, to create the surfaces by which my skill and craftsmanship will be judged. It is one of my favourite possessions and five years on I still think about her every time I pick it up.

The economist in me has been trying to work out what it was that made that particular gift as memorable and special as the brand new BMX bike that my parents gave me when I was six. The results of that thought process have been distilled into the following five tips for successful Christmas gift shopping:

Tip One
The best gifts are things that the recipient will use, treasure and adore; whatever the item may be, it should always be of excellent quality.

Tip Two
Make a list or, even better, a pinterest board, of things that you would like to receive as gifts. This is especially important with woodworking tools, as quite often the person buying it for you doesn't have the first clue what they are looking at.

Tip Three
Don't be afraid to ask for expensive things, relatives often prefer to club together and buy you one really awesome present instead of each getting you something smaller.

Tip Four
When shopping for others, separate the processes of deciding what the present will be and purchasing it. (bang goes my nomination for predatory retailer of the year)

Tip Five
Give yourself plenty of time; driving past a crammed supermarket on Christmas eve when your presents are all safely wrapped up is pure schadenfreude!

Monday, 25 November 2013

How do you sharpen a gooseneck scraper?

Cabinet scrapers are unbeatable for light shaping and cleaning up surfaces, they are oblivious of grain direction, produce no tearout and leave a clean, almost polished surface that maximises the appearance of the timber. As well as coves, hollows, chair seats and the insides of violin backs, gooseneck scrapers are great for accurate spot work where the surrounding flat surface must be left untouched. The eccentric shape of the gooseneck scraper covers all internal radii between 12mm and 220mm.

The key to preparing gooseneck scrapers is to only sharpen the portion of the edge that you need. The procedure is similar to that for a rectangular scraper, but in this case you are better off holding the scraper in a vice and carefully draw filing the edge square with a fine file or slipstones rather than using bench stones. Draw and turn the hook with a carbide burnisher as normal, and you're all set!

Leaning the scraper into the cut will flatten the effective radius slightly (from the wood's perspective) reducing the forward lean, or skewing it very slightly to the direction of cut, will tighten the effective radius, between these two you can 'steer' pretty close to a pre-existing surface. You don't need to match it exactly but the aim is to get close enough to have nice broad shavings that blend together easily.

If you haven't sharpened a scraper before, our sharpening cabinet scrapers video will take you through the process.

All  of our scrapers are made by ARNO, if you have never heard of ARNO before, here's an independent review of the ARNO carbide burnisher.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Saw Handle Competition Winner

It was a very close run thing, but after much deliberation, Marc has decided to award the prize to Richard from Hampshire for his elegantly proportioned and carefully executed dovetail saw handle in cherry.

Although the judging was strictly about the designing and making of the handle, there is also a nice back story to this particular tool. 

The saw belonged to Richard's father and his father before that. It had lost its back and was, in all honesty, pretty well done for. As well as the handle Richard made a new brass back from scratch using an old door push plate. The saw blade has been inverted so that the old teeth are now hidden inside the spine and fresh teeth can be filed into what was the top. Hopefully it will now go on to serve another couple of generations. 

My thanks to all who took part in the competition, and to Marc for providing such a wonderful prize.

Congratulations Richard, we look forward to hearing how you get on at Robinson House Studio.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Know Your Quangsheng Plane Iron Types

Quangsheng are the only volume iron handplane manufacturer to use water hardening carbon steel for their cutting irons. Water hardening steels are usually associated with tools from Japan, they are purer than the oil or air hardening varieties. From a metalworking perspective T10 steel is less predictable to work with than O1 for example, but it can be tempered harder without losing it's toughness and it takes a supremely fine edge.

Block Plane Irons

Over time the designs of QS block plane adjustment mechanisms have evolved, this post is designed as a reference so that you can select the appropriate replacement cutting iron for your plane.

Quangsheng Type 1 Block Plane Iron (2010 and earlier)

With a single slot through the top that engages an adjusting nut on a fixed threaded rod in the back of the plane body. The slot is 4mm wide, 14mm long and goes right the way through the blade. Also fits Lie-Nielsen block planes.

Quangsheng Type 2 Block Plane Iron (2011 - 2013)

With 10 machined grooves that engage two lugs on the top of a carriage in the body of the plane.  Each groove is 2.6mm wide, 17.5mm long, 1.7mm deep at the centre and they have 1mm lands between them. The total length of the grooved area is 35mm. Also works as a replacement iron for Stanley No.60, No.60-1/2, 61, 103 and Record 0230 block planes

Quangsheng Type 3 Block Plane Iron (2013 onwards)

Also with 10 machined grooves, but finer than a type 2.  Each groove is 2mm wide, 17.5mm long, 1.7mm deep at the centre and they have 1.1mm lands between them. The total length of the grooved area is 30mm.

The standard angle and low angle block plane irons are 35mm (1-3/8") wide and approximately 3mm (1/8") thick. The 11mm x 32mm oval slot in the centre is the same size for all types

Primary Bevel Angles

At the time of going to press, all three types of block plane iron are available with 25, 38 or 50 degree bevels so that the pitch of the plane can be altered by simply switching the blades. Cutting irons with the same combination of bevel angles are also available for the bevel up Quangsheng 62 low angle jack plane.

Rebating block plane irons

Quangsheng rebating block plane irons come in the same three types but are only available with a 25 degree bevel. The cutting edge of the rebating versions are just a hair over 44mm wide (1-3/4") and the neck is 31mm wide.

Bench Plane Irons

Quangsheng replacement plane irons are available in standard widths, all are 3mm (1/8") thick. 

1-3/4" wide for No.3 bench planes
2" wide for No.4 and No.5 bench planes
2-3/8" wide for No.4-1/2, 5-1/2, 6 and 7 bench planes

Fitting Quangsheng irons to other makes of bench plane

The majority of older bench planes and all of the better quality new ones will take a 3mm thick iron with no problems. Depending on the vintage and manufacturer, some of the old ones may need the Y lever replacing in order to reach through the thicker iron. 

Installing a thick, soft, closely fitted, vibration absorbing low-profile cap iron is another way of enhancing a plane's performance. If Bailey pattern planes have an Achilles heel, the pressed steel chipbreaker is it.

We have seen a few examples of more recently manufactured 'affordable planes' that no longer conform to the standard dimensions, for these 'upgrade resistant' models, a good quality thin plane iron may be the only option available.