The weather is supposed to be nice this week and even this next weekend. I do believe I will take advantage of the situation and get a bit of shop time in!
(The other situation I’ll be taking advantage of is that my wife is out of town on business until tomorrow evening… maybe I can even get a little shop time in tonight!)
But I was actually out in the shop last night. I have a nice little collection of mahogany I’ve collected over the past year or so. Most of it ends up being smaller slabs and cut-offs from my local wood pimp, but being mostly a small-project woodworker, I always seem to find some kind of use for the smaller pieces of wood.
Some of this mahogany has really good curl in it, and that’s what I was looking for last night. I have a situation where someone is considering a purchase or trade of some curly mahogany for some handles, so he can put some of the shorter pieces to good use.
The problem I ran across last night, however, was that half of the mahogany pieces I had were still very rough and it was sometimes hard to tell what kind of grain pattern I was looking at. Band saw marks do a really good impersonation of “curl” when you’re trying to look for it, so I have to get rid of them, in at least one small area.
So I thought to myself, “You just need to remove enough of the surface to show the grain and you’ll be good to go!” I couldn’t run the boards through a planer, however, because they’re all under 12” long. Then I thought about running them through the wide belt sander… oh, that’s right. I don’t HAVE a wide belt sander. I could throw some 60 grit onto my sanding block or my ROS, but that would just take too long and kick up too much dust. What was I to do?
My mind quickly flashed back to an episode of Woodworks, where David Marks was showing some of the rough stock in his wood shed. At first, I started thinking about how jealous I was of his woodshed and his workshop. Who does he think he is, showing us his wood shed, which is bigger than the whole of my shop! How did he get such a large collection of wood, anyway? Where does… But then I remembered I was trying to come up with a solution to my problem. I’m easily side-tracked sometimes.
Anyway, he always pulls out a block plane and uses it to remove the rough saw marks and get a better look at the grain, doesn’t he? Hey, I have a small block plane! Why not use that?
Oh, that’s right, I don’t know how to use hand planes very well. But what the heck – what can I hurt by trying, right?
Truth be told, the block plane is in no condition to use, really – it was a garage sale find and it is still a little rough. I have it sitting out on my bench because I’m getting ready to take it to a hand plane tune-up class at Woodcraft on March 1st.
But again, I thought, what can I hurt by trying? So I picked it up and set the blade to remove a very light shaving and starting taking it over the mahogany. And guess what! I actually took small curls of shavings off! Whoah. I swiped it over the board again. More shavings! They were small, and not exactly “fine curls”, but… it was certainly more than I’d expected!
And then I thought to myself, “If you can do that with this plane in THIS condition, just imagine what you might be able to do with this plane in tuned-up and sharpened condition!
After I finished up in the shop, I went back inside – only I brought the plane blade with me. I grabbed my fine diamond stone and a small jar of water and some paper towels and went into the living room to watch a little TV and worked on flattening the back of the blade.
It didn’t take much lapping to tell me the previous owner had put a slight bevel on the back of the blade. Schmuck.
(I bought this plane a while back, before I knew anything at all about planes. Had I looked at it with today’s eyes, I might have passed it up because the blade was in such bad condition. But I have it, and it was really inexpensive, so I might as well see what I can do with it!)
So I have a little more lapping to do to get the first inch or so of the blade perfectly flat, but… After switching to the coarse diamond stone, I’m almost there. Then I’ll need to lap a chip or two out of the edge, but that won’t be a big deal, either. I have a slow-speed grinder and an aluminum oxide stone, and one of the first things I learned how to do was grind a bevel onto a blade.
Tonight I’ll spend a little more time on it and then I’ll dismantle the rest of the plane and scrub it all down really well and see what else I can do to clean it up before my class. Now I’m even more excited about that class and about incorporating hand planes into my woodworking!
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com