This is just like Christmas as a kid. Every day since early July you mark the calendar with hopeful anticipation (I want an Official Range Model Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time!) and then you look around and realize you’re sitting in a sea of wrapping paper and you wish this could go on forever.
My WIA day started with a hands-on clinic offered by Deneb Puchalski of Lie-Nielsen on, wait for it… wait for it… hand planing. Yes. Ooooo… Ahhhhh…
My bench-mate for the morning whipped out a crispy LN No.-7 and then a LN No.-4. One of the other guys brought a couple of shiny wooden planes he made himself (now, THERE’S a galoot!) and someone else had three of every plane Veritas ever made. I reached into my satchel and pulled out my old Stanley No.-4C (with a Hock blade) made in the early 1900’s, my No.-5 made in the ‘50’s, and my No.-8 made in the days of Moses. (Picture the Mommy on Oprah saying she wanted to take her kids to the park but was too fat to fit into the fence gate, lower lip quivering, the audience all “Awwing” their sympathy, and then cue schmaltzy organ music,) I had… plane envy. All this shiny ductile iron with racing stripes and hood scoops and chrome pipes…
I tried my bench-mate’s No.-4. It made thin, wispy, hang-time shavings. Deneb talked about plane setup. Nothing here I hadn’t heard before and read several times before, but all solid. Good tip in this one, though: Deneb keeps a 3×4x1/2” block of wood on his bench, set on edge against a stop, and takes a shaving off with the left side of his blade and then does the same with the right. If the shavings are equal, he then knows that his blade is set square to the plane sole. Good idea.
We had a discussion about plane techniques, how to straighten a cupped board, and then straighten one with twist (plane down the high spots to meet the low spots) and then smooth. Here’s another important tip: when starting with rough cut stock, don’t start with your No.-5’s blade set rank but set at a normal height. If you only get a few little sawdust scrapings at first, it isn’t because your blade is set wrong, it’s because you’re planing only the high spots, which is what you’re supposed to do.
I used my humble No.-5 to flatten my board of evil green poplar (it’s really last year’s Halloween-candy bubble gum that Dad wouldn’t even steal!) My 5 is such a cool workhorse. Nothing flashy about it, but kind of like my pickup, when I hook the horse trailer up to it, it pulls. The board started out with a crown, and in three minutes there was a pile of shavings at my feet and a rough but flat board in front of me. On to the jointer.
Now, I have the same reaction all the time. Folks look at that No.-8, look at me, look back at the plane, look at me… until I finally say, “Look. A plane in motion wants to stay in motion. A bigger plane likes to stay in motion more than a smaller plane.” And then they say something like, “Yeah, well, it’s getting that plane in motion that’s the issue.” It seems to be working for me, because in another three minutes I had a layer of even thinner shavings laying at my feet and a much smoother board in front of me. So then I picked up my smoother. A few STROKES and I had thin, wispy, hang-time shavings and a very smooth board, just as Ron Hock himself walks by and looks at my work (I’m sure he was impressed with my choice of stock.) I picked up one of my translucent shavings and showed it to him, told him that I had a Hock blade, and thanked him for such a fantastic product. I’ve discovered this weekend that tool makers are people too, because Ron’s face noticeably relaxed when he realized I was appreciative of the product of his labors. Folks, let our New Old Tools manufacturers know you appreciate them when you do. Too soon, I was done and off to my last session.
This one was with The Schwartz on preventing tear-out. Now I’ve never had tear-out, and I realize you never have either, but I’ve heard of it happening from time to time, so it was worth hearing what Chris had to say. I took four pages of notes… I can’t even begin to enumerate it all here, so I’ll have to digest it over a little time. The highlight came when Chris related to teaching his very young daughter to read a board (I don’t know if she can read a book, yet!) He used the analogy of one of Mommy’s cats. The cats have fur, and if you pet the fur one way the cat purrs. If you pet the fur the opposite way, the cat bites. He then went over to the dry-erase board where he had drawn his guinea plank, and then added a cat’s tail and a face like Disney’s Cheshire Cat. Now, that’s funny, I don’t care who you are.
We had a lively and interesting discussion on means of preventing tear-out, including and in no particular order, skew angle, blade angle, chip-breaker placement, iron sharpness, gnarly-ness of the individual plank (“Those wood fibers have lived all their lives with their neighbors, and they don’t want to move.”) grain orientation, etc. I promise, I’ll blog on the details after I’ve had some rest.
So, I’ve put my ghetto-shop-apron up for a couple of days. As I write this, my wife and I are hurtling down route 40 between Nashville and Memphis (I think, I haven’t really been paying attention – we could be between Tucson and Phoenix.) And as of tomorrow, I’m going to start marking the calendar for next year.
-- There's no tool like an old tool...