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WOO-Hoo! Success (sharpening)!!!


Tim McTigue
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Okay, I know this is just part of the territory, and a skill we're all supposed to have, but I've just succeeded in resurrecting a long-dead plane and making some maple shavings, so I just had to do the happy dance in public...

I'm finally starting to "get" just what "sharp" means. It's great! This was a plane that I had used sporadically over the years for various household chores (making a door fit, mostly), and it mostly sat unattended, so suffice to say it was NOT sharp. Took quite a bit of work with various stones, and a lot of oil, plus a bit of an "aha" moment when I figured out how to look at the edge to judge progress. I had been dreading the process of planing the joint-edges of the back, but now I'm getting close to finished - I'll be doing chalk fitting next. Just thought I'd share. Any other sharpening success stories out there?

shavings1.jpg

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My recent sharpening success involved FINALLY figuring out how to get a cabinet scraper to work really well. As I have read many times from posts of Mr. Darnton and others (but never took the time to try), grinding a 45 degree bevel and sharpening it to a blade-like edge works fabulously. I did turn the edge very slightly, but it probably wasn't necessary. The grin on my face as I scraped the first rib with my newly-sharpened scraper still hurts. It really was like using a plane and those miniature curls (that look remakably like the ones in your photo) were a sight to behold. I had just sliced a lot of rib stock for some violas and I spent the next two days happily scraping away.

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Buchanan mentions it in his book "The Making of Stringed Instruments", but I'm coming to see more and more that he's far from the best technical reference. I've been assuming it wouldn't be too hard to get rid of the chalk once the process is done, but I could be wrong. I'm also aware that this plane could still be sharper, probably a lot sharper, but it sure felt good to finally get within striking distance of a proper edge. My first clue came when I was wiping the blade to look at it, and I accidentally nicked my thumb and drew blood. That was an exciting moment.

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I'm sure you're correct, Manfio - my planing and jointing skills are still very rudimentary. In fact, my biggest fear is that I will plane away too much wood, and therefore waste the piece. I've drawn a line on both sides of both pieces, and if I come within 3/8" of either line before getting a good joint, I'll break down and use a jointer-planer rather than waste such nice wood, which I'm sure a lot of makers do anyway. I'm just trying to maximize my learning experience, and hoping to acquire as much skill as I can. The joint edge of one of these pieces was seriously non-square to the face surface, so my main task last evening was to square it up, which I think I've managed to do pretty well. If I can't get nice, long shavings very soon, I'll be working to sharpen the blade even further before doing much more planing...

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Hi! You could visit a good woodworker and ask him to do the job... you will learn a lot about feet position, how to apply the pression on the plane, how to prepare the plane, etc.

There is a very good book with articles, FINE WOODWORKING ON PLANES AND CHISELS, or something like that, they give many many tips about tuning the tool, techniques, etc.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
MANFIO

Hi! You could visit a good woodworker and ask him to do the job... you will learn a lot about feet position, how to apply the pression on the plane, how to prepare the plane, etc..

I'm sure an experienced woodworker (if I could find one) would tell me to start by getting a proper jack plane, and stop trying to do a job with inadequate tools. I'm sure that the real problem here, aside from sharpness and technique, is that a short plane such as this one will tend to follow the wood rather more than is optimal, and it will be very difficult (at the very least) to do a proper joint with it. I do think that I will not spend too much more time on this before opting for a power jointer, but there's much learning in the effort, anyway...

And to finally start getting a handle on sharpening is definitely worth the effort!

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I watched Mr. Darnton pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat using a Stanley 104 (I think--about a 6" plane, anyway), and it was a particularly difficult joint to begin with-- I had been struggling with it, using a 24" jointer plane-- he did it with a little bitty one-hand jobber...in about 30 minutes, or a little more.

There were lots of witnesses.

Some of it may be "proper tool"--a bunch more is know-how and experience.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
COB3

I watched Mr. Darnton pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat using a Stanley 104 (I think--about a 6" plane, anyway), ... he did it with a little bitty one-hand jobber...in about 30 minutes, or a little more.... Some of it may be "proper tool"--a bunch more is know-how and experience.

I am demonstrably not Mr. D., which point was brought home to me this very evening as I once again assaulted the wood. Yes, I meant to use that wood. A local friend has offered me his 6-1/2" jointer to borrow, I've decided to take him up on it this time, so I can get on with the business at hand, and not ruin this nice wood (at this early stage, anyway). I'll get someone to show me how it's done sometime before I try it again. Some things are harder to learn on one's own than others...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
COB3

I watched Mr. Darnton pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat using a Stanley 104 (I think--about a 6" plane, anyway), and it was a particularly difficult joint to begin with-- I had been struggling with it, using a 24" jointer plane-- he did it with a little bitty one-hand jobber...in about 30 minutes, or a little more.

There were lots of witnesses.

Some of it may be "proper tool"--a bunch more is know-how and experience.

Yes, but a key part of the know-how and experience is knowing what is the right tool for the job, surely?

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Hi Tim,

I think, that unless your friend's power jointer is exceptionally well set up, you would probably need to finish the joint by hand anyway to get a perfect fit. Is that a #4-1/2 plane in your photo? There seem to be a few nice #6's going on ebay at the moment for not much money that would be perfect for the job.

If I can offer you a tip as a relative beginner myself (currently making no.3 and no. 4 in parallel), I find it very helpful to have a reference flat surface (kitchen worktop offcut is ideal) to check each edge against for rock/flatness. That makes it much easier to establish where problems lie, enroute to making a perfect joint

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Tim,

I know too much information is often as bad as not enough, so, I'm going to try to help overwhelm you with yet another opinion, just because I like to *see 'em squirm...*

I do believe that you need to sharpen that blade quite a bit more.

I am thinking that you have sharpened it better than it has ever been sharpened before, and so it is cutting for you quite well now. But - that pile of shavings tells me something about how far you still need to go - either that, or there are some set up problems with the plane, but I'm betting that it is simply only part way to being truly sharp.

The basic truth is probably that YOU are only part way there to being a true "type A" with regard to sharpening and tuning the plane...

The first time I ever really realized what violin makers needed, was years after I started when I had gotten a simple rolling sharpening jig to hold the plane blade at the proper angle, and used the scarysharp method with sc paper and some plate glass.

Then, as Manfio correctly points out, you will start to wind up with complete edge to edge, single, paper thin shavings... after which, you can work towards a joint that is even light tight - which, as far as I know, is the goal of most luthiers. Hold the plates together and look for light when holding the seam up to the sun or a light bulb in a dark room. Eventually you can just tell by how it looks and feels if it's "perfect".

I use a power planer/joiner simply because it does about 90% of the work automatically. First, I flatten the bottoms of the plates - then, I flatten the joining edges at 90 degres to the flat bottoms. Then, there is only about 10% more work eliminating any irregularities on the joining edges.

I have seen power planers that were capable of getting it right, but only in the hands of a violin maker because, in general, wood workers don't need ANYWHERE NEAR such a perfect joint, and the idea of making a light proof joint doesn't even enter thier mind.

This is one of the true acid tests of woodworking skill, and I think it was a good fifteen violins in before I figured out how to do it. (I'm still working onit really) It is something that I think many self taught makers stop at "good enough".

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Congratulations on the successful plane refurbishing and

sharpening!!!

If you want to dispense with the chalk, you can place the two

pieces of wood together and hold it up to the light.  A hide

glue joint requires perfect wood to wood contact, so you should see

no light coming through.

Warning:  this last tip is for the brave of heart only!

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Craig,

Thanks for the analysis. You're right, I'm quite sure by now that Michael D. would be disgusted with me for calling that blade "sharp" - I'm only beginning to know what "sharp" is. From what I can see, the joint edges on that piece of sitka you sent me are already PERFECT, I've checked, and there's no light there - I won't be touching that before gluing. You might have a different opinion, but that'll be part of my learning process. At least the power jointer will give me some true surfaces to work with on the back, since at this point, with my meagre skills, I can't even tell which side I should plane now in order to improve the fit. I'm feeling like I'll be doing well if I can even get it into the "good enough" category. From what I can see now, this is one of the areas with the steepest learning curves in the whole project, but no doubt I'll be proven wrong soon enough...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
MANFIO
Hi Tim!

Congratulations! But for the center joint, I think you have to aim

for a continuous wood shaving. One pass of the plane, just one

rolled wood shaving. But I may be wrong...

Your picture shows lots of short shavings, so I'll second the one

long shaving tip.

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"I'm only beginning to know what "sharp" is."

My test for sharpness is to see if I can shave the hair off my arm. When I do a lot of sharpening, all the hair is gone. And when my blades are sharp enough to shave with, they work great.

But I would like to know: Is shaving the ultimate test of sharpness, or is there a more exacting test that I could be using?

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Yes, I'm now regretting my choice of heading for this topic, it should have been "Woo-Hoo, limited, initial success" or something like that...

I look with longing and jealousy at the pictures fiddlefaddle posted recently on the Darnton method of making purfling - to get such consistently nice shavings like that must be quite a feeling...

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Keep in mind , Tim, that to prepare a truely good joint one must begin the process, even with a rough board, with a thin cut. Often initially, the blade will remove often only a small fraction of the surface, skipping the low spots, and removing only chips , not shavings.. . However if you proceed , you will find the board begin to even out, and nice shavings begin to appear. Let the plane simply rest on the board and push forward only, not down. It is a naturally tendency to want to remove a large shaving. However that simply doesn't work. A smooth surface is not neccesarily a flat surface. By taking thin, thin shaves, nice and evenly one can do the job with many strokes, little effort, and remove very little wood.

Chalk is not neccesary, but holding the surfaces together, and looking towards a bright light will tell you what's going on, and you can adjust your technique with understanding rather than guesswork

Good luck.

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Hello Brad - when you can shave the hair at skin level you have just started getting towards sharp.

The true test is to pull out a hair from your head hold it at one end and offer the edge to the other end.

If it lops off a piece of the hair you've arrived at stage two... sharpish.

Now approach the hair at an angle of about 30 degrees and see if you can take a shaving off that loosely-waving-in-the-breeze hair.

Now that's sharp!

cheers edi

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"I find it very helpful to have a reference flat surface (kitchen worktop offcut is ideal) to check each edge against for rock/flatness. That makes it much easier to establish where problems lie, enroute to making a perfect joint"

"Chalk is not neccesary, but holding the surfaces together, and looking towards a bright light will tell you what's going on, and you can adjust your technique with understanding rather than guesswork"

Then,

Sharpness of the blade is critical BUT you also have to have the plane tuned (do a search with the words plane & fettle).

First use the correct size plane 6 as stated by FF?. Then start with weight on the front and a smooth transition of weight to the rear tote as you are finishing. Nearly all the weight will be on the rear tote as the blade approaches the end or you will get a dip at the end (common). It is also common to get a dip at the start by not starting with the plane back high enough.

So...if you hold the boards up to the light (don't go into the light) and you see light at the ends you know why. If you have a little bit of light in the middle and you can squeeze this shut you are lucky because this will work fine. This "defect" is desirable by some and can be done intentionally but I won't mention this now since it might be controversial.

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