Friday, June 17, 2016

SOLD: Stanley Bedrock 607C, freshly restored...

Stanley Bedrock 607C
Type 6 (1910-1921)

Up for auction is a Stanley Bedrock 607C, type 6 (1912-1921), 2 patent dates and small depth knob. Ground up refurb and tuneup, it's ready to go to work out of the box. This is a restore done by a hand tool woodworker for hand tool woodworkers.

So what is a Bedrock plane versus a Bailey one? I’m glad you asked...Introduced in the early 20th century Stanley decided that they needed a new, higher end, line of planes where they could introduce newer more “high end features”. The majority of innovation of bench planes at Stanley was occurring around the Bedrock series. One of the first additions was from a patent that introduced the world to that middle frog adjustment screw, the one just below the iron depth adjustment knob on Bailey planes. While offered in the Bedrock series it was then added to all of the Bailey planes as well and survives to this day on modern Stanley and other makers planes.

The other, perhaps more controversial, addition introduced in 1911 (on the type 5)  was from another patent which would allow the frog to be loosened up without removing the lever cap and iron. On a Bailey plane, you need to remove those pieces so you can access the screws that hold the frog in place. On a Bedrock you simply loosen 2 screws on the rear of the frog, right beside the other new frog adjustment screw, and move the frog back and forth without removing the lever cap and iron. These are my favorite Bedrock planes and represent the majority of the ones I restore and sell and are widely considered the finest planes ever made by humankind.

Fast forward to modern times… When Thomas Lie-Nielsen was designing his new bench planes, he didn’t have to look any further than the Bedrock series for inspiration. They were, and still are, considered the last great plane to come from the Stanley company. LN took modern steels, tooling and other materials and turned what was a great plane into the world’s finest. By purchasing this Bedrock you are getting a piece of woodworking history.

The nitty gritty details

The base was blasted and received replacement Japanning. The japanning is my recipe and is a near carbon copy replacement for Stanley’s circa 1900-1930. It was applied in several coats then baked at progressively higher temps, an hour at a time. After this it's allowed to cure for 30 days. This finish will last longer than engine enamel and looks nearly identical to a plane coming out of the Stanley factory. The only apology on the base is very slight pitting on one side, I do not remove that because it would cause the side to be too thin. It will not affect performance

The frog was torn apart, blasted and received the same japanning as the base. After curing all mating surfaces were flattened. There are no apologies on it.

The knob and tote are new and are hand made out of cocobolo by me. To allow the natural beauty of the material to show through they received 2 coats of teak oil (so they're UV protected), were buffed out then had a coat of Renaissance Wax applied. If ren wax is good enough for the British Museum, it's ok in my books. I've added one of Bill Rittner's beautiful brass tote screws, it's a Bedrock and deserves a little bling.

The only apology top side is slight pitting on the lever cap and has no affect on performance. The lever cap is the type correct one that has the word "BEDROCK" cast into it, NOT the word "Stanley" as that is incorrect for a type 6 plane.

It will come with a type correct iron that has been flattened and sharpened to 8000. Some pitting on the top of the iron and lever cap but none in the area that matters. The cap iron was tuned and mated to fit the iron correctly.

It's taking shavings that range from thin .002 to thicker .010, all are pictured.

This is one fine plane, it's beautiful and works very well. For all intents and purposes, this is a almost brand new 100 year old plane that, if taken care of properly, will last at least another 100 years.

Contact me if you're interested.

Some additional pics

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Books on japanning

Over the past couple years I've spent quite a bit of time researching the history, and making of, the finish commonly called "japanning". The link to Wikipedia describes what japanning is decently but here goes...

Japanese woodworkers used to use the sap from a particular tree, which was quite gummy, to cover their steel tools with so they didn't rust. After drying this finish would have a dark brown, almost black, color and a nearly semi-gloss sheen. Western tradesman saw this finish on tools brought to them from the far east, recreated it using western ingredients and dubbed it "japanning". This process of finishing, especially steel tools, has been in use by westerners since at least the 17th century and became very popular in the 18th century. All sorts of steel implements were covered in japanning from hand planes and chisels all the way to sewing machines and cast iron stoves.

A common misconception is that japanning is only available in black but that's certainly not the case. Asphaltum, and more so lamp black, was widely available in the 18th and 19th centuries and definitely were the most common pigments used. Lamp black especially so since it was readily available as a by product of the lamps used to light everything in everyday life. However, there are examples of many other colors such as white, yellow, blue, brown and even red being created. It's all about what pigment is used to grant a certain color profile to the liquid.

At some point in the 19th century, tool makers, notably hand plane manufacturers such as Stanley and Union, used various recipes for japanning to cover the steel portions of their tools to prevent them from rusting. They used this type of finish up until around World War II when the more modern enamel finishes, like we use today, were introduced and became cost effective. At some point, somewhere in the 1950's and 1960's it seems, the original japanning fell out of favor by these manufacturers and ever decreasing qualities of enamel paint replaced it. By the 1970's it seems the finish these companies were using wasn't even a decent quality enamel but just plain ole oil based paint.

In my plane restoration endeavors I have tried to reproduce something that is similar to the recipe Stanley used circa 1910-1930. I chose that era to reproduce as that was the heyday of plane making here in the U.S. and the finish they achieved was quite excellent. During this development I discovered a few old books on the subject and wanted to share them with others. If you're interested in making your own japanning, these are a good place to start.

My three favorites are:


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Grain Direction for Wooden Planes

I am about to (re)start making a no 10 round molding plane and thought I'd take this opportunity to post how you should align the grain on the wood for these types of planes.

I learned how to lay out wooden plane grain direction from the excellent book "Wooden Planes And How To Make Them by David G Perch and Robert S. Lee", one of the first chapters is making a wood smoother and the first page of that is grain alignment. If you are even the slightest bit interested in making wood planes I highly recommend obtaining this book. And if you like the content I produce on this blog, by all means purchase it using the link above as it passes me the referral credit with Amazon. Gotta pay for lumber and tools somehow right?

If you're not familiar with the parts of a wood plane I'll be using terminology you might not understand, here's a reference image with the various pieces. While this isn't a molding plane, nearly all of the parts are named the same as a smoother/jack/try plane.

Parts of a wooden plane

Anyways, here's a shot of that page of the book showing the proper orientation of grain in a wood plane (reproduced with the author's permission).

Grain direction in a wooden plane.

You want the growth rings that are furthest from the heartwood to be the sole of the plane and the closest to the heartwood, typically the larger growth rings, to be the top of the plane. The shortcut to remembering this is "bark side down" so write that on a Post-It note and stick it somewhere you'll see it while making planes. If you're unfamiliar with heartwood, sapwood, quarter sawn and plain sawn, here's a quick review

Parts of timber and cut types

There's a distinct look to this on the front and back of the plane, if the material was perfectly quarter sawn you it won't be as noticeable but if there's a slight curvature to the grain the concave side of the curve will be facing the top of the plane.

Toe view of grain direction

The other critical aspect is the direction of the grain, you want that to run toe to heel, top to bottom. This allows the short grains to work in your favor when opening the mouth of the plane.

Grain direction
As you can see in the image, the direction in which the grain runs is quite discernible, to the left is the toe and to the right is the heel.

That's about it for this post, hope it helps when you start making your own planes and as always, if you have any questions feel free to comment here or find us on Facebook.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quarter sawn beech and why it's used for planes

I've been asked many times what material to use for planes and I usually respond with "beech, boxwood, hard maple and white oak (maybe hornbeam as well) in that order all of which should be quarter sawn". And of course the next question is "why"?

Let's get this out of the way first, it doesn't have to be the hardest wood on the Janka scale. In fact, there are tons of species far more Janka(-y) than beech and hard maple so why not use them? The first choice is a simple one: what's available in your region and what's close enough that shipping isn't going to bankrupt you? For me that's beech and hard maple, the latter being very (very) local and the former being quite affordably shippable to my shop. Sugar maple trees are all over my street second only to oak, heck the street I live on is Oak St.

To help bolster my recommendation, I think Mr. Sellers sums up the material choice quite well here. But it boils down to this: you want a material that is dense grained, stable when it dries and perhaps most importantly, has consistent grain density throughout the material. The hardness needs to be uniform so it wears evenly so you don't get pieces of the sole with hills and valleys. Sure, you can add boxing to ease wear in the most crucial of spots but you first have to start with a solid and stable material (note I didn't say hard).

Caleb James pushes beech even more so than I do, almost to the point of saying don't bother with anything else. My issue is when you need wide pieces for large moulding planes, say chunks that need to be close to 3" wide to accommodate an iron that's 2 1/2" wide. Every lumber yard that I know of who sells quarter sawn beech doesn't carry 16/4 or even 12/4 rough quarter sawn beech. They say when it's that thickness it cracks too much during the drying process. The only way around that I know of, due to the way the grain needs to run, is to glue up a few pieces (laminate) and use that for the blanks. Now, people do say this is a no no but I'm not sure what the alternative is given how our forefathers chopped down all the big ole beech tree here in the U.S.

Ok, so why quarter sawn? First do you know what quarter sawn is? If not please start here. I think Caleb James explains it pretty darn well, and again to boil it down: it's less prone to movement long term, i.e. "stronger". Will flat sawn work? Absolutely yes but don't plan on it staying true for years to come and if you're gong to take the time to make a plane, make it right the first time.

Which brings me to the last recommendation, white oak. I'm in agreement with others that it should be the last choice, even in quarter sawn form. While it's less porous than its red brother it's still far more porous than beech or hard maple. Those open pores are just going to cause problems so I'll again concur with Mr. James here as well.

Another .02 from me to you.

Planemaking links

Here are some interesting links to various pages I have found useful for planemaking. While some of these specifically help with making a plane others offer advise on use. It's almost mandatory to understand the physics of using the plane in order to make them, especially if you want them to be useful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Plane Making DVD's

Here's a list of planemaking DVD's I've discovered so far. A few of these are offered in digital download or streaming formats so you don't have to wait on a physical DVD being shipped.

If you know of others by all means let me know, I'm always looking for more ways to learn about making planes.

The Planemakers

As I push harder and harder into the world of making planes, especially wood ones, I can't help but be humbled by the people that are out there today keeping up this timeless craft. Unfortunately in the day of modern power tools we have seemingly lost the respect for the toolmakers themselves. There was a day when the toolmaker was as well respected, if not more, than the craftsman that used their works. Nowadays the tool maker is just another supplier that takes manufactured parts, assembles them into something larger and ships it to an unknowing customer. That customer simply repeats that process, taking other pre-made parts and assembling them into something else larger.

I myself am slowly, and seemingly in a methodically unstoppable way, becoming more toolmaker than woodworker. Sure, the two are related as I do make tools from wood, but at some point you're more one than the other, at least in my mind.

This is a craft that must not be lost to the ages but unfortunately much damage has already been done. The century long decades of disposable tools from mass production effectively killed several thousand years worth of knowledge, trade, craft and art. Below are some of the modern plane makers that I have come to deeply respect and hope to learn all I can from. The people here are doing more than their part to keep this craft alive and I intend to help them.

This is by all means not a complete list, if you know of others that should be included here by all means let me know, I'd love to see more people that are committed to this work. If you have the means to do so, please support them by purchasing their tools, I can guarantee you won't regret it. I've heard people balk at the price of a new, hand made, wood plane but it comes down to this: instant vs. long-term gratification. Remember these are hand made tools from quality craftsman, you get what you pay for so buy the best tool you can afford and do it one time.

And remember, without the toolmaker how will you work that piece of wood?

  • James Krenov. I'm not sure any list would be respectable if it doesn't mention Mr. Krenov, perhaps the original modern planemaker. Not only did he bring laminated planes to the forefront (some believe he invented them) but he introduced that entire class of plane to us: the Krenov style plane. Even though he's passed his work and style lives on through people such as David Finck who I might add is a fine planemaker in and of himself. If you don't have his book on making planes, go to Amazon and buy it now. Immediately. Really.
  • Karl Holtey. Perhaps not entirely a wood planemaker but he is generally considered a living legend amongst the trade members. I have never personally touched one of his creations but quite often have dreams of doing so. 
  • Old Street Tool, formerly Clark & Williams. These two gentleman helped to create the current renaissance in hand tools and especially in wood planes. Their classic design, choices in top notch materials and seemingly fanatical attention to detail have landed them in the modern plane maker hall of fame (if there were one). One only has to look at Chris Schwarz's writings on them to understand the deep respect they have earned. Unfortunately these gentleman are gathering years of age as much as they are knowledge and are not accepting new orders. THose of us that don't have one of their planes might not ever get to purchase one from them.
  • M.S. Bickford. Another fine example of a younger gentleman that's continuing the age old craft. Another DVD here that's on my short list to get my hands on. If I can't wait for shipping there's always the streaming option from Lie-Nielsen...
  • Philly Planes. Boy do they make some fine tools, and rightfully so given the background of hand plane toolmakers across the pond. They have about the most "complete" product line I have ever seen from hollows and rounds, to ogee and moulding and rebate planes. Just looking through their gallery is a delightful experience.
  • Tod Herrli. I recently purchased his DVD, "Make A Custom Ogee Plane" and must say that I learned a ton from it. From the design to bringing it to life in wood he exudes planemaker through and through. He's not as well known as some other mentioned but he's earned an A+ in my book. I plan on buying his other DVD very (very) soon.
  • Caleb James. Another relative newcomer to the trade but producing fine work none the less. In addition to his fine planes he has made measured drawings available to the rest of us. I have yet to try one of his designs but it's certainly on my list of planes to make.
  • Jeremiah Wilding. Here's one to keep an eye on, the Schwarz wrote about him recently and has nothing but good things to say. I don't see any prices listed on his site but I'm sure they're representative of the time it takes to make wood planes by hand but is still fair to the rest of us.
  • Scott Meek. And another relative newcomer to the trade that also has a DVD on making smooth planes. I have that one and it's good if you want to learn more about making Krenov style planes. I'm not sure how his traditional wood planes are since I haven't seen much from him in that area, he seems to make more Krenov style planes.