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Tools

This page is devoted to some of the tools I've made. Be sure to look at my projects page, as tools often appear there too.

A summary of all my project and plan pages appears at the bottom of this page.

Other Woodworking pages:

Plans Projects OldTools Archive Links

Spring Pole Lathe

Spring pole lathe Several years ago I built a treadle lathe built from plans in Popular Woodworking. The lathe was finicky, never seemed to run very smoothly, and as a result, I never used it for much beyond turning pegs and other rough turned cylinders. After watching a Welsh chairmaker on The Woodwright's Shop quickly turning spindles on a very simple spring pole lathe, I decided to convert my treadle lathe to a spring pole variety.

A spring pole lathe has a great advantage in it's simplicity, but it does require refining your turning techniques. A treadle lathe has the great advantage of turning the up and down motion of the pedal into continuous (assuming the rope doesn't slip. . .) rotatary motion. With a spring pole lathe, you can only turn on the down stroke, so you have to get used to pushing the tool into the work on the down stroke, and pulling it back every so slightly on the return stroke.

I don't have any plans for my lathe, but I do have a web page that has some design considerations, photographs and a few measurements. There are many alternative designs on the Internet, in Roy Underhill's books, and on his PBS television show The Woodwright's Shop.

Chamfer Plane

Chamfer plane Last spring (2001) I replaced several windows in my house and wanted to also add my own window trim. Rather than buy stock moldings I decided to start simple and make my moldings using 4/4 stock with a chamfer on the edges. This provided a perfect opportunity to make another tool -- a chamfer plane!

Download Plans for this plane (65 Kb PDF file). (13 oct 2001 -- these plans are not completely finished yet since I'm still working on the project!)

I also figured I'd try my hand at making the iron for the plane. Since chamfering isn't that demanding of an application (no knots, generally straight grain, a narrow cut) it seems like the perfect sort of plane to take a less than perfect home-made iron.

Red hot leaf spring The first step in making the plane iron is to anneal the hardened leaf spring in the wood stove. Once the wood stove had lots of good hot coals at the bottom, place the leaf spring on the coals, set a fresh piece of wood on top, and open up the air on the wood stove all the way. After about 15 minutes, the iron is red hot and can be placed in a bucket of ashes to cool. You can also let the metal cool as the stove cools, but I was concerned about leaving it in the fire too long as carbon will migrate out of the metal when it gets hot. The photo on the left shows the red hot leaf spring right before I put it into the ashes.

Once the spring has cooled completely, it can be cut with a hacksaw to the size needed, and hammered flat. I've also hammered them flat while they were still hot (which is probably less likely to crack them), but it shouldn't matter if the metal has been annealed properly.

Grinding iron Next, cut, file or grind an initial bezel on the edge of the iron. It doesn't have to be perfect, and you don't have to grind all the way to the edge because you'll have to re-grind the bezel and flatten the back after hardening and tempering. Hardening will weaken the outer layer of metal, and you'll need to remove this metal.

Once you've gotten the shape close to what you want, you're ready to re-heat the iron in the wood stove until it is cherry red. The object is to get the metal to the Curie point where a magnet no longer sticks to it, and then quench it in water, brine, or oil. By most accounts, oil is the safest medium for the quench because it is a slower process and is less likely to cause cracks or weakness in the metal. Oil is smelly and can catch on fire, however, so be ready. I've been using hot water and haven't had any problems, but you never know when you're using recycled metal.

Layout lines Now the iron has been hardened, is very brittle, and will be hard to sharpen. People talk about a file "skating" across the surface rather than digging in. If you drop the iron or hammer it, it will break. To make the metal more resiliant, it needs to be tempered. The easiest way to do this is to set your oven to 375 - 450, and heat the iron in the oven for an hour or so. Lower temperatures result in an iron that stays sharper longer but is more brittle.

Planing the sole Start on the body by cutting, squaring and smoothing the two halves of the plane body. I used hard maple for my plane. The two faces that will be glued together need to be perfectly flat and square to the bottom edge. Next, mark the diagonal lines on the interior surfaces for the mortise. Mark the second side using the marks you made on the first half so any subtle (but irrelevant) measurement errors are reflected on both halves. Also mark the depth of the mortise on the top, and mark the edges of the angled sole on the inside and bottom of each half. Your blanks should look similar to the blanks on the left (my lines are over-emphasized in the image).

Sawing mortise It is easier to plane the angled sole onto each piece before sawing and chopping the mortises because the plane can ride on the sole all the way across the piece. I'm using a Stanley jack plane (#5), planing right to the lines.

Chopping mortise Saw along the edges of the mortise and chop out the waste. This is much easier if you cut a series of kerfs in the waste portion of the mortise. After roughly chiseling out the waste, use a large chisel or a shoulder plane to clean up the bottom of the mortise.

Once the mortise has been cleaned up, place the blank together in your vise, line up the sole and mortise perfectly, and bore a hole through both halves at the toe and heel. Use a spokeshave or whatever means you have to form pegs that fit into these holes. Finally, put some glue on the pegs and on the interior faces of the plane body, drive the pegs home and clamp the body together until the glue dries.

If the mortises don't line up perfectly, clean them up with a very sharp chisel, a plane maker's float, or a fine rasp.

Bench Plane

Back of plane After using a few of Steve Knight's wooden planes I decided I should try to make my own. The plane is made up of a large block of white oak that has been resawed into a body and two cheeks, which after cutting the iron angle and shaving relief cuts, are re-assembled with a cross-pin that holds the iron and wedge in place. The sole and cross-pin are made from purpleheart, and the plane is completed with a Hock iron designed for wooden planes.

Purpleheart sole From the pictures you can see the purpleheart cross-pin and the purpleheart sole. Although purpleheart is very hard, in retrospect I don't think it makes a very good plane sole because it has a tendency to chip at the mouth. Despite this, though, it works exceptionally well. I set the mouth to be very tight and use the plane as a medium-level finish plane in between a finely set #4 and the Knight smoother.

Framesaw

This project came from several emails on the Old Tools list discussing how a traditional woodworker goes about resawing wide boards into thinner ones, or even into veneer. Most folks would use a bandsaw, but if you don't have one or you'd rather spare the electrons, here's how I built my framesaw. Many thanks to Tom Holloway on whose description in the OldTools archive this project is based.

Cutting blade My version of the frame saw uses 21 inch frame pieces to hold the blade, 26 1/8 inch stretchers with tenons that are 3/4 inches deep, 3/8 inches wide and 1 1/4 inches long. They fit into mortises cut into the frame pieces. I cut the blade 25 inches long, which fits perfectly in the frame with the 3 3/4 inch bolts.

First I needed some thick support beams for the top and bottom braces of the framesaw. To provide the necessary support for the blade in tension between them, I laminated two pieces of 2" x 21" 4/4 birch together. (Now that I've finished the saw, I doubt if this was really necessary -- probably a single piece of 4/4 birch would have been sufficient for both the braces and stretchers.)

Drilling blade I used a 1/2 inch wide, 6 tooth per inch bandsaw blade. To cut the blade to length (25 inches) I clamped it to a small block of wood and held the wood against the bench while cutting it with a hacksaw.

After cutting the blade to length, I drilled holes near the ends of the blade (above left.) The hardware that holds the blade in the frame is two 3/8 inch x 3 1/2 inch bolts, with the appropriate washer and nut. I used a hacksaw to cut off the head of the bolt, then hammered this end somewhat flat on an anvil, and cut a slot in the bolt.

Cutting bolt slot Finally, I drilled a hole through the flat on the bolt. The blade slips into the slot and a cotter pin or a bent nail goes through the hole in the bolt, through the blade, and out the other side. The threaded end of the bolt goes through 3/8 inch holes in the top and bottom frame, and the blade is tensioned by tightening the nuts.

The mortises are 3/8 of an inch wide, 1 inch deep and 1 1/4 inches long and the tenons are cut to match.

Frame construction To cut the tenons accurately with a hand saw I mark the cheeks of the tenon with a marking gauge, and then cut each corner with a backsaw. Once the corner cuts have been made, I cut down from the top with the backsaw riding in the kerf I made with the diagonal cuts. This insures that you meet the marked line in the front and back.

Blade attachmentYou can see the details of the frame and the way the blade is held in place. The tenons in the stretchers fit into the mortises in the frame (no glue is necessary because the tension on the saw blade will force the tenons into the mortises up to their shoulders). The image on the right shows the slot in the bolt that holds the blade. Also notice the flat I pounded into the bolt before cutting the slot. Not only does this make it easier to cut the slot with a hacksaw, but it allows you to use a crescent wrench on the flats while tensioning the blade so the blade remains perpendicular to the plane of the frame.

Starting cut To use the framesaw, first scribe a line all the way around your board, and then cut to this line on the top two corners using a backsaw (here I'm using a Japanese dozuki). When the kerf from the backsaw meets in the middle, grab the framesaw and start cutting at 45 degrees in one of the kerfs. Keep the blade on the waste side of the scribed line in the front. The back side of the blade will be tracking in the kerf you cut earlier.

Using framesaw Once the blade has reached the bottom of the kerf in the back, flip the board over and place it in the vise at 45 degrees again. Resume cutting to the line in the front until you reach the end of the kerf in the back. This diagonal cutting and flipping continues down the board until you have nothing left to clamp. At this point you can finish the cut with your backsaw.

Router Plane

[ router plane ] The photo on the right shows my first sliding dovetail and the tools I used to make it. The tool I built (as if you couldn't tell) is the router plane in front of the dovetail slot.

Here you can see how simple this tool is. The body is just two blocks of wood with a hole cut from top to bottom that holds the upright arm of the blade, and a hole cut from the front toward the back that holds a small eye bolt. The area where the two holes meet is chiseled out slightly so that the head of the eye bolt will fit between the boards.

[ disassembled router ] These images show the blade itself. It was made by grinding a standard 8 mm allen key (hex wrench) in the shape of a chisel blade. Be sure to grind an angle into the bottom so the back of the blade will be slightly higher than the cutting end. I used a belt sander with 80 grit paper to do the grinding, but a bench top grinder would work also. Be careful not to let the tip get too hot once the blade edge starts to get thin. Once I got close to a blade edge, I switched to my Japanese water stones so I wouldn't ruin the temper on the steel.

You also need to scratch up the upper arm of the blade so the eye bolt has a rough surface to grab onto. I used a file to roughen the bit.

[ router blade top ] Once you've got the blade ground out of a hex key and it's sharp, simply slide the blade into the hole, tighten the wing nut on the front of the plane, and you're ready to go. Although it hasn't been a problem for me yet, if the blade starts to turn as you are planing, you can fix the orientation of the blade using a 8 mm (or 5/16") hex wrench on the top of the plane body. Just slip the head of the wrench over the allen key, and either hold the wrench as you plane, or tack it in position with a nail or screw.



Project Pages:

Display Cabinet DVD Cabinet Spring Pole Lathe Benchtop Spill Plane
ABO Shelves Shaker Sewing Steps Magazine Cabinet Krenov-Style Wall Hung Shelves

Project Plans:

Display Cabinet DVD Cabinet Benchtop Spill Plane Writing Table
Chamfer Plane ABO Shelves Medium Height Pine Shelves Shaker Sewing Steps
Magazine Cabinet Cheap, Sturdy Workbench Sawbench Krenov-Style Wall Hung Shelves
Bedside Table