Moulding planes in the making

I had three days off work and for the first two days I blew it, did nothing, had a complete mind block.

What do I build next?

I was going to do Greg’s glue brush, then I was going to make The Octagonizer Gauge also Greg’s post, but I need none of them right now. What I really need and have always wanted is a set of moulding planes ( Queen’s spelling) “molding” (revolutionary yanks version).

Do you think this is going to be easy, I think not.  I’ve been tackling this project on and off for the last 12 months, always looking for better ways of making them.

Without floats you don’t stand a chance using traditional build methods, but there is the laminated alternatives which is frowned upon but if you don’t have any other means of making them, it’s better than not making any at all.

1 year or so ago I looked at Matt’s post at lumber jocks and it seems simple enough, then I came up with another method that was even simpler but lol do you think I remembered what I did.  NOOOOOOOOO! and I didn’t even bother writing it down a big mistake on my part.  So I’m going to go with Matt’s approach and hopefully I can remember what changes I did.

I’ve practised with several pieces using structural pine, no point in ruining expensive good wood when you just learning.  I now feel semi confident that I can pull it off and I have a bit of European Beech laying around.

I face glued them to make them quarter sawn and to be the right height which is about 3 3/8″.

_dsc1433I want to start off with something larger which is simpler and then progress from there.

The heat treatment of metal is the biggest challenge I face.  I know nothing about metal, I know the process of the treatment but that’s theory.  Terry Gordon from HNT offered to send my blades with his to get heat treated free of charge, but where’s the fun and knowledge in that.  I graciously thank him for his generous offer but if I’m going to elevate my skills, I have to do it and screw it up and do it again until I get to the uh ha point.

First I need blades and then comes to mind another challenge shaping them, I was going to buy 01 steel and lo and behold only one place in this country sells them.  I called every place I found on google and only one company knew what 01 steel is.

So I asked David W for advice and he mentioned that the blade needs to be tapered and so he made a video for me on how to do it.

Ok now I need a belt sander, a power tool yuk but obviously necessary.  So instead and for now until I can figure it all out I have opted to purchase the blades from LN.  Price wise it works out more expensive but headache wise it’s a lot less stress.

If I pull this off and I manage to make them according to the 18th century design style like Matt Bickford makes his, then I’m going to make heaps and alot more of dedicated profiled ones.  If I get even better at it I want to add raising panel planes to that list as well.

I don’t believe by way of lamination there will be any issues, the grain is orientated correctly and shouldn’t pose any problems.  I’m also using hide glue which is flexible and the timber will not crack nor split at the joins.  Every timber moves whether laminated or not, the difference is, most laminated planes are laminated with different species and therefore  behave differently, but I’m using the same species cut from the same block so they will work harmoniously together.

I’m hoping this will work out in my favour, the end results should look better than these test pieces on the bottom.  These I copied from a 19th century style which shorter in length and height.  I only plan on making a half set as I don’t need a full set.


This will save me US$3750 or converted and God knows how much in shipping would cost me plus with added credit card fees AU$5200.  Mind you if I was a multimillionaire then I would spend that money and more on dedicated planes, but I’m not, like most craftsman of the yesteryears and today, we have no option but to make our own.

When I complete this one I will make a video on the next one.

Wish me luck and btw, I find it hard to believe that out of all the readers there are no finishers out there who was willing to answer my question.

Sand or not to sand?

I for one plane, scrape then sand, because I’ve been led to believe by the masses, including the finishers, that the timber will not absorb the finish if you don’t roughen up the surface with sandpaper.  Now that I think about it, scrapers alone without sanding to some degree more so than planing, will also roughen up the surface and produce a more vibrant surface than the dull surface effect you get with sandpaper.  I know some surfaces regardless will tear even with scrapers and your only option is to sand, but I’m more interested in the finishing side of this things right now.

Why is that the finish need to penetrate the timber?

When you think about it, we apply a sealer so we can build up coats quicker.  Forget the staining side of things to reduce blotchiness, lets just concentrate on the topic of building subsequent coats.  No product that I know of will penetrate the timber deeply, it will penetrate only about 1/4 deep or less, so again I’m asking myself why do we need to roughen up that surface when we’re going to build up several coats that is going to sit on and above that surface anyway.

Wouldn’t it be just easier to leave the fibres compressed and apply your finish that way?

Wouldn’t that also mean that you wouldn’t need to apply the same amount of coats?

Wouldn’t two coats be equal to three and so forth?

I tried this method once with the stool, I burnished the surface and applied German oil on it.  I only applied two coats as to the normal three and the results were equal as if I applied three coats.  My supplier commented that what I did was wrong, that the finish needs to penetrate the timber to give it deep protection, but what protection or nourishment does the timber need internally?  I think that’s a load of crock.  In my view the finish equalises the distribution of moisture if applied on both sides, it also gives some level of protection and obvious beauty.  But if we look at protection alone, it’s the subsequent levels of buildup and hardening that offers that protection.  The best levels of protection a finish can give is marine paint.  Obviously poly is better than oils with mixed poly in it, but if you build up ridiculous amount of coats of so called “Danish oil” you should get the same level of protection.  Because the poly is the key protector not the oil.  Btw don’t build up 50 coats of danish oil it will look ridiculous, believe me I’ve seen clocks coated with ugly thick films of danish oil but each to their own.  Three coats is the right amount of finish.

What got me in asking this question is when I saw this video on youtube, Planing or Sanding.  It’s made in Japan and it’s a short video in Japanese showing the difference between a planed surface and a sanded one. But, what caught my eye was the drop of water on a planed surface and then on a sanded one.  The droplet on the planed surface did not penetrate the timber while the sanded surface absorbed it.

So I’m genuinely curious why is that we need to allow the finish to penetrate our timber?

Is there anyone out there who is a finisher that can answer this question?


Pine – Highly under rated

Pine used to be very cheap hence why so many mass producing factories and small cabinet shops favour this timber.  Long gone are the days when you used to pay $5 a lineal metre in the mid 90’s, I even remember the days when it cost only $3.  Now it ranges from $15-17 and home centre charge around $20.  But if you have serious money on hand and plenty of storage space, buy in bulk and your price will significantly drop.  I guess that’s with everything, but for us poor sods it’s never an option.

Pine has always been used mostly as a secondary timber until the last half of the 18th century. These were for the country folk who couldn’t afford hardwoods like Walnut and Mahogany or Oak.  But this isn’t a history lesson on Pine and what types of furniture that was built with it, but a short post on some important points on how to get the most out of it or I should say, how to work with it.

Pine as I see it is a good trainer or a test of your skills.

Your tools must be extremely sharp especially your saws as the fibres tear due to it being soft.  Even then you will break out on the bottom leaving a rough surface.  Mr Sellers offers a great solution to this by knifing a double line the thickness of your saw kerf, but if you can’t saw straight then this method won’t help you.  In the beginning you can saw back 1/8 from the line and shoot to the line until you get more proficient at sawing.  Don’t think yourself any less of a craftsman if you can’t saw straight and plumb, everyday is a learning curve and the more you do it the better you’ll get at it, but if you give up then you’ll be in the same spot you were 20 years ago.

Your chisels, plane irons and carving tools must also be sharp, if that means you need to visit your stones more times than you normally would, I would highly recommend it. Don’t be lazy or frustrated doing this, a quick hone will be 5 mins of your time and the results will soon make you forget your time loss.

Your workmanship must be of the highest quality. 

You must take extra care when working with pine due to it’s soft nature, any bumps, scratches, marks will stick out like a saw thumb leaving evidence of poor sloppy workmanship.  If your going to stain it, then these marks will truly be highlighted.  So always check your bench and clean it thoroughly of any little chips that will compress itself into your board.  You should be doing that with all boards.  When moving it around be extra careful that you don’t bump it into something like I did with the planter box.

Pine is a great and I emphasise is a great wood to train yourself to work to high levels of accuracy and to work cleanly.

Pine is easy to plane but sometimes it will tear, grain isn’t easy to read on Pine so start off with a light cut and progress to a heavier one if you need too.

Structural pine is an outdoor timber due to it’s high resin content, so building a planter box or a park bench should last outdoors.  However, don’t stain it but slap a coat of thick coloured paint to stop the blue staining that will occur in a matter of two weeks.  You see old window frames made out of yellow pine and painted white, and they’ve been around long before any of us and they’re still around today.  So don’t fooled that you can’t use it for outdoors.

While pine isn’t an attractive timber it’s not ugly either, just mundane and ordinary looking but so are most trainers I’ve ever come across in life. But Pine is just that though, a good trainer that will elevate your skills and make you a better craftsman in the end.

And don’t forget you can pretty it up by painting it, adding decorative features like carving, burnishing, oiling and yes even staining it.  If you follow my method of staining you won’t get any blotches or you can use a gel stain instead.  The methods and solutions of making it an attractive piece are endless.

I’m going to leave you with a teaser, the best type of pine I’ve ever worked with is **** I’m not going tell you, because I’m afraid you will start to seek it out and this supply and demand crap will blow the price out of the water.  Experiment and you’ll soon figure it out which is the better of the countless out there and when you do, don’t be like the old guy in the western movies who screams out “gold”! in the saloon bar.  When you discover gold keep it to yourself and continue digging it out of the ground quietly.

Cupping and its cure tip

Woodworking is beyond a passion for me, even at work it creeps into my mind which prompted me to write up this tip.

You’ve all faced cupping before that’s nothing new, but I bet many of you have been left scratching your heads why it occurred when you applied a finish.  The answer is simple, because you applied a finish to the top and ignored the underside.  So the moisture is being absorbed and expelled on the unfinished underside and the cure is, to equalise the distribution of moisture by applying finish to both sides.  

So what do you to rectify this now?

I take the finish has already cured and some time has passed, you need to strip the finish and lay the cup side down outdoors in a sunny spot directly on the grass without stickers.  If you remember my previous post on kiln drying vs air drying, I talked about how it’s not a good idea to air dry lumber around trees or have it stickered on dirt due to the high moisture content it will receive from its surroundings.  In this case this is what you want, and the rest is just observing it throughout the day.  Once the cupping is removed, bring it indoors and now place it on stickers and let nature do its course.  

Once the timber is dry and reached equilibrium with its environment your board should remain flat and ready for finish again but this time apply it to both sides to equalise its distribution.

That’s it your done.

Planter box all finished

Well I finished it the day after New Years and I’ve been cleaning up the shop since.

I’m convinced my blotchfree staining works, I know I could of made darker by giving it an extra coat that’s why you should never work at night.  Even though in the photo it appears to have some blotching it actually doesn’t, for some reason the camera doesn’t give it justice and this one I took with my iPad as it’s closer in resemblance to what I can see with the naked eye.

This was a fun project and I would like to do another one again.

Anyway you be the judge,  let me know what you think and what improvement I could of made.

Btw I made this post via my iPad it took a better photo than my over rated and overly expensive camera which I’m still paying off.  Viewing it on the iPad and then viewing it on my computer screen I’m getting looks.  You just can’t win with technology.