As I’m working on the planter box project, I’m at the stage where I’m making the panels. These panels I’ve decided long ago will be tongue and grooved, and when glued makes a tight joint that should be flush and seem to the eye to be a single board. This is a great idea as you can make table tops, chests and flooring. What I find it serves best is in the alignment of two boards when making a panel, you can achieve this same alignment by using biscuits as Frank Klaus does.
The success of this joint greatly depends on properly prepared boards, that is correctly thicknessed and true jointed edges so that the two halves of the joint will match without any gaps showing.
The tool that I’ve used is a VERITAS converted plough plane. I bought the conversion kit for it several years ago, and used it once on some scrap and now for this project. I’ve never had the call for it till now, and I’ve realised the powerful potential this type of joint can offer. On the same token, I’ve learned quite a bit from my mistakes and the flaws this non-dedicated tool has to offer.
My boards have not come out perfectly as I would have like them too and I will be doing some cover up by adding moulded beadings, which I was going to regardless for decorative purposes. None the less, I’m very disappointed in myself that I just dove into it without researching on the material prep work first. Even though this is for the shop, it’s still no excuse for ignorance and poor workmanship, but every mistake you make is a lesson learned and earned.
Firstly, let’s have a look at the critical components of board preparation. All boards used must be perfectly flat and edges jointed true and dead on parallel to the other. This means there really is no room for error, you must spend the time to do this accurately. As an example, if your panel is going to be 4” wide, then you must joint that edge to be parallel with the opposite, so the width must be exactly 4” wide from one end to the other with no tapering. If its slightly tapered, then there will be a gap. As you can see in the picture below showing the panel on the left that is tapered.
On the other hand, if the edge isn’t square then there will be a bow or cup depending on how you look at it.
The above picture on the left shows a properly executed operation and the picture on the right shows the panels being off centre. With planing off centre shouldn’t pose a problem, so long as you plane off the reference sides both materials they should align and be flush. On the other hand if you plane on the non reference side like I did then they will be off centre.
So, the golden rules are:
- All panels must be flat and flush with each other
- All edges must be flat, square and perfectly parallel.
- always plane off the reference side.
After you locate the centre of the edge which can be done by slightly digging in at the end of a board and then make another mark with the plane facing the opposite direction. If the blade meets the marks perfectly then its centred. When starting the cut, you should start from the end about 3” and work backwards, this is to stop the plane from wandering off course. The fence must be flat against the face and square on the edge. The blade must also be square, which means ground square. So, when sharpening you must not create a taper, the blade must be square across. If it isn’t there will be a gap, one side of the shoulder will not be as deep as the other. Here is a YouTube video of Deneb from Lie Nielson demonstrating their tool on how to use their plane correctly.
As for the depth of cut, on the LN plane once the shoulder touches the sole of the plane it bottoms out, however on the Veritas version there is a depth stop in between the fork of the blades. You adjust it by loosening the screw with a Hex key that’s provided. You take a reading with your ruler from the base of the depth stop to the base of the sliding skate. When setting the depth, allow an extra 32nd or 1mm for the glue.
The picture below isn’t a depth stop but a shavings deflector, it does work to some degree but if you don’t clear out your shavings on every pass they build up quickly in the body of the plane and clog. A shavings deflector comes with each blade.
There is also a parallel adjustment screw, which you set only once. This will ensure your skates are parallel to one another.
The blades that you can buy are 3/16”, ¼” and 1/8” and an assortment of blades for making the grooves. The blades are bevel ground at 35 degrees, you can or don’t have to put a secondary degree bevel. I haven’t found any significant difference in reduction of time sharpening the entire bevel over a secondary bevel. Let me clarify that a bit as I’m sure there will be raised eyebrows. Yes, it’s quicker to sharpen a secondary bevel however, that bevel will soon grow after repeated sharpening into a very large bevel, and you will need to re-establish the primary bevel again. Being A2 steel it’s harder to sharpen than 01 steel, so in my own experience I will spend a significant amount of time re-establishing the primary bevel. So, in this respect I believe it’s quicker just to sharpen the entire bevel than waste time re-establishing a primary bevel.
One last important part I almost forgot to mention and this only refers to the Veritas plough plane. After creating the tongue, you will need to take off the conversion kit and restore the plane to it’s original condition to create the groove. For the boards to be flush you will need to centre the tongue to the mating piece. The easiest method I found but unfortunately at the time I didn’t think of it, is to use a ruler when flushing the two faces, and then to mark with your knife either end of the tongue on the mating edge. This will serve you better than trying to steady the male end with the one hand and adjusting the fence with the other. This way all you have to do is to align one edge of the blade with the knife mark and the two boards will be flush. Also don’t forget to set the depth stop.
Now let’s take a brief look at the LN version as I have covered some parts of it already.
Lie Nielson offers two planes numbered 48 and 49. Both versions are based off the Stanley models 148 and 147. A No. 48 is designed for ¾” stock but will also work on 7/8” stock. The original Stanley 48 is designed to centre on 7/8” stock and the 147 centres on 5/8”. The LN 48 will leave a ¼” wide tongue and 5/16” deep groove
The no.49 is designed to centre on ½” stock leaving a 3/16” wide tongue and ¼” deep groove.
The blade is precision milled to fit snugly within the planes body, so there is no lateral adjuster. It’s perfectly centred and parallel with the sole.
To adjust the depth of cut you need to tap the blade like you would with a wooden bodied plane, but to lighten the cut you loosen the cap iron and retract the blade manually by slightly pulling it out.
One blade will cut both tongue and groove, while the Veritas version only the forked blade will execute the tongue and then you will need replace the blade with a grooving blade to do the groove.
Also, the fence is fixed on both the 48 and 49, there is no adjustments to be made, so if your board is thicker than ¾ “or 1/2” as long as the fence is placed on the reference side, your boards should be flush. The fence also rotates by a centre pivot screw. To rotate between tongue and groove, you simply pull the screw and rotate the fence which locks itself in.
I definitely can see the powerful potential of tongue and grooves in making up a panel for anything you need to make a wider board. Even though edge jointing is equally as strong, for those who prefer to use PVA glue over hide glue, glue creep can be a pain for aligning the two boards, and I believe the tongue and groove will definitely help in this instance.
As for which version of planes is more versatile, I would have to say the Lie Nielson versions of the 48 and 49 win hands down, as it’s a dedicated tool and user friendly. The Veritas version is more like a swiss army knife and there is a little bit of a learning curve to it. The setting of the fence for alignment is fiddly and time consuming, the setup of the conversion kit is also time consuming. However, there is one blade the Lie Nielson versions don’t have and that’s the 1/8”.
I found this blade to be extremely useful when I made this desk organiser.
In the original version, I used the 1/8” tongue blade to join the back and left side of the pencil holder. This not only provided a much stronger joint but also gave me a perfect 90 degree corner. When I made the second version I opted to go for a simpler method of just mitring the corners which posed a problem came time for gluing and clamping as the clamps continuously pushed it out of alignment.
In my opinion if you’re going to use tongue and grooves for small boxes then definitely go for the Veritas version but, if you’re not and you already don’t own one then the 48 or 49 depending on what thickness you’re going to work with would be a better alternative.
As for the original Stanley versions on EBay I really would pick the seller’s brain and get him or her to check the fence thoroughly before handing over your money .
If the fence is slightly bowed, then your plane will wander and the blade will dig into the tongue. It’s always best if you can check the plane yourself rather than rely on someone else to do it for you, but if you have no option, atleast make sure you can get a refund if it’s faulty.
Vintage or antique, truly makes no difference since LN makes fantastic reproduction of traditional tools. So why buy a second-hand potentially flawed tool when the price of a new one some of the time isn’t that much different.