Book Holder Episode 1

This will be a thirteen-episode build series on how to make a book holder using only hand tools. After many years of not recording, this is my first video project, and I am optimistic that there will be many more to come. If you haven’t already, please show your support by liking and subscribing to my channel.

Making a Japanese Dai

by Brian Holcombe

This is an extract from ISSUE II of “The Lost Scrolls of HANDWORK” magazine

I will detail the process of making a Japanese plane body, known as a dai, to compete in the annual NYC Kez, hosted by Mokuchi in Brooklyn, NY.   Kez is short for Kezurou-Kai, which translates to ‘Let’s plane’, a competition in which participants compete to create the thinnest wood shaving.

In competition, the shaving must not only be thin but completely intact, it must also be the full width of the board (usually around 2″) and the full length of the competition board which is typically 8′.  World record holders have pulled shavings as thin as 2 microns, which is almost impossibly thin, being far thinner than a human blood cell at 8 microns.

In Japan, it’s my understanding that competitors use Hinoki cypress, while in the US we will be competing by using yellow cedar, which is actually a cypress and very similar in quality to good Hinoki cypress.  The yellow cedar we use is very old and tightly grained.

Competitors often cut their own dai, some choosing exotic materials or laminating their dai in hopes of creating a dai that will wear well, hold their tune for a good length of time and hold the blade with good support.  I’ve chosen to use beech, which is not entirely ideal, especially by comparison to Japanese white oak, but shares some commonalities.  Beech is the traditional western plane making wood, it can grip and release the blade repeatedly without losing its ability to do so.  Beech is fairly stable and very much available.  In my case I’ve chosen beech because of those positive traits and the fact that I can access it locally.

The cut-out process starts by prepping dai blanks, choosing material that is rift sawn and with grain running straight on all faces to reduce or eliminate runout.  I resaw the blanks to the required thickness of 35mm and down to a width of 80mm and 85mm.   I’ve cut multiple blanks, some I will set aside to age and two I will cut out.  One will be used, the other discarded.

I’ve chosen a blade by Shoichiro Tanaka of VAR white 1, Tanaka is one of few makers using VAR white 1.  This would be an ideal blade for competition with exception that it is 65mm and so less ideal than the typical 70mm, but it was made available and so I have chosen to put it to the test.

Next in prepping the dai block, I plane all four sides square, starting first with the sole which I adjust using winding sticks.  The sole of a plane is the ‘bark side’ of the wood block, this is done so that any tendency for the board to cup results in two ‘skates’ on the outside edges of the sole, which are easy to flatten down without enlarging the plane’s mouth and so that blade is not clenched by that same cupping effect.

Once the block is squared I can begin my layout, starting first by marking the mouth line with a knife, then transferring that mark to the side of the dai where I can layout my blade, wear, escapement and bedding angles.

This dai is specifically made for a single blade, meaning it will be used without a cap iron, chip breaker, sub blade, or secondary blade (however you like to call it).  When cutting shavings this thin and on such fine stock, a single blade is ideal.  Few competitors will want to complicate matters by adding a chip breaker, if they do it will be simply so that their normal planes can be used to compete with.

If you inspect closely you’ll note that the wear angle, which refers to angle between the top blade and the mouth opening, is extremely tight.  I’ve shown it being a single line in fact.  The reason for this is that my goal in cutting the dai will be to set the wear angle so tightly that only a fine shaving can pass through.

The escapement angle is transferred back to the sole and used to set the width of the mouth opening.  This is not to be confused with the distance between the blade and mouth which will be next to nothing.

The lines are next transferred to the top of the dai and knife marks are then applied.

I begin chopping out the dai, first cutting the mouth area, then flipping the dai onto its top side to begin cutting the bed and escapement.

The mortise is now formed in its rough shape, and it looks just that.  I’ve remained inside the lines and have nearly come through the bottom of the plane to meet the work I’ve done at the mouth.

Finally, I break through, then close in on my final fit by chopping the bed until it is fairly thin.  Next, I true up the escapement and the wear until a clean surface is achieved and finally I pare the sides cleanly.

Now I can cut the side grooves, this is a fairly critical bit of work.  I use a flush cut saw to form the top of the groove, which is the critical cut, then again on the lower part of the groove.

After which I clear the grooves with an 3mm chisel.

Now I have something to work with, but still much effort remains.  At this point I finish trimming the bed down to my knife lines, leaving the area nearest the mouth quite heavy.

Finally, I can bed the blade, I do so carefully to ensure that I can create a nice fit between the bed and blade nearest the mouth.  If done correctly a ‘smile’ is formed.

At last I detail the dai, rounding over the back, chamfering all corners (except of the front and back of the sole) and finish planing the exterior faces.  I’m ready to begin tuning.

I’ve carefully tuned the sole, as detailed in my previous posts on the subject.  Happily, I was able to keep the mouth exceptionally tight, in this case from the sole it appears to be closed.

However, when we sight down the blade we can see that a shaving will be able to fit through.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, however this pudding would suggest I have a great deal of tuning ahead of me.  The shaving is thin and full length, but not nearly thin enough, a real winner would be revealing a cheese cloth appearance, suggesting that it can barely hold itself together.

My new Roubo Frame saw

As you all know, I had to modify the frame to make it easier on me to saw with it. After shortening the one arm and bringing the stretchers closer together, I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. I just didn’t know whether this would work. I impatiently started putting it together and because I was rushing, I couldn’t set it correctly. So, I left it and just started working on the finish. I applied a beautiful rosewood mahogany stain with several coats of 1 pound cut shellac and left it to dry overnight.

This morning I said to myself it’s only a saw so get a grip on yourself. I started putting it together and everything fit snugly. Pretty amazing stuff when you’re not overly excited.

Checking for twist

After putting the frame saw together, I made sure the saw blade is dead centred between the two stretchers by measuring from both sides on both ends of the saw between the saw blade and the stretchers. This is important to help you saw in a straight line. Then I tightened the saw blade by hand pressure only by turning the eye bolt. There is a high probability once you tighten the saw blade that it will place the frame in twist and therefore the saw will also be in twist. This is why you need to check for twist before you use the saw. If you use a screwdriver to lever the tightening of the saw blade, you risk snapping the frame or really putting a lot of twist in it. I found the saw works perfectly fine with the saw being tightened by hand pressure only. You don’t need to hear that ping like you would on a scroll saw blade.

If the blade is in twist, I can only parrot from what I have seen on video the people at the Hay’s cabinet shop did to take their frame saw out of twist. They tapped on the blade with a hammer. That’s what appeared to me but I cannot say for sure and I will send them an email and ask them if they can make a demonstration. The way I fixed the previous saw out of twist was by twisting the frame in the opposite direction. It worked but it wasn’t perfect. On this frame it is absolutely spot on which makes me less inclined to build another frame.

I gave it a test drive finally, and I immediately felt the difference. It was lighter and a lot easier to use. What surprised me the most was that the lightness didn’t make a difference in the cut’s speed. There you have it, folks. I think this saw is kick arse and more pleasure to use than a bandsaw.

Here is something else a little off the topic that I found interesting. I flattened my bench today, and I found that the side closest to me was out of flat as this is the side I use. Whilst the other side that isn’t used was dead flat. Go figure I can’t explain it. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

Looks good.

Steel Wool

By Fix it club

Steel wool is a bundle of thin metal fibers spun into a pad. It can be used to remove paints and varnishes, or for polishing and finishing. The softness of steel wool permits its use on surfaces like glass and marble.

Steel wool comes in many grades of coarseness. Always apply the correct grade of steel wool to the work you have at hand, as detailed in the chart below.

SELECTING STEEL WOOL
Coarse 3Paint and varnish removal; removing paint spots from resilient floors.

Medium 1 Rust removal; cleaning glazed tiles; removing marks from wood floors; with paint and varnish remover, removing finishes.

Medium coarse 2 Removing scratches from brass; removing paint spots from ceramic tile; rubbing floors between finish coats.

Medium fine 0 Brass finishing; cleaning tile; with paint and varnish remover, removing stubborn finishes.

Fine 00 With linseed oil, satinizing high-gloss finishes.

Extra fine 000 Removing paint spots or stains from wood; cleaning polished metals; rubbing between finish coats.

Super fine 0000 Final rubbing of finish; stain removal

I want to finish off by saying I wish you all a happy new year, a safer and prosperous new year.

A new saw added

I met a sawyer at the timber two weeks ago and saw one of his many saws he had on display, one particular saw I favoured was a 12ppi crosscut Simonds.  I have been actually looking for one to get those smoother cuts for a while now, the less time I spend shooting means less work.  Well it turns out that saw wasn’t for sale and out of all his saws the best saw he had was another Simmonds as he is a fan of this brand dated 1916-1923 11ppi.  He’s done some repairs to the horn, general cleaning and sharpened it for me.  The saw cost me $105 + $11 for postage and that I think is a bargain.  These saws on eBay would not sell for less than US$223 which is one more excuse to look else where and not rely on eBay as much.

He doesn’t have a website that I could refer you too as this is only a hobby for him, he does it for the passion more so than the dollars.

Connections are important and the best ways to gain these connections is to get yourself off the computer and out into the real world, attend shows, look at the links in the magazines, join forums and woodworking clubs.  Shows and clubs would be the best viable option to get quality goods at normal to even bargain prices.  Swap meets are good as well.

eBay sellers, antique dealers are running a muck, their prices are high and most of them don’t even understand the tool they are selling.  It bothers me very little on whose toes I tread it’s time to speak up and this I can safely say I learned from Paul.  People fear what magazines and tool makers can do but Paul has shown than in fact these conglomerates  have no power whatsoever infact they can neither increase your business nor take it away.  I can name some prominent woodworkers whose skills are unmatched and have been in magazines but didn’t make it in the real world through their craft but are doing other things to survive.  This is the story of generally most people hence why woodworking or let’s say making what we want to make are generally kept on a hobbyists level.  So as you can see magazines didn’t create work for them, museums they worked also didn’t help so what’s to fear.  Paul came out into the open and opened a can of worms that was controversial and went directly against the preachings of every magazine and tool maker out there.  He’s openly attacked majority of the big name brands and yet his popularity has increased more than any other online teacher.  He has well over 1000,000 viewers and that say’s something, I know I’ve gotten off the track a little as I usually do but it is time to make a stand to bring some normality to this world and lower those prices so people can enjoy this craft whether professionally or as a hobbyist.  Just remember this that magazines have everything to fear from the tool makers as they pay for their advertising another words their wage, but we the craftsmen and women have nothing to fear from them because it is we who pay them their wage; without us they cease to exist.

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Ripping straight

Ripping straight and to these insane tight tolerance you see here isn’t achieved overnight but as you can see it also isn’t impossible and dare I say not even necessary.  On occasion your board just may be not wide enough to leave a 16th or more to get two pieces of a specific width and instead of laying aside an offcut for another project how great would it be if you could economise and get two pieces out of that one board.

This is where these tight tolerances come into play but of course your sawing skillsets must be up there to achieve this.  As I’ve measured this from the knife line to the cut it’s dead on 1/1000″.

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While the other side is 2 thou which is very disappointing to me but also very acceptable and still within the safe zone.

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However the aim is to rip square because if you angle the saw to one side a little more you will saw into and over that line without realising it and ruin your cut.  This mistake will cost you dearly not only in one piece but the entire width of the board as both pieces now are undersized.  This is the risk you take when sawing to such tight tolerances, of  course if you have a bandsaw and you don’t want to run that risk go ahead and employ it but check prior the thickness of the blade as you may end up also removing too much material.

People talk about drift I personally have never experienced drift as my saw is calibrated perfectly, my blades are sharp and tight.  The bearings are at the right distance from the blade so there is no reason for it to drift.  The only issue I have when resawing boards into specific thicknesses or book matching is my fence.  After all it is made in China and I have to prop the fence up a little to make it square to the table.

The starting cut is the most important cut of all, you must start square there really is no room for error.

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As you can see in this photo there is a slight bow, this is something I need to work on.  I start then shift positions which is wrong.  Once you place that saw next to your line and it appears to you to be straight commit to that cut, my problem is I keep over thinking it instead of following my own rule.  Practice on scrap, check to see which way you are angling your saw and shift it to the opposite direction, if your slanting in one way then slant it the other ever so slightly and keep doing this till you get it right.  A good idea that I saw Frank Klause do in an early video of his is by placing a mirror in front of you, if you don’t have that then record yourself through your phone or get someone to stand in front of you.  Once you get it right do a few more boards till you develop this muscle memory of it and you should by now be on top of it.

There’s an old saying you could be sawing for 20 years but if you don’t get it right from the get go then you could be sawing wrong for 20 years.

One last tip and I think this is pretty important, many people including me dred ripping long boards but if you don’t have a bandsaw obviously you have no option.  The problem is muscle fatigue, if your going to do hand tool work and I’m not referring to joinery but the whole nine yards as the yanks say then start focusing on developing strength in your arms.  Do regular pushups or even go to the gym and increase your biceps and stamina.  Because if you’re going to flatten a rough sawn board like you have seen me do many of times it’s pretty darn tiring and if you have severe arthritis like I do well bear it and grin.  But strength is the key to remain in the hand tool world especially for ripping and planing.

 

Rabbet Plane woes

I’m currently working on several projects as I’m headed off to the markets and one of those projects involves making several rabbets using my Veritas skewed Rabbet plane and in doing so prompted me to write this blog hence the title “Rabbet Plane woes” I’m hoping to shed some light for those who own this wonderful tool but have frustrations in using it correctly

To cut a square rabbet one must set the blade parallel to the sole but even before one can do that you must ensure when sharpening you keep the blade at a consistent 22° angle because if it is not it is impossible to set the blade correctly.

blade angleVeritas has provided some set screw like in all their planes to return the blade back to its original position after sharpening, however as much as we would like these set screws to be somewhat of a set them and forget them type it easier said than done as these screws tend to move after heavy use and I’ve found that resetting them back to their position which means kissing the blade prior to sharpening to be a good practice.

However, setting the blade quickly parallel to the sole is anyone’s guess, I’ve have tried several ways to do so by making jigs for it and am still none the wiser.  Unfortunately setting it by eye alone is not enough only by putting the plane to the work and taking shavings with light taps with the hammer here and there will you be able to see whether or not you have set the blade accurately.  This can be a very arduous task and counter intuitive as well because setting the blade parallel to the sole isn’t really the most difficult part but having it protrude from the side of the plane by the thickness of a sheet of paper and having it parallel to the sole is what makes it frustrating.  Many of times I have often wondered about my freshly sharpened blade, after setting the blade and taking several test shavings whether I need to remove the blade again and resharpen it.  But Let me get on to some important points here.  The reason the blade needs to be protruded from the side is so the blade can get right into those corners of the rabbet, if the blade was flat against the side of the plane you would be creating steps in your rabbets which ultimately would lead to the rabbet floor slanting downwards as those step wold force the plane to angle.  The nicker too must be slightly proud of the blade as well.

In order to have a square shoulder the above mentioned must be adhered to, the inside face of the plane is not a reference face and must not touch the shoulder of the rabbet but the blade is what kisses the shoulder so that is the reason why the blade must be proud of the inside face of the plane.  The manual that comes with the plane stipulates that this protrusion must be the thickness of a sheet of paper but many out there believe that this isn’t the case at all in fact it can be a 1/16 or more proud.  I haven’t tested this theory out to know for sure but on my next sharpening I definitely will, whatever it takes to get that blade setup quickly to get back to work is the aim here.

The other issue of not cutting square rabbets is in the way you use the plane.  The front knob as pretty as it looks is an actually hindrance and should be removed prior to using the tool, your thumb should be pressing down just behind the knob at the beginning of the cut, then equal pressure downward in the middle of the cut and lastly on exit no pressure on the front of the plane at all just like you would with any plane.  Your fingers also should be placed on the fence and be pushing against the edge at all times, the picture below I found on the net shows how you should be placing your fingers and lastly you push with you’re the palm and not with a full pistol grip.

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In the beginning it is quite a lot to think about but as you gain more practice with it, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.  Another thing comes to mind and that is the fence.  The fence that comes with the plane is rather small meaning the reference side isn’t wide enough to provide a good reference surface to maintain a square cut, fortunately Veritas has provided two holes in the fence where you can screw an auxiliary fence to it.  However, if you know your apron on your bench is square to your top this would aid you greatly but if it isn’t then regardless of all your setup the rabbet will not come out square so then you must use the edge of the piece you are working on which brings to another point.  Some people will have a very wide auxiliary fence but that width is wasted when it’s referencing off a 1” board thickness or less itself, unless your board is 2” or more thick having that wider fence will not provide any more stability in your cut than a 2” wide fence which is about what I use.  Having that size mean that sometimes you can plane rabbets in your vice but if the fence was wider obviously you couldn’t.

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Another few more points and were almost done here.  It is a good practice to scuff up those rods and the rod of the depth stop as the fence tends to move whilst planning and that is not what you want, I would also do the same on your grooving plane as well and finally and I have to practice what I preach here is to glue up some timber to the bottom surface of the depth stop as it does mar the work.

One last important point I did forget to mention and that setting the width of the cut, many people set the fence to measure off the side of the plane that is a big no no you need to set the fence distance off the protruding blade because that is what comes in contact with the shoulder of the rabbet.

Veritas does offer both Left and right planes, unfortunately these planes aren’t cheap ad unless you can afford them buy the one that will suit you and if the work dictates the additional version then you’ll have to bite the bullet and fork out for it which in my case I will have to.