Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scraper Plane to the Rescue

Well I got the new 1 1/4" cocobolo plane all made up, and after a bit of tuning it was flat and square and sharp and taking beautiful shavings off the test piece of elm. Also got the old 1.5" jatoba plane similarly tuned.

However, when it came time to plane the big elm pieces for the bookcase panels I ran into some problems. I could not get consistent shavings. Sometimes I would get nothing, other places it would work fine. I finally realized that with these wide pieces, they are not perfectly flat. Rather they are cupped, just a little bit, but enough that the plane will sometimes not make a shaving.

My fallback was my antique Stanley 112 scraper plane. After some tuning, I got a good hook rolled on the blade, got the blade set square, and started taking some beautiful shavings. It is a bit of work pushing it the whole length of the board without stopping. Waxing the bottom helps a lot, but I almost need to take a running start!

So my plan is to use the scraper to take out all the planer marks, then either polish up the surfaces with the planes, or hit it with 1000/2000 grit paper in the areas where it might need it.

I might also see if I can hold the boards down flat on the workbench, so that the planes work better. I have to be a bit careful now, as these panels will fit into grooves that I have already cut in the frame pieces, so I don't want to take the panels down past a good fit in the frames.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making A(nother) Plane

Well here is a snap of the 18" wide elm boards that I will be using for panels on the bookcase. I don't care so much for the knot on the bottom of the right plank, but I think I can get away with it. They are both wide but do have a 'gamey' look to them that is not uncommon with urban harvested woods. Definitely not a bookmatch!

So they were machine planed down to within a hair of the thickness I need (5/8"), my plan being to sneak up on the exact thickness with a handplane, test fitting them into the sapele frame as I go.

I've been grumpy about my planes for a while. I have a couple Stanleys (gasp) that I can get .001 shavings out of with a bit of fiddling. I also have a 2 1/2" Lee Valley bevel up plane that is probably my easiest and most convenient plane to use. The problem is that at that width it is exhausting pushing it through wood. I also have a 1 1/2" Krenov style plane, and two 1" wides ones, and although they can yield glorious (half a thou) results, I have yet to develop any good consistency with them. So, to make a long story short, I made a 1 1/4" plane out of cocobolo specifically for smoothing this elm. It was a bit of a struggle to get tuned up, but shavings were starting to come. Until I dropped it and one of the joints cracked loose, so I had to reglue it. That's what the photo is of. Glue session number two. I did clean the joint the first time and the second time both, with acetone. If it happens again I'll try a different glue.

Hopefully the next post will be about starting to take out the planer marks and sneaking up on that perfect fit with this plane! As a back up plan I have got my scraper plane tuned up and ready to go, but I can see readily on my test pieces that the scraper does not yield as nice a surface as the plane does.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Best Layed Plans

Taking a break from the bookcase, I've made up some lists of projects that I currently have OTG (on the go). Of course these are not really underway in the sense that regular progress is being made, but they have all been started to one degree or another. They have all progressed beyond the thinking stage. I doubt that I will get them all done. Some, like upgrading the dust collection I really do need to do, others may quietly go away.

11 Shop Projects - improvements and modifications to the shop.

10 Tool Restoration Projects - I like restoring old power tools, I have a bunch queued up to restore. These are the ones I have started on. I have four jointers and am in the hunt for two more. I passed on a 16" jointer last year - no room!

9 Woodworking Projects - The stuff I build in my shop with my antique tools from the wood I harvested with my Alaska mill! Unfortunately this does not include the elm bookcase or the curvy piece I fancy building next. Nor does it include any that I have abandoned and do not plan to complete.

This may give some insight into why I chose the name I did for my blog!

Bookcase Beginnings

My wife had been very patient for several years as I embarked on a number of cabinets. Most of which wound up in the basement. I was reluctant to make anything for her early on since I wanted to wait until my skills improved to the point that we would both be happy with what I made for her! I guess as we saw the maple cabinet coming together it seemed like things had finally reached that point.

So she put in a request for a bookcase! Not the curvy cabinet I was mulling over in my mind, but I think I can do a bookcase. I did some research and presented her with several ideas. We both liked the frame and panel style bookcase by Peter Zuerner featured on the cover of the February 2003 Fine Woodworking. It was done in with cherry frames and shelves, and Doug fir panels.

I have a garage full of slabs that I chainsawed up with my Alaska mill. But I did not have anything wide and long enough to make the frames up. Unbelievable! So I had to swallow my pride and buy something. I chose sapele at PJ White.

Then for the panels, I agonized and agonized. I wanted to make each panel out of a single piece of wood. They are all 54" tall, the two large panels are 18" wide. I had some oak that would work, but the grain graphics were not right. I then seriously thought about compromising and glueing up some old growth red cedar I had. Beautiful tight (45 per inch) vertical grain, but it turned out that I could not get enough in a consistent colour. I had never really paid attention to the fact that red cedar comes in a range of hues!

Finally after exploring several other ideas, my eyes came to rest on some elm slabs I had harvested with a friend. I had already given several away and they had gone to good use, but I had enough left that I could get the four panels I needed. I wasn't sure about the colour match between the elm and the sapele though. The elm seemed too 'black' to me, there wasn't enough red in it. But when I put them together to see, I saw that it will work fine. The elm has enough brown in it that the redness of the sapele will look good with it. It's not too black at all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Goodbye Maple Cabinet!!

Well here I am . Six years into this wood working thing. I was inspired to do this blog by a number of blogs that I saw done by current and former students of the IP school.

I just finished this small cabinet for my sister. This is my tenth cabinet. It had a fiddleback maple door on it. I bought that piece. The body of the cabinet was Norway maple that came from a tree that was diseased and taken down in a local park - I harvested several huge planks over 30" wide from that tree. The remaining woods all had significance for my sister and I, they were either havested by me or the wood was given to me by family members or family friends. Arbutus, cherry, cypress, kiawe & crabapple.

Part of the ethos I learned at the IP school was to use a hand plane as much as possible to finish the wood, rather than sanding. Certainly all of the woods on this cabinet were eminently plane-able. I found planing the fiddleback maple was beyond my skills though. The arbutus, cypress, and crabapple planed very nicely, the cherry had some figure in it and he Norway maple had some interlocked grain, so were at the limit of my skills, but I was happy to get them done (mostly) with a plane.

The cabinet was supposed to be a Christmas gift. I 0nly missed it by five months, total elapsed time on this was close to a year. My sister came by and took it home with her to Kamloops a couple weeks ago. It was originally going to have only one drawer, but I made a boo boo and had to add a second drawer to cover it up. I kind of lost my passion for it with the second drawer still unfinished. It really did sit around for too long. But I buckled down and got that second drawer done finally, it all turned out well, she was happy with it and I was happy too. I thought the design was good, but I need to leave boxyland now and get comfortable in curvyland with my next projects.

Next up: Bookcase for my wife in sapele and elm, from a design I saw in Fine Woodworking. Won't have any curves on it either, but we need a nice bookcase (actually we need several) so that's a good enough reason.