Floor planing

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AndyT

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For many years, I've admired this painting, Les Raboteurs de Parquet by Gustave Caillebotte.


Caillebotteraboteurs [Public domain], by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) from Wikimedia Commons

The Wikipedia article tells us of a second painting of the same subject


Gustave Caillebotte-Floor-scrapers (1876) [Public domain], by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) from Wikimedia Commons

To me, as well as being wonderful paintings, they are evidence that the surface of a floor used to be finished by planing.

The English language Wikipedia article refers to 'floor scrapers' but 'rabot' is French for plane; and in the first painting you can see the horn of a continental style plane between the fingers of the left hand of the chap on the right hand side. The shavings look like plane shavings and there is a hammer to adjust the cut. Ok, the guy in the middle is using a cabinet scraper, but there is definitely some planing going on.

Why am I digressing into art history like this? Well, it's all an introduction to my latest historical re-enactment. In order to re-discover what it's like, I have been planing a floor.

The floor in question is on our landing. We've ordered new carpet and I want it to last. One of the issues with the old carpet was that there were nasty edges on the boards, where there were gaps between them, and they made lines of premature wear on the carpet. It didn't help that the floor had been attacked by several generations of electricians and plumbers. Where central heating pipes run beneath, some boards were severely cupped.

So I have been down on my hands and knees putting it right. I have replaced one board, where before there were three little bits. I have punched down nails. I have sunk screws deeper. I have done dentist's work and extracted a tub full of little brads which once held Victorian lino. I have cut strips to fill gaps. And I have levelled the cupped, uneven boards by planing them.

I used a scrub plane to go across the grain:

IMG_5324_zpsuartpjrn.jpg


and then an old smoother to clean up along the grain:

IMG_5325_zpss7nxxofj.jpg


This smoother is one with a steel sole added by one of its many previous owners. It has already had a hard life and stands up to jobs like this well.

IMG_5328_zpsnqmf4clu.jpg


It has a "pre-loved" heavily cambered old iron

IMG_5329_zpsujeryqc6.jpg


which survives encounters with the occasional invisible nail

IMG_5330_zpsvvj41xzv.jpg


Working up to the front of the airing cupboard provided a rare excuse to exploit the somewhat gimmicky chisel plane option on this Record 0130, but frankly a chisel would be just as good:

IMG_5326_zpsfg7lkbqt.jpg


And here is the whole thing, just about finished:

IMG_5327_zpsruu1nzcr.jpg


To summarise, this is what I have learned, so you don't have to:

  • * Planing on your knees on the floor is best done by fit young Frenchmen, not middle-aged weaklings.
    * Nineteenth century painters do not necessarily know all about woodwork.
    * A bottle of wine per session is about right.

Has anyone else ever tried this? Would you try it? Or are you all sensible purchasers of flooring grade chipboard? :(
 

D_W

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AndyT":32n9xq8p said:
For many years, I've admired this painting, Les Raboteurs de Parquet by Gustave Caillebotte.


Caillebotteraboteurs [Public domain], by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) from Wikimedia Commons

The Wikipedia article tells us of a second painting of the same subject


Gustave Caillebotte-Floor-scrapers (1876) [Public domain], by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) from Wikimedia Commons

To me, as well as being wonderful paintings, they are evidence that the surface of a floor used to be finished by planing.

The English language Wikipedia article refers to 'floor scrapers' but 'rabot' is French for plane; and in the first painting you can see the horn of a continental style plane between the fingers of the left hand of the chap on the right hand side. The shavings look like plane shavings and there is a hammer to adjust the cut. Ok, the guy in the middle is using a cabinet scraper, but there is definitely some planing going on.

Why am I digressing into art history like this? Well, it's all an introduction to my latest historical re-enactment. In order to re-discover what it's like, I have been planing a floor.

The floor in question is on our landing. We've ordered new carpet and I want it to last. One of the issues with the old carpet was that there were nasty edges on the boards, where there were gaps between them, and they made lines of premature wear on the carpet. It didn't help that the floor had been attacked by several generations of electricians and plumbers. Where central heating pipes run beneath, some boards were severely cupped.

So I have been down on my hands and knees putting it right. I have replaced one board, where before there were three little bits. I have punched down nails. I have sunk screws deeper. I have done dentist's work and extracted a tub full of little brads which once held Victorian lino. I have cut strips to fill gaps. And I have levelled the cupped, uneven boards by planing them.

I used a scrub plane to go across the grain:

IMG_5324_zpsuartpjrn.jpg


and then an old smoother to clean up along the grain:

IMG_5325_zpss7nxxofj.jpg


This smoother is one with a steel sole added by one of its many previous owners. It has already had a hard life and stands up to jobs like this well.

IMG_5328_zpsnqmf4clu.jpg


It has a "pre-loved" heavily cambered old iron

IMG_5329_zpsujeryqc6.jpg


which survives encounters with the occasional invisible nail

IMG_5330_zpsvvj41xzv.jpg


Working up to the front of the airing cupboard provided a rare excuse to exploit the somewhat gimmicky chisel plane option on this Record 0130, but frankly a chisel would be just as good:

IMG_5326_zpsfg7lkbqt.jpg


And here is the whole thing, just about finished:

IMG_5327_zpsruu1nzcr.jpg


To summarise, this is what I have learned, so you don't have to:

  • * Planing on your knees on the floor is best done by fit young Frenchmen, not middle-aged weaklings.
    * Nineteenth century painters do not necessarily know all about woodwork.
    * A bottle of wine per session is about right.

Has anyone else ever tried this? Would you try it? Or are you all sensible purchasers of flooring grade chipboard? :(

I tried it this year. I tried planing, too, which worked OK except for the fact that there's no good body position and no way to avoid nails ultimately. You can plane a little bit and then if you're lucky and it's just a stray old carpet staple, you hear a click and you know you've just notched your blade.

I ended up doing the following:
* scrape the bulk of the flooring with a stanley 82 to get most of the finish off
* make one pass over the floor with an aggressive bosch dual action sander with 40 grit norton 3x (there was a huge difference in aggressiveness in the various brands of paper and norton 3x was the strongest)
* I think I may have gone over the 40 grit sanded floor with 60 then (I can't remember for sure, but just quickly if I did)

The issue I had with sanding only to start was that the bulk of the finish thickness would heat up and gum up paper quickly. At the same time, scraping off all of the finish for every single small undulation was fairly labor intensive, though next time I will probably do it. The combination of the two worked nicely, though i don't know if it saved any time given that I had to then scrape out the sander's marks.

I hated how the floor planed, though!! it was a lot less smooth than I expected, and I don't know why for sure, but probably a combination of things. Would've been much nicer to try a plane on the end of a handle like the old stanley plane, and with a double iron.

I put on video only the final scraping because I figured out pretty well how to sharpen and use the scraper. I was rowing in this, which you can't see - it was a bit more physically demanding than it looks, and sharpening is a welcome break. The average person will not be able to stand over the scraper or work on their knees - I couldn't after not very long - 10 minutes maybe, and I went to this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjLATlAIrqw&t=301s

Sharpening without rolling a burr, this scraper will take a 3 thousandth shaving - pretty substantial, but the surface is coarse, too.
 

AndyT

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D_W - I feel your pain!

You're dead right about the click - sometimes it was an old knot, gone from resinous to glass-hard, but often it was a camouflaged tack.

You must have been going for a polished finish, like the Frenchmen. I'm glad my work will be hidden under the best underlay we can afford.

I don't have a powered sanding option for this, though I expect anyone who owns a belt sander would have reached for it first. I'm glad it's only a relatively small area.
 

D_W

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AndyT":3fkozrlp said:
D_W - I feel your pain!

You're dead right about the click - sometimes it was an old knot, gone from resinous to glass-hard, but often it was a camouflaged tack.

You must have been going for a polished finish, like the Frenchmen. I'm glad my work will be hidden under the best underlay we can afford.

I don't have a powered sanding option for this, though I expect anyone who owns a belt sander would have reached for it first. I'm glad it's only a relatively small area.

I have a 4x24 sander, and it does mass removal with a 36 grit belt well, but it leaves huge grit grooves and it's not dust free. The other sander did a good job hooked up to a fein vac, and the scraper did well with it to not make too much dust.

The result I was going for is this:






temp image upload

I was trying to make a mark-free floor, but once you put the finish on it, you can see little ripples, but not tastelessly so. They are very subtle.

Most of all, I enjoyed the process and always get more satisfaction if my soreness is from muscle use rather than just leaning over a sander. Staining was very easy on a scraped floor, too - I could probably cover 600+ square feet with a quart of stain because the floor doesn't absorb much of it, and what it does take in, it takes in very evenly.

I have another 1000 sq feet or so of floor that will eventually need to be redone as the carpet comes up, and will do the same thing again, but perhaps with an aggressive and then non-aggressive scraper - I didn't figure out how to get the 3 thousandth shaving out of the scraper until late in the game.
 

MIGNAL

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Just be thankful that you were born sometime after 1945, that's all I can say. I hated the advent of laminate flooring. I'm pretty sure that's what did for my lower back.
 

D_W

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Cheshirechappie":trqowhtw said:
Flooring grade chipboard?

The work of the Devil. Unless you REALLY love squeaky, uneven floors.

that's noisy, too? You should hear my hallways - there is no way that someone will walk the halls of my house and rob it without waking everyone up.
 

dickm

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MIGNAL":2322zfyz said:
Just be thankful that you were born sometime after 1945, that's all I can say. I hated the advent of laminate flooring. I'm pretty sure that's what did for my lower back.
Ditto from this one of 1944 vintage. Except it was my hernia............
 

Jacob

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I think they are pulling their planes/scrapers towards themselves, which would be a lot easier if you are crouching on the floor.
Knee pads are good! e.g.pair of Dickies trousers with pad pockets. When the pads break up use bits of old Karrimat.

Nails - a bit of rare earth magnet finds them much more efficiently than the gadgets and then you just have to punch them in a touch. Rod shaped magnet so it has a small footprint and will sit precisely over the nail.
 

AndyT

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Well, I'm glad nobody said I was crazy to do it, though I don't think I shall rush to repeat the exercise.

I did use a kneeling pad. I also varied position, pulling and pushing the planes, working forwards and back or sometimes side to side. It's still hard work though! There was always a bit more to do, so it was easy to stay down on my knees too long. Easy until I tried to stand up again.

It will be nice to get back to some proper woodworking, at the bench. Not on the floor.

But before that, there's the little matter of all the skirtings and some more doors to paint... :(
 

RogerP

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.... then you get some Philistine like me buy the place and whack down wall-to-wall fitted carpeting (because it's quieter, warmer and safer) over all your hard work. :) :shock:
 

thetyreman

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I'm actually planing a floor myself, glad that I'm not the only one insane enough to do it, makes me feel better.

I'm doing it to level the floor out and also to remove a horrible dark brown stain to bring it back to the natural wood which is 1930s douglas fir, it's a subfloor, not sure yet whether we are going to put carpet or hardwood over it, you are doing a good job so far
 

ED65

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Jacob":2qn5iyx7 said:
I think they are pulling their planes/scrapers towards themselves, which would be a lot easier if you are crouching on the floor.
I'm fairly sure they're doing both. Pushing when planing, pulling for scraping.

Jacob":2qn5iyx7 said:
Nails - a bit of rare earth magnet finds them much more efficiently than the gadgets and then you just have to punch them in a touch. Rod shaped magnet so it has a small footprint and will sit precisely over the nail.
Good tip, ta! I have just the size of magnet for this.
 

nabs

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AndyT":3htmgtu7 said:
* Planing on your knees on the floor is best done by fit young Frenchmen, not middle-aged weaklings.
if only you popped into Charles Nurse and Co (in 1908) you could have got yourself one of these:
D0mIuPQHZEP7ZNGPLCdm-xFQ7kKjWsUy4ftuTpgq9BdH7HhIiXP18g


... it only cost 18 shillings too!

There is a photo of one on Patrick Leach's Blood and Gore
 

AndyT

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If you can find one, I'd love to try it out!
But I suspect it was a frustrating, difficult task and, as Patrick suggests, getting down on your knees, French style, would soon feel more effective, even if not so comfortable.

Whatever tools were used, I'm for ever impressed by the sheer hard graft our forebears put in to their work.
 

Cheshirechappie

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AndyT":1xoyajg7 said:
Whatever tools were used, I'm for ever impressed by the sheer hard graft our forebears put in to their work.

Absolutely. And they worked long hours, too. Life expectancy was shorter, though - so it sometimes caught up with them.
 

heimlaga

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Most floors were planed as little as possible after laying them.

Surely some upper crust people wanted their floors super smooth and paid for having it done but most old floors were planed before laying and hence not quite flat.
I have been told that around here two men would sit stradling a low bench facing each others and holding the flloorboard in place with their butts. The master would be pushing and the helper would be pulling a horned two man plane.
Edges would be scribed and planed to a tight fit then doveled to each others.
 

D_W

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nabs":241hkmxa said:
AndyT":241hkmxa said:
* Planing on your knees on the floor is best done by fit young Frenchmen, not middle-aged weaklings.
if only you popped into Charles Nurse and Co (in 1908) you could have got yourself one of these:
D0mIuPQHZEP7ZNGPLCdm-xFQ7kKjWsUy4ftuTpgq9BdH7HhIiXP18g


... it only cost 18 shillings too!

There is a photo of one on Patrick Leach's Blood and Gore

It is uncommon to find them around here with the plane in good shape with iron and the handle. Various other partial occurrences aren't too uncommon, but big dollars asked for the handles.

My favorite tool dealer, who is all over the board on prices (thus a bargain can be had sometimes) had a complete floor plane in his case last time I was there, and he wanted $995 for it - complete handle and all. I think that's above the ask, but it is the only one I've ever seen in person. I was not a threat to buy it at that price.
 
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