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The joy of good wooden planes

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D_W

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I am an amateur wooden plane maker, which is probably a known thing, but I settled on English style double iron planes to make as a matter of productivity. I've posted some pictures of planes before. One will be here, but one I don't use much.

My wife is on my case to trim my piles. I don't sell off much of anything without setting it up because most people don't know how to adjust a plane like this when it hasn't been used for decades. Once I set the planes up, I hate selling them, even though I've made my own.

I can't figure out how to post picture links from the imgur app, so I'll just share the gallery.

The joy of working with wooden planes
https://imgur.com/gallery/KgTW24k

This is work to come up with moulding stock. I've only been in the shop a half hour a day lately, and I haven't been getting much done because of it. Today was the same story.

Someone asked in the owt thread what the big deal is with cap irons when bu planes work so well. This is an example of it, cleaning up rough stock to be marked out and struck later.

Huge 10 to 14 thou shavings 2 1/8th wide taken at a lazy pace and smoother shavings about half that. Not even enough work to break a sweat, but I tried this in the past with bu planes and it was pure hell.

I made the cocobolo coffin smoother early on when trying to figure out how to make double iron planes well and the ih sorby iron in it is a little softer and not good at holding a fine edge, but it will take thicker shavings for eons, so I dedicated it to this. It is magic for machine planed wood, too. Chatter and evidence of any crushing or compression is gone in one or two passes with a near finished surface left behind.

For this kind of work in medium hardwoods, these types of planes are unequaled and this type of work will teach someone much faster methods of smoothing than taking tons of tiny shavings and getting sweated up. The cap iron makes it risk free.

The smoother even in this case will remove the sawmill marks from the rough side of the sticking in 8 strokes each side.

Keeping the thick shavings continuous and avoiding tearout keeps the plane so engaged that nothing but a round dog is needed at one end, and no constraints on the other.

As to why I made a big 2 1/4 inch smoother that is 4 pounds when most beech coffin smoothers are a little more than half that, I always despised how coffin smoothers can beat you up in less than ideal wood due to their light weight. The fact that the iron on this one lasts so poorly in fine smoothing gave me a reason to figure out some other way to use it, and I ended up learning more from it than I expected. Still dont like beech coffin smoothers in hardwoods.
 

D_W

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I can intentionally talk like the southerners if we want this to get really confusing!
 

D_W

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MikeG.":3lcgkrii said:
All hail the king of wooden planes!!!

Phil Edwards, of course.
Phil makes good planes but none is a match for the try plane in the photos here.

You guys practically give old try planes away. The one in these pictures was 30 pounds with a nearly unused ward double iron pair.

I'm sure you can find wooden planes over there for a Bob or two, but nearly unused planes like this one aren't as easy to find, and they're a maker's dream to get a hold of and study.

Not sure who the maker is because the ends were coated with linseed oil several times. It reminds me of mathieson, but the ward iron makes it less clear. It's fitted to this pair, too, so the iron is likely original. I can make a match for this plane, but I can't make one any better.
 

G S Haydon

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I would love to try some of Phil's planes, less so his bench bench planes unless it's a scrub plane. A few other various people offer them too.

Mr Sparks https://oliversparksmaker.com/ I'm not about to buy one but If a lotto win came in https://oliversparksmaker.com/#/no-70/

Mr Bickford for moulding planes https://msbickford.com/

Mr Voigt for nice double iron planes http://www.voigtplanes.com/ . If I'm right I think Veritas were good enough to help him with irons? DW would know?

And Larry Williams http://www.planemaker.com/index.html if you just want single iron planes like Phil.

Caleb James also has free plans for a jack plane online https://calebjamesmaker.com/free-plans
 

D_W

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Yes on all of those. I believe Steve is still using irons from LV, but he may be making his own soon (He's got some vintage machine tools at this point).

Oliver Sparks makes some otherworldy planes in terms of neatness and precision (I've never looked at his price list, but it would be understandable if they were expensive).

Everyone making wooden planes professional makes pretty good planes. Single iron planes are popular for probably two reasons:
1) making a cap iron the way ward made a cap iron really isn't that easy with modern tools, and without the specific design ward used (you can't just bend over a curve), you're going to have feeding problems.
2) the market of beginners will have an easier time with single iron planes - they're going to be using most planes as a smoother, anyway, unless they're chunking wood off of a cupped or twisted board

Another maker in the states (i think he's in the states) making superb planes is Darryl Gent. I have no idea if he sells them.

I was afraid to start making planes to sell for two reasons:
1) There's really not that much money in it if you're going to do it to white collar buyer standards (Aesthetically perfect)
2) once you start selling things, then a lot of buyers want to tell you what you should make and how you should make it

Add 3 and 4 -
3) if you're selling someone a try plane for $400-$450, some percentage of the buyers are going to call and email you constantly to try to have you figure out why they can't get the results with your planes that you would (this "you owe me" mentality ran stu tierney out of business because he was too nice to tell the badgering buyers to go away)
4) once you make a profit at something here in the states, you need commercial business insurance in your house. The private insurers are keen when they see any workshop to try to dig up anything you ever did for profit so that they can deny claims. With the internet and paypal, etc, you're not going to hide anything. Taxes, too (local, state, etc, here for business privilege) and by the time you pay for insurance and file taxes and pay the one time tax hits, you're behind a $1000 8 ball to start. I'm sure there are people who gamble and skirt this.

To the extent that new makers depart from English and American standards in planes in the early 1800s, they get off the mark, though - at least for users. Fortunately, most buyers aren't serious users.

I shouldn't forget my favorite maker.
 

D_W

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I'd bet mathieson's folks (though a lot of the work was done by machine, even early - here in the states, the planemakers in new york found water power to do the heavy work on their planes around 1800) probably make a try plane 4 times as fast as I do. Or, they did 150 years ago, and none short of what I'd make.

The difference between an amateur and a pro is probably summarized by this little story:

* it takes me about 12-15 hours to make a try plane to good aesthetic standards by hand, test it and make sure it feeds perfectly (most people will not be able to get a plane to feed properly with a full width shaving of any size). All of the makers now, as far as I'm aware, have planes that work entirely out of the box.

* george is a pro - not a manufacturer, but a pro. in the colonial williamsburg video for violins and harpsichords, one of his apprentices is thicknessing a guitar top with a nifty eared infill bronze scraper. It was oval with a bottom sweated on and it looked particularly sweet in how it worked. I asked George about it, and he said he made it in an hour - the entire thing - by squashing brass tube, making a sole, sweating it on, and making an iron and an infill.

An hour...
 

AndyT

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A handful of planemakers' rate books survive. They list how much was to be paid to the men working at the benches, on piece work, making planes for others to sell.

I can't remember where, but some scholarly analysis has been done and I think it was enough to calculate the time each job would have taken.

I'll see if I can find references for you if you can't find them yourself, but not right now, the sunshine outside is just too lovely to miss.
 

D_W

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I have seen numbers before that suggest about 5 planes per day for each journeyman (not sure if that does or doesn't count support work from apprentices or other low paid staff). That would be in a day that's presumably not 8 hours (more) and would include all types of planes (some moulding planes, etc).

I don't think any of the modern makers work at a rate close to that. I could see getting twice as fast as i am working totally by hand, which would be maybe two bench planes in a very long day. There's far more marketing per plane needed now, too - travel to shows, etc.

200 years ago, in the WPINCA book from the states here (western new york), it was noted that planemakers would land in an area that had water, but that already had sufficient seasoned beech that was at least a couple of years old. I'm not sure if new makers do that now, but if not, there will be a lot of change in (width) of planes with wood dried only once as the wood continues cycles of drying and having spring back less than shrinkage each year. I've bought kiln dried quartered beech and made moulding planes in the past only to find that in the next two or three years, the iron was quite proud of the sides.

At any rate, 5 early 1800s planes per day (before aesthetic standards went to pot) would've been hauling.
 

johnnyb

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I've always loved wooden planes. it's almost like they hugely outperform there "look". similarly metal planes tend to underperform. ie they look amazing but in use have limitations. ms bickfords book is a great resource for using moulding planes btw. I'm just really putting the scaffold in with these amazing planes. but I'm still getting decent results. the wooden plane- its history form and function is a slightly dry tome giving no hint of there practical use.
 

AndyT

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I promised a reference to a plane maker's rate book. It's in TATHS Journal number 6, which you can download from their website here

https://taths.org.uk/reading/journals

The brief description included doesn't cover the calculation back to the hours needed. I can't find where I read that. It's possible that I was remembering analysis of furniture makers' rate books instead. If so, there might be a gap in knowledge just waiting for someone with knowledge of plane making and historical wage rates. Maybe someone with maths and accounting experience.
 

Blackswanwood

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johnnyb":1b2hspqt said:
I've always loved wooden planes. it's almost like they hugely outperform there "look". similarly metal planes tend to underperform. ie they look amazing but in use have limitations. ms bickfords book is a great resource for using moulding planes btw. I'm just really putting the scaffold in with these amazing planes. but I'm still getting decent results. the wooden plane- its history form and function is a slightly dry tome giving no hint of there practical use.
Hi Johnnyb

I just wondered what you mean by metal planes having limitations in use?
 

johnnyb

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try making a rebate using a metal rebate plane then a wooden one. the wooden one will do it in half the time. also many metal rebates are not flat in particular carriage makers. metal moulding planes are poor at best( nothing to stop the shaving lifting)
metal in general but brass/bronze in particular has an inherent high friction.
 

Blackswanwood

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I get your point as far as specialist planes are concerned. It seems to be a trade off with versatility of the metal planes?

Metal wins for me on bench planes. Too much faffing around with wooden for no discernible difference in results. I fully respect it’s a matter of personal preference and that aesthetically a wooden coffin smoother is a thing of beauty!
 

D_W

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for smoothing and light work, I like metal planes - just plain stanley bailey types or copies (record, etc).

For anything heavier than that in medium hardwoods or softer, wooden planes win hands down once the cap is figured out (you can set them for heavy work and just use them without risk). For whatever reason, as the cut thickness increases on a metal plane, so does the force we use and so does the downforce from the cut (and chip flowing over the cap). Wooden planes don't really suffer that and you can work much faster with less effort.

Using a trying plane without understanding how to use the cap iron is terrible, though - I remember it well. I thought they must be for magicians the way it was so hard to get them set to get decent results.
 

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I haven’t used a double blade wooden plane but would have thought the cap iron works as it does on a metal plane? What am I missing that makes it so difficult?

Catching up on reading during the long evenings of lockdown I came across an article by James Krenov. It struck me how pragmatic he was about his planes and woodworking. His view was that provided it worked effectively for the user metal or wooden made no difference. I won’t get the quote spot on but he said you can either engineer a plane or follow common sense logic and get to the same place. He very much came from the latter camp and also never sold a plane but gave many away. Clearly he was one of nature’s gentlemen!
 

thetyreman

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one thing I'd never use wooden planes for is jointing rough edges on very hard woods such as american white oak, it will damage the sole, I found that one out the hardway, I like wooden and metal planes equally, it's not one is better than the other, love wooden planes for smoothing in particular and also for taking off huge chunks of wood when needed as a scrub plane because of the light weight make them ideal.
 

D_W

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we don't use something that looks like a modern scrub plane dimensioning - it's a construction tool. The reason that we don't (using a power jointer after one is a different story) is that a jack that looks more like a 16" english jack will remove wood just as fast, but leave a much truer piece of wood for the trying plane.

Yes, edge jointing (especially dirty wood) will erode the sole of a wooden plane a little bit of you do it over and over, but you can work twice as fast with one as a metal plane - oak and beech are about the top of where you'd want to use a beech plane, though - when it gets toward truing the faces of exotics, they're too hard in my opinion, to work comfortably long with older planes - they're really not very nice to dimension by hand in general.

At any rate, the key to keeping the sole OK in the wooden planes is two things:
1) truing is done with the cap iron set, so there's no dainty shavings and not racking around - just work through the cuts (so tiny variations in the sole can wait until you true it)
2) at some point, you can true the sole. mixing face work with jointing will slow the uneven erosion, and if it's really a big problem, you'd generally use a jack to take the rough edge off of the white oak board.

Is it that important? Probably not, but metal planes will be slower for the work and more physically taxing. Jointing 4 feet of edges, you won't notice. If you joint 80 in a shop session, it'll be a big difference (and one will be much more pleasant).
 
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