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Thread: Molding Plane Tune-up Question

  1. #1
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    Molding Plane Tune-up Question

    I am trying hard to learn how to "stick" my own moldings with hollows and rounds.

    So far I haven't had much success -- I do fine Sharpening/tuning up my old Stanley bench planes to work great, but in trying to make a couple of the old hollows and rounds I have take a decent shaving I am struggling.

    I think I need to true up the soles and work harder on getting the irons perfectly aligned with the sole and then sharp. I know the theory is to use the hollow plane to true up the sole of the matching round or vice versa, but I'm struggling to take shavings in soft woods and am reluctant to try and plane the old, hard beech plane bodies.

    I'm thinking it might be easier for me to start with getting the hollow working and then use that on the corresponding round. Can I glue sandpaperto a wooden dowel and use that to true the sole of the hollow?

    From a geometry point of view, I isn't the curvature of all the soles the arc of a circle? If so, using a round dowel as a "truing/sanding" platform should generate the right curvature -- right?

    Theoretically, shouldn't I be able to use the saying size Dowel/sandpaper to achieve a matching curvature on both the sole and plane iron?

    Are replacement irons available for hollows and rounds and if so is that something I should consider?

    I have made a number of wooden body planes that work well, but it seems to me the challenges involved in building a molding plane and particularly the metallurgy and grinding associated with making the iron are way over my head. Do you think the calculus of time, effort, cost of materials and probability of success in making my own molding plane is worth giving it a shot? In this case, I'm not so much interested in the building experience as I am in the final result of a working plane I can use.

    I have been able to restore lots of old tools and get them working as well as anything manufactured today, however I'm beginning to think that when it comes to molding planes there is a big difference between trying to tune an old tool to work well and and the new planes being made by Matt Bickford and Old Street. If it were in my budget, I would love to get some of those new planes to see how these tools are supposed to work -- it sure looks easy in the videos!

    Any advice and suggestions are much appreciated!

    Thanks, Mike

  2. #2
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    LN makes tapered blanks. You'd have to fit them to your planes and harden and temper them.

    As far as matching planes, use sandpaper if they are close. When you're doing it, rely on your hands and eyes to get them evenly matched, and to avoid working them unevenly (as in you could accidentally work a diagonal into the sole of the hollow if you are not careful).

    Larry suggests lightweight paper, but I've been fine with whatever is on hand at home depot or wherever else, going to lighter paper as the grits increase.

    I personally think that we are better served making the planes than buying used ones and tuning them. I have so many used hollows and rounds that I don't know what to do with them, and the great dykem disaster of 2009 made a lot of them blue. At some point, I'm going to throw away the bodies and sell the irons for cheap.

    If you can find a great set of hollows and rounds that are actually in use, that's great, and if you know what to spot and you find a great set that are not in use but in great shape, that's great, too. But it takes about 6 or 7 hours to make a pair once you've done a couple..add a few hours if you don't have a table saw, and I know that between finding planes, matching them together, redoing the wedges, etc - I couldn't get them there in the same amount of time.

    It's going to get harder to find beech soon, though.
    That Rug Really Tied the Room Together, Did it Not....

  3. #3
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    You certainly can use the sandpaper on a dowel trick to clean up the sole of the hollow. Once you have one plane of the pair pretty flat, you can put the sandpaper on that one and use it to flatten the other (if you don't want to actually cut with the plane). Anything that gets the job done is fair game.

    As David mentioned, you can make your own irons or buy the blanks from Lie-Nielsen. You will have to harder and temper them either way. Unless your existing irons are severely pitted, you should be able to clean up your existing ones just fine.

    If you have the budget and wait-list time then you could certaily save some effort and get some great new planes from Matt or Old Street. Making some yourself can be fun and rewarding, but it does take time and effort. I don't really buy the argument that it is less work to make new planes than to fix up vintage ones. I haven't seen the condition of your vintage planes, but they have to be warped badly to not be made workable with modest effort.

  4. #4
    Get the video from Larry Williams on sharpening profiled hand tools.

    There are two key steps involving machinst's marking dye (as mentioned above, Dykem being one brand) and careful marking of the iron to fit the existing sole.
    The iron is key to the shape you're after, the sole of the plane merely registers to that profile as you go along.

    I took a course with Matt Bickford and found myself wishing that H&Rs had a fence, as I tend to over-shoot my desired profile.
    Matt Bickford also has a text and recommends starting with a basic set of one small and one large pair and a good rabbet plane.

    From that MB can create a large array of profiles.


    In my opinion, you'll be money ahead to just buy the basic set - they'll work on delivery.

  5. #5
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    It depends on whether or not you can find vintage planes fast. If you're picky and you don't want to dump a grand on a matched half set that's at 55 degree pitch, you're probably going to have to make them.

    I've gotten about 50 planes over the years, and I'd say 10 of them have non original irons, most of them need the wedge re-made or refitted, and a lot of the unmatched pairs that are similarly numbered don't have great hope of being matched well. Quite a lot of what I've found that's been inexpensive is matched pairs that are too big to be useful for cabinet sized work.

    It takes time to look for planes, too, which is fine if you want to do something like that. More often than not, you'll find a lot of planes that have some sort of concession at a price that you're not that excited about.

    To redo wedges, redo profiles and clean up irons and beds for a pair of planes is probably about 3 hours of work, a little less than half what it takes me to make a pair (I don't have a TS and I size the billets by hand). If I troubled to make several pairs at once, the time to make them would be a little less than what it takes to do one at a time.

    I guess, all in all, I'd rather make them. I don't enjoy spending an hour or two on an old plane to make sure it's dead straight, touch up the wedge, lap and profile the iron, etc to come up with something that's not nearly as good as you can make.

    The only trouble I ever had with making the planes was finding beech, but for now that's not a hard thing to do. Mike Digity will cut and ship QS 8/4 beech reasonable enough that with the cost of beech and tool steel, a half set can be made for about $200-$250. Mike is local to me and I don't have to pay to ship the wood, so it's a little less for me.

    Floats and tools are expensive, but if you can pry yourself away from them when you're done, you can get almost all of your money back on them, probably lose $50 on three floats at the most.
    That Rug Really Tied the Room Together, Did it Not....

  6. #6
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    Have you seen popular woodworking magazine Jan 2012 on Hollows and rounds. I'm just starting out with molding plane pick up a few. I didn't realize how important cutting a rabbit or chamfer was in guiding the plane. The better you prep the work the easier it is on the plane.

    http://www.popularwoodworking.com/de...hollows-rounds

  7. #7
    If you can take a class with Matt Bickford, you can see how well these work and their application.

    I found, after 18 hours, that it wasn't ideally suited to the way I make furniture.
    That saved me nearly a grand, so it was money well spent.

    If you value time more highly than money, buying a working set gets you straight to work.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Allen1010 View Post
    So far I haven't had much success -- I do fine Sharpening/tuning up my old Stanley bench planes to work great, but in trying to make a couple of the old hollows and rounds I have take a decent shaving I am struggling.

    I think I need to true up the soles and work harder on getting the irons perfectly aligned with the sole and then sharp.
    Mike - your original post doesn't give a lot of details about what isn't working for you. It would help us diagnose the problem(s) with your existing H&Rs to snap a few pictures and post them.

    Here's a stab: If the problem you have is that you either get no shaving or, after re-setting the iron you get a shaving so thick that it clogs the mouth of the plane or makes the plaen impossible to push, here are a few potential culprits:

    1) Iron isn't sharp - it doesn't have to be as razor-sharp as a bench plane smoother, but it certainly helps.

    2) Iron doesn't match sole - what happens here is that if any portion of the cutting profile of the sole of the plane obscures the iron, then the plane won't cut, as the part where the iron doesn't protrude will act as a skate. When you extend the iron to the point where all of it is "visible to the work", then the part that wasn't obscured when the iron was set fine will want to take a shaving so thick that it clogs the mouth.

    3) Plane sole is warped along its length - this may be the most likely cause other than #1 or #2, which are easy to diagnose. If the sole of the plane is warped so that it is concave along its length, then it just won't cut, period. Until you extend the iron so far that it takes a massive shaving and stalls. If the sole is convex, then one can usually get a shaving if the plane is held -just so-, otherwise it will ether not cut if the heel is held down to the work, or take a massive shaving if the nose is held down to the work.

    To test whether you've a good match of the iron's profile to the sole of the plane, take the wedge out of the plane, and use the end of it to (gently!) wedge the business end of the blade to the front of the mouth. Then sight down the length of the plane - it should be immediately apparent if the iron's shape doesn't match the sole. The way I correct this is just to mark the portion of the iron that needs attention with a sharpie, take it out of the plane and grind/file/hone a bit on that portion, stick it back in the plane, and repeat. Using an iterative approach like this means that a mistake happens slowly.

    Finally, if all else fails, you might consider getting M. Bickford to make you a single set of H&Rs. You can do a lot with a pair of #6s, and if you get bored with them, you can always sell them to someone else that doesn't want to wait on them for nearly what you paid.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Weaver View Post
    the great dykem disaster of 2009 made a lot of them blue.
    Ha! I nearly spit coffee all over my keyboard when I read that (and it's only funny because I'm so familiar with doing the same thing!

  10. #10
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    For me a class with Tod Herrli was all the difference in the world. In my opinion his sharpening process is mush easier than Larry Williams and so is the heat treating of the irons. Tod also has a DVD on Sides escapement plane construction. Google "Tod Herrli" for class schedule and DVD info. in Marion, IN.

    David Turner
    Plymouth, MI.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=David Keller NC;2054306]Mike - your original post doesn't give a lot of details about what isn't working for you. It would help us diagnose the problem(s) with your existing H&Rs to snap a few pictures and post them.

    Here's a stab: If the problem you have is that you either get no shaving or, after re-setting the iron you get a shaving so thick that it clogs the mouth of the plane or makes the plaen impossible to push, here are a few potential culprits:

    2) Iron doesn't match sole - what happens here is that if any portion of the cutting profile of the sole of the plane obscures the iron, then the plane won't cut, as the part where the iron doesn't protrude will act as a skate. When you extend the iron to the point where all of it is "visible to the work", then the part that wasn't obscured when the iron was set fine will want to take a shaving so thick that it clogs the mouth.

    3) Plane sole is warped along its length - this may be the most likely cause other than #1 or #2, which are easy to diagnose. If the sole of the plane is warped so that it is concave along its length, then it just won't cut, period. Until you extend the iron so far that it takes a massive shaving and stalls. If the sole is convex, then one can usually get a shaving if the plane is held -just so-, otherwise it will ether not cut if the heel is held down to the work, or take a massive shaving if the nose is held down to the work.

    To test whether you've a good match of the iron's profile to the sole of the plane, take the wedge out of the plane, and use the end of it to (gently!) wedge the business end of the blade to the front of the mouth. Then sight down the length of the plane - it should be immediately apparent if the iron's shape doesn't match the sole. The way I correct this is just to mark the portion of the iron that needs attention with a sharpie, take it out of the plane and grind/file/hone a bit on that portion, stick it back in the plane, and repeat. Using an iterative approach like this means that a mistake happens slowly.


    Thanks everyone for the advice, with your tips I think might be able to make a couple of these old H&R's work.

    David K.,your diagnosis was right on target, a couple of my planes were warped convex along the length (I should have thought to check with a straight edge -- Duh!),which led to the inconsistent no shaving to instant gouge/stall.

    Given that I'm going to use dowels and sandpaper to refine the flatness and curvature of the soles, I guess my first step is to do the hollows and then use those as a reference to true up the matching rounds.

    I live in Southern California which is pretty much a desert when it comes to handtools, so I am considering trying to make a couple rounds. I think I can pull off making the body, but I have no interest in acquiring the necessary equipment and trying to anneal and temper the LN Blade blanks (seems way too scary!).

    If I buy the un-hardened blade blanks from LN and shape them to the correct profile, do you think I could find someone to do the hardening/tempering? Who would do this kind of work -- do I need to look for a blacksmith (I'm not sure there's any around here) or are there other types of companies/shops that do steel tempering?

    Thanks again for all the advice and suggestions!

    All the best, Mike

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Allen1010 View Post
    If I buy the un-hardened blade blanks from LN and shape them to the correct profile, do you think I could find someone to do the hardening/tempering? Who would do this kind of work -- do I need to look for a blacksmith (I'm not sure there's any around here) or are there other types of companies/shops that do steel tempering?
    Mike - you may be better off contacting an antique tool dealer and buying a couple of molding plane irons from him (not sure if there are any "her" antique tool dealers). As long as they're close to the proper width for your H&Rs, you can carefully re-grind the profile to get a match to your sole.

    But to answer your question, any blacksmith should be able to harden and anneal a plane iron, and there are metal heat-treating companies out there that can do the same.

    You could also go with these, at least to get you going:

    http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/pag...30,41182,41200

  13. #13
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    David - do you (or anyone else) have experience with those Asian (looks like a Mujifang product?) hollows and rounds? Not the plane I'd like long term, but I have a couple of projects in mind where having a couple of those might be helpful over getting my butt into gear on making or tracking down some traditional western style hollows and rounds.
    " Be willing to make mistakes in your basements, garages, apartments and palaces. I have made many. Your first attempts may be poor. They will not be futile. " - M.S. Bickford, Mouldings In Practice

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Pierce View Post
    David - do you (or anyone else) have experience with those Asian (looks like a Mujifang product?) hollows and rounds?
    I've got experience with eastern, new western, and rehabbed western H&R's. In my opinion there are two issues with the eastern H&R's.
    1) The small plane body size makes it difficult to work for any length of time.
    2) Western H&R's have specific shapes at each side of the plane, allowing one to work next to other moulding features/components.
    Eastern H&R's lack this, and I found it troublesome to add the side geometries to existing planes. I suspect eastern mouldings don't
    present this issue.

    As always, YMMV.
    AKA - "The human termite"

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Pierce View Post
    David - do you (or anyone else) have experience with those Asian (looks like a Mujifang product?) hollows and rounds? Not the plane I'd like long term, but I have a couple of projects in mind where having a couple of those might be helpful over getting my butt into gear on making or tracking down some traditional western style hollows and rounds.
    Joshua - No, I don't, I just know of them from other forum members. Being a part-time collector as well as a woodworker, I've a couple of sets of American/British wooden H&Rs as well as the Stanley H&R atachments for the #55, so I haven't needed to supplement my tools with the eastern H&Rs.

    Chuck's got a good point - the geometry of these planes might make the rounds difficult to use to cut several common colonial-era profiles. But one might be able to supplement these with a pair of British-pattern side rounds to resolve the issue.

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