Archive for the Category ◊ Q & A ◊

• Wednesday, April 04th, 2012

This installment of the Q&A features questions from readers about shop electrical supply, convex-sole planes, gel varnishes, ripping, and Claro walnut.

A woodworker who is planning a new small shop is considering how much and what type of juice to have the electrician wire into it. Here’s what I use in my little playpen and why.

The pre-existing wimpy household 110V-15A wiring takes care of shop lighting and a few other small items such as a battery charger. Then there is a 220V-20A line with a single receptacle. This runs the bandsaw, table saw, and jointer-planer; one machine at a time, of course, because there’s only one guy in the shop. A 220V-15A line would not reliably handle a surge from the jointer-planer rated at 14A or the cabinet saw at 13A. There are also two 110V-20A lines, each with a pair of receptacles. Two lines are necessary to run the DW735 at 15A along with the dust collector at 16A. This also accommodates any portable power tool that I own along with the Fein shop vac.

It pays to plan carefully for the shop you have now and for the shop you aspire to. I think I’ll never need more juice than this in my one-man small shop.

A woodworker planning to make a coopered door inquires about options in planes with the sole and blade convex across their widths. The radius of the blade needs to be just a bit smaller than the curve it planes. Calculating an example, a 14″ wide door with a curve depth of 2″ has a radius of 13.25″. A 1-1/2″ wide plane blade of this radius will have a curve depth of 0.02″. Taking into account the effect of the blade bedded at 45 degrees (formula here), the blade must be cambered .03″, or about 1/32″. A tiny bit more depth than that will keep the outer corners of the blade clear of the wood and enhance control.

For this, my solution is to take any small wooden plane and camber the blade, and shape the sole to match it. Test and adjust. One nice option might be to get a Krenov style plane kit from Ron Hock and alter it accordingly. A Japanese convex sole plane is a more expensive option that is not tailored to the specific task, and is likely to be too curved for it.

I was a fan of Bartley’s gel varnish, which is no longer available as far as I know. A few questions came in regarding alternatives. Here are three:

A reader asked about my preferences in handsaws for long rips. My preference is the bandsaw, the “hand tool with a motor.” In most cases, I see no particular virtue in sweating out a long rip by hand, but the Disston D-7 is my weapon of choice if I really want to commune with the wood.

Speaking of communing with wood, I’ll hang out with Claro walnut any day. A reader wonders what woods might make a good combination with Claro. Of course, this is personal preference, but consider pear. The pink blush of pear seems to bring out the red hues in Claro, and its fine, delicate texture contrasts with the moderately open-grain nature of Claro. Unity and variety, right Mr Heath?

One combination that might seem promising but falls flat to my eye, is walnut and cherry. Maple and walnut usually don’t seem to work together. Claro and zebrawood look cool together, and ash also has potential with Claro. Just opinions.

Email questions (see the About page) and I’ll try to answer as time permits. Thanks, and happy woodworking.

Category: Q & A  | 2 Comments
• Saturday, December 31st, 2011

This installment includes questions from readers about the Shelix cutterhead, choosing a plane for shooting, and building a set of tools and skills. Also, several readers have noticed and asked about the tool cabinet in my shop. 

I’ve been looking at the Byrd Shelix and can’t decide if I should get it for my 8″ jointer or my DW735 13″ planer. I can’t afford it for both. 

The Shelix for the planer is the better option for almost all shops. Here’s why. The main purpose of the jointer is to produce a flat surface and an edge square to it. It does not really need to produce very good surface quality on the face of the board. The jointed face, even if it has tearout and missed areas, will register on the planer bed as the Shelix makes opposite face flat and parallel with excellent surface quality. Once that is done, the board is flipped over and the jointed face is cleaned up with the Shelix. 

Tearout is rarely a significant problem when jointing the edge of the board. Even if there are some defects, they should disappear when the edge is handplaned, such as for an edge joint. Jointer defects can also be ripped away on the table saw after you have ripped the second edge parallel.

A segmented cutterhead is not a bad idea for a jointer, but the point is that it is far more valuable on a thickness planer.

By the way, hand planing to flatten the first face of a board too wide for your jointer is not so hard once it is realized that you do not need a perfect surface. You just need a hit-or-miss surface, however ugly, that registers on the planer bed without rocking. Then do the flip procedure as described above. 

I recently bought Tico’s shooting board (the Super Chute 2.0). I didn’t want to buy a dedicated plane for shooting and thought a low-angle #5 would be a good choice. I also have a #4, #7, and a block plane. 

A LA #5 would work very well and I think would be the best choice of the planes you have. For a plane for shooting, you want a lot of concentrated mass and a thick bevel-up blade which is supported close to its cutting edge. A #7 BU plane has more mass but may get a bit awkward on a shooting board of that size. A 6″ block plane is too small and light. Even the #4 is too light. 

A dedicated heavy miter plane is the best choice if you can afford it, such as the Lie-Nielsen #9, which I use with the “hot dog” handle, or the new beast #51. However, even a bevel-down jack or jointer can be used successfully. Most important, use a very sharp blade. Add shooting to your repertoire and watch your capabilities grow.

A woodworker building his set of tools and skills asks: I’d like to add a new tool to my small collection of chisels, saw, marking gauge, and squares. You suggest buying a jack plane first but I already own a #5 and a small power thickness planer. Should I buy a second plane or a pair of rip and crosscut saws. Also, can you recommend a book for learning the basics of woodworking?

Because the jack plane is so versatile, I suggest that you not buy another plane for your next tool. More planes can come later. Instead, you would probably benefit most from buying saws for joinery. If your next project is a table, using mortise and tenon joinery, get a ripcut tenon saw for the cheeks and a crosscut carcase saw for the shoulders. If your next project is a box, get a ripcut dovetail saw to cut the dovetails and a coping saw to remove most of the waste.
Of course, you will need saws to prepare the stock. You will also need gauges, chisels, and so forth. Do not try to accumulate all the tools at once. It is better to choose a type of project that you would like to build now – stick and board construction such as tables, or case construction such as boxes or chests – and get the tools for that. In time, you will acquire more tools. Buy the best you can afford. It can be very frustrating to outgrow cheaper tools as your skills improve. It is much better to have fewer excellent tools than lots of cheap tools.

Start with manageable projects. A small, simply designed project that is well executed will be more satisfying and more instructive than getting overwhelmed with a project that gets out of control.

I suggest Peter Korn’s book, Woodworking Basics, as a very good place to start.

Regarding my tool cabinet, I will soon post about that. I’ve been using it for 25 years, and, though there are a few things about the dimensions that I would make different, the basic design has served me well.

Dear readers, I thank you for reading and for your questions. May 2012 bring you many happy hours in the shop!


Category: Q & A  | 4 Comments