Archive for the Category ◊ Tools and Shop ◊

Author:
• Friday, May 31st, 2019
scraper sharpening vise

I built this as a saw-sharpening vise long ago from directions on page 16 of the 1979 book Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking – Joinery: Tools and Techniques. After considerable modification, it has long since become my dedicated scraper-sharpening vise

In its original form, the vise was designed to secure the saw blade by the vise itself being clamped into the front vise of the workbench. I made the long notch in the lower part of the jaws to clear the vise screw but it is no longer functional. Now instead, the jaws are tightened by the two star knobs at the ends of carriage bolts. 

The 8″ jaws are faced with hardwood, which allowed me to tune their apposition, including planing a slight camber along the length. The angle at the top of the jaws provides clearance for tools and hands. The jaws grip just fine without a leather lining, which would tend to grab and accumulate metal filings. 

What makes my design really different is the vise is lag-screwed into the end of a 14″ length of 2×4. At the other end of the 2×4 you can see the L-shaped cleat that hooks under the steel plate of the tail vise. Along with the top cleat that contacts the bench surface, this makes the whole setup rock solid when the tail vise is tightened. 

scraper sharpening vise

The 2×4 extension piece serves as a handy platform for diamond stones, and for running the burnisher along the side of the scraper. The removable dog acts as a stop. The extension also keeps the vise well away from the workbench to prevent metal filings from defiling it. 

scraper sharpening

Of course, the vise is systematized with my method for sharpening scrapers. I do all of the work on the edges of the scraper – filing, diamond stoning, and burnishing – with the scraper clamped in this vise. I’ll save the details of that for another post but here I’ll say that scraper sharpening is easy, and I highly recommend a polished carbide burnisher.

Author:
• Monday, May 27th, 2019
jig for Veritas honing guide

Like many woodworkers, I have a mixed view of honing guides. After many years of using a modified freehand technique involving simple shop-made angle setting blocks, I now use the Veritas Mk.II guide for much of my honing. Maybe it’s because I have more blades, maybe it’s a matter of less patience, but I do like to try to refine my systems and this is where I am now.

The main advantage of a mechanical honing guide is in reliably and accurately returning to a secondary bevel formed in the previous sharpening or within the same sharpening session. This comes at the price of more complexity in the system. Moreover, the versatility of the Veritas Mk.II makes it more complex than most other guides.

My attempt to simplify use of the Mk.II involves setting the extension of the blade from the front of the jig, which is one determinant of the honing angle. To register the extension (and square the blade to the jig), the MkII uses an attachment to the main guide that you have to slide on and tighten. Then you bring the edge of the blade up to a metal stop on the attachment. Once you have tightened the blade in place, the attachment is removed and you can commence honing. 

Veritas Mk.II honing guide

The registration stop on the attachment is set in one of a dozen locations, each with a dimple to maintain repeatability. Each location of the stop allows several different honing angles depending on three possible settings of the clamping head on the roller base and four possible adjustments of the roller itself. The specific angles are in a table provided with the tool. 

Veritas honing guide angle registration

Ugh! But it’s not as bad as perhaps I’ve made it sound. In any case, 90% of my honing (and probably yours) can be accomplished with just two blade extension settings, specifically, the “H” and “I” extension lengths, which can render honing angles from 30° to 47.2°. (See Veritas’ instructions.) So, instead of fiddling with the attachment device, I use the simple wooden extension stop shown in the top photo. The little shim produces the “J” setting, which covers most of the other 10% of the angles I use. 

jig for Veritas honing guide

I find this wooden stop to be faster than the Veritas attachment, and just as repeatable. It does take a little practice to coordinate the stop, blade, and Mk.II in your hands. Another advantage of the wooden stop is in avoiding metal near the edge of the blade, particularly if you have to repeat the setting in the same session for a partially sharpened blade that you want to work on further. It also works with the narrow blade clamp, which is especially helpful for Japanese chisels.

With this simple shop-made jig, I can enjoy the advantages of the excellent Veritas tool while avoiding some of its complexity. 

Category: Tools and Shop  | One Comment
Author:
• Sunday, April 28th, 2019
PM-V11 plane blade

Will the PM-V11 blades made for Veritas standard bevel-down bench planes work in a Lie-Nielsen plane? These are nominal 1/8″ thick blades, the same thickness as the L-N blades. I am not referring to Veritas PM-V11 blades made for “Stanley/Record planes,” which are .100″ thick (a little more than 3/32″). 

Manufactured by Lee Valley/Veritas, PM-V11 is a wonderful steel that I’m glad to have in my Veritas bevel-up planes. Veritas offers lots of information about it, including their extensive testing, in a dedicated website

First, here are my impressions from using PM-V11 blades in my LV BU planes. Though obviously not scientific, they differ somewhat from Veritas’ testing.

For ease of sharpening, Veritas found PM-V11 about the same as A-2 but, as we would expect, not nearly as easy as O-1. My sense is that PM-V11 is actually noticeably easier to sharpen than A-2. I don’t think it actually wears faster on my CBN grinder, diamond bench stones, and 0.5 micron ceramic finishing stone, but somehow I feel more confident in creating a reliable final sharp edge. This is completely subjective and perhaps is just a matter of how the steel feels on the stones. 

As to the sharpness of a new edge, it’s hard to beat O-1 but I think A-2 can get pretty close. PM-V11 seems to me to be even closer to O-1, and probably equal. Again, this is subjective and perhaps is more of a matter of ease and reliability in getting to a pristine final edge. 

Regarding edge retention, it seems odd that the Veritas testing found that A-2 barely beat O-1. With the caveat that A-2 blades vary considerably, I think most woodworkers find as I do that A-2 holds its edge significantly longer than O-1. My unscientific sense is in general agreement with the extensive Veritas testing that the edge in a PM-V11 blade indeed outlasts most A-2, though not by as wide a margin as Veritas found. I think the Hock A-2 blade that I have in my jack plane would give PM-V11 a run for its money. Still, you’ve got to respect the extensive testing that Veritas has done. 

In short, there is good reason I’d like to use PM-V11 in my bevel-down Lie-Nielsen planes, which are, of course, absolutely fantastic planes. 

In my L-N #4, the lateral adjustment button measures .445″ across. The slot in the L-N O-1 blade that I own is .455″ wide, and .452″ in my L-N A-2 blade. The slot in the Vertias PM-V11 was .441″ when I received it. 

fitting PM-V11 in a Lie-Nielsen #4

I simply widened the Veritas blade slot to .446″ using a 2″ x 6″ DMT extra-coarse diamond stone and cleaned up the resulting harsh edges with the other (coarse) side of the stone. Though this results in just minimal clearance of the slot around the adjustment button, the blade beds just fine. In fact, the reduced play in the lateral adjustment mechanism makes it a bit more responsive. 

The Veritas PM-V11 and Lie-Nielsen blades are virtually identical in thickness (within one thou) at about 1/8″. There is no need to compromise by using a thinner blade. There is also no problem connecting the chip breaker, nor with the fit and function of the blade advancement pawl. The slot in the Veritas blade is longer than in the L-N blade but that does not matter as far as I can tell.  

I think now I’ve got the best of both of these great companies in my good old #4. 

Category: Tools and Shop  | 11 Comments
Author:
• Sunday, March 24th, 2019
NT Dresser

Here are a couple of handy little tools that might get overlooked. More important, they call to mind a similar shop-made necessity

I got these NT Dresser mini rasps from Lee Valley, who call them “Japanese finger files,” as a last minute add-on to an order. No regrets though, because over the past year I have found them very helpful for finishing off details. 

Made of stainless steel and only .023″ thick including the grit, they can get into very narrow recesses. Yet they are stiff enough, when backed up as needed with a finger, to apply adequate cutting pressure and to preserve crisp details. Below, I am holding the half-round mini rasp, which is, of course, stiffer than the flat one. 

NT Dresser mini rasps

The “grit” is composed of tiny rough, tough knobs on the steel plate. Unlike conventional detail rasps, the NT Dressers cut in any direction so they can work in some places that those other tools cannot. I easily clear them of wood dust with the same stiff hog bristle brush that I use on regular rasps.  

NT Dresser grit

The “medium” grit sold by Lee Valley is actually quite fine. The tool feels about like 220-grit sandpaper but leaves a surface more like 320-grit sandpaper. These are not aggressive tools; they are for details. 

NT Cutter (Japan) makes these in different shapes and grits, along with a line of larger tools. 

I’ve always kept a set of these little shop-made sanding sticks, pictured below, for use in countless detail and touch-up situations. They are probably not in any book’s list of important woodworking tools but I consider them shop necessities. They’re just PSA sandpaper (or glued-on regular sandpaper) on a squared-off tongue depressor or similar sliver of wood. The NT Dresser tools are more nimble though, which makes them a good complement to the old standbys.

shop-made sanding sticks

Made or bought, sometimes these humble little tools are just what you need. 

Author:
• Monday, January 21st, 2019
Hamilton marking gauge

I don’t know why it took me so long to get one of these. It’s one of those “Ahhh” tools – a favorite as soon as you handle and use it. 

The Hamilton gauge (this is the 4″ model) fits wonderfully in the hand. The grip affords excellent control to keep the fence tight to edge of the work piece, to regulate the depth of cut, and to start and stop the cut. 

Hamilton marking gauge
how to use Hamilton gauge

A key feature of this gauge is the fingernail-shaped blade. As you would expect, it cuts cleanly across the grain, but it is also fully effective along the grain where it does not tend to deviate by following the grain of the wood.

The blade is at the end of the stem so you can easily see what you’re doing, an arrangement that I much prefer. It is secured by a machine screw that threads into a tapped brass block, and can be installed with the bevel facing in or out, so you can always keep the bevel in the waste wood when marking. 

Hamilton marking gauge blade

The stem of the gauge travels in a snug dovetail slot, which allows for one-handed adjustments. A nicely knurled brass knob easily secures the setting.

The fit and finish of the Hamilton gauge are magnificent. This is one of those great-looking, great-working tools that is inspiring to have in the shop. Jeff Hamilton also makes this type of gauge in a 6″ model, plus larger traditionally styled gauges, and a panel gauge, all in a variety of woods. I like mine in osage orange.

I wrote a series of posts about gauges a couple of years ago. I’ve somewhat revised my gauge set since then. The Hamilton gauge, which I prefer to the Titemark, is now among my favorites along with the Marples mortise gauge and the Japanese cutting gauge. 

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. I love goods tools and, equally, detest poor ones, and I want readers to know of the former and avoid the latter. 

Author:
• Friday, January 18th, 2019
RP rasp by Liogier

This rasp is unique: the toothed surface is flat across its width with a convex curve along its length, and handled at both ends. 

Grasp the handles intuitively – from the sides or over the top – and bring teeth near the leading end into contact with the wood (top photo), then ease the trailing part of the rasp onto the wood (photos below), using a pull or push stroke. Let the sharp teeth do the work; don’t force them into the wood. As you move along the desired curve, you’ll subtly feel more resistance over bumps, less over hollows.

curved rasp

This does not work like a compass plane or spokeshave because they have only one contact point that cuts. The rasp cuts all along its length, encouraging a sweeping motion

RP rasp

Curves are generally best worked in the downhill direction so as to work with the grain, but this can vary. I readily switch from a pull stroke to a push stroke as I work, gently tipping the rasp toward or away from me as needed. This tool encourages working instinctively.

The constant radius of curvature of the rasp makes all of this easy and intuitive. You can use any part of the rasp, changing from push to pull, and always know the curve you are presenting to the wood is constant. (Of course, this does not mean the rasp is restricted to working on curves of constant radius.) In my early designs for this tool, I found I could not work as fluidly with a variable radius. 

The stiffness of the rasp, the tang fit of the handles, and the smooth-cutting sharp teeth, magnificently crafted by Noël Liogier and his team, work together to provide excellent feedback to your hands as the curve takes shape under the tool. You can feel the curve becoming true even before you stop to look at it. 

I think you will be delighted with the performance of this rasp. Liogier sells it for €58, about $66, which is a bargain considering its durability, utility, and the incredible workmanship they put into it.

Author:
• Saturday, January 12th, 2019
RP rasp

This unique rasp, handmade by Liogier in France, will allow you to deftly produce beautiful curves in your woodwork. 

The stitched surface is flat across its 30mm (1 3/16″) width with a shallow convex curve (radius = 320mm) along its 160mm (6 1/4″) length. The robust hardwood handles at each end can be gripped from the sides or over the tops to give you power and control with an in-line push or pull stroke.

You will feel exquisite tactile feedback as you fair gradual curves such as refining bandsawn curves in a table leg or rail prior to final smoothing with a scraper or sandpaper. I suggest grain #10 or 11 for general furniture work.

RP rasp

After years of wishing such a tool existed, I designed this rasp in my shop using wooden and sandpaper mockups, and extrapolating from other rasps. I experimented with various curves, lengths, and widths for the cutting surface, and also put a lot of time into trying different positions and shapes for the handles. I presented the design to Noël Liogier who produced it with his legendary skill. The result: c’est manifique!

It is now available from the Liogier website for €58, currently $66.57.   

RP rasp by Liogier

You may find it helpful to visit the post I wrote a few years ago about available options in tools for working curves by hand, and the two posts about the process of fairing curves. There are two key points. First, distinguish between two different processes: shaping the curve and smoothing the surface. Second, when fairing (shaping) the curve, you need a tool that provides continuous tactile feedback of the developing curve. The tool must have sufficient rigidity and length to reduce aberrant bumps and troughs. 

This new rasp is far better for fairing curves than other options such as an adjustable float, Surform shaver, or diagonally pushing the convex side of a half-round rasp. It also provides better control and power than do curved ironing rasps for this task. Shorter tools such as a spokeshave or scraper are less reliable for fairing. I also think you will find this rasp more user friendly than a compass plane or other curved-sole planes. 

new Liogier curved rasp

Liogier is one of the two best-in-the-world makers of hand-stitched rasps, both in France; the other is Auriou. This video shows some of the incredible workmanship that goes into these tools. There is nothing quite like using a hand-stitched rasp. This new design adds to the venerable repertoire. 

If you do give this new rasp a try, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Author:
• Friday, December 21st, 2018
pinch rods

Accurate construction of most furniture assemblies – frames, carcasses, post-and-rail construction, and drawers – usually involves 90° angles. “Square” is a big part of woodworking. Parallelograms, we do not want. 

Will a square do the job? Yes, for verifying individual parts, but for most assemblies, the tool to use is pinch rods. Here are the reasons: 

  • They are more accurate.
  • You can work faster, and don’t need to remember numbers.
  • You will get a more intuitive sense of the magnitude and direction of the error.
  • Most important, you will see immediately how to correct it, especially during glue up. 

The idea is simple. You are comparing the length of the diagonals across the frame. If they are equal, you have a rectangle; if not, you have something else, such as a parallelogram. (Yes, the diagonals would still be equal in a symmetrical trapezoid, but you will not make that if you start with the opposite sides of the frame being equal, unless of course you want it ever so slightly that way in making a carcase to hold drawers.) 

I have been using this set of pinch rods for more than 20 years, which I made with collars manufactured by Veritas. I recommend these because they simplify construction, and the result is a lightweight, low profile tool that is quick and secure to clamp, and adjusts smoothly. 

Veritas supplies basic construction instructions but here are a few tips. You’ll want to build a set of rods, so keep in mind that the shortest length a pair of rods can measure is at least 1″ longer than the individual stick length, while the longest measurement will be about twice the stick length minus 3″. 

range of pinch rods

A 40° chisel-like business end works well, but contrary to Veritas’ instructions, I suggest orient the pair of sticks so the bevels face away from each other, toward the outside, as seen in the photo below. In use, the beveled side should always face the shorter side of the rectangular assembly. Thus, you will rotate the stick 180° along its length to measure the other diagonal. This allows the tool to manage even the narrowest rectangles. 

pinch rod ends

The storage position is shown in the photo below. The non-working blunt end protects the sharp-beveled working end. I prefer to apply the gentle accuracy of these wooden rods instead of metal ones on cleaned up work.

pinch rod ends

Nearly always, you will be measuring from the inside of the frame or carcass because the other parts of the assembly will interact with the inside surfaces and angles, not the outsides. 

For very large assemblies, a tape measure, perhaps with the special tip made by Veritas, or an ad hoc pair of rods, is more practical than having a giant special pair of rods. 

To make a parallelogram into a rectangle, there is a simple rule to remember: shorten the long diagonal. For dry assembly, this may mean tweaking the joints, such as trimming tenon shoulders in a frame or post-and-rail construction, or simply adjusting the positions of the clamps. During the crunch time of glue up, remember: angle the clamps to be slightly more along the long diagonal, as if you are trying to scrunch it shorter. I am always amazed at how little clamp adjustment is necessary to square up the assembly, especially using heavy clamp pressure. Don’t overdo it. 

Sure, you did a meticulous layout and cut great joints – dovetailed that drawer, mortise-and-tenoned that frame – but somehow when it all goes together the evil forces still manage to sneak in. Assess and correct it with pinch rods. 

You might even want to make a nifty rack to store them.

rack for pinch rods
Category: Tools and Shop  | 6 Comments
Author:
• Friday, August 24th, 2018

double-stick tape

Double-coated tape earns Shop Miracle status for its simplicity and problem-solving versatility.

I prefer SpecTape ST-555H 1″-wide (Woodcraft item #15D25). This is a tough cloth tape with strong adhesion, yet it removes cleanly. It has a stiff, smooth paper backing that is easy to remove. I have used other tapes with soft paper backings that were annoyingly difficult to remove.

Its top uses in my shop are:

  • Template work on the router table
  • Bandsawing legs with three-dimensional curves: For taping the waste back on to restore the layout lines, double-stick works much better than wrapping tape around the leg.
  • Mock-up designs: Lightweight parts can be rearranged easily.
  • Bandsawing curves in wide boards: Tape an extra squared board to the back of the work piece for stability.
  • Holding small/odd-shaped work on the bench

Here’s an efficient way to work with this tape. While applying the piece of tape to the wood, fold up a tiny corner to create a little “ear” of separated backing. Rub your fingernail over the main area of the backing paper to seal down the tape. Then grab the ear to pull away the backing.

Clear packing tape

This works well as a glue barrier. For example, I wrap tape on the tops and upper sides of the wooden support strips used for gluing up panels. The forms and clamping blocks for bent lamination work also get covered.

Oh, and of course this is essential equipment for returning that tool you bought that didn’t turn out to be as cool as it looked in the online catalog, or that, nope . . . ya just don’t need.

Cloth friction tape (rightmost in the photo)

I wrap, hockey style, my coping and fret saw handles with Ace Hardware black Cloth Friction Tape to greatly improve my grip and reduce hand fatigue. I also flat wrap some clamp handles such as the outer handle on wooden hand screws.

This stuff is grippy without being too rough on your hands, as can be anti-slip tapes. It can leave a bit of black residue on your hands when new, but not significantly as the wrapping inevitably gets sprinkled with wood dust. It does not leave sticky residue on your hands.

[3M Cloth Friction Tape appears similar but I have not used it. 3M 1755 Temflex Friction Tape is different – it’s coated on both sides.]

Silicone “X-Treme Tape” (Rockler) (second from the right in the photo)

This interesting stuff stretches a lot and bonds to itself without adhesive. It is useful for some dust collection fittings where it makes a nice tight seal. However, it really only sticks well to itself, and therefore needs contour on both parts of the fitting that it can tightly conform into, and so create a mechanical lock.

Author:
• Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

3M tapes

Funny that tape is even used in the woodshop where we sweat over joints, glues, and fasteners to keep things together. Nonetheless, a variety of tapes serve all sorts of duties, and it pays to be familiar with the options. From among 3M‘s numerous tapes, here are the ones I have found useful, working from left to right in the photo.

The workhorse is the #2093EL blue painter’s tape, rated “medium adhesion, 14-day removal,” very similar to the original #2090 but with Edge Lock (EL), designed to give cleaner paint lines for painters. This is handy stuff – as a drill bit depth indicator, marking the floor locations of machines, reminding myself not to reset a gauge, and on and on. For shim purposes, it measures .004″ thick by my calipers. 1″ width is versatile.

Second from left, #2080EL “low-medium adhesion, 60-day removal” is smoother and thinner at .003″. I like this one better for taping off areas to protect them from glue squeeze-out. It’s not a big difference for our purposes from #2093. The EL tapes do seem to lay down to a neater edge.

The green tapes are interesting. The thinner green roll is Scotch #233+, which 3M renamed to #401+. It has significantly greater adhesion than the blue tapes, and it is stretchy. It was developed for heavier-duty use such as conforming and holding to auto body contours. For woodworkers, it makes a great light-duty clamp in situations where regular clamps are awkward to arrange, such as gluing edge trim or small miters, especially with CA glue. It is much better in this regard than the blue tapes.

However, the green #2060 (fourth from the left) is more widely available than #401+, and can be found in home centers in a variety of widths. #2060 is practically as good as #401+: adhesion and tensile strength are nearly identical, and at 8% elongation before breaking, it almost as stretchy as 401+, which has 10% stretch. Both remove cleanly.

The beige tape on the right is #2040 Solvent Resistant tape. I use this infrequently to mask off an area from a solvent-based finish.

Surprisingly, the tensile strength of all of these tapes is about the same, from 24-27 lbs./inch of width.

So, let’s simplify. I suggest go to the orange palace and get a 1″ roll of #2093EL for general use, and a roll of 1 1/2″ #2060 for stronger adhesion and clamping. I covered the background info and the other options in case you need them.

Next: other tapes including . . . the Shop Miracle.