Saturday, November 27, 2010

Plow Plane, 0.2

In the last episode, we had plow plane v0.0 complete with flaws. Must make a new one. Now a plane, full-size or miniature -- I should say, a wooden plane -- is a block of wood with a peculiar hole in the middle. One side (back) is a ramp, at a precise angle, that supports the blade; the bed as it is called. The front side is another ramp, at a different angle. There are two ways (that I know about) to cut these holes. One is to drill, by hand or by press, some pilot holes at the correct angles. (The correct angle depends on what kind of plane it is. Typically the back ramp is 45 deg.). Then you hollow out the hole, with chisel or, better, a planemaker's float, which is a cross between a rasp and a chisel. The other way, popularized by the late and great James Krenov, cabinetmaker extraordinary, is to take a block of wood, saw it into three pieces longwise (rip), cut the middle piece to shape -- a simple task -- and glue it all back together again.

So I decided to do it the Krenov way. The rabbet plane of the previous post was done the first way; it was very difficult! I had, of course, no planemaker's floats. Fortunately, courtesy of my daughter, I have an old table. I cannot say what kind of wood it is, but it looks very much like some relative of mahogany, stained walnut. It's nice wood. First job is to cut the basic block to size.
Sorry about the background. I've put newspaper down on my all-purpose dining, crafts, and arts table. But there's the block. How big? Interesting. What I did was measure Mr. Liu Ban, introduced in the last post. Then I played around with my old slide rule until I got a decent scale. (How old-fashioned! A slide rule! But it is much more convenient than a calculator. You can move the cursor around until you get a nice set of numbers far, far faster than punching numbers into a calculator.) The scale turned out to be 0.4; so the new plow is 66 mm long. All other numbers are nice whole mm. You can see that the block has been marked out into three parts. The middle is where the blade goes. So I made a new blade, microforge stuff, 4mm wide. The middle stripe is 4mm wide and it should have been wider, because you need some clearance. Hindsight is wonderful.

Next step is to drill some registration holes. This is so that when you put the thing back together again, it all lines up. It is a sandwich, you see. Then we cut the sandwich apart along the dotted lines. A classic rip cut. Mr. Krenov used a bandsaw for this, but he was working full size. If I had a small enough bandsaw I'd use it too; these cuts are critical.
For this I used my miniature Dozuki saw. A Dozuki saw is a crosscut saw, but I used it because it has a paper-thin kerf. Above, the three pieces of the sandwich. In retrospect I should have drilled another two registration holes; not fatal. Now we mark out and cut the front ramp. I used the Krenov Kanonical angle, 62 deg. Liu Ban is 90 deg. I didn't like that, although it works perfectly well. I wanted a ramp.

So there, cut out, is the filling of the sandwich. All angles correct, no fuss with floats. The registration holes were drilled such that they acommodate supermarket bamboo skewers, used for barbecues. I use them for dowel stock; they are about 2.8mm. So we push the skewers through the holes and assemble our sandwich.
It might be a plane! The blade is much thicker than in v0.0; it is a piece of Sawz-all blade; makes magnificent blades (or knives!) Took a while to make and sharpen; worth it. Note the super micro machinist's clamps. Available from Lee Valley. At this point I realized I should have cut the center section a tad thicker. Sigh. So I filed the blade down a bit. Tedious. Moral: cut outside the scribed lines! Or scribe a little wider. In this scale a tenth mm is too much. Next step is to glue the sandwich together.
When gluing, there is no such thing as "too many clamps." You never have enough clamps, much like friends and money. After unclamping, we have to cut a groove in the bottom of the plane to accomodate the skate. Plow planes ride a skate, probably because wood would wear out in no time. Cutting the groove was very difficult. If I did this for a living I'd figure out some kind of a jig. But the result is now
The skate is a piece of scrap sheet metal I found somewhere. It is in place, but not glued. A temporary wedge has been made for the blade. A pin to hold the wedge (in fact a common brad) has been added. At this point you have to fuss around until it all lines up. I epoxied the skate to the groove, screws are out of the question. The epoxy is drying as I write. I even filed a registration groove into the back of the blade to mate with the skate. That was a very difficult thing to do, but I did it. Swiss files are wonderful. Preliminary tests of v0.2 are are very favorable.

I have gone into all this detail (practically a tutorial) because I wanted to show how a Krenov plane is made. It is much easier than the traditional way. It is even easier if you work full size, because a tenth millimeter error won't hurt. Of course, you should read all of Krenov's books. You can Google him to good effect. The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking is the one you need if you want to make planes. Also very good is David Finck's Making & Mastering Wooden Planes (q.g.). Finck is one of Krenov's pupils. And if you are making full-size smoothing planes and don't do forging, you will need irons (blades) for your planes. See the Hock company's web page. You could also cut down regular plane blades, as Krenov did.

And I have introduced a new abbreviation, q.g. Patterned after q.v. which is Latin for quod vide (which see), it means quod google. Punch it in and go.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two very small planes

While I was planing down lilac branches for Tip the birchbark canoe, I found (and am still finding) that holding the wood down is the hard part. This is true whether you are planing big stuff or miniature --- if the wood will stay put, you can plane it. If it does not, you will have major trouble. So, I thought, how nice it would be if I could cut a groove in a board. That would hold the strip down much better than my hand. Now cutting grooves is a job for a plow plane. And since most of my Christmas presents are done, why not make a miniature plow plane? I happen to own a perfectly good Liu Ban plow plane, made in Hong Kong, but it is much too large for what I want to do. So I hauled out my book, Making Traditional Wooden Planes by James Whelan and imitated.
At right is the full-size article by Mr. Liu Ban, and very handsome it is too in Chinese rosewood. It takes some adjusting and fussing but it plows very nice grooves. At left, a 70mm plow plane made out of brand X wood (found somewhere) with a 3mm cutter made out of a retired hacksaw blade. Does it work? After a fashion. Plow planes are strange creatures (you can Google "plow plane" if you're interested). They ride on a skate, a thin piece of metal that also supports the blade. The skate has to be centered on the blade. The skate gave me catfits. I wound up padding a piece of sheet metal with old circular saw blade pieces; the whole thing epoxied. Real planes are allowed to use screws. But at 70 mm you'd need watchmaker's screws. Well, it shows promise but needs more work. If Liu Ban is fussy, midget plane is amazingly fussy. It is hard to get the right cutter depth. The blade is too flexible. The bedding angle is wrong (I used 45 deg, the usual angle for a plane; it is too steep). So now underway is plow plane v0.5. Much thicker blade, thick skate. Different angles.

This is my second miniature plane. Sometime last winter I made a miniature rabbet plane. I made it mostly out of birch.
It wouldn't work. This morning I discovered I had the bevel reversed (blush) and it now works very nicely. Here it is planing a rabbet (or rebate) in a piece of pine. Lovely curly shaving; it works! So I am happy. Most planes work bevel down.

I will have some more things to say about plane construction later. The things I will say come from full-size practice, so they are applicable to full-size planes as well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silly Partridge, er, Spruce Grouse!

When you're out skiing, you always hope for some wildlife. Fortunately, the bears, which you do not want to encounter under any circumstances, are sound asleep up in the mountains somewhere. Do bears dream? Science is mute on the subject. Moose, of course. Foxes sometimes. When all else fails, there is often the silly partridge.
In reality, this is no partridge. It is an Alaska Spruce Grouse. But I call them Silly Partridges, because their preservationist instinct is well below the norm. Dumb, in fact. This is why in fall, when they are fair game, they wind up in many a village pot. I play a game with these silly birds. How close can I get? The art is to move very, very slowly. And space the intervals. Apparently the silly things have no size sensor, they don't notice I am getting closer... and closer.

So far my record is about one meter. I think I could get even closer. It is all patience, you see. Of course the Russian village uses a .22 or maybe a .410 shotgun. If times get really bad maybe I could hunt them, but I kind of like the dumb clucks.

The one in the picture would fly away for maybe 3 meters. I, of course, advanced the same amount. We played this game for a while, until M. or Mme. Silly P. flew up into a spruce tree. I still could have reached it with a ski pole! One wonders if Darwin got it all. If the Beagle had visited Alaska, maybe he'd change his mind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tippecanoe, without Tyler too

I have been setting up the Navajo loom for a new ruglet, and it is really mind-boggling. I'll report on that later. Meanwhile, I came across a reference to birchbark canoes on Bodger's forum. I needed a break from the loom, so why not build a model canoe? Tippecanoe and Tyler too. Now, most boats, from very small to very large, are built on the idea that first you build a frame and then you put on the skin -- planking, sealskin, whatever. But not a birchbark. Here, you are supposed to build a canoe form. Then the birchbark is shaped into the form, probably with the aid of boiling water. The hull is built inside the skin. The frame, gunwales (pronounced "gunnels" for some obscure reason) are sewn on to the skin with spruce root "thread." Well, OK, I said, a "model" will give me an idea of how this goes. So I grabbed a piece of paper, drew a canoe, cut it out, and cut birchbark (of which I have a substantial amount from firewood splitting).
Behold, a pattern and likewise behold the skin. It was obvious that it wasn't going to bend. So I planed it down with my trusty palm plane (at left). At this point I decided, most unwisely, that I didn't need a canoe form. So I started sewing up the skin. As it turns out, this project is mostly needlework!
One of the main reasons you need a canoe form is that it holds the blasted thing while you do things to it. But here is Tip, now a canoe, being stiched. Ordinary needle and thread, because spruce root is obtainable but much too large for this tiny model. Sewing is quite tedious. Once Tip was stiched fore and aft, I made a start on the gunwales. There are two of them, one inboard and one outboard. I made the inner ones first:
These are actually lilac gunwales! Prunings from the lilac tree. I shaped them with knife and miniature planes, then boiled them for a few minutes, Above is the hull plan, which has now morphed into a canoe form. I then sewed the gunwales into the hull.In retrospect I should have been more patient and done the outboard gunwales before sewing; then I wouldn't have to sew twice. Learning experience. Note that I now do indeed have a canoe form. Well, let's do the outboard gunwales. They have a big bend at the bow. At this point the jigs started to multiply.
Here is lilac strip, planed, boiled and shaved so it will bend. The tools of the trade are scattered about; my idea of still life. Next step is to sew Tip's outboard to inboard gunwales. All this sewing requires a very small hole to be bored; you can't go through this stuff with a needle alone. I'm drilling about #35 Morse through two gunwales and one birchbark, using a jeweler's push drill; a marvellous aid to miniature work.
I started Tip on Monday; it is now Wednesday and here's Tip's status picture:

As you can see, the gunwales are in place. Bow to the right. I have started fitting the ribs. It is quite difficult to plane the ribs thin enough to fit in, even with boiling. I'm down to about a mm.

Tip is really not a model. Proportions wrong, for one thing. He is a test bed for construction techniques. It is much easier to build a model than a full size version, and it's -15C outside. Much too cold for a canoe. So I'm enjoying Tip, and will report as I go along.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tool repair and Tool Make

I have all these projects that can't be shown. Expect a deluge after Christmas. I'll space them out. Meanwhile, with the house I got a wooden box with a partially carved lid. Inside were a bunch of cheapish carving tools. Now, sometimes these asiatic wonders are actually good steel; it is all roulette. But I paid nothing for them, so will they take an edge?
Yes, they will. Left to right, two tools from the microforge and Taig lathe -- more later. The third tool is microforged, from an oddly shaped thing in the box. It is now a V-gouge. It was quite difficult to make; getting a V shape into metal is not trivial. Furthermore, little pieces like Number three have no heat capacity. You get, as in baseball, three strikes and then you have to reheat. But eventually I did it. Further and furthermore, a propane torch will not get metal up to yellow heat, which all my books say you should do. I have to make do with "boiled carrot" -- bright orange. I may just try MAPP gas, although it is relatively expensive.

Anyway, all Numbers 4, 5, and 6 from the left needed was a good sharpening. I do this early in the morning, while I am still half asleep. That way it is soothing, rather than tedious.

On the far right is a knife made by Averky (there is a post, somewhere in here, about this episode). Taking advantage of a tool handle without a tool, I put a handle on it and le voilá, as the French say. I also did the edge for him. To his credit, he did a lot of the work. I think we tempered too hard. In the winter, I don't usually get kids. Too bad, in a way.

And so we come to the microforged tools. Both are made from a someone's junked screwdriver. I cut it in half and made a cold chisel out of one half and a pin punch out of the other. The cold chisel was forged; the pin punch I turned down on the Taig lathe, with some trouble because the piece was whippy. I couldn't do the job between centers because it was too short. I am only sorry I didn't take pictures, but I was much too absorbed to grab the camera, which was one meter away from the work. When you make tools out of scrap steel, you should make sure the steel is hardenable. Heat up to boiled carrot red, plunge in cold water (quench). If a file will skitter off it, it's hardenable. If the file cuts it, it's mild steel, no good for tools.

Making one's own tools is very, very satisfying. All you need is a scrap heap. Unfortunately the modern enviro craze has led to the demise of the good old junkyard. Too bad. However, plenty of people cast off perfectly good pieces of brass, copper and steel. You can make many a tool out of old valve springs, for example. Brass is harder to find lying about. I need a nice piece of 5 mm brass, about 26 mm long. Hmmmm....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Navajo Runner: Finito!

When last we heard of the Navajo ruglet, we were down to the steel rod. Taking a deep breath, I pulled it out. Time to finish up. We have lost all traces of shed, so the last Navajo trick is in hand. In the picture I am applying "finishing rows".

With the needle you go under one pair and over the next, left to right; coming back over and under the same pair. This is tedious; I got hand cramp about 5 mm from the top. As you can see, I use bright orange for warps. The objective is to make the orange color disappear. Eventually...
We finish. No orange, except for some added "corrective warps" where I missed sewing on to the stick. We can now take the piece off the loom. We must also tie the corner knots. We join the vertical and horizontal edges in the traditional corner (square) knot. If it doesen't have this it isn't Navajo.
You can see the upper-edge knots above. The lower ones get tied off when I get it off the loom. You have to unsew the cords that attach the edges to the sticks. But it is done! I'm pleased with it. It "waists" a little (pulled in towards the middle. My bible assures me that this is a feature, not a bug. It is the first piece I've made that I really, really like.

Next we will do "diamond twill" from the book. But I will give the loom a rest for a bit. My hands hurt!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The return of the Navajo loom

With the coming of spring, my Navajo loom goes into hibernation; I suppose estivation is a better word. But it is now winter and time to dig it out. You can go back to previous posts to see where it was. The first job was to finish the diagonal stripes. This took some doing but I did it.
The stripes are done. The heddle stick has been removed. It no longer works. The shed stick is still in place. Now it is time to weave up to the top. We keep the shed stick (the white piece of round plastic) in place as long as possible. This allows us easily go left-to-right; it is all blunt needle work, but just push it through the shed. The opposite way is much harder. You have to go in front of the front warps and around the back warps. No shortcucts in a Navajo loom. In a modern loom, of course, you have cloth "beams" that allow you to weave forever. But a Navajo loom is fixed-length. We deal with it. Takes us five minutes or less left-to-right (the way I weave) and about ten minutes to go back.
You can see the loops of the needle as I go back. I have replaced the plastic shed stick by a thinner shed stick. This allows me to go a few centimeters higher. Anything to preserve at least one shed! We're getting there....
This afternoon, I replaced the thin shed stick by a steel rod. Not very Navajo, but effective. Thanks to Rachel Brown's book. We are about done. After this it's weave all the way to the top, two-by-two. Remove rod and weave under two warps, over two warps. End game for sure.

You could always leave fringes at the end. No true Dineh weaver would even think of this. I may not be Dineh, but I respect tradition. To the top we will go., cost what it may.