Saw Sharpening Class

So at the last minute, I decided to sign up for a saw sharpening class at CT Valley School of Woodworking, Saw Sharpening 101 by Matt Cianci (The Saw Wright, The Saw Blog).  I’m glad I did, because while I’ve tried and had some success with filing my rip saw, my crosscut was woeful despite being an excellent saw (a Disston 7, early 1900s based on the etch).  The class itself went over the basics of sharpening, the different terms (rake, fleam), basic techniques but the best part was actually getting the files out, putting the saws in the saw vise and getting some practice with an expert looking over your shoulder.

For my rip saw, I went with a 5 deg rake.  First of course was jointing all the teeth and for the rip putting a little bit of ‘breasting‘ on the saw plate.  My saw was over-set and while I could have reduced the set, I didn’t want to  chance snapping a tooth off– I figure I can live with it, and as I sharpen the saw it will eventually lessen.  Because of my eyes, I had a bit of a hard time seeing the flats easily with my glasses on, so I’d switch between wearing them and not.

The crosscut got a basic sharpening of 15 deg of rake and 20 deg of fleam.  This one was tough.  Matt suggests doing all the filing on crosscuts from one side of the saw (rather than flipping end over end and changing guides).  That was easy enough, but the tough part, for me anyway, was filing from one side and making sure on the first pass I only removed half of the flat from the jointing.  I ended up making 4 passes (2 in each direction) slowly getting the flats down until they disappeared.  Of course this took longer and I’m sure with practice will be a lot easier.  But I didn’t want to file the teeth too much or they would no longer be level with their neighbors and won’t do any cutting.

Despite the class running from 9:30-5pm with a 45 min lunch, I wasn’t able to finish sharpening both my saws in class.  Thankfully part of the class fee included the files we were using and our little rake and fleam guides, so all I needed was a saw vise.  Well crap, these two saws are my main hand saws for preparing stock, so no chance of making one without them.  Hmm, I have a moxon vise, let me see if I can use that.  Now the simple saw vises we had at school did not have enough clearance for our handles, so I had to remove my handles anyway, so I figured I could do the same with the moxon.

Sure enough, my rip saw fit without much problem.  Since I was just doing a basic sharpening, I didn’t have to worry about dropping the file handle down for adding slope, so clearance on both sides of the vise wasn’t really needed.  I also added a ‘miner’s’ light so I could easily see the flats without fighting with a spot lamp.  This worked *excellent* and made sharpening a lot easier for me.  I could see the exact moment the flat disappeared.  The other nice touch was using my saw bench to sit down and give my back a rest.

Here you can see the clearance for the saw plate and the moxon vise.  My rip saw is 26″.  Obviously I’d rather have a saw vise where I don’t have to take the handle off, but in a punch this vise worked great.  No chatter and it held the saw plate tight with no flexing.  BTW I have no idea what that extra half-hole is in the saw plate.  It’s funny the things you discover when you take the tote off a saw–the cross-cut had a 6 punched in it near the top hole.

I touched up a few of the teeth on the rip saw where I saw flats with my head lamp.  I then finished to the toe–I only had about 1/4 of the rip saw to finish for the sharpening.  Snapping a line for some rip testing on some 5/4 poplar stock I have.  It cut pretty well and didn’t wander at all in the cut, so I am pretty happy with my rip saw.

On to finishing up the crosscut.  I had to touch up about half the area I thought I had sharpened the day before.  There was something about either my spot lamp or the light in the school that made it hard for me to see those flats.  I had more of the saw to sharpen, probably 1/3 to the toe.  It was fairly pleasant with some music going. The miner’s lamp made a huge impact and I think the crosscut actually turned out better than the rip saw.

After sharpening, this crosscut literally flew through a piece of 4/4 white oak stock, so I decided to try it out on some 8/4 poplar scrap I had from a guitar build.  Damn, pretty quick despite being a 10 point.  Certainly not a finish surface but it is a hand saw, something I’ll use for cutting down rough stock to rough length.

I then tried it on a wide pine panel I had, roughly 3 feet wide, and it tracked great, cut quick, and had no problem starting the cut.

Now that I feel somewhat competent at making a saw sharper (even if not perfect), I think I’ll be in ‘saw acquiring mode’ the next time I go to an auction.  I could see getting a 5 or 4 ppi rip saw and possibly try to find a sash saw that Matt has written about on his blog.

Addendum: I picked up a Harvey Peace backsaw at a local consignment shop–14″, looks like a perfect candidate to try the sash saw treatment on.  Nice, straight saw plate, nice patina.  They also had a Stanely 42 saw set, looks to be early.  I’m feeling a bit cross-eyed at the moment though, so I think I will hold off any more sharpening for a few days.

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NPD! New Plane Day

In the online guitarist community, people always post about a NGD! (new guitar day) or a NAD! (new amp day).  Today I took delivery of my new M.S. Bickford planes: a boxed rabbet, a #6 and a #10 hollow and round.  One of the advantages of taking a class with Matt is you get a chance to buy some of the new planes he brings to the class.  He brings them home, cleans up any fingerprints, resharpens them, and they are as good as new.  In my case, I also wanted a rabbet plane and decided to get the boxing just as insurance.  I believe his normal backlog is pretty long and likely to get longer once his book is released.

I also got to see Matt’s shop which made me wish I situated my shop someplace with natural light rather than in my basement.  Windows, skylights–even on one of the few rainy days this summer, it was awash in gorgeous light.  The first thing I did was to unwrap the planes (they had been prep’ed for shipping), then with a piece of poplar already in a sticking board, I tried my planes for the first time.  Ah the sweet sound of wood curling off a rabbet plane.  I’m sure the only sweeter sound would be hearing that from a plane you made yourself.  We talked about plane setup, just as a refresher–I got a little excited and tried using the hollow without a proper chamfer.  Matt showed me some planes with nice little marks on the sole from doing that.  Hmm, ok chamfer first, follow the steps or your new planes will look a bit raggedy-andy in a year or so.

We also BS’ed for a while about woodworking and work things, including that we both work out of our house (he making planes, me writing software code).  Despite only being about 5 miles as the crow flies from where my shop and office are, the roads are such that it took 20 minutes (and a few wrong turns) to get there.  I was kind of surprised when he told me how few people from the state (Connecticut) had bought planes from him, esp considering how many woodworkers there are around here.  I guess there are either enough vintage planes to satisfy demand or most people just use routers.

I already have a sticking board, so it will be time to sharpen up my side bead (if needed), prep some more poplar blanks, and start making some paint-ready picture frames.  Should be good practice.

Rabbet plane (all are beech):

#6 Hollow and Round

#10 Hollow and Round

And all five together.

Amazing what you can make with these five planes.  And you can see the care Matt takes to match the appearance of the billets.  I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything with this kind of attention to detail, and it’s so great to be able to support a local plane builder.  He had the planes all wrapped up ready for shipping, and the rabbet was already set perfectly, which is a bit of a trick w/o knowing the proper amount the blade should project from the edge of the plane in order to not cut little stair steps.  It’s not much, but it also is not flush with the edge of the plane.

I already have an idea for a first ‘real’ project: moldings for a fancy, dandy DVD cabinet to blend into my living room and hide my DVDs.  Another idea is a real high-class amplifier cabinet or speaker enclosure, one that looks like it was designed by Chippendale or Sheraton after sitting in Leo Fender’s workshop.  Newport kneehole desks are awesome (and someday I’d like to build one), but I also need some furniture that looks nice and fulfills a need.  My ‘need’– a 2 x 12 speaker cabinet that closes up to look like a nice piece of furniture, matches the furniture in my living room, and yet still sounds great.

Spicer’s Tool Auction, Dec 3, 2011

I got up early this morning hoping to get myself a nice Christmas gift at the auction. While the auction was good, I really didn’t find much to get my tool fix, though I did walk away with some nice planes. Oh and an axe. I had to skedaddle after about lot 375 out of ~700 to get back to Norwich for my guitar lesson.

I won a few lots including a mortise axe made in my current city, Norwich CT. It is made by the Thames River Works and is described in the lot as ‘a rarity!’. While Norwich has a decidedly industrial past compared to today, it is most well know for its gunsmiths and not for its tool makers. I did a bit of poking around on the interwebz and I got a two hits when searching for “Thames River Works”–a book from 1880 “The Acts and Laws of State of Connecticut” which lists it as a company in Norwich, and another book published in 1884 “The Joint Stock Act of Connecticut passed January Session 1880” which also lists it as a company in Norwich. So not much to go on. ‘Rarity’ might be an understatement.

I also won on two Denison planes, both complex molding planes, one listed as J. Denison (1840-74) and the other J&L Denison Saybrook (1832-40), the latter looks to be in better shape.

I also won a very nice matched pair of size 18 hollow and round (1 1/4″ I believe), made by Lamb and Brownell, New Bedford MA. The only listing for this maker is from 1871. This is a pretty big hollow/round pair for cabinet work, but they were in such great shape, it was hard to pass up.

My final lot win was three different hollows, a #10 H Wells (1847-56), a #7 A. Kelly & Co. (~1856-60) hollow, and a #7 H. Barrus & Co (1854-59). I’m a little surprised there was no real interest from the crowd in these planes (I think only 1 other person bid), as the latter is listed as a *** plane–very rare, 50-100 examples known. I’d guess if it had a matching round it would have been worth more. Of course it could be the plane maker stunk and that is why it is so rare. But I didn’t really buy it for collector value as even though a #7 is an off-size, I hope to make a matching round for it myself.

And if you’ve never been to a Spicer’s tool auction, here a few pics of the layout. As you can see, there are a lot of tools up for auction.

Oh and in case you were looking for a nice coat or scarf rack, this would be choice. That is one big router plane.

I kept track of some of the selling prices of a few items so readers can get a sense of what the going rates are for these tools. Obviously it all depends on the interest of the crowd and sometimes just the rarity of the item (as opposed to the usefulness). Also I only kept track of metal hand planes, mostly Stanley since those are most available for people setting up a shop. I naively thought I might have a chance at the #9 cabinet makers block plane w/ the hot dog handle. But when the starting bid is your max price, you know pretty quick that plane is out of reach. I think I’d get a LN and save $925.

Tool Price
Stanley 289 $150
Stanley 140, pat no. 6-94 $90
Stanley 9 1/2, c. 1892, block plane $100
Stanley 144, 3/8″ corner rounding plane $110
2 Stanley corrugated sole planes, #4C, #4 1/2C $110
Stanley 39, 3/8″ dado $90
Stanley 39, 1″ dado $110
Stanley 603 Bedrock $160
Stanley 605 Bedrock $180
Stanley 605 Bedrock $90
Stanley #97 cabinet makers edge plane $225
Buck Bros 5″ drawknife, excellent shape $225
Stanley #1, c1923-35 $850
Stanley #9 cabinet makers block plane, w/hot dog handle $1300
Sargent #1067 double side match plane, 5/8″ stock $250