Like many woodworkers, over the years I have compiled more tools than I need (shhhh!; fortunately Mrs. Barn does not read this blog much so she does not need to be made aware of this confession). It was often from noble impulses as I would see a nice tool that was way underpriced, and say to myself, “Let me get that and find a good home for it.”
Regardless of the true motive, one undeniable fact remains; that “good home” was not to be my studio. There is no need for me to have several bushel baskets of tools that I do not and will not use. Some redundancy may be sensible, but do I really need six #6 Bailey planes? Or two dozen coffin planes? Two drawers full of bench chisels?
Over the past week I have been trying to impose, or at least, evolve some sort of order and organization to the barn studio. And time after time I would want to derive just the right spot for a tool or set of tools only to find that perfect spot was already full of boxes, bins, and tubs of tools.
So, beginning now and continuing through winter I vow to winnow my tool inventory, compiling a collection that I will sell, gift, or otherwise dispense. I will try to have a nice collection for sale at the Maple Festival in March, but otherwise will find places I can facilitate the parting of company., SAPFM Chapter meetings, etc., and if necessary get a table at MJD’s auction next summer. I am not going into the tool mongering biz– it is done far better by folks like Josh Clark, Martin Donnelly, and Patrick Leach, and others, and I will leave them to it — I am merely cleaning house.
Some tools will be, or can be made into, very nice “user tools.” For example, the #7 Bailey I bought recently for $15, with flaking varnish on the handles and a blade that has never been sharpened. Since I can sharpen fairly quickly it would be nice to get each edge tool presentable.
It will be quite nice to gain the space occupied by these tools, and hope they will do good work in the service of craftsmanship. In someone else’s shop.
And all I have to do is stop buying more tools I don’t need!
The second day of toolapalooza was slow for me as I bid on only a couple of lots and won one, a box full of infill planes that were by almost any definition, stragglers.
I’ve been wanting to play with infills in preparation for making one or more this coming winter, and getting a box full of them for a few bucks apiece was irresistible.
The three full-sized smoothers came with five smaller planes, including two dandy chariot style planes that should clean up very nicely.
The smoothers themselves were clunky at best, and for the purchase price and current non-functionality I have no qualms about wading into them with a heavy hand. The first one has a nicely spacious opening in the handle, well within the needs of me wrapping my fingers around it. I am pretty sure the Stanley lever cap is after market, ad it will go into my parts drawer immediately.
The second handled smoother is cursed with a far too small opening for my fingers. I have not yet decided whether to enlarge the current hole or replace the entire infill. Ditto the front knob infill.
The third pane, sans tote, is the most intriguing to me as it has the possibility of being transformed into something pretty special.
The day ended with Martin’s traditional Friday Night Pig Roast followed by the circle of bloviation and lie-swapping, er, fellowship, around the magnificent fire pit. After a few minutes we left to get a good night’s sleep.
I have never suffered much from the pangs of “buyer’s remorse.” Perhaps it is a result of me being such a studious financial choice-maker, but the truth is that my spending interests are fairly narrow, relieving me from a lot of this risk. There are simply a lot of areas of contemporary life where I make no outlay. No tobacco. Virtually no alcohol. I do not tend towards gastronomic excesses (other than bitter chocolate). Fashion? Right; since I have a lumberjack’s store and a shoe store bookmarked, I spend almost sixty seconds a year buying my wardrobe, and then get only what I want. Luxury goods? Pshaw. Indulgent vacations to exotic places? To me this sounds like something akin to Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell.
The two areas where I do often purchase extravagantly are books and tools. Addiction therein is too strong a word, probably. Since books always contain useful information, even if they do not possess the snippet I was searching for I recognize their ability to contribute to my breadth and depth of knowledge. Tools? Since they have the inherent character to increase my skills and capacity for production, I have never regretted buying a tool, even if it is surpassed by a tool more capable than the previous one.
Which brings me to the item of this post – a beautiful ebony and boxwood scrub plane I did NOT buy recently. You see, I am more inclined towards “Didn’t Buy It” remorse.
That miniature set of playing cards made from engraved ivory, housed in a carved tortoiseshell box.
The 5 1/2 acres next door.
That ’64 Chevelle SS, all original with 30,000 honest-to-goodness little-old-lady miles.
This ebony plane might be close to that camp. On our way from Kansas City en route to, eventually, Cincinnati recently we stopped at an isolated antique mall, and there it was. A classic horned scrub plane, identical in form to my beech model resting on the shelf. Only this one had a body of a SOLID BLOCK OF GABOON EBONY, with the horn of carved boxwood. At $120 the price was more than fair. But the fact is I did not NEED it, so I passed it by. (But I did buy a NOS Stevie Ray Vaughan-style felt Stetson for $35 in the original box, which I gave back to the antique mall as space was too tight in the truck.)
Over time this ebony plane may take its place alongside the ivory and tortoiseshell playing card ensemble, the ’64 Chevelle, the acreage next door. But in the end I decided that the one I had was perfectly serviceable, and got back into the truck and hit the road.
No, I will not tell you where it was just in case I change my mind.
While prepping for my upcoming visit to the Kansas City Woodworking Guild to teach a class based on Roubo’s Plate 286 I was casting about for my inventory of toothing planes. I can find three of them, but the other half-dozen are MIA. If you happen to know where I put them, please let me know.
In lieu of finding my remaining stash of planes I revived an old homemade tool idea from the mists of the distant past. A word of caution: this will take almost five full minutes to make it with a cost of zero, so don’t say didn’t warn you. You will need 1) a block of scrap wood, 2) a hacksaw blade, and 3) a pair of metal shears.
Step 1 – Find a block of scrap wood. Cut it to about 6 inches long.
Step 2 – Find a hacksaw blade, and cut off a piece equal to the width of the block.
Step 3 – at abut the center of the block, on the side of the block mark the depth of the blade body to the base of the teeth.
Step 4 – Using a saw (in my case I used my band saw) cut a kerf to the depth you marked in Step 3.
Step 5 – Ram it home. if necessary add a small shim of paper to the kerf to make sure the blade fits tightly. Adjust the blade so that the teeth tips are exposed about 1/16″.
You now have an inelegant but functional toothing plane, a necessary tool for dealing with sawn veneer marquetry.
Step 6 – I will cover this in Part 2.
One of the grand new pleasures for me has been my fairly recent intersection with the hand-tool-makers world occupied by many new friends and acquaintances, as reflected in the recent gather of toolaholics at the Handworks event in Amana, Iowa. Perhaps most heartening of all was the reality that the riches contained in the Amana Festhalle were by no means the complete community as many other tool makers and aficionados were unable to attend for a variety of reasons.
One of these non-attendees was planemaker Tod Herrli. I first become aware of Tod through my long time friend Bess Naylor, who often hosted Tod as an instructor at Olde Mill Cabinet Shop in York PA. Then I ordered Tod’s brilliant instructional video on making a hollow-and-round pair. Thanks in part to my previous job duties I have seen dozens if not hundreds of instructional videos on a wide variety of topics, and I cannot recall ever seeing one better. Ever. To watch him construct a matched pair of hollow-and-round planes in near-real time is an awesome thing.
Last spring I had the opportunity to meet and visit Tod on my way to teach at the National Institute of Woodfinishing in Minnesota, spending a delightful afternoon immersed in tool chat. On my departure I indicated my desire for a small sash plane, and asked Tod if he could make one for me. Last month a package arrived with a sample of the output of such a plane, along with the question of whether or not I still wanted the plane I had requested.
The answer was an unqualified “Yes!”
On my way home from Amana I stopped by Tod’s house again for another wonderful afternoon of fellowship, culminating with taking delivery of my new plane. Now I have no excuse for not building small cabinets with glazed doors. A matching coping plan is in the works, and I will wait patiently until my turn for that comes up in Tod’s hectic schedule.
It is my hope and desire that Tod can come to The Barn On White Run for a week of planemaking teaching next summer, and perhaps many more summers after that. My plan is for Tod to teach an introductory class on simple planemaking on a Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday dedicated to a second class on making a more complex tool.
Stay tuned, and thanks Tod for making this new heirloom tool for me.