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  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    The others have covered it pretty thoroughly, but here's a couple of my own observations, fwiw.

    The first is that to get super-close cap-irons to work well, you have to be meticulous about the fit between cap-iron & the top of the blade. I and many others have struggled with that aspect. If you are starting out with old planes, be aware that many have had a hard life & very little attention to details such as the fit of the cap-iron. And even when the fit is good, some of our hard, recalcitrant woods seem to be able to work their way between C.I. & blade, which stops any sweet function very quickly! I think some of my early trouble was caused by cap-irons being mis-matched to the lever-cap. One plane in particular had the wrong cap, which I eventually figured out because the adjuster was always right at the end of its travel just getting the blade to engage. That in turn led to the discovery that not only does the distance from edge to adjuster slot vary between makes & models, but the curve at the bottom can vary in diameter to the extent that the lever cap may not be bearing down at the right spot. If the pressure point is too far behind the top point of the curve, it tends to lift the front of the C.I., unless you put a goodly relief bevel on it to ensure the front remains in contact with the blade.

    The other is that I did some experimenting with different blade angles with & without cap irons, last year. The results apply to the planes I used (several different infills) and the woods I was planing, so I'm not claiming they would apply in all situations, but for the record, I could discern no beneficial effect from a cap iron at blade angles over 55 degrees. My 60 deg. plane with a single-iron blade worked as well as my best 45 degree with close-set cap iron on the nasty pieces I was using for my test beds. This surprised me somewhat, because if you look at the geometry, a single-iron cutter at 60 degrees should not be turning the chip anywhere near as much as a cap-iron honed to the recommended angle. There is close to a 30 degree difference at the contact point of the cap-iron, though this diminishes rapidly as the chip slides up.

    I think there is more to this business than we currently understand - certainly more than I understand!

    Cheers,
    60 is what I've found. I built an infill plane years ago at 55 with a mouth between three and four thousandths. I thought I had achieved the dream (it is a decent plane if you are just doing finish planing), but when I figured out the cap iron, found that I could better it for everything other than changeover time. Using the cap iron properly probably allows you to do a volume of work four to 8 times of what you can do smoothing with a plane like that, though. It's not as simple as comparing the effect of the cap iron - the reality is that you can do all of your initial smoothing work at a much higher chip setting and still do so without tearout and then take a single or two light finish passes. As chip thickness becomes thicker, tolerance for clearance increases and priorities change.

    The change is that the iron that chips the least is desirable, more so than the one that holds the edge that planes a thousandth for the most feet, and uniform wear poses no problem with surface quality because the severing is done under some pressure from the cap and with a thicker chip.

    My infill plane had a 64 hardness O1 iron in it, it's probably closer to 62. I can plane a much greater volume of wood (finish planing) with a stanley 4 and stock iron (probably 60 hardness...as you know a LOT happens between 60 and 64 hardness in how an iron feels, fails and wears) and to as good of surface quality if both are working well. Slightly better on the odd wood that doesn't plane well with a 55 degree smoother with a tight mouth - that has to be something ribboned or unusual.

    the cap iron is worth figuring out, but it's a whole lot easier to get the hang of in context of using planes for everything in a project. It took me about 1 week to figure it out and 2 weeks for me to realize that I was never going to go back to my infill plane (after two weeks, I was able to set my double iron plane each time without any adjustment, use until dull, and do the same thing again).

    Your points about stiff chips getting under caps, I've seen the same thing. It does occur, but it should be uncommon, and if it's not, for the heavy passes you make a concession and tolerate a little bit of tearout (you're still planing more easily than with high angles).

    In the grand scheme of everything, this is all very interesting to someone like me who would do cabinet doors without electricity or initial roughing of guitar necks with a draw knife, but someone who has fabulously hard woods that punish a hand tool user in the rough work, and the lovely jointer and planer type machine that derek has, high angle or cap iron, it really doesn't move the needle much. Anyone who works entirely by hand will go to the cap iron VERY quickly, though, to prevent what my english friend calls (from hard pushing planes) "the condition of balls on floor in a short period of time".

    Rough hand work makes all of your hand work better and more productive, but there certainly are a lot of people who don't do enough hand work even for that to matter. My friend is a good example, and even many guitar makers favor jigs and sanding machines over any risk from doing hand work - the risk always seems greater when you're not well practiced. I am to the point now where I ruin far more stuff with power tools, and a power tool user could easily make fun of me. A couple of weeks ago, a collar on a trim bit came loose and I mangled a guitar template doing work I really should've been doing by hand. I'm sure that's a "rookie mistake".

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  3. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by D.W. View Post
    As chip thickness becomes thicker, tolerance for clearance increases and priorities change.

    The change is that the iron that chips the least is desirable, more so than the one that holds the edge that planes a thousandth for the most feet, and uniform wear poses no problem with surface quality because the severing is done under some pressure from the cap and with a thicker chip.

    Anyone who works entirely by hand will go to the cap iron VERY quickly, though, to prevent what my english friend calls (from hard pushing planes) "the condition of balls on floor in a short period of time".

    Rough hand work makes all of your hand work better and more productive, but there certainly are a lot of people who don't do enough hand work even for that to matter.
    I'm enjoying this thread and gaining a lot from the valuable knowledge you guys have obviously gleaned from hard experience and real "hands on" work. It will assist me in using hand planes for longer, both in terms of years into the future & between sharpenings .

    I started using hand tools from a very young age and progressed to doing finish trim work, skirtings, architraves etc on houses my father built when in my very early teens in the 1970's. Most of it was done traditionally then, mitre box, hand saws, Stanley hand planes and occasionally a quickly knocked up shooting board. I still use many of Dad's tools with my all time favourite being his Stanley #5 hand plane which is at least 50 and more like 60 yo now. It would be interesting to date it.

    It is very nice to own and use specialist task specific tools such as high angle hand planes however over the years I've come to the conclusion that a good "all rounder" will almost always be your go to tool, with the specialists getting much less use than originally envisaged. A well set up and sharpened "all rounder" hand plane will do most tasks well.

    Priorities certainly do change. I still very much enjoy using hand planes but having an implanted cardiac defib / pacemaker I have had to make concessions to what I use them on and how I use them. Hard rough work "cleaning up" boards with hand tools is no longer a joy and has had to go due to the risk of damaging the "implant pocket" from the physical stress of hand planning. Not quite "the condition of balls on floor in a short period of time" but more serious in that it potentially sets up an infection at the implant site which requires high risk surgery to correct - been there - never want to go there again!

    My best friend these days is a small drum sander a Jet 10-20 - sweet no more "balls on floor!"
    Last edited by Mobyturns; 20th Apr 2019 at 10:41 AM. Reason: typos
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  4. #18
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    In the grand scheme of everything, this is all very interesting to someone like me who would do cabinet doors without electricity or initial roughing of guitar necks with a draw knife, but someone who has fabulously hard woods that punish a hand tool user in the rough work, and the lovely jointer and planer type machine that derek has, high angle or cap iron, it really doesn't move the needle much. Anyone who works entirely by hand will go to the cap iron VERY quickly, though, to prevent what my english friend calls (from hard pushing planes) "the condition of balls on floor in a short period of time".
    David, there is something about your post that irks me. You and I are good enough friends that I can write this here. You know I applaud your efforts over the years. You have contributed importantly to my knowledge, and I link to you often.

    However, your contention that one really only comes to appreciate the double iron/chipbreaker when working from raw timber, and that machine use prevents its appreciation, is misleading in my opinion. For starters, there are not many serious woodworkers (i.e. who build lots of furniture) who work exclusively with hand tools only. Those weekend warriors who do the occasional piece can get by very comfortably without this knowledge. Further, in the 18th century, when electricity was rare , there was greater specialisation than we credit. It would have been more common practice to purchase your stock very close to size. Or have an apprentice do so for you. I only know one professional woodworker from the fori who claims to work his timber from raw, and you get inspiration from him. But he is so locked into the 18th century tools with an obsession that makes one question his objectivity and broader knowledge. There are many, many inspirational woodworkers and furniture builders who use machinery as well as hand tools, and it has not appeared to impair their aesthetic for grain matching or sensitivity to work wood. Warren may have an exquisite sense of the wood he works, but it comes at a price. We do benefit from individuals like this, but we can still use the same skills without the narrow focus.

    I mostly use a double iron when working with bench planes. Most of the work I do today with hand tools - chisels, saws and planes - is joinery or finishing. Occasionally I rough out as well, but this is where machines come in now. And, frankly, I would rather saw away excess with a bandsaw than use a coping saw or thickness with a frame saw. These days, the only experience I miss here is muscle spasms and the need for a physiotherapist. I have the hand skills to use a coping saw, but do not see any purpose in eschewing power here. In the same context, I do not see any purpose in planing away a 1/4” or 1/2” of a long board with a jack plane when I have a machine that does this for me (short boards are another matter - a choice). So I am “missing” an opportunity to read the wood when I go down this route (which is what Warren argues). It does not occur to me that I am limited in any way when I finally reach for a jointer or smoothing plane.

    On the other hand, for those starting out in an endeavour to build furniture, I do see a value in using handtools a lot more, and in roughing out this way - but this is about training the feel and skills that go with their use. It is only the past 10 years that I have used machinery such as a jointer or planer/thicknesser. I have had decades of either working around this or using hand planes to do the job. I cannot say that this made it easier to do the finish work. It did train my hand skills with the tools, however. I would encourage newbies to go down the route I did, but I would not argue that they would be severely compromised by just focussing their skill development on smoothing and jointing, and leaving the donkey work to machines.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

  5. #19
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    I think I agree pretty fully with your gist, Derek. I certainly appreciate electron-powered help for rough stock preparation, but use hand-tools almost exclusively from there on. There are many situations where a hand tool is not only as quick or almost as quick as a machine, but a lot more controllable & a heck of a lot safer, both or me & the job!

    I tackle a pretty broad range of woods, from those that are considered superb cabinet woods to pretty awful stuff that often makes me question why I bother. What I've found is that indeed, 45 degree Bailey type planes and judiciously-set cap-irons can cope with probably 90% or more of my needs. They are always my first-line go-tos. However, there are situations where high angle, single iron planes just do a better job, more easily, for me. I'll grant any high-angle is a bit harder to push for the same shaving thickness, but you can always adjust to find a sweet spot.

    I reckon there are far too many variables with hand planes to be too prescriptive about what's best in any given situation. The wood being planed is extremely important, of course, but it's just one variable. Your skill & experience, the plane itself, the blade (& how sharp it really is), the abrasiveness of the wood, all contribute their bits apart from cutting angles & cap-iron settings. When I hit rough going, I will often try 2 or 3 planes from my arsenal to see which one copes best with the situation. It surprises me how often the one I think will do best loses out to one I would have thought would give a less-good result.

    And we have woods (on this side of the continent at least) that just refuse to respond sensibly to whichever plane I throw at them & I'm grateful I have a scraper plane! If all else failed, I'd resort to abrasives, but while I did plenty of that in my earlier years, I've not been that desperate for quite a while, now....

    Cheers,
    IW

  6. #20
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    I own a book called Working with Wood by Peter Korn. He compares the use of hand tools vs machines with walking vs driving. “When I lived in Colorado and wanted to see mountain wildflowers I didn’t walk the 27 miles to the trailhead; I drove. Then I climbed the 2000 vertical feet of narrow rocky footpaths to high alpine meadows most people will never see.”

  7. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    David, there is something about your post that irks me. You and I are good enough friends that I can write this here. You know I applaud your efforts over the years. You have contributed importantly to my knowledge, and I link to you often.

    However, your contention that one really only comes to appreciate the double iron/chipbreaker when working from raw timber, and that machine use prevents its appreciation, is misleading in my opinion. For starters, there are not many serious woodworkers (i.e. who build lots of furniture) who work exclusively with hand tools only. Those weekend warriors who do the occasional piece can get by very comfortably without this knowledge. Further, in the 18th century, when electricity was rare , there was greater specialisation than we credit. It would have been more common practice to purchase your stock very close to size. Or have an apprentice do so for you. I only know one professional woodworker from the fori who claims to work his timber from raw, and you get inspiration from him. But he is so locked into the 18th century tools with an obsession that makes one question his objectivity and broader knowledge. There are many, many inspirational woodworkers and furniture builders who use machinery as well as hand tools, and it has not appeared to impair their aesthetic for grain matching or sensitivity to work wood. Warren may have an exquisite sense of the wood he works, but it comes at a price. We do benefit from individuals like this, but we can still use the same skills without the narrow focus.

    I mostly use a double iron when working with bench planes. Most of the work I do today with hand tools - chisels, saws and planes - is joinery or finishing. Occasionally I rough out as well, but this is where machines come in now. And, frankly, I would rather saw away excess with a bandsaw than use a coping saw or thickness with a frame saw. These days, the only experience I miss here is muscle spasms and the need for a physiotherapist. I have the hand skills to use a coping saw, but do not see any purpose in eschewing power here. In the same context, I do not see any purpose in planing away a 1/4” or 1/2” of a long board with a jack plane when I have a machine that does this for me (short boards are another matter - a choice). So I am “missing” an opportunity to read the wood when I go down this route (which is what Warren argues). It does not occur to me that I am limited in any way when I finally reach for a jointer or smoothing plane.

    On the other hand, for those starting out in an endeavour to build furniture, I do see a value in using handtools a lot more, and in roughing out this way - but this is about training the feel and skills that go with their use. It is only the past 10 years that I have used machinery such as a jointer or planer/thicknesser. I have had decades of either working around this or using hand planes to do the job. I cannot say that this made it easier to do the finish work. It did train my hand skills with the tools, however. I would encourage newbies to go down the route I did, but I would not argue that they would be severely compromised by just focussing their skill development on smoothing and jointing, and leaving the donkey work to machines.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Derek - the intention isn't to suggest that "the only pure woodworking occurs without power tools and every other worker who doesn't go that way won't understand the nuance of the double iron."

    The point is simple - you won't notice just how much better it works as quickly, master it as quickly, or get the bulk savings in time if you are doing all of your sawing and initial prep with machines. I initially thought that no matter what, everyone should learn it. I still do. i also thought it as doofus-ery to disregard it, but I've come to learn that some people just can't do anything other than repeat exactly what they've seen someone else do, and it's really a matter of nuance. It's simple nuance, but it's still nuance. I mastered it in a week before there was any publication. I mastered setting the plane in 15 seconds within another week, but I was dimensioning lumber and that really accelerated the learning process.

    I point to warren, but I didn't learn this from warren. My frustration getting to it was two parts:
    1) I didn't enjoy making simple things with power tools (it was fairly early on that I started going to hand tools because I didn't like the stuff I was making or the methods in making much with power tools - it was too limiting and too process oriented rather than results)
    2) Once I started working by hand, I was making my own planes and buying very good quality early 1800s tools, along with an infill plane that I made. All single iron. It didn't seem right. When the wood wasn't agreeable, the planes beat you up. They needed constant sharpening and didn't stay in the cut (which was probably exacerbated by interrupted cuts through tearout). If you tried to cheat everything to 55 degrees, then the physical work became very difficult.

    I got to the double iron out of laziness. And it was really disappointing because I had probably $2500 worth of planes and scrapers that instantly became obsolete. I'd invested a lot of time in that.

    BUT, I got along fine with those tools and I see through the lens of someone who thinks the double iron is too fidgety. The absolute best way to master it is to get a project and do the project entirely by hand. You will master it out of need, and everything you do as a woodworker will improve even though you weren't doing it. Your undertstanding of risk when sawing will improve immensely. your planing instincts will improve immensely.

    I do resent the idea that it's "dumb" work. It's dumb in the same sense of exercises and constant work on checking on timing, etc, on a musical instrument. If you attempt to be a player without ever doing it, your music won't be as good. I also don't agree that the majority of people couldn't do it physically. It's not that hard, and someone who isn't limited already probably isn't going to find physical injury with it. I never have, and I have mild arthritis and as a kid had back problems.

    If someone has good machines, that's great. If they want to work by hand, it's pointless to claim that they're wasting time working by hand. Someone who works entirely by hand for 2000 hours is likely going to build better furniture with better design and better (and faster) joint execution than someone who has worked 2000 hours with machines doing only finish work and joinery by hand. The same former will probably be making their own tools sooner (practically, not just the pretty tools that we make and take pictures of) and be able to do a much wider array. Is it always true? Nothing is.

    Do I think someone who has excellent machines needs to learn to use the double iron if they think it's tricky and it makes them miserable? No.

    Is it always true that someone with power tools will do more woodworking than someone working entirely by hand? I doubt it. The person working by hand will likely search for more meaningful projects and be in the shop much more often because it's more satisfying.

  8. #22
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    I told warren that I'd thought he was a troll, by the way (until I learned better by experience - I don't learn well from other people most of the time). Something I thought he'd see as justification (positive) when I chanced upon learning the same things as warren when I finally delved into using the double iron to improve the experience with the rough work. He was really offended instead.

    I generally learn from George, but I can see the results of what he tells me right away, and if you want excruciating detail, you can pick the phone up and George will communicate it. I think the only thing George thinks that I do that's dopey is work metal by hand "you need a mill...you need a mill".

  9. #23
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    I see another topic on SMC that is sort of relevant when you're working entirely by hand vs. not, and I may have mentioned it.

    Whether or not you joint saws. If you're going to work entirely by hand, you need to discard the notion that you're going to joint a saw that's in good working order and develop the ability to remove the wear from the teeth without dropping the tooth line unevenly or making misshapen teeth.

    Would I tell someone who is new to do that?
    1) Yes if they have a saw that was perfect and is just getting dull - because you don't know what they'll do if they joint the saw. If they just "make the teeth pointy again", they may adjust the height just a little wrong, but it probably won't be that bd
    2) if they're buying a flea market saw that's in horrible shape - you have to joint the teeth


    The reason that I say that you have to discard jointing if you're going to work entirely by hand is because you can, with some skill, keep a tooth line relatively level for 10 or 20 resharpenings without issue. Set is the same - you do it only when you need to. It will probably be only every few sharpenings.

    You absolutely cannot delay sharpening your break-down crosscut saws (the ones you use to get wood close to dimension or cut to a line when the back side of a cut isn't critical) or rip saws. If you make a piece of case work, you will resharpen your rip saw each time you do so. Why? Because it will ultimately be less work. If the saw doesn't feed back to you that it's getting out of whack, then it's not out of whack.

    You also get to the point where you can disregard the improper advice to throw away file each time you sharpen a saw (or discard an edge). You can probably touch up 10 rip saws with one good file. There is no reason to throw them out when you're just removing wear and they move plenty fast enough. To me, that's not an economy thing, it's avoiding the nuisance of constantly ordering files just to remove more metal than you need to. It's laziness, again - functional laziness.

    This is a lot like the double iron. You will get stuck in the mud jointing saws and screwing around if you joint them every time you sharpen, or you'll unnecessarily put off sharpening due to the time it takes (touching up a rip saw takes about 5 minutes at the very most, including getting it in and out of a vise - jointing and then refiling - not close).

    The same is true for dovetail saws, but dovetail and tenon saws do not take nearly the amount of wear and don't need to be touched up as often.

    Did I learn this from Warren? No, I learned it from laziness. I joint an old saw and set it up initially when I get one (I have what i need now, so that no longer happens) and I have not jointed any of the saws that I have since then. They will need it at some point.

    What about the power tool user? Who cares in their case - they'll touch up a couple of joinery saws each year, and it won't make much difference. Just as I've come to the conclusion above that if someone great with power tools (and well outfitted) is only going to save a very small amount of time using the double iron (maybe considerable money - but this isn't a hobby for people who would worry about the cost of three stanley planes vs. 6 premium planes. If $1000 or $1500 matters that much, the cost of wood and hardware will eat you alive. )

    You are correct to some extent in my being dismissive of other peoples' advice that conflicts with mine when it comes to heavy use under similar conditions. Hours and hours of searching for the easiest way within the "hard way" brings everyone to the same point unless they're parroting what other people say.

    And even if you called me an "utter fool", I wouldn't be bothered. I know you're chasing the same thing i am - working the wood, not working the people.

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