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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
    Mobyturns's Avatar
    Mobyturns is offline In An Instant Your Life Can Change Forever
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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
    Mobyturns

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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.”

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