Thread: Of planes & adjustment systems
22nd Jun 2019, 09:44 PM #1
Of planes & adjustment systems
There’s a bit of a roundabout story to set the scene for this post, so bear with me.
Some years ago, I assembled a Lee Valley plane kit & wrote it up as a review for Aust, Wood Review (Issue 84, page 32): Finished plane.jpg
I followed instructions to make the wedge/lever cap, but wasn’t very happy with it, the thin wooden wedge was a bit flimsy, imo, so I tried modifying it & posted on it here.
While my ‘improvement’ worked a bit better, it still had some issues and so I ended up replacing it with a brass lever cap. That sorted things much better, but still that plane just never became a favourite of mine. For a start, being a ‘single iron’ plane, it struggled with really wild wood, & I also found it uncomfortable to use because the rear ‘bun’ was too fat for my hands, but being a laminated construction, I couldn’t chop it down more because it would have cut away much of the glueing area between sides & core. One day, I decided to decommission it, & re-purposed the lever cap for my little rear-bun smoother, which turned out to be a far sweeter thing all round: 9.jpg
I didn’t want to waste the LV bits, so I’ve been plotting & planning one more infill……
Now, for reasons only nutters like me comprehend, I want to go the full hog on this plane & give it a rear handle rather than a bun. That creates a major problem. The adjuster mechanism that comes with the kit is from their stock-standard block plane. As such, it’s quite short, and quite unsuited to using with a handle that would fit anyone with a normal-sized hand. Note the position it would occupy when set against my handle template. To use the shaft provided, I would have to cut a deep notch in the upper part of the handle, which would make the top rather thin & fragile: Veritas position.jpg
The only solution to this I could see was to make a new, longer shaft, which was a bit more bother than I first thought, because it requires a 3/16 N.F. left-handed thread on the end that goes into the spigot that engages the blade. I happened to have a nice bit of shafting (out of a dead inkjet printer) but of course I don’t have any L.H. dies, so I had to learn to cut the thread on my little lathe, which turned out not to be as fearsomely difficult as I’d imagined, once I worked out that the manual gave the wrong combination of cogs to cut 32 tpi! On the 3rd try, I got a useable L.H. thread that worked nicely. The other thread, which engages the pivot-point, was easy, it is ¼” N.F. (right-handed), & I have a tap & die set for that size. So after a fun afternoon’s work, I have my desired long adjuster shaft: Adjusters cf.jpg
OK, so that part of my projected new plane is taken care of, but in sorting all this out, I had an opportunity to think about the “Norris” adjuster and its mysteries a bit more. My first ‘discovery’ was that for about 40 years I’d been under a complete misapprehension about how they work. Somewhere, way back, I read someone’s explanation of Tom Norris’s patented mechanism. For those who don’t know what the guts of a Norris adjuster looks like, it consists of two parts, an outer shaft threaded through a pivot point, and an inner shaft that is attached to the ‘banjo’ which engages the cap-iron screw. The inner shaft has a finer, left hand thread. This is a pic of my late-model A5 (it’s not possible to remove it for a better pic because I would have to remove the riveted-in cap-iron, & I’m not about to do that: Norris adjuster.jpg
Now the explanation I read suggested that as the shaft is turned, the inner shaft screws in the opposite direction (because it is a LH thread) and counteracts the other thread, so that the banjo moves forward & backward at a rate determined by the difference between thread counts of the outer (32 tpi on earlier models, 35 on later), and inner (40 tpi on all models). This is patently wrong, and had I spent a few minutes reflecting on it at the time I should have seen it was so. In fact, the effect of the double thread is to move the banjo fore & aft at a speed which is the sum of the two threads, not the difference, and that is the source of many complaints from Norris users that the adjustment is too coarse.
Veritas, in their wisdom, copied the same R.H./L.H. configuration for their adjusters, but use a solid shaft inbstead of the sleeved arrangement of Norris's (far simpler to produce). The one in question here has threads of 20 and 32 tpi respectively. You can check my arithmetic, but it works out that the 20 tpi thread moves the spigot .05” each turn, while the 32tpi thread adds another .03125” for a total movement of 0.08” each turn. I calculated the Norris’s movement, and it is a net of 0.0575” per turn, a little less. But that's still a whopping 2mm (LV) or 1.2mm (Norris) which is compounded by the tendency of this style of adjuster to slew the blade if it’s at all off-centre (which it usually is, unless you are capable of sharpening your blades with micro-precision!). No wonder I always struggle with setting either, & would rather use my adjusterless planes & a hammer!
So I got to thinking, which is often a dangerous occupation for me, & I wondered what would happen if I used two threads of the same spiral direction? It would mean that the second part (the banjo or spigot that engages the blade) would move at a rate that was the difference between the two tpi, not he sum. And just for fun, I made up an adjuster shaft, with the same threads as the LV adjuster, but both R.H. threads (i.e., 20tpi & 32tpi). The result is that the spigot now moves at a rate that reflects the difference in tpi. To put that into figures, where the LV adjuster moves the blade spigot ~2mm per turn, having both threads follow the same helical direction moves it 0.457mm per turn.
You will have to wait for a while for a report on the effectiveness of this arrangement because the plane to which it will be fitted is still on the drawing-board. The only drawback I can see so far is that I need to experiment with the lengths of the two threads a bit more, I made them equal on the prototype, but clearly, the coarse threaded section needs to be longer. No probs, when it comes time to fit it, I’ll alter the proportions of the two.
So why not just have a single, fine thread for these things? I really don’t know the answer to that, other than that a fine thread is a bit more fragile & maybe prone to wear & rapidly-developing backlash, but that’s purely a guess. If anyone can enlighten me, please do! Mr. Norris added an elegant feature to his creation by partially splitting the pivot nut (the one that takes the outer thread). A screw (which is clearly visible in the pic) tightens the split & can reduce backlash in that thread to zero (the inner thread remains susceptible to wear, however).
The Australian-made kit plane I put together a couple of years ago has a single thread adjuster. At 24tpi it’s not terribly fine, and it’s not an easy plane to adjust finely, partly for that reason & partly because the lever-cap screw is at a fairly acute angle to the blade & slews it a bit as you tighten it.
So here are three different versions of the so-called “Norris adjuster”, a simple, single thread of the kit plane in front, and the rear two with two different pitched threads:3 styles.jpg
The one in the centre has left & right hand threads which produce the same effect as Norris’s sleeved shaft, and the one at the back has R.H. threads on both sections, which greatly reduce the rate of travel of the spigot. All will work, after their fashion, but which do you think is ‘best’??IW
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22nd Jun 2019, 10:09 PM #2
I had a feeling the next “last plane” wouldn’t be too far away
I have no experience of the Norris style adjuster so I can’t comment with any authority on which would suit me the best, however in a smoother I would automatically select the double RH threaded version due to its finer blade control. My favourite go-to plane is my 1911 Stanley 5 but the smaller blade adjustment wheel makes it harder to creep up on finer cuts; whereas my Record 4’s have the larger wheel which make tiny adjustments easier. I can live with almost any amount of backlash; at worst it’s only an annoyance!A thief stole my anti-depressants. I hope he’s happy now.
23rd Jun 2019, 09:28 AM #3
I'll have to play with my prototype a bit before I commit to the same-direction threads system on a plane. It's a little bit more complicated working out what length of each thread is required, compared with the left/right thread combination. The idea is to keep the system as compact as possible, 'cos there isn't a lot of space under the blade to excavate the necessary holes & channel. By the time you get to fitting the adjuster, there's an awful lot of effort wrapped up in the rear stuffing, so I certainly wish to avoid stuffing it, so to speak. That's why the shaft is still just a straight chunk, so I can put it back in the lathe & cut it down to add a bit more of the 1/4" thread, which I think I need to do.
There is much written about the backlash 'problem' with both Bailey & Norris adjustment systems, & I agree that it's really a non-issue. And I'll make the heretical claim that Bailey's adjuster is superior to Norris's for workaday planes. The built-in problem of causing the blade to slew when depth is altered is a major flaw in the Norris system. Having separate systems for depth & lateral adjustment avoids that problem. Careful manufacture will limit backlash, but there has to be some, you cannot have a tight fit of the cam in the cap-iron (Bailey system) because the cam has to rotate in the slot as it forces he blade assembly up or down. There's quite a bit of stress on the metal, and since the cap-iron is just soft steel, it doesn't take all that many years of use for the fit to become pretty sloppy. But you grow with the plane & just spin the wheel a bit more between up or down. As you say, it really isn't a major issue, I'd say at worst it's a minor annoyance....
23rd Jun 2019, 10:48 AM #4
"Never Say Never Again" (Sean Connery)
I have only read half so far. Got to work. Will read up more later. I am intrigued.
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"
23rd Jun 2019, 11:30 AM #5
Got my attention
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23rd Jun 2019, 11:49 AM #6
Ian why not consider the typical cross slide set up of a lathe these are generally single action of cousre a ciurser thread in some cases. Shame you cant go ball race feed
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23rd Jun 2019, 01:32 PM #7A thief stole my anti-depressants. I hope he’s happy now.
23rd Jun 2019, 07:23 PM #8
I would have seen the review you mention, CT, but I probably didn't read it, or certainly not carefully, not being particularly interested in block planes. I'm envious you can even remember an article from 10 years ago, let alone what was in it!
Anyway, I had some time to myself today & spent a happy afternoon fiddling with my 2xRH thread adjuster, & I think I've answered my own questions to a certain extent.
First, I made a mockup of a blade bed & formed the recess for the pivot point, shaft & bit that engages the blade. This was then clamped to the handle template so I could clearly see the relationship of all the relative bits: 2 Mockup 2xRH threads.jpg
I could then check blade travel and adjust the lengths of the 3/16" and 1/4" parts until I had enough travel to retract the blade comfortably and project it beyond the sole by at least 3-4 mm. That's far more that would ever be necessary for actual edge exposure, of course, but I have to allow for blade wear. The blade will need to be progressively advanced more as it wears, until the pinion can be fitted to the next hole in the blade.
Took a coupe of goes to get it right, but now I can move the blade out as far as I need to, and withdraw it safely inside the sole when required: 3 Mockup 2xRH threads.jpg
And it turns out, as I expected, that to get anywhere near the same amount of travel in the blade-engaging spigot as the original has, I would have to have extended both threads for quite a bit more, which would have meant chopping out a much longer recess in the blade bed than I think would be good. So I settled on about 50mm of thread (1/4" + 3/16") on my 2xRH thread shaft, which gives me about 8.5mm of total travel of the spigot for 14mm travel of the main shaft. This compares with 40mm total thread on the Veritas, which gives about 8mm of spigot travel for 5mm travel of the main shaft - quite a difference! Adjusters cf 2.jpg
So that sort of confirms for me that the RH/LH combo was chosen mainly for compactness. I started to ponder if that problem could be alleviated by having the smaller diameter thread feed inside the larger, as with the Norris design. I think it will make some difference, because one of the limiting factors with my fixed threads is the shaft striking the end of the recess, so having the banjo or spigot shaft feeding back into the main shaft will gain more room.
Drilling out & tapping the 25mm or so required for the smller thread in an 8mm shaft might tax my skills beyond what they are capable of, but I'm thinking of giving it a go - nothing to lose apart from a coupe of hours & some scrap?
But don't hold your breath waiting for the result of this preliminary work, it will probably be a couple of months before I get the plane itself finished, my better half has a list of jobs I've been neglecting that's even longer than my list of things I want to do......
23rd Jun 2019, 11:20 PM #9
As you are hard at work earning a crust I took the liberty of researching on your behalf. It would appear there is very little wrong with you memory. I think you are referring to AWR issue 43. There is a comparison of block planes including HNT Gordon, unbranded Japanese, Record, Stanley, Lie Nielsen, Veritas, Lie Nielsen skew AND Bridge City and Hotley.
I think the relevant pages are 28 and 29 where details are entered into of the depth adjustment. It refers to the depth adjustment of the Hotley being Norris style and explains both threads are RH and arranged to telescope one inside the other so the adjuster knob turns two threads of different pitch and moves the assembly in opposite directions. It goes on to say the net movement of the blades is the result of the difference in the movement caused by the pitch rather than the sum as in the Veritas. The article adds that if the Veritas is designed for fast movement, the Hotley is designed for fine adjustment.
At the time of the article the Veritas was $238, the Bridge City was $900 and the Hotley $6000.
As AWR is up to issue 103 and it is a quarterly I make No.43 more than fifteen years ago. As I said Chief, not too bad at all on the memory stakes, although it was more than ten years ago. If anything that makes it more remarkable. I have difficulty remembering fifteen minutes ago, but take sanctuary in the belief that while ever you think you may be a candidate for the old timers disease it means you haven't got it (yet). I prefer to say I am easily distracted. Distractions I particularly like are......never mind.
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"
24th Jun 2019, 12:06 AM #10
Yes, that was the one! I remember it covered a large number of manufacturers; poor old Stanley and Record were pretty well panned. Ah, Hotley. Not a brand I’m given to thinking of much, to be truthful I know they exist but anything I will never own tends to get shunted from my mind. My wish lists tend to revolve around either vintage Stanley/Records or Veritas offerings.
Thanks for digging it out; I’ll be sure to look it up again when I get home just to get my head around those two adjusters again.A thief stole my anti-depressants. I hope he’s happy now.
24th Jun 2019, 09:26 AM #11
If anyone has seen or used those Jorgensen clamps they are a good analogy. With a left & right hand thread on each shaft, they open & close twice as fast as they would if they only used a single thread & nut. If you replaced one of the threads with a finer thread, it would slow the opening & closing, but it would still be quicker than using a single thread. This is essentially how most of these adjusters work. It doesn't matter if the threads are on the same shaft, as with the Veritas, or the smaller thread feeds inside the larger shaft, as it does on the genuine Norris design; the result is the same.
This pic of the original Veritas shaft & my longer version might help to visualise it: Mine vs LV.jpg
Screwing the main shaft clockwise will send it 'inwards', while at the same time the threaded spigot nut will move away from the fixed pivot nut becauseit's a left hand thread and a clockwise motion causes it to 'un-do' . This system is always going to move the spigot nut or banjo faster than a single thread - the only way to slow it down is to use finer threads, which gets to be a bit impractical - Norris went as far as 40tpi for the smaller thread and that was possibly the limit of the gear he had.
Now, if the thread on the smaller shaft is RH, like the main shaft thread, the travelling nut is going to 'do-up' as you spin the shaft clockwise, so as the main shaft moves in, the nut comes back towards it at a rate determined by its pitch. If you were to use the same pitch as the main shaft, the nut would simply stay in the same position relative to blade & body. In my case, I used 20tpi on the main shaft and 32 on the smaller. So if the main shaft is turned 20 times, it moves forward an inch, while the travelling nut comes back toward the fixed nut by 20 turns, but because it's 32tpi, it only moves 20/32 (5/8) of an inch, which means it's actually moved 3/8" from where it started, in the same direction as the shaft moved. Clear as mud, right?
I suggest there are at least two reasons Veritas chose the fixed shaft. Obviously, cutting both threads on a single shaft is easier than drilling out & tapping the internal thread in the main shaft.
The second reason is because of the blade-engagement mechanism. Norris & his imitators mostly fitted adjusters to bevel-down planes with cap irons, and the cap-iron screw-head became a useful protuberance instead of a nuisance requiring extra work providing a depression in the frog casting as it is with Mr. Baileys effort. Having the screw head sit in the 'banjo' of the adjuster means an even larger channel has to be excavated, but that's less of a hassle on a wooden blade bed.
The planes the original Veritas adjusters were fitted to are all belly-up designs & as such don't have cap-irons, so instead of a banjo, they use the round 'nut' with a spigot that engages a hole in the blade. Simple, & much easier to make, I assure you. I would like to have a crack at making a 'sleeved thread' Norris adjuster (with all RH threads) but I face a couple of problems because of my very limited gear. I haven't yet figured out how best to make the banjo so it's sufficiently robust (I've got an idea), but the real challenge would be drilling & tapping a sufficiently deep thread in the shaft. Any commercial taps of the pitch & diameter I'd need are far too short for the length of thread required for a practical amount of travel of the banjo.
It'll give me something to think about as I'm falling asleep at nights.....
24th Jun 2019, 10:10 AM #12
One last thing....
Meant to say before that I think I also answered my question about why most people opt for double-thread systems with this style of adjuster, & not use a single thread system that would allow for easier fine adjustments. After a little thought I decided it's because the double-thread arrangement is the simplest way of getting a robust connection between the travelling bit (spigot or banjo) and the main shaft. If you use a single thread, you have the problem of making a connection that rotates, and is sufficiently robust to stand up to the wear & tear of being pulled & pushed against considerable resistance, for a few generations. The number of badly worn & damaged Norris adjusters bears witness that too many people try to force their adjusters without backing off the lever-cap pressure a bit.
The single thread adjuster that came with my panel plane kit uses a very basic plan - the end of the shaft fits in a shallow counter-sink in the banjo & is retained by a tiny screw from inside. I have serious misgivings about the durability of this. Being aware of its potential fragility, I'll be ultra careful while it lives with me, but I fear it may not stand up too well in the hands of a less careful owner!
28th Jun 2019, 06:09 AM #13GOLD MEMBER
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If you can get a good connection, the single fine thread is probably the best. I like your two threads of the same direction, but haven't seen it in practice, so couldn't comment on it.
As far as the adjuster itself, it's not heresy at all to say it's inferior. it's got two problems, one that you mention with the ability to lose lateral set, and the second (you may have said) is that it needs to have the lever cap set loose so as not to damage the mechanism, and the depth of cut will change when you tighten the lever cap.
It is an OK system on planes that don't have as much depth sensitivity (like an A1 panel that's actually being used for brisk/heavier work), but on smoothers, it's just no good. You can come to accommodate it, of course, by learning to set it at pretty much zero cut and then using the lever cap to set the depth of cut instead of the adjuster.
I've had four planes with this type of adjuster. I learned to use it out of annoyance that I'd bought two A5s figuring one would be better than the other (they're only marginal planes in terms of design and very mediocre in execution from the iron to the rest of the plane, but neat looking).
The stanley adjuster system is vastly superior in every way except for cost if one wants something more expensive looking and costing. It's not a stretch to say that the stanley bailey design is probably the best and most practical metal plane ever made (beyond most modern "improvements" like the Primus planes or bevel up, etc). The fact that it's so capable and so cheap to make is sort of like the difference between a BMW 8 series and a toyota camry from the 1990s. The camry is just a better car at everything other than nonsense expensive bits.
28th Jun 2019, 11:19 AM #14
But it's an easy style to make in the home shop with unsophisticated gear, & using two R.H. threads makes it even easier. That gives you a finer adjustment, but the trade-off is you need longer threaded sections to get the same range of blade movement. Looking at the plane I'm making at the moment, I'm going to have to cut a channel that goes to within about 10mm of the sole to accommodate the extra lengths of thread on the shaft I made. Swings & roundabouts.
I would have thought that as a plane maker yourself, you would admire the sheer workmanship of the earlier dovetailed planes? The Spiers & early Norrises I've seen were superbly executed - I'm up to my 10th plane and still haven't quite achieved the level of perfection with my dovetailing I've seen on some of those oldies. The late Norrises like the one I own are less impressive, with their not quite as well-executed infills in less-desirable wood, that's for sure.
The business of the cut increasing as the lever cap is tightened has nothing to do with the adjuster, of course, and isn't inherent to the design, but it occurs commonly enough that I've seen it remarked on a number of times over the years. My A5 has it to a very slight degree, and the first infill I made has too. I've examined & re-examined the damn thing, and the only cause I can think of is that when flushing the bed to the sole, I caused a slight convexity in the bed. Being my first effort, my initial fit of the infill wasn't super-close & I spent a lot of time & effort filing it flush to the back of the mouth. It's extremely difficult to keep the surface dead flat under those conditions, not only was I trying to keep things level, I was trying hard not to hit the sides with the file. I used dye on the back of the blade to check that I had it all mating, but that would not show a tiny convexity because the dye would still rub off fairly evenly as I moved the blade back & forth a bit. I can see in my mind's eye that a rise of even 0.002" between the bearing points of the lever cap would be extremely difficult to detect, and could possibly flex the blade enough to alter the cut. So my working hypothesis is that alteration of the cut by LC pressure is due to a slight convexity of the bed. Diagnosis is difficult enough, but a cure would require extreme skill & care with a file, which I obviously lack, so it's easier to just learn to live with it..
It doesn't happen with the last two infills I've made, incidentally, & it may be because I took such great pains to get the bed & sole aligned so they needed little or no extra work after the rear infill was fixed in place.
I think the saving grace of the Bailey adjuster is the cam-operated lever cap. Imo, that's the stroke of genius (or serendipity), that puts the cream on the cake by creating constant pressure that you can adjust to the sweet point that holds the blade but allows it to be moved by the adjuster. In addition, while both systems use a screw thread, which gives a mechanical advantage, the long arms of the yoke vs. the short cam adds more mechanical advantage to the Bailey system. But note how a 78 suffers the same problem of difficult adjustment if you don't back off the LC screw, despite having some leverage advantage in its adjuster (not quite as much, of course, because it's a simple lever without the added force of a screw). Unfortunately, I can't think of a simple way to make a cammed lever-cap for an infill with fixed-pivot caps because they need a big range of movement to get the blade assemblies in & out. It would be possible, of course, I could make a cap that fits into slots in the side so that it can be simply slipped on & off, but it seems like too much bother when all I really need to do is just loosen the screw caps a little when adjusting the depth of cut....
29th Jun 2019, 03:05 AM #15GOLD MEMBER
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Actually, yes, you're right. The pre-adjuster planes that were rosewood and generally not so overweight or overwrought with features, I really like. A norris #2 is a work of art, and the spiers planes of similar age are nice, too (not quite as nicely finished, but nice planes). They're a weight closer to what we think of for "normal" planes and I do a lot of hand work, so the lighter weight of the old ones makes more sense an hour into a shop session (not an hour of smoothing, of course, but mixed planing, sawing, etc).
It's the changes that occurred as dovetailed steel went away in favor of castings and then U channel steel (I had a U channel A1 - a decent working plane, but it had already been reground on the surface by someone else.). The #2 that I have was wonderfully flat despite no evidence of anyone doing anything to it in decades. The two A5s that I had were a terror to get flat - they were out of flat, and the soles don't work like stanley cast iron. They're more durable and harder to lap.
There are, of course, some heavy older birds, too. I've got an A13 panel (uncommon) that's 15 1/2 inches long and it must weigh all of 8 or 9 pounds. It is also not as flat as i'd like, but it's a casting, so maybe it's moved, or maybe it took on a lot of wear.
All that said, I never had that iron/cap behavior with adjustment without the norris adjuster. It's possible that it's due to something else - the cap irons on those planes are different than earlier planes, and may have more influence as the lever cap tightens, or perhaps all planes do that, but we just don't loosen and tighten their lever caps as much. I've got one spiers coffin infill that does it just a little bit, but nothing compared to the three norris planes. I sold those three, so I can't look at them more closely to see if it's the way the iron rides in the adjuster (i.e., if they sit tight against the plane bed or if they are intead sitting up in the adjuster cup). The fourth plane I had with that type of adjuster was slightly different and the iron did, indeed, get all of its upper bed support by sitting in an adjuster cup.
Until I'd sold my second A5, I considered taking the adjuster out of it and refitting it to see if it made a better user plane. The weight of it and proportions aren't bad with the beech, and beech has a muting effect on vibrations, so they're otherwise smooth working.
Because the A1 panel that I had was being used for heavier work, the adjuster issue wasn't quite as bad. 5 or 6 thousandths, doesn't make too much difference. I never had much trouble with the lateral adjustment, though - if a little bit of tension is left on the lever cap (but not much), then it's not really a problem. the A1 that I had was just under 18 inches long, and was only about 7-7 1/2 pounds - the later sorby made irons are soft and kind of disappointing, but again, heavier work doesn't demand a hard iron - softer irons do just as well. it's the smoothing where tiny clearance differences make for a dull feeling plane. I liked it, but paid too much for it because the seller sold it as unused (when I got it, it was clear that it had rather just been reground instead), and I didn't feel like doing much other than selling it a year later and cutting my losses. Never gained much fighting with dishonest sellers - i just don't buy from them again.
Back to the norris 2 - it's evident that at the time, norris not only quickly made planes with dovetails (and relatively accurately), but they also put fantastic ward irons in them, and then left the mouth tight (to demonstrate skill) while accurately filing the front side of the mouth to allow the cap to be set close without clogging. They really knew what they were doing, and I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the market for their planes - it was traditional and the users would've been demanding and also instructive in terms of feedback to the manufacturer about all of the aspects (use of the plane, weight, what they wanted in an iron, etc). If I was rich, I'd have more older norris planes with little used ward irons.
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