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Thread: Saving the day

  1. #1
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    Default Saving the day

    I still have stuff-ups, big & small, despite advanced age & a fair amount of experience, but sometimes a disaster creates an opportunity to rise to the occasion & extend one's abilities...

    Late last year, I made a 3/4" shoulder plane infilled with some nice Macassar Ebony that had come into my hands. The job went very smoothly at first, the body went together straight & square & no serious mis-hits occurred when setting the rivets which meant it cleaned up very nicely. Then things started to go to hell in a handbasket. In opening the mouth, I somehow got it crooked, and in straightening it up, finished up with a much larger gap than planned - much more than a milimetre, which is just not tolerable on a shoulder plane.

    As an encore, I managed to drill the hole for the adjuster stud about a degree off line, so the wheel on the thumbscrew only barely engaged the blade slots at the furthest extent of its travel.

    I was so annoyed & disappointed, I hid the thing in a drawer and tried to forget about it. But of course, it silently naggged me, & I knew inevitably I'd have a go at fixing it at some stage. After some thought, I decided I should try sweating a steel sole on it, which, besides improving the durability, would allow me to re-do the mouth. Sweating steel soles on bronze or brass shoulder planes was common practice in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Jim Kingshott describes & demonstrated the process for a small chariot plane in his book on making & modifying tools. He makes it sound like a doddle.

    There was a time when I was very comfortable brazing & soldering, and in fact the first laminated shoulder plane I made was sweated together. But I slipped totally out of practice, and when I tried to repeat the exercise a few years ago, I got nothing but brittle, weak joints and ended up giving up in frustration. That was why, when I saw the post by Peter McBride on riveting a body together, I seized on it as the answer to my prayers!

    My failure to repeat my earlier very successful soldering jobs was worrying me, but I thought I had some answers as to why it had gone so badly awry. For starters, I'd been using lead-free solder, and the higher melting point creates one set of problems by making it harder to keep the job evenly heated at an adequate temperature. Worse, lead-free solder doesn't flow as well as leaded solder, the emperature difference between liquid & solid is narrower, so it won't wick into joints as easily. Recently, I discovered that leaded solder is still freely available (at the Big Green Shed), so I decided to get a stick (60/40 as recommended by J.K.) & give it a go.

    For the steel sole, I had an old pre-carbide-tip saw blade, about 1.5mm thick and nicely ground to an even thickness. I cut out a piece about 1mm larger all-round than the base of the plane, sanded it clean, sat it on a brick and tinned it, using Baker's flux and a propane torch. It was dead easy! I got the solder puddled all over, and wiped off the excess, leaving a nice even thin film remaining. I then up-ended the plane and repeated the process on the sole. That was a bit more difficult, the mass of brass was harder to keep hot enough, so I switched to a MAPP torch & eventually, I got it nicely tinned as well. Then before it started cooling, I plonked the steel on top, gave it all a good hosing with the torch & pressed the steel down evenly so no gaps were showing anywhere around the edge. This is the result:
    1 sole sweated on.jpg

    I then filed the protruding edges flush: 2 Filed flush.jpg

    And marked out where the new mouth would be by extending the slope of the blade bed: 3 new mouth marked.jpg

    Cutting the new mouth was no easy task! I fondly imagined the heat from soldering would temper the saw steel, at least a little, and make it easier to cut, but no way, it was completely unchanged. I chewed up 4 jewellers saw blades making a single cut through it! Eventually, I got the slot cut & then I had to file the steel inside, to match the existing blade bed. That wasn't too difficult, but required great care, and at one point, I slipped with the file & marked the brass of the bed. It's not in a crucial spot, & you can't even see it with the blade in place, but it annoyed me no end - I'm convinced I'm becoming a klutz in my old age!

    With the mouth cut, I put the blade in (fully retracted) and tensioned it up to start lapping. To my relief and somewhat to my amazement, the new sole was almost perfectly flat - I expected the soldering to warp & twist things about more, but after only a few swipes, you can see just two low spots, one at the toe & one just behind the mouth: 4 mouth cut.jpg

    It took less than 10 minutes to get the sole flat: 5 lapping.jpg

    At this point I refined the mouth, and it is satisfactorily fine this time - less than 0.5mm, so at least that problem is solved: 6 mouth.jpg

    It gave me nice shavings first try: 7 shavings.jpg

    The slight mis-alignment of the adjuster stud turned out to be a simple fix, I just bent it up slightly (ever so carefully!) and got it re-aligned, so that's now working as it should.

    A good sanding to 1200 grit to eliminate the file marks from flushing the steel sole, a bit of buffing, and I now have a plane that talks the talk & walks the walk. 8 polished.jpg

    So after my initial setback & disappointment, the day has been saved, I've regained a bit of confidence with my soldering technique, & best of all, I've now got a decent working plane. All's good that ends well.......

    Cheers,
    IW

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  3. #2
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    Ian, that's another great looking plane and a good story behind it as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

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    Ian, that was a wonderful account, with suspense to the end, and what a great ending!

    Now tell me - my geometry is fuzzy tonight - but would a thicker blade have closed the mouth (I suspect not when it is BU)?

    Regards from Perth

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    ... - my geometry is fuzzy tonight - but would a thicker blade have closed the mouth (I suspect not when it is BU)?....
    Your suspicion is correct, Derek. With BU mouths you get one go at it, if it is too big you are stuck with it. A possible solution would be to shim the bed, but I think my chances of doing that & maintaining a flat bed would be vanishingly small.

    The lower the angle, the more fussy everything becomes, and the bigger the effect of any error. I settled on 15 degrees for my bed angles (for reasons I can't remember now, but it probably had something to do with hitting a medium mark between the 12 of the very low planes like the 61 1/2 and the more 'standard' 20. I can see why 20 is a more popular choice with many makers of BU planes, it's a little less demanding.

    Finessing the mouths on these things is always the step I worry about. I organise it so only the front has to be filed & take it sooo carefully. I file & check & file & check & it seems there's still a long way to go, then suddenly, it goes from not going through to almost too big! Only that one wasn't almost, it was too big.

    As you know, a tight mouth isn't all that important for planing across grain, but it's really helpful on a SP because you are less likely to catch the corner of the blade on the edge of the piece you are planing. On some of my bevel-down planes I've opened the mouth from where I used to set them years ago - too many of the woods I plane seem to be "chokers" and tight mouths cause me nothing but trouble, at times.

    Anyway, I think the best part is not so much the plane is saved from the scrapheap,but it's calmed my fear of soldering a little. I might even try it again, but I'll look for something a bit softer than saw plate next time - I think you can get gauge plate in 2mm thickness, which would be ideal for a small plane.

    Cheers,
    IW

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    Nice story Ian, thanks for posting. Achieving perfection is like chasing mirages, being able to fix stuff ups is where the real skill lies.

    Tony
    You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~Oscar Wilde

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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_A View Post
    ....... being able to fix stuff ups is where the real skill lies......
    Well Tony, I seem to be getting plenty of practice at fixing stuff-ups lately. So some day, maybe, I'll be skillful......

    Cheers,
    IW

  8. #7
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    I still have stuff-ups, big & small, despite advanced age & a fair amount of experience, but sometimes a disaster creates an opportunity to rise to the occasion & extend one's abilities...
    In a recent FWW podcast someone said something along the lines of "experts still make mistakes, it's just that they know how to resolve them." It came to mind reading this. It's wonderful that you had a couple of options with which to get the plane finished.
    Lance

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    I'm not a metal worker, but I do enjoy watching it being done.

    With the plate, wouldn't it have been easier to braise on two separate plates? Saves the tiny cutting....

    I love these planes. So excellent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    ........
    With the plate, wouldn't it have been easier to braise on two separate plates? Saves the tiny cutting.....
    Not for me, WP! To my mind, it's far easier to deal with one straight piece. Even though the film of solder between steel & brass is infinitesimally thin, getting two separate pieces stuck down so they are co-planar to the degree one wants for a plane sole is a big ask. Keeping it as one piece meant it was more likely to end up in some sort of alignment. Actually, I was amazed by how flat it was after everything cooled. I expected it to be pulled about a little bit as the body cooled, since brass & steel have quite different coefficient of thermal expansion. Probably, the solder is soft enough & plastic enough to absorb any stresses due to different expansion rates.

    When I first heard about sweating steel soles on planes I imagined the steel plate as being something like 3 or 4mm thick, but after I'd seen a couple of good-quality photos, I realised it was more like 1/16", and in fact, Kingshott used 1/16 on his chariot plane, iirc.

    Cutting through the steel later was a minor chore, really, I mentioned it because it was such a surprise to me how tough the saw plate is. It cut like butter with the cutoff disc, & a file had no trouble with it. I used a fresh blade of the same type today, and it cut through about 50mm of 5mm mild steel without batting an eye - just shows what a bit of carbon can do!

    The last pic above was taken at the end of the day, before I'd done a proper cleanup - you may have noticed the scratches along the sides. They aren't as deep as they look - I had to use oblique light to photograph it, so it didn't reflect straight into the camera lens (shiny metal is a beast to photograph!), which exaggerated them. Apart from the scratches, I didn't like the wedge. Even though the piece I added to the sole was only 1.5mm thick, it extended the bed by about 3mm, so the old wedge was now too short. It also had a fine longitudinal crack on one side that I hadn't noticed before, so out it came & a new wedge was fitted.

    I spent a bit of time playing with it once it was all back together - it has a nice action & I'm now happy for it to leave my shed. I'm rather pleased with that steel sole though, & thought about keeping it for myself, but it doesn't match the Ringed Gidgee of my set of SPs, so I guess it can't stay....


    Done.jpg

    Cheers,
    IW

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    And, as usual, I was beaten to the punch by a country mile. If you are interested in steel-soling an old plane, Peter McBride has done a pretty thorough walk-through of the processes involved here.

    Cheers,
    IW

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    These are absolutely 100% sexy.

    Seriously nice looking planes.

    Who wouldn't feel incredible pride owning few like this, on VERY obvious display for all visitors to the workshop to see!


    Edit - I remember seeing this sale and there being mention of a book.... wondering if that's still a thing? Can one buy it?

    Edit 2 - I'm often asked by other IT dudes to fix things... capacitors, boards, things that went pop... and to save them time and so they can learn the skill, I always refer them to this 2 part video on soldering. Ancient, but absolutely magnificent: YouTube

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    Anybody who is interested in purchasing Ian's plane should send him a PM immediately. The last batch didn't last a single day! I can say they are even better in the flesh than in pix.

    Superb.

    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

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    Default wow

    Looking at the McBride link shows this process is entirely approachable.

    What a magnificent thing to make.

    Wow.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    ....Edit - I remember seeing this sale and there being mention of a book.... wondering if that's still a thing? Can one buy it? ......
    Yes, WP, just send me a PM with an email address so I can send you the PDFs. The price is that you show us anything you make.....

    Cheers,
    IW

  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    .......Edit 2 - I always refer them to this 2 part video on soldering. Ancient, but absolutely magnificent: .....
    Pity that wasn't around in 1962 when I was an apprentice radio tech, WP! I learned to solder by trial & error, and had some hard lessons on the electrical & thermal sensitivity of things like germanium transistors.

    Some translation: "wetting" is what we call "tinning". And how Nth. Americans get "sodder" from "solder" has always mystified me.

    Although the principles are the same, soldering plane bottoms is a wee bit different from soldering electronic components. You needn't be so worried about applying too much heat, in fact you are more likely to have trouble getting a largish plane body evenly heated enough to melt the solder over a broad area. If you looked at Peter's site you'll have seen how he had his plane held by vise-grip pliers which were in turn held in a bench vise to help slow heat loss. If you were to grip the body directly in the vise you'd lose a lot of heat to the vise and even a MAPP torch might struggle to get the job hot enough). The other tip is to avoid paste or solid fluxes in this context, they create carbon residues that could get trapped in the solder. Zinc chloride liquid flux (Bakers soldering fluid etc.) is the go - just remember to wash the job down thoroughly when it cools. Also, make sure you get 60/40 solder (the Bunnies where I got mine had 50/50 right alongside & careless shoppers or shelf-stackers had got them a bit mixed up!). The 50/50 will give you a strong a joint, but it's not as easy to get it to flow.

    Cheers,
    IW

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