Thread: Saving the day
17th May 2020, 10:02 PM #1
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.......
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17th May 2020, 10:17 PM #2Senior Member
- Join Date
- May 2019
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
18th May 2020, 12:11 AM #3
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
DerekVisit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.
18th May 2020, 08:20 AM #4
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.
18th May 2020, 08:25 AM #5SENIOR MEMBER
- Join Date
- Sep 2010
- Port Sorell, Tasmania
Nice story Ian, thanks for posting. Achieving perfection is like chasing mirages, being able to fix stuff ups is where the real skill lies.
TonyYou can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~Oscar Wilde
18th May 2020, 08:44 AM #6
18th May 2020, 10:02 AM #7I 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...Lance
18th May 2020, 04:37 PM #8
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.
18th May 2020, 07:20 PM #9
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....
18th May 2020, 09:27 PM #10
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.
18th May 2020, 09:36 PM #11
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
18th May 2020, 09:48 PM #12
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.
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"
18th May 2020, 10:17 PM #13
Looking at the McBride link shows this process is entirely approachable.
What a magnificent thing to make.
19th May 2020, 08:50 AM #14
19th May 2020, 09:44 AM #15
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.
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