Wooden Planes


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Hey Graham, question for you. I have a few wooden planes but really don't use them much. What's the difference between a single iron and double iron like the ones in the video? I can't be the only one wondering this. Are there 2 sharp blades in one plane ?

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Hi Steve,

 

The double iron is what most folks call a blade and chip breaker. This innovation came about 18th century, give or take 50 years :-). I think there is strong evidence to suggest that once the "double iron" came about single iron planes just vanished very quickly and were reserved for rough work. Sounds like I'm being mean about single iron bevel down planes but I'm not. Single iron planes can work great on tough wood but rely on steep bedding angles to make them work at their best. However with a double iron you can have chip breaker set back 1mm or so for general work when the wood is easy (most often) making best use of a regular bed angle and when you hit a tough spot you move the chip breaker close and get a top class finish.

A great article can be found here http://www.woodcentral.com/articles/test/articles_935.shtml. I hope to have a video up soon showing what happens. As a quick one I got this level of finish from a 1960's >70's standard stanley plane sharpened with oil stones.

 

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Because the finish does not seem any trouble here is some context http://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/west-dean-pics-t24308.htmland a video of another approach 

 

 

What is nice is that the magic is just a simple chip breaker. Does not need to be special in any way. The standard stanley pressed mild steel item is perfect and needs no significant improvements to get top class results.

 

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Thanks for the video Graham! I have thought about making wooden planes to but honestly I really like my LN metal body planes and would end up with metal body planes anyway. I do long for a half set of Philly Moulding planes, I just need to sell a kidney first.

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Hi Steve,

 

The double iron is what most folks call a blade and chip breaker. This innovation came about 18th century, give or take 50 years :-). I think there is strong evidence to suggest that once the "double iron" came about single iron planes just vanished very quickly and were reserved for rough work. Sounds like I'm being mean about single iron bevel down planes but I'm not. Single iron planes can work great on tough wood but rely on steep bedding angles to make them work at their best. However with a double iron you can have chip breaker set back 1mm or so for general work when the wood is easy (most often) making best use of a regular bed angle and when you hit a tough spot you move the chip breaker close and get a top class finish.

A great article can be found here http://www.woodcentral.com/articles/test/articles_935.shtml. I hope to have a video up soon showing what happens. As a quick one I got this level of finish from a 1960's >70's standard stanley plane sharpened with oil stones.

 

attachicon.gif10922693_394224930751002_4997836144301084833_n.jpg

 

Because the finish does not seem any trouble here is some context http://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/west-dean-pics-t24308.htmland a video of another approach 

 

 

What is nice is that the magic is just a simple chip breaker. Does not need to be special in any way. The standard stanley pressed mild steel item is perfect and needs no significant improvements to get top class results.

 

Hi Graham

 

The irony is that the video you link you eschewed using the chipbreaker! "I don't think it makes any difference", he said (around the 2:55 mark). 

 

Well it makes a HUGE difference. 

 

Much of the time you can tell when the chipbreaker is set close to the edge of the blade just by looking at the shape of the shavings - they should become straighter. I suspect that some interlocked woods resist this effect, but softer and/or longer grain woods certainly create long, straight ribbons of shavings that literally shoot out of the plane. Of course the important effect is on the surface of the wood. With the chipbreaker set correct, grain direction no longer matters.

 

Regards from Perth

 

Derek

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Hi Derek, this is a parallel thread to a FaceBook conversation that started around G's recent YouTube post. I want to add a comment or two of clarification and then see what response you have. Matt at Workshop Heaven is reportedly (did not watch the video again to see if he says it) beveling the face of the iron. This is why G said "another approach." What was proposed in the other conversation is that while this approach works, it may require having an extra iron laying about for times when you would like a standard set up. The appeal to learning how to get the most out of the cap iron is that it requires almost no modification to the plane and rather just a change in the set of the cap iron. I have found while experimenting with my smoother that I need to have the mouth a touch more open while setting the cap close or the shavings hang up in the mouth. I know you have tons more experience than I, curious what you say?

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Hi CS

 

You are correct about having the mouth open wider when the chipbreaker is set close to the end of the blade. Unless this is done, the chipbreaker will block the mouth and the shavings cannot get through. The plane escapement will block up. 

 

Essentially, one does not require a tight mouth when (1) using a closed up chipbreaker, or (2) a single iron with a high cutting angle of about 60 degrees (either through a BD plane with a high bed, or a BU plane with a high bevel angle). Both change the chip formation. 

 

A third method is essentially what Matthew was using, this being a fine shaving - a very fine (thin) shaving is less likely to tear out. This requires a very flat sole and a sharp blade. 

 

I am working on an article which is ostensibly about the new LV Custom Planes, but is really about understanding planing and what makes a plane work, so that you can design the plane of your preference. There are a few surprises.

 

Regards from Perth

 

Derek

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Hey Derek

 

Thanks for adding to this. Just to add some context, I used Matthews video to show how it could be done if you chose not to use a cap iron. He mentions at the time of filming he did not feel it helped. He does now say, thanks to the recent (in terms of woodworking) clarity he would try a different way. Although he would not have to as he "tamed" it. I also chose it as it used the wood in question, now known as the "wood from hell"

 

That article will be good reading Derek, as always  :). What I like about the cap iron is that no matter your choice, coffin smoother, Bailey or LV custom you have the same tool at your disposal. Practice at the bench also helps as C brilliantly shows!

 

 

On another topic Derek I was sent some Gidgee (linked for those interested and check the janka!) it has a grain structure like this (first two seconds only) but rock! However, Bailey & and oilstone just did it. I found it to be at the very limit of a bailey!

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Of all the significant furniture held around the world by museums and in significant private collections, probably less than 10% were made with anything BUT wooden planes and a very significant percentage with single-iron planes.  The finer examples from the 18th century have essentially flawless show surfaces; they certainly are not riddled with tearout.  Many of the show surfaces are of extremely difficult to plane (and scrape, too) highly figured veneers in troublesome species to boot.

 

My guess is that more knowledge of how to handle these woods has been lost than recently gained by the so-called 'rediscovery' of the cap iron.

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Of all the significant furniture held around the world by museums and in significant private collections, probably less than 10% were made with anything BUT wooden planes and a very significant percentage with single-iron planes.  The finer examples from the 18th century have essentially flawless show surfaces; they certainly are not riddled with tearout.  Many of the show surfaces are of extremely difficult to plane (and scrape, too) highly figured veneers in troublesome species to boot.

 

My guess is that more knowledge of how to handle these woods has been lost than recently gained by the so-called 'rediscovery' of the cap iron.

 

That is almost certainly the case, but at the same time, the mass displacement of single-iron smoothers by double-iron wooden planes happened when that furniture-making tradition was in robust health and producing many of the examples that use that troublesome veneer.   That would have happened for reasons we can now see, whereas recovering the tricks that the craftsmen who did similar brilliant work for Louis XIV are probably lost to us forever.

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I think you are most likely right Charles. From what limited research I've done (looking at stuff on the internet and books which is always dangerous) Chippendales work was done with single iron tools and it's not too shabby! I had the pleasure of visiting a client today who has some very nice items. One of them being what the owner felt to be an 18th Century clock. It was very special. On another point I wondered if it was genuine 18th cent. The veneers seems a touch too thin, my hunch was it was 19th century but I'm not an antique expert and decided to allow him to enjoy the piece as he sees it. 

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I'm certainly a proponent of the cap iron, however there is no disputing the literal masterpieces built without them.  I don't know the timing of the invention but is my thinking correct when I say that the Chippendale operation would never have had them?

 

No, you would be a little off.   The Chippendales (father and son) probably near-perfectly capture the time frame of the evolution.  Thomas the elder begain his career in the mid 18C, his first edition was in the 1750's, probably almost exactly when double iron planes really emerged - so he would started his career as a craftsman with single iron planes.  The first written record of a double iron plane is in an advertisement for a Philadelphia maker in 1767, but the irons were probably imported from England from the recently emerged production.  By the time he was doing the large commissions he was famous for, Chippendale's workers would probably have been using the double iron planes, but like him mostly have learned their craft on single irons, and likely have had some of those as well.   By the time his son ran the firm/workshop, single irons would have all but vanished.

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This is a hard thing to accept Arminius, given the wealth of single iron planes in existence that are certainly made much later. I am not debating the origin of the double iron. I am doubting that the single iron all but disappeared so quickly.

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It's a tough one. These planes were typically made from beech. Non durable worm food. The only ones that survive are nearly all 19th & 20th Century. One thing that seems relatively clear is that by that time single iron bench planes had gone, apart from use in roughing planes. 

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This is a hard thing to accept Arminius, given the wealth of single iron planes in existence that are certainly made much later. I am not debating the origin of the double iron. I am doubting that the single iron all but disappeared so quickly.

 

I don't think they would have disappeared everywhere - here in the Americas they would have hung on a lot later, especially away from the major centers and the emerging plane producers, craftsman making their own tools would certainly have stuck with familiar models.   We know that single iron planes were being made here well into the 19C, and certainly for as long as craftsmen looked first to make their own tools.  That probably would have remained the case even for regional producers.  The 1767 advertisement in Philadelphia is probably a regional producer positioning himself as 'leading edge' by importing irons for models over 10 years old in England.  But England was at the absolute apex of the craft in that era, English planes of the time are the absolute peak.   At the same time, Chippendale was doing some of the most expensive commissions of the time, the craftsmen there would have had ready access to the very best available, and only remained with the older technology for reasons of established personal preference.

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There seems to be a lot of speculation here but no supporting evidence.  The reality is single iron wooden bench planes continued to be commercially produced well into the 20th Century.  Just one example of this is found in the 1872 Greenfield Tool Company catalog. Even the premium planes as well as the boxwood or rosewood ones were available in single iron. Offering more are the 1910 Ohio Tool catalog or the1925 Sandusky catalog which was the last wooden plane catalog published in the US. See the images.

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I've got a lot more evidence; more evidence than my tremors will allow me to type. I also wonder how much experience people actually have with traditional wooden planes bedded at traditional bed angles. I think actual facts or experience would change the tone of this thread.

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The only evidence I can offer Larry is that no trade manual I have from the 20th Century describes single iron bench planes apart from George Ellis that describes them as roughing tools. From my own trade experience and from the collection of tools we have from my Great Grandfathers time (began work in 1907 I think) there is not a single iron bench plane among them, not one. Also, browsing the the internet jumble sale the surviving wooden bench planes in the UK I find 99% (not sure I've ever seen one single iron bench plane) of them double iron. I think that it is because the double iron offered a really practical solution. The other evidence I can point to is experience, steeper bed angles are harder to push where 45>47.5 deg with a cap iron when needed work more readily.

 

I'm not questioning the quality obtainable with single irons, as Charles point out massive amounts of the finest work ever made was done with them. If you choose to use them the barrier to good work will be the operator as is the case with most things. However I still feel on balance the cap iron was a step forward. If it was not people in the trades would of turned their noses up at the higher price. They would of been a brief experiment rather than being the dominant and surviving way of doing things.

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