Favorite Woodworking Planes–Smoothing Planes

Generations

I have lost track of how many posts I have written about planes, so I am just going by category now. What we have here are five very nice smoothers. Right to left again, Chinese style.

The best is the little Bailey type Stanley #3, BECAUSE it has been upgraded with one of those Lee Valley O1 steel blades. It will leave things seriously smooth. I actually bartered for this with a tool seller at a flea market in Atlanta. Price: one Rosewood knob from a Stanley #45.

The Millers Falls plane is the size of a Stanley #4, but in their numbering system it is a #9c (corrugated sole). Great workmanship, and actually came with a high quality blade, which I also use on my Stanley #5.

The two wood/metal “transitional” planes are a Stanley #35 and a #24. The #35 was my go to plane for years, before I bought the two Bailey types. I love the size of the #24, but I have to resole it. Someday.

Last is a classic German Ulmia Ott plane. Someone in the distant past had the genius idea of resoling this with some really hard linoleum. It will last until the cows come home.

Millers Falls planes are a bargain on the interwebs, and their quality is arguably superior to the Stanley planes. But if you want the best, take my usual advice–buy German.

Making Tempera Paint with Eggs and Oil

Being buried under an avalanche of around forty eggs from our chickens requires some improvisation. That’s when I remembered that one of the old Italian masters, Botticelli, used an egg based paint. Botticelli was actually a nickname meaning “Little Barrel,” which indicates that he was quite rotund.

There are a thousand recipes for tempera paint, but I adapted this one from The Natural Paint Book, which is a great work. Here’s my version:

Three Eggs

One Cup Boiled Linseed Oil (for exterior paint. Use better oil for an interior finish.)

One Cup Water

Three Tablespoons Natural Pigment

For some unknown reason I bought five (!) pounds of red iron oxide pigment from Amazon. It is actually more brownish red than red, but I have enough to paint my entire brick oven, and probably part of my house.

Mix the oil and eggs first–I just used a whisk. Add the water a few drops at a time, and dissolve the pigment in the mixture. And just like that, you are an old master, making your own paint.

This has to be stirred regularly, and used fairly quickly. It is applied in thin coats. It does look great.

I’ve Been Framed! No, the Brick Oven Has Been Framed.

Framed!

My wife MJ barely knew me at all, when I spent every summer in high school framing houses. That experience made me want to go to graduate school, and stay as far away from construction as possible.

Now I spend my time cooking and building things–and writing. After a dozen years or so, I am framing in my brick oven. It was stupidly simple.

Here’s the rear view.

Needs a Cleanup

Easy work, that. I do need to de-clutter all that stuff, but it will be easier once the siding is put on.

Sideways! Kreuzweise!

Goodbye, Concrete

Admittedly, the old framer here used as many deck screws as nails in this project. It will take a kiloton nuke to bring it down.

Favorite Green Woodworking Tools, Part Two–Flea Market Axes

The Real Motley Crew

Though my recollection grows dim, I believe that all three of these beastly tools came from the same flea market in Indiana, where they also had fantastic funnel cakes. I put new handles in all three, and the handles cost at least twice as much as the axes. I did inherit the German thriftiness gene.

The broad axe is right handed, beveled on the right side only, and also has an offset right handed handle, important if you want to keep any skin on your knuckles.

The adze was rusted and pitted on the body, so I sprayed it with a couple of coats of Rustoleum. The cutting edge was fine. To quote Neil Young again, rust never sleeps.

My favorite is the yellow broad hatchet, another right hander. I made the leather sheath to protect the edge. It’s been used for every green woodworking job.

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

About the yellow paint. An old timer at the flea market saw my hatchet, and said that everyone in his high school Ag class had been told to paint all their tools yellow, so they could be found easily, if, say, they were dropped in the cornfield. There certainly are plenty of cornfields in Indiana.

Favorite Green Woodworking Tools-I Need Swedish Steel

Apologies to Uma Thurman

I was once in an axe fight, and the axe won, resulting in fourteen stitches to my left calf. The culprit was the Swedish axe at the top. I still use it constantly. My two favorite axes are both Swedish, a Granfors Bruks and a Wetterlings, AKA the Swedish Axe Works.

The larger axe is a forest axe from Granfors, a present from one of my past employers. It’s deadly. Just ask my left leg.

The hatchet was made by SAW, now part of the Granfors empire. Alas, they are no longer sold in the US, or even outside of Sweden. Your choices, if you want one, are to hit Fleabay, or go to the factory in Sweden. Fleabay would be cheaper.

Green Woodworking is taking fresh cut wood and working it while it is still full of water, and soft. It’s the way to work with woods like cherry, which are often compared to metal. Trust me, as I tried to use the forest axe on a small dead and dried cherry limb this weekend. The cherry won.

Kiddo in Kill Bill needed Japanese steel. I’ll settle for Swedish.

Sandvik/Bahco Scraper

Hand Forged or High Tech, the Swedish know their Metals

When one of top woodworking tool sellers in the country describes a single thin piece of steel as being “legendary,” it’s time to pay attention. The wood certainly does, when this well sharpened Sandvik (now Bahco) scraper gets in on the action.

It’s easy enough to sharpen a good scraper blade, as it can be done with just a file and a burnisher–a screwdriver will do as a burnisher in a pinch, but mine (re:gear head department), is carbide steel. The edge is a “hook” edge, not a chisel edge, like a plane blade.

Let’s have a trans-Atlantic coalition:

Western Europe, Meet Eastern US

Gott in Himmel! A Swedish scraper blade in an American tool, which was designed by a German immigrant. This floor will be refinished in just days, if I can keep the stinking dogs from walking through the wet water-based polyurethane.

Kitchen Invasion, Part Four–Arthur Umanoff Stools

“And I Saw you on the Barstool, Where You held that Glass so Tight”–Neil Young

Seriously, I had never heard of this great designer of mid-century modern furniture until yesterday. Umanoff was the owner of a company called Post Modern Ltd, and his work was featured at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Then we end up with two of his stools for $18. Read on.

MJ and I both grew up in dire straits, or as we say in the South, dirt poor. We did have houses full of books, and the beautiful Southern outdoors around us. Even with that, a dollar is still a dollar, to this day.

Example given, our shopping habits. Our most famous shopping trip was buying a piece of layered Swedish art glass (an Orrefors candle holder, no less), and a classic Stanley woodworking tool, for $4. I didn’t even bother to get a better price, which I usually do.

Yesterday was as good. These stools were under a pile of junk at a flea market, but looked good. MJ, wanna be art major, saw them first. I thought $18 was a bit much, but we needed better bar stools. What the hey.

MJ, who should have the research degree instead of me, found these on the interwebs after we bought them. Three were going for $800. Maybe being cheap is it’s own reward. At least we have a nice place to sit now.

Kitchen Invasion, Part Three–The Storage Wars

This is how the Kitchen always Wins

The shelf under my baking bench was meant for baking equipment, but guess again. Three cast iron pots and a brass/ceramic beauty walked in and said–out of the way, jokers.

So we now have three Dutch ovens and a French/ American double boiler ruling the shelf. One Dutch oven is an eight quart Lodge model, and as heavy as a sea anchor. The other is a Franken Oven, made of a Dutch oven bottom and a skillet lid top. An old Creuset enameled Dutch oven hides in the back. The best, however, is the double boiler.

The Bazar Francais double boiler is a gem, with a French made copper body and a lining from Hall Pottery in the USA. I had a brain infarction, and decided today this would be perfect for keeping mulled wine hot during Xmas.

Wait, there’s still wall space.

Yes!

What, actual baking equipment? These dudes are serious. The cherry French style pin was made in Kentuck, and the bad mother Dogwood one made in my basement, though everyone thinks it is Walnut. I know Walnut, and this is no Walnut.

A fifty/fifty split. The pins are used more often than the interlopers. But I can’t get that mulled wine off of my mind.

Kitchen Invasion, Part Two–If the Preacher had not Fallen through the Porch, We would not have this Cupboard

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is porch.jpg
Seriously

I really wish I could make this stuff up, but Pastor Fiedler fell through this porch. Actually, these are just some of the surviving boards of the porch that the hefty pastor fell through. Read on.

Fiedler was one really funny pastor, and I witnessed his take down of one of MJ’s most repulsive in-laws–at a wedding, no less. With that said, he was also quite large, and he never once missed a free meal cooked by Agnes Olga, MJ’s mother. However, he almost missed one meal when he fell through the porch.

Background info. When MJ’s parents built their house, they did it right. Oak floors throughout, and even oak boards as the floor to the porch. To preserve the porch, they used green lead paint to keep it from rotting. Bad news–nothing will keep wood from rotting in this hot humid climate.

A couple of decades later, the fateful day arrived, and it could have been karma, as he was the first pastor of the church who could not speak German (the church was even founded by Col. Johannes Gottfried Cullman). Fiedler showed up as hungry as usual, but no lighter than before. He hit the one really weak board on the porch, and boom! Down he went, about three feet.

No harm was done to the man of God, but the porch received a death sentence. Here’s where I come in. I happened to be there while my in laws were tearing up the oak boards, and replacing them with cheap pressure treated pine. I asked them what they were going to do with them, and the answer was that they were going to be burned. There is nothing as healthy as burning boards painted with lead paint.

I offered to take a few boards off of their hands, and the result is above, a cabinet I made using only hand tools. I even saved some of the green paint. Hey, nostalgia, and a great story.

Fiesta Ware not Included

As my man Brecht wrote ( sorta plagiarizing Villon), where are the snows of yesteryear? I at least I saved a few of the oak boards.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Four–Miniature Planes

She is small, but she is fierce–Shakespeare

For your perusal is an assortment of small planes and spokeshaves, the latter of which are actually small specialty planes themselves (or at least function as one). The green plane is a Kunz #100 made in Germany; the middle plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Stanley #100 1/2, with a curved sole, made in Canada; and the last plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Bailey/Stanley #50 Little Victor plane, which caused quite a stir when first introduced a little over a decade ago. The small brass spokeshaves are no longer produced, but occasionally turn up on fleabay. If I remember correctly they was sold by Garret Wade, and were made by a small manufacturer in Detroit.

Kunz #100

This “Squirrel Tail” plane is just about an exact copy of the old Stanley #100. It has a flat sole, and is excellent for trimming and general work with small or green stock. It lives in my green woodworking tool bucket, as the red paint makes it easy to find should I lose it in the woods. The price is also right for a German made plane.

Lee Valley Squirrel-Tail Palm Plane

This is only one of the superb palm planes manufactured by Lee Valley in Canada. A take off on the Stanley #100 1/2 plane, this has three major improvements. The materials are far superior, the design is more useful, and the machining is about the best there is. To be specific, the handle is larger to accommodate the overgrown beasts that we have become. The blade adjustment is based on the old Victor plane adjustment–more on that in a second. The machining matches that of the innovations introduced with the LV Little Victor plane.

The curved sole makes this ideal for chair makers, though it works just as well on large carved bowls. The Stanley #100 1/2 was marketed as a “modelmaker’s convex plane.” The ease of adjustment on this new model is mind blowing, circa 1877.

Lee Valley Little Victor Plane

This is not an exact copy of the 1877 Bailey #50 Little Victor plane, but it is pretty close. Leonard Bailey introduced a newly designed set of planes that year, under the Victor name. A series of lawsuits with Stanley, Bailey’s former employer, resulted in Stanley gaining the rights to the designs. They promptly canceled the entire line of planes.

When introduced, this little plane was considered a marvel. Both the sole and the blade are machined practically literally flat, to the point that the plane could be used right out of the box. One woodworking magazine editor had the entire staff convinced they should order one the day he received it. They all did.

So it is small, but it is fierce. I used this extensively while I built the “great wall” in the previous post, and it qualifies as the leader in the race for the perfect pocket plane. Nothing is better at trimming pieces of millwork.

Brass Spokeshaves

Project too small or curvy for a mini-plane? Look for some of these little brass planes, in used condition, on the interwebs. The set has one with a flat sole, and two with varying degrees of concave-convex-osity.

I use mine constantly when carving spoons, and even when making bowls. They hang in a leather pouch I made just for these three, right next to my shaving horse, which is spoon carving central.

Here is a definite case where bigger is not better. These take up almost no space in the workshop, and if needed the whole set could fit in a tool belt. For someone who has a shop as buried in shavings as mine always is, they also create small shavings that are easy to clean up, for those of you who actually clean up your shop occasionally.