Friday, December 10, 2010

Determined Profile

Before we start, a little blog admin (blogmin?). As you may have noticed, I'm now requesting commenters put a name to their comments. This is an attempt to make dealing with the ridiculous number of spam comments slightly less time-consuming. If you don't put a name to your comment, I will treat it as spam. We'll see how it goes, but if this doesn't help I may have to change to only allowing comments by registered users, which I'm obviously reluctant to do. So help me avoid that, and Sign Your Name. Thank'ee.

So where were we? Here. So how does one make a profile in the edges of a very small piece of wood by hand?

Option 1. The moulding plane.
Obviously my first choice, however two good reasons for it to fail in this case. Firstly, I may have a wide range of tools from which to choose, but a moulding plane of a suitable miniature-sized profile? Unlikely. Secondly, how d'you plane something that small? Even holding it to allow the plane access is problematic in this case. I briefly dallied with taking the work to the plane. i.e. Hold the plane in the vice and move the work over the cutter. But at the correct spring angle and without planing your finger tips? Across grain?

Forget that then.

Option 2. Scratch stock (Yeah, most of you were probably way ahead of me here)
I like scratch stocks. A lot. Despite owning two, commercial beaders just don't gel with me the same way as a homemade scratch stock. I find they're often too cumbersome and, in the case of the Stanley #66, the angled nature of the cutter means you can't easily change direction when the wood demands it - one of the real benefits of scratching lost, in my opinion. So I broke out the scratch stock I made for this article in the Lee Valley Newsletter (Vol. 1, Issue 1) and filed a suitable profile in a piece of saw blade (Thanks, BB). I even went to the lengths of honing the edges on a fine Arkansas slip too. Well this thing needed to be really sharp for the task and it wouldn't hurt.

Now I don't recommend scratched profiles across grain as a rest cure. It can work well, but it depends on whether the timber wants to play ball, and that can vary not just from species to species but also piece to piece. Applying a spot of shellac first seems to help, but you might as well resign yourself to a fair amount of work with abrasives from the start and then rejoice if you happen not to need them as much as you feared.

Okay, so I admit that when it comes to comfort the commercial beader wins Scratch stocks tend to ask a lot of the thumbs and I knew all about it when I'd done.

The result won't ever be mistaken for something done by a router, that's for sure, but it was okay. The second one was worse, and I had to do some remodelling with a file. In the end I think that result was probably better anyway. For the third, in beech. I switched to using a single point cutter from Lee Valley and a slight chamfer on the top surface, which sort of looks vaguely cushion-y to me. I quite like it, but whether the little horses will, I dunno. Not to put too fine a point on it, that's all they're getting...

Naturally, it's only after the event - and the cramped fingers and, okay, yes, aching back (I must improve the vice on the bench-on-bench so it's more useful for this sort of thing) - that it occurred to me that I'd missed an opportunity to see whether some of those miniature tools could really come into their own. Naturally, I had to have a try. First I scored deeply for a shoulder/quirk/ whatever it is. Is there a simpleton's guide to mouldings out there somewhere? Surely The Schwarz has found some tome from 1904 that tells you everything you ever need to know by now. But I digress - and ever-so slightly cattily at that. Sorry, Chris. It's teasing with affection, honest. Even if you are busy putting up the price of Woodworker annuals... Anyway, I used the fairly small 3-in-1 brass gauge for that, but could have gone down in size a tad to the Pocket Gauge if I'd had one.

Then guide the Miniature Shoulder Plane against the scored line. First the back side to prevent the back edge breaking off.

And finish off the rest of the cut the usual way.

At this point I can hear some readers having kittens at the idea of trying to hit the line accurately. You don't. If you're slightly shy, the chips will tend to break away cleanly at the scored line anyway. And once you've managed one or two passes, there's shoulder enough to guide the plane. Use your fingers underneath the plane as a simple fence, take your time, and it's really not as hard as you imagine. I mean, it can't be, can it? I can do it. Although overnight I had a further thought, and wondered if a shim of suitable thickness (or rather, thinness) double-sided taped to the fence of the miniature edge plane could give you the same result, but fenced. And a skew cut for added cross-grain loveliness. Not tried it yet, but don't see why not.

Then to the fairly small, but not actually miniature Little Victor Block to round over the edge.

Alas, it was a piece already chewed by the router encounters so I couldn't complete it to demonstrate a good finished result, but after a little work with some fine-ish abrasive, you can get the gist. Not bad really. In fact I'm not a little annoyed I didn't think of it earlier. Sigh.

Anyway, I have Made An Effort - which I hope will at least be something. It was also a challenge which got the old brain cell working on something wood-related for a change, and that can be nothing but a Good Thing. As a bonus I'm finding the idea of dealing with large lumps of Southern Yellow Pine suddenly rather appealing in comparison. Yes, gentle reader, the workbench thoughts are a'stirrin' again. Take to the hills.


  1. Great stuff, Alf. As always, hand tools rule, OK ;-)


    Paul Chapman

  2. Ahh, What's the saying? "To the woman with a minature rabbet plane, all the world is a . . . er . . . little horsey plinth." Nice

  3. Glad to see someone finally found a use for that cute wittle wabbit plane.

    Tomorrow, you'll think of yet another way do decorate the edge of a plinth. (Not often one gets to use a word like that.)

    The horsies will be pleased.

  4. Al,

    I haven't said a single word about The Woodworker annuals. Except that one. Dang.

  5. I hadn't anticipated getting some sort of horsey plinth addiction, Bob, but I fear you may be right.

    And Chris, don't you try the innocent with me. All this reckless and persistent quoting from The Woodworker leaves me browsing the forums in trepidation, waiting for the fatal "So, where does The Schwarz get these Woodworker magazines he seems to like so much?" Cut it out! You're not the only one with a habit to feed here... ;)

  6. I did a hand made moulding thing in a similar way here;
    It's easier if you do the long grain sides first (and before you have cut your stock into plinth lengths, hmm a thong twister)
    then when you do the cross grain you get less break out at the ends.


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