Good news this morning, I was feeling much better after the Strep attack of the weekend. Also not contagious, that’s nice.
Today in class we continued on our first project, the small dovetailed box. Frank started the day with a demonstration of hand planes and their use. We didn’t cover any of the exotics, but did get a good overview of your basic smoothing and block planes. I’d been looking forward to planes, so pretty exciting for me.
After the explanation and demonstration, we were handed pine blocks to try out the smoothing planes. I can’t say I’m confident in my planing skills yet, but I certainly put in some good practice. That poor demo board was about half gone in shavings on the floor by the time I stopped. Most of the shavings in the photo below are from that.
After we’d finished having fun with the practice boards, it was time to apply our new skills to the project. The candle box we’re building has rounded edges on the base and top. No routers, rasps or sandpaper for us – hand planes all the way.
I tried using the No. 4 1/2 smoothing plane as demonstrated by our instructor, but it seemed too awkward for me to get the precision you need for this project. Fortunately I realized this on the practice board, so by the time I started on the box pieces I’d switched to the low angle block plane. Wow! This plane is amazing! I was able to quickly adjust it from taking a solid curl at the beginning 45 degree chamfer to almost producing sawdust sized curls for finishing polish. I was so happy with the result I decided to skip using sandpaper.
The tricky part of doing these rounds is working with the end grain. We had to hold the planes nearly vertical and slide them sideways to shear the wood instead of directly cutting it. Worked great.
We also used the planes to smooth down the dovetail joints to even with the rest of the box, and then ran a few strokes across the sides for good measure. Up to this point I’d been doing very well about slowing down and not getting way ahead (though my personal plane iron has gradually been getting sharper during my occasional wait moments). However I decided I wanted to move on and smooth the tops of the box sides. Fortunately Frank decided to go over how to do this a few minutes later so I didn’t get the time to do too much damage to them. He demonstrated how to slide the plane all around the top in a big circle. That was fun to put into practice – the only hard part was stopping.
The next step was cutting the mortises for the box hinges. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the process. It was pretty straight forward but did require some precision. Frank told us he used to cut all his hinges in with a router for cabinets and such, but since he found this method it’s all he uses. Much safer and more accurate, and doesn’t take too long once you learn in.
The basics are finding the correct depth (half of the barrel of the hinge) and length (leaf of the hinge), marking them appropriately on your piece, and then chiseling out the slot. With sharp chisels it’s easy and fast to walk across the spot, an 8th of an inch at a time, peeling up a chunk of wood with a single tap. Then slide the chisel in underneath to clean it out, and you’re ready to mount the hinge.
Project two is a wall shelf and involves several new joints and techniques. With limited time left in the day we received a demonstration of cutting a dado joint and got to work on our practice boards. See the photos below as I cut my way through my first dado:
Fortunately this was a practice piece – the joint was very loose. Should require a loving tap or two with a hammer. Running out of time, I cut a new dado in three minutes flat (take that friends who think hand tools are archaic and useless!) which was much better.
We finished off the day with glueing and clamping the base to the rest of our dovetailed box. Forgot to get a picture, but I’ll grab one first thing in the morning. I might even nag Jeremy for a shot with his uber iPhone4! My 3G lacks a bit in lower light situations.