26 May 2010

Stanley 13-050 vs Veritas Small Plow Plane

After saying in a first post that: the Stanley 13-050, being a last generation model combination plane, has nearly everything covered and is well thought over, I want to make the comparison with a recent plow plane the Veritas Small Plow Plane (VSPP).  To compensate the fact that I don't have access to a Veritas plow plane,  I look at the excellent article from Derek Cohen staging a comparative test between Veritas and Record #043 and #044. What I miss in this line up is the Record 050C which has the same rounded body as the Veritas plane.

The 13-050 is nearly two times heavier than the VSPP, this is due in part to the second skate and part to the heavy, square construction.  Derek Cohen says that the VSPP has the perfect weight being in between the  #043 and #044.  Adam Cherubini favours even lighter planes,  saying that the lighter wooden planes have a distinct advantage over their heavier metal counterparts.
To counter this, I look at traditional irons.  The two I have weight as much or more than a 13-050, respectively nearly 3 and 4 pounds, even if they were used intensively by the 'weaker sex' of those days. I think that, as long as I am not planing balsa, weight does not matter that much.

Left - Right
The VSPP has a left and a right hand model.  This can be important, as Peter Follansbee remarks in his plow plane, up one side & down the other post, having only one sided plow plane is sometimes a problem.  The 13-050 is nearly fully symmetrical, as the fence and depth gauge can be set left or right.  The 13-050 gets asymmetrical when using small blades as only one skate is used, allowing for only one spur when cutting cross grain

The 13-050 comes with 18 blades, including beading profiles. The VSPP comes with one blade, but extra metric and imperial blades are available which depending of the model used are set left or right.  Better than the 13-050, the VSPP narrow blades won't fall out of the plane when setting the depth as they have an enlarged body.
Both the 13-050 and the VSPP align the blades with the skate, where the #043 and #044 have no blade alignment. This can be important when after setting the fence to a certain value,  adjusting the blade will not change this value.

Fence and grip
Derek Cohen likes the 4" long curved fence of the VSPP and the warmth and solid feel of the Veritas grip.  The 13-050 has also a 4" fence, but square. The grip is big, bigger than my stanley-like #5, and it is not in metal :).
The VSPP claims a better fence stability than the #043 - #044.  For the 13-050 I did not see problems here,  the body, fence and screws are big and sturdy,  all that extra weight is buying me something.

Nothing stops Derek Cohen, after cutting grooves and rabbets, he even cuts dados with the VSPP to show it is possible, preferring in the end his router plane.  The 13-050, has spurs and skates to cut dados and fillisters.

At first sight the VSPP and the 13-050 have good setup possibilities.  With small differences, the VSPP has maybe better fence arm clamping screws and the 13-050 has a two screws depth gauge.

In the end it does not matter what plane you use: All the planes performed at an equally satisfactory level says Derek Cohen talking about the VSPP and the #043 - #044
And yes the 13-050 has also a little extra,  there is always a depth gauge hole left open where a straw will fit to indicate if the plane stands plumb

20 May 2010

Cabinet making - 6

This is part of a series of posts, inspired by the New Yankee Workshop (NYW) presentation Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, about alternative cabinet design and tools use.

This week it is the NYW presents Chair Table - Item #207 Interesting as in this project the feet, armrests and the battens are set cross-grain to the sides of the chair. In this case no glue is used and the pieces are attached with slotted screws or tenon and dowels. A sliding dovetail is also used,  but surprisingly to attach the seat to the sides and not to solve a structural problems, for example to fix the batten cross-grain to the tabletop.
Rodale's Illustrated Cabinetmaking presents also the same project (giving American Country Furniture, 1990 as reference) and shows the batten with a sliding dovetail. Of course making a 40" long sliding dovetail is not easy and I would probably go for slotted screws like the NYW did.  Anyway the sliding dovetail weakens the top with two grooves and asks for a  thicker and heavier tabletop.

Back to the Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, looking at the top. The NYW dovetails the apron.  This is impressive as it requires a good knowledge of the dovetail jig to ensure a perfect fit with the top.  I would go for mitered joints and fix the apron with pocket holes in the top to keep everything within my toolset (and keep it easy).  Fine tuning the miter can be done with a good  powered miter saw if available (I am already regretting I dropped it out of the toolset). An alternative is to use a miter shooting board,  but to make this work I would probably need a very good plane.

With this I finish the Cabinet Making series.  Discovering the NYW series was fun.  It offers good images and sound about mechanized wood workshop activities,  fluid transitions between concept and realization and packs a project in less than 25 minutes.
The few cross grain structures that caught my attention in #106,  are probably limited to the first season of the NYW,  later episodes seem to always solve those problems.
Analysing a few projects from the NYW allowed me to put the 'minimal' toolset to a test.  It appears that no drastic changes where needed to make the projects doable. I could do it with the I can do that toolset and some more. And this came as a surprise to me as the NYW has a name of heavy power tool (ab)use.

18 May 2010

Cabinet making - 5

This is part of a series of posts, inspired by the New Yankee Workshop (NYW) presentation Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, about alternative cabinet design and tools use.

After replacing mortise & tenon with biscuits previous post, I look how to improve the strength of a biscuited frame.  Biscuits are interesting but are often discredited as being to weak.  The fine woodworking magazine (FWW) did a joinery shoot-out in January 2009. It gave values in the following ranges :
  • half lap: 1600
  • splined and standard miter: 1500 - 1400
  • mortise & tenon: 1450 - 700 (depending of the thickness)
  • stub: 500  
  • dowels - pocket screw - biscuit - stub tenon: 700 - 200 (shallow joints where the style splits along the grain)

Shallow joints
For a dowel joint it is easy to increase the depth of the dowels. I buy dowels by the meter, so no problem there.  The people of  dowelmax showed (in reaction to the FWW article) that 2 inch deep dowels avoid that the style splits along the grain and allow for strong joints. I am not sure if all the dowels need to be lengthened as the exterior dowels are the most critical .

I implemented the same idea but for biscuits this time.  I added a half dowel (a dowel drilled cross-grain, flush with the surface, only there to avoid splitting) close to the end of the stiles. The next step is to make a standard biscuit joint, cutting through the top of the half dowel. With this I made a number of test pieces with a normal biscuited joint (nr 0) on one side and a biscuited joint combined with a half dowel at the other.  When hitting the test piece with a mallet, the normal biscuited joint failed easily. When I tried to break the reinforced joint I had to take a bigger hammer to make it break.

The pictures show
- the tested joints with the wood splitting at the depth of the biscuit of the reference joint, where the strengthened joint does not break
- a cross-cut of the biscuit and the dowel
- same with also a half dowel before cutting the biscuit groove

For pocket holes the half dowel can be replaced by a narrow headed screw,  making it a screw (and glue) only solution.  But I did not test it yet.
For stub tenons half dowels are probably a drastic improvement.

Miter joints
Miter joints show in the test a very decent score.  Although my guess is that they are asymmetrical in resistance, being at their best when closing the joint, what was tested by FWW. And shallow joints are probably at there best when opening the joint.
Where a simple miter joint showed a score similar to a splined miter joint, at the JLC forum I saw examples where in adverse condition (high moisture) there is a clear differences between both methods after a few months.
Biscuiting miter joints has an added advantage as the diagonal offers more room for large size biscuits.

Using miter joints for door frames

I have an example where a mitered (drawbored mortise and tenon) joint was used for a door frame. The main reason is probably the use of profiles.  Apart from the top with its curved profiles, everything is made with continuous profiles.
This makes it possible to build the door in three distinct steps (possibly different carpenters or workshops):
1. Cut the wood and make the panels
2. Make the profiles
3. Cut the joints and assemble the door

To clarify the style: This oak bonnetière was assembled in the fifties, it is unclear to me how much older the door is or what the style of the original door was.

That's it,  next time I look at the top in a last episode.

07 May 2010

Cabinet making - 4

This is part of a series of posts, inspired by the New Yankee Workshop (NYW) presentation Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, about alternative cabinet design and tools use.

This week the NYW presents Hearthside Settle - Program #205. Most of the curved cuts can be done with a jigsaw. I am a little surprised that biscuits are used to attach crossbeams for a bench,  but OK.
Looking at the toolset it seems to cover it all but the back and front, witch are made of beaded boards joined with tongue and groove. No glue here as it is a large cross-grain structure and wood movement is near impossible to stop.

If I keep the design:
- Tongue and groove profiles are made on a router table with three passes,  one for the groove and two for the tongue.
- The beading is done with a specialised blade on the table saw.  Finding an alternative is not easy as it is more a job for a fixed table router, and that's advanced equipment.  In my case I could use my Stanley #50 plane (13-050) with its beading profile,  it is maybe 50 meters (150 foot) of pine profiles that must be cut and that's doable.

There are alternatives to beading and to tongue and groove :
- Chamfering the boards to replace beading.
- By just putting the boards side by side and maybe using biscuits without glue. If the board shrink it is possible to see light through the joints, but functionally it is not much of a problem.
- Using shiplap joints is also an alternative to tongue and groove and it is more simple to make as I only need rabbets.

A last interesting detail is that where at the front the boards nearly touch the floor, at the back there is a rail supporting the boards (not visible on the picture).  A possible explanation is that when the bench is moved (tilted and dragged) the convex front makes it impossible that the board-ends slide over the floor, as only the sides can touch the floor.  Where at the back the concave boards need a sled to protect the ends from splintering.

When used in exterior doors beading can be a problem.  On the left a correctly executed (south facing) door where the bottom rail allows the rain to drip out of the open joints and beads.  Right is my workshop door. It was at its 3rd repair, before it was used there.  The rain sipped through the beads behind the panel, making each repair higher than the previous.

Back to the Oak Bathroom Vanity - Program #106, looking at the doors and the front frame
The front frame is made of half lap joints, no problem here if I use a handsaw (and router or rasp and file for fitting).  A good  idea is to add a handsaw 10-12 tpi to the basic toolset, I can't be a carpenter without a saw.
The door frame is made with mortise and tenons.  That's good, but as it is a small door frame and not a chair, strength is not very critical, I can use biscuits.
The door panel is raised (inside) and with a shoulder.  Due to the shoulder, it is not possible to simply use a plane.  But I can first route a groove to set the depth and then plane the edge away with a Jack plane and some attention. Or I can use some angled router jig.

Next time I finish the Cabinet Making series looking at the top.  Or I just try to improve the strength of a biscuited frame.

03 May 2010

Cross-grain construction - 2

A short time after being critical to cross-grain glue ups,  I did a simple repair to replace broken drawer sliders (drawer pulls are best set in the centre).  By lack of replacement sliders, thin enough to fit, I glued wooden rails  to support the drawer.  The side panel is 14 mm (1/2"+) thin and the bottom of the drawer is already grooved, leaving no room for cut outs to fit a standard drawer slider.
It is only when placing the drawers back that I became aware I had made a cross grain glue up with the new drawer rails. What was I thinking when glueing?
The drawers are not very deep, so probably the side panels will not crack, but nevertheless.
Thinking of possible alternatives, one solution is to use four screws and to use glue only between the first two screws, that's on third of the rail length,  where the highest strain is;  as the drawer rests fully on the front part when it is opened. The two back screws are then best set in slotted holes.

I also found an excellent book discussing, among other things, all these cross grain aware solutions when building furniture Rodale's Illustrated Cabinetmaking by Bill Hylton.

Parallel to this, I see that at Logan Cabinet Shoppe Bob Rozaieski is documenting the making of a new Moxolson Workbench. The base is made by now, the top and massive sides will be fixed cross to most of the base structure.  Looking further (or is it back) at his documentation I see he split up the top to two parts,  keeping the widths limited to 11" (28 cm).  I will have to wait and see how the top is attached: glue or slotted pocket holes, buttons, sliding dovetails, ... . (edit: it became slotted holes in additional cleats and partial glue up,  a nice workbench)