I thought it about time I wrote some more in my blog. Looking back on my past entries I notice that there are some gaps which I intend filling here.
At the beginning of any project the metal is a good place to start (after design and drawings are done of course). In all my classic designs I use mild steel – I have tried it in several different forms; hot rolled (which is very good and has little stress in but comes with a lot of scale to deal with), BMS (which is nice and clean but has a lot of stress in it), sheet metal (which still has a difficult scale to deal with and some stress). Stainless steel would be my favourite choice, but not on the classic type of planes. I therefore choose mild steel as this is a nice ductile material once the stress problems have been dealt with. To relief the stress I have to cut it to manageable sizes and send it off for heat treatment. This picture shows the material in two stages – after heat treatment and some after surface grinding.
As you can see from the picture my grinding machine is a Jones and Shipman 1430. It was made in the ‘60s and it has been reconditioned by Andmar who are more ‘Jones and Shipman’ than the company themselves. It has been the main stay of my workshop since I purchased it 10 years ago as all my work including tool making passes through here. That is every jig and every piece of work holding (as well as plane components). It sets the standard for all my work.
This surface grinder uses a 24” x 12” Eclipse magnetic chuck which needs re-surfacing every 12 months. This can take up the best part of a day. The nice true surface is so good I just had to photograph it (sad isn’t it!).
My current project is A1 14 ½” Panel planes. I have documented this before (use this link http://www.toolworkshop.co.uk/blogarchive/) so I am just putting a few pictures to look at.
These are the front bun chairs and once the blanks have been cut and trimmed up true to uniformed size the central fixing hole is drilled whilst still in the lathe. They are then tapped with an 8 x 1.25mm thread; this is for the bun screw.
The 3 x 6mm fixings are drilled on a manual milling machine using an indexing head as shown.
With the three index holes now drilled I only need a tool change to tap these three holes whilst still in the chuck.
Now that all my fixing holes are complete it is back to the lathe to form a small spigot where the bun in engaged.
The last job on the chairs now is to finish the bottoms to the 15 deg offset to the front buns. A small fixture has been made for this purpose. The chairs are mounted with the three bolts.
The chair is held in its fixture and secured on the saw for cutting
Whilst the chair is still attached to the fixture it is clamped onto the tilting milling vice for surfacing to the desired dimension.
Now I have two flat sides the edges can be milled bringing them to width, leaving a couple of thou for surface grinding. This means that the edges will be perfectly square and will form an invisible joint. It is important that when the plane body is assembled everything is flat and square – unlike dovetailing which incurs a lot of stress from peining.
The rounding on the ends, a task easily carried out on the CNC mill.
This is the drilling for the 3 x 6mm purpose made bolts to fix the rear handle chair. I need to make some more of the bolts so will document them later on.
These three holes for the rear handle are then reamed (which I think is the correct word and not countersunk). This is done with a 40 deg tapered mill which will match the heads on the bolts. With this angle you get a good retention and pressure for some deformation, resulting in that invisible joint.
These are the fixing holes for the front bun using the same drilling and reaming operation as previously described. This time these holes are drilled at a 15 deg angle and indexed with 120 deg spacing. The CNC mill is particularly useful for indexing and convenient as I am drilling on a gradient.
The fixing holes for the sides. There are a total of 11 x 5mm holes per edge. As the holes are not drilled on the centre line they need to be mirrored. The picture shows my set up using a second vice for the mirror holes. To achieve this many holes without a CNC mill would be very stressful and time
My Semco vertical milling machine which is an exact Chinese copy of a Bridgeport. It is fitted with an Anilam Wizard 211 DRO. I have had it a for quite some years now and it serves me well.
It is a pity that my CNC mill does not do tapping. So the plane bottoms had to be set up on the manual mill. However, with the aid of the DRO and an automatic tapping head the tapping of the holes is carried out to standard and in a timely manner. There are a few cheap tapping heads on the market but I would go for a Tapmatic every time, worth its money.
When I first started making planes and was putting together a workshop with a very small budget, I had no idea what form the workshop was going to take – and I still don’t. I started with just a small Tom Senior milling machine, a 5” Raglan screw cutting lathe and a Fobco drill press. Looking back I can see that not only have I come a long way in improving my workshop but also in build and quality of my work. From the start I have always striven to make each plane better than the last. Although I have already covered the subject of my No 982 smoother plane elsewhere on the blog I thought that since I am currently working on the last batch (this plane is limited to 16 of each type, with and without brass cones) I would take the opportunity to described my workshop and some of the machines in it.
Jaespa W220DG Saw
In the beginning I was cutting everything by hand and didn’t even have a wood machine. It was a quantum leap just to get an ordinary band saw. After buying a pull down saw I found it unsuitable as it meant I had to be in attendance full time with the machine to pull down on the handle. I replaced it very rapidly with this Jaespa bow saw. It is the best friend any workshop could have. Very little gets passed this machine.
Here I am taking advantage of the 10 x 10” capacity to reduce the width of a pre-cut bar from my stock for the No 982 bottoms. This machine has a gravity feed controlled by a hydraulic valve which means that in the case of heavy workloads I don’t need to stand with the machine. This allows me to run more than one machine at a time (on occasions several machines).
In the foreground is my workhorse. A Bridgeport Series II Interact 2, which must be 20 years old and like me, is showing its age. This was one of the early CNC mills controlled by an Heidenhain TNC 151 (by today’s standard it is an abacus). A replacement for this machine would cost a very nice new car.
As you will see throughout all my blogs I use it for many operations and here I am using it to mill and de-scale this hot rolled bar which is to be used for the No 982 bottoms.
This machine is my only experience in programming and it has taken me a long time to reach some proficiency. I wouldn’t want to replace this machine with a VMC but I would like a nice open style bed mill with an Heidenhain control (in my dreams).
Although my current machine performs many tasks it is still limited (in scope but not in work quality) and I sometimes find things easier to do on my manual mill. I have also become very dependent on DROs and no longer trust vernier readings.
It is such a wide range of work that this CNC mill does I no longer want to do my work without it. As much as I might want a CNC lathe I would sooner update my current mill first.
Jones and Shipman 1430 semi automatic surface grinder
Up until 9 years ago I outsourced the grinding for my blades and it was my experience that outsourcing is fraught with problems. I was extremely fortunate to find a machine of this quality which allowed me to do the grinding myself and enabling me to keep everything in house. The machine was originally made in the 1960’s but had just been rebuilt by Andmar (who work very closely with Jones and Shipman to achieve the good build quality). This machine has a good 2’ x 1’ chuck and it has proved very useful for much more than just blades. I have also become very dependent on it for tool making, as I make all my own tools and work holding jigs. In short, this machine has improved the standard of accuracy to everything that is made in my workshop.
All the bottoms and sides of my No 98 series planes are ground on all sides and again after assembly for the final finish.
Mistakes – what is a mistake?
There are those that will always deny making mistakes and there are those that can keep smiling when they have made one as they have thought of someone to blame it on. So many projects can go off course along their journey, or find that the goalposts have been moved. Those with the creative thinking processes, for good or bad, can always find a solution; then only count its merits.
In the case of the No 10 plane, and its simplicity, there seemed nowhere to go wrong, but to be 100% sound in my mind I need to alter some of its dimensions. Having slept on it I have decided it is folly to rescue anything I am not completely happy with. This doesn’t sound much – just need to remake the sides and procure some new infill material. I have come too far now to take any risks. Reputations can’t be compromised. Luckily I haven’t had to use the reject bin too much over the years – it is due to put on weight.
Apologies to those waiting for their planes but as you can see from the blog below there is still steady progress.
In the making of my planes I rely quite a lot on a manual mill. So far throughout the making of these planes the machine has been in constant use.
There is a lot to be said for a good quality manual mill with a DRO. The skill is in setting up and operating these machines and along with essential hand working I am able to achieve standards that are impossible to achieve with hand work alone. In my cabinet making and joinery days there was always a division between machinists and hand workers. Why? I have always wanted to be involved in every aspect of the project from initial thought to the finished item. This is why I never outsource any of my work.
For some reason I have never looked forward to doing this stage of the work in stainless steel in spite of all the experience I gained with the No 98. With a good plan of attack stainless steel will lend itself to quite a lot of cutting and manipulation. There are some that shake at the knees at the mention of stainless steel. This picture shows the first stage of roughing out for the dovetails and in the following picture it shows the milling in the final stage with a forming tool. Note that the bottoms having the compound dovetail so they are made in mirrored pairs to simplify things.
Dovetails finished with all the mess cleaned away.
I have obtained some very exotic woods over the past few years but undoubtedly at ‘the top of the tree’ would be Zitan (pterocarpus santalinus), a much coveted wood by the Chinese. There is some more information on my website .
It has always been my intention to fill some of my small low angle planes with this very rare and valuable wood. I think this wood is unknown to most Westerners. I really want to use this in some very special editions. Normally the cost of materials is a small percentage of the price of a plane compared to the labour cost but these planes will have to be at a premium. In the scale of things it would be justifiable to use this extravagant material.
These planes will be rare as I only have a small amount of this wood and I have more chance of winning the lottery than obtaining more (even allowing for the fact I don’t buy lottery tickets!).
These are two very good examples of the oriflame colouring that Zitan is known for. Once exposed to the light and atmosphere it will go dark and in some cases black.
The work has started on the stainless steel bottoms of these No 10 smoother/mitres. This will probably be the only batch of infill planes I will make using stainless steel. This particular batch is 304 which was cropped from a sheet. The problem with this is the bruised edges have work hardened to the point that nothing will break through the hard skin which has been generated from the use of a break press. Never the less I am committed to progress now.
I do plan to use stainless steel on my non-infill planes in future for the obvious advantages. However with infill planes some of the metal has to be worked dry after the infill is fitted as I cannot use coolant. I am not happy working stainless without the use of coolant. Stainless steel is a complex alloy, any cutting needs to be done with the correct surface speed and it also benefits from some cooling and lubrication.
A little anecdote:
Many years ago I spent a short amount of time gliding. The club that I was flying with were using some fairly old gliders that had a wooden skid which was more suitable for landing on grass. Most of the landings at this airfield were done on concrete. This meant that they were fixing steel strips to the undersides of the skids to take up some of the wear. Unfortunately these didn’t wear too well and it was constant work fitting new strips. Upon my suggestion we replaced these strips with a stainless steel plate, preformed to the curvature of the skid, expecting to achieve a longer life. This was certainly fulfilled.
Unfortunately there was a slight side effect. Because of the problems from abrasions on landing and a high surface speed it created a considerable amount of hardening. Causing the stainless to repel anything when there is a high surface speed.
Those who have ever flown this type of glider knows that it was useful to press down on the front of the gilder using the skid as a brake, as the brakes never worked well but to use the skid as a brake is bad form and bad for the skid. With the stainless steel on the skid the effect was like landing on ice! The club’s no 1 instructor, who was forever moaning about using the skids as brakes, overshot on his first landing with the new skids and got into an argument with some barb wire and a hedge. The club rapidly decided to do something about their poor brakes.
Face milling the bottom blank.
Showing the extremely rigid clamping fixture to ensure repeatability and regular thickness of this plane bottom. This is a lot more complicated than surface grinding.