An evening in a Real Shop

December 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm Leave a comment

I got to spend some time in a real shop Thursday evening with Jameel Abraham, owner of Bench Crafted. His shop is a separate building out behind his home in Cedar Rapids, IA. It is not overly large, about the size of a two car garage. There is plenty of space for both power and hand tools with room to spare. This is a big difference though from my little 9′ x 13′ basement shop that needs to be overhauled. Jameel and I spent the evening talking handtools, planes in particular. I had a few planes he wanted to look at and he had a few that I wanted to try out.

I started out bring out a few of my nice WWII era planes. A Stanley #4 type 9 smother, a Winchester 6004 I got from my grandpa, a Stanley #112 scraper, and a misused #5 Bailey that I want to rehab. I even brought along one of my two Mujingfang Chinese Style polishing planes. Jameel then allowed me to play with a few of his planes including his Brese infill smother. Jameel had made this from a kit. If I remember correctly the plane was a 650-55 “J” model with ebony infills. This little smother had some real nice weight for such a small plane.

Then I finally brought out the plane that he really wanted to see, my Knight Coffin Smother. This plane was made using a block of Curly Maple Burl and Ipe for the sole. Try as we might we couldn’t get it to produce nice wispy thin shavings. As it was pushed along a piece of cherry wood it would only cut at the beginning and end of the board. It got me thinking that it had a low spot around the mouth. Jameel brought out his Veritas straight edge and sure enough that was the case. I’ll talk more about this later in this post.

After the failure with the Coffin Smother I noticed the handsaw on his bench. It was a western style back saw. It just happened to be the Gramercy Carcase Saw that he got as a kit at the Woodworking in America conference. He talks about his saw in his blog. Jameel is too modest about his handle making skills. The Paduk handle he made fit perfectly in my hand with my index finger pointing down the saw. I use Japanese style hand saws and had never used a modern western back saw. After a little lesson I was happily cutting straight and smooth kerfs. The saw felt like an extension of my hand and effortlessly cut the wood for me. I don’t know if I will convert or not but I liked what I had in front of me.

We discussed other things and I learned a few more. After near 2 1/2 hours we decided to call it a night and I packed up my toys and headed home. Before I left though we promised each other to plan another evening with more galoots and galoots in training at his shop.

Back to my Knight smoother plane. One thing we have to remember is that wood does move as the climate changes. Now the sole was not too bad only about .010″ out of flat. But when you are shooting for shavings that are close to .001″ it make a big difference. I got a chance last night to finally stick a piece of 120 grit paper to a piece of MDF and fettle the bottom flat. Then I went to a 220 grit and finally a 600 grit to smooth things out. Along the way I marked up the sole with pencil to make sure I wasn’t taking it out of flat. Finally I waxed the sole and placed a piece of cherry on the bench to smooth out. After fiddling with the setting and locking it down I proceeded to make a large pile of thin wispy shavings. Then I touched up the blade on my strops and made another pile of equally thin shavings. I was in Galoot heaven. There is nothing like the feeling of setting up a plane and getting it working perfectly. The feeling of accomplishment is even more when you do that with a high quality plane.

A word of note and disclaimer. The links above, in previous posts and in the left margin are to various sites some commercial and others not. I do not get any kickback from anyone on these links except for one in the left margin. These are to point you to more information on the subject and for your benefit not mine. I do have a few ads sprinkled in on this blog but I don’t get much from them nor do I have any control over what is displayed.


Entry filed under: Tools.

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He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
– St. Francis of Assisi
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