Friday, July 31, 2015

Woodworking Workshops and Your Support

Some of the student tools we've been lucky enough to acquire.
Hopefully many of you out there have been able to attend the woodworking workshops that I've been lucky enough to be able to present through the support of the  Landmarks Preservation Resource Center. I've been working to make those a hands on learning experience for everyone who attends, and have it be a fun learning atmosphere. Having tools for everyone to use for the projects has been one of the challenges and I've been working to collect tools for four student tool kits. The goal of these tool kits is to have enough tools so people don't have to wait and share too much and to provide interested people with the opportunity to use hand tools in ready to use condition. As the diversity of the projects attempted has increased a wider range of tools has become necessary. Also I have some new opportunities to provide workshops with a longer time format allowing more in depth learning, something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

Both this wider range of projects and the opportunity to go more in depth have increased the need to have complete tool kits for learners. To fund this idea I've started a fundraising campaign with GoFundMe, an online fundraising site. If you've attended one of the workshops, or even if you haven't, support craft and learning and donate something to help us get people on the road to learning woodcraft. Donate now at and thank you!

Thank you and best regards,
Regis Will, TNYW

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Some Tool Care Products I Like

Rust prevention and removal
If you use tools you know that they get dirty and sometimes rust creeps in unexpectedly. A friend was asking what I used to take care of my tools and aside from dusting them off before they go in the tool chest I use the three products above. They've been my goto for tool restoration and maintenance for years now and I see no reason to change. They work and work well.

First up, in the spray bottle, CMT's Formula 2050 bit and blade cleaner. Yep, its made primarily for power tools and by a power tool company, but it's awesome for anything. If your tool has pitch, sap, gunk, whatever, this will remove it. It is also a good de-greaser. It's friendly to work with being non-toxic, biodegradable, and non-flammable. It also provides rust and corrosion protection. I have little to no rust problems with tools I use this on. I order it from Highland Woodworking in Atlanta and it's currently $9.99 for the 18oz bottle. If you are a home shop it should last you a while, can't remember the last time I bought some and I use it all the time. A spray or two will do ya!

Next up, Autosol. This is some great metal polish. Made in Germany for the automotive industry it polishes up any kind of metal. Will remove light rust, patina, etc. A white paste, it works partially chemically and partially abrasively. Leaves a silky smooth surface. No idea where I got this but I see its available on Amazon, eBay and other places for a variety of prices. I have the 75ml/3.33oz tube and it will probably last me for the rest of life. Definitely worth having around. 

Last but not least, the sandflex block from Klingspor. Also made in Germany, its a rubber block like an eraser impregnated throughout with metal filings. This is the big gun for eliminating rust. You'll have shiny metal in no time. It's also good for removing that clear lacquer they put on everything now to prevent rust. Available from Lie-Nielsen for $7.00. Comes in coarse, medium and fine. I have the medium and it does the job.

There you go, three things to keep your tools happy and rust free, whether they are powered by you or electrons. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mujingfang Plow Plane, Thoughts and Modifications

Mujingfang plow plane as shipped
For those unfamiliar with the plow (plough) plane, it's a plane primarily used for making grooves near the edge of a board along the grain. If you're going to work without a power router a plow plane is a real necessity when making frames (doors) and boxes (drawers). It's also a lot quieter and a lot less dusty so I think it's just a lot more pleasant.

As regular readers may know, I do some hand tool based workshops and am on the hunt for some plow planes for student use. That's how I came across this one from Mujingfang. At $66 from JapanWoodworker it's definitely accessibly priced but is it any good?

This plane is described as being in the Chinese style. What's the difference you may ask? In most eastern forms of woodworking many tools are pulled instead of pushed like their English/European counterparts. This plane arrives set up to be pulled by a right handed woodworker.

As I'm right handed and work in an English manner this plane has the fence on the opposite side as would be normal for me. It also works against my bench, as it is set up to restrain material against pushing forces. So why did I buy this again? I think with a few modifications it can be a good plow plane for this style of work.

Mujingfang Plow and Veritas Small Plow
 Above you'll see the competition for the Mujingfang (MJF), my personal Veritas Small Plow Plane. I've used this one for years. It's a very competent plow plane that you can get several reviews on with a quick internet search. I'll just mention here that it's currently $275 with 5 irons in a similar range of sizes to the MJF. Can the $66 plane compete?

Those familiar with Veritas planes know the quality is quite good. So how about the quality of the MJF? From my vast sample of one, I'd say it's pretty good. The wood components are nicely made but you can tell it's made mostly by hand. The finish is nice and well applied and the mortices through which the rods fit in the fence and the plane body are accurately sized. The fence locks are a simple kind of affair made with a wing nut and a bent piece of threaded rod that bears on the slide rods when the nut is tightened. That said they work. There is no depth stop, full depth of cut is 3/8".

The irons are hand forged and are sized 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 3/8, & 1/2 inch. I measured them, curious if they were metric or what. My 1/8 was undersized a couple thousandths, the 3/16 was oversized, and the rest were on size with English measurements. Take note though that the irons have kind of a dovetail shape to them and will get narrower with sharpening. I'm unsure if this is a big deal since when I make panels I end up fitting them to the groove anyway, not relying on a measurement. I can't comment on the quality of the steel at this time as I've only had the plane a short time but it seemed reasonable when sharpening.

Bottom view, showing the skate and an iron. The little groove on the iron keeps it centered on the skate.
Now I wanted to see if I could put the fence on the opposite side, so I could push it and hold it similarly to my Veritas plane. It's not as simple as taking the fence off and sliding it on the rods on the other side. Turns out that end is slightly wider and won't fit in the slots. But it's not that hard either.

Screws removed from the top, rear rod removed.
To get the fence on the other side I removed the 2 wood screws from the top of the plane body, then tapping with a mallet on the end the fence fits on I worked the rods out of the plane body. Finally I reinserted them from the other side, tapping again with a mallet until the hole in the rod lined up with the hole in the body. I then re-inserted a screw. I used new screws since the included ones were a little under sized for the holes drilled. Then I slid the fence back on the rods, now on the opposite side of the body.

Reassembled with the fence on the other side.
You'll notice from the pic that the little taper that matches the rear of the plane body is now in the front. If it's an issue you could probably taper the body and the fence once again to match each other with a little rasping and apply some finish. It doesn't bother me that much.

Proof of operation.
So it plowed a groove and worked well. Is it as convenient as the Veritas? Well, not quite but it's quite usable. Blade depth adjustment is via hammer taps just like any other wedged plane while the Veritas has an adjuster. There is no depth stop as mentioned above. It takes 2 measurements to make sure the fence is parallel to the skate, whereas the Veritas fence sets parallel readily. The fence locks hold the setting well but may wear the rods over time. It takes a little time to find a comfortable hand hold, but I eventually settled on having my left hand fingers pushing the fence into the work and my right hand palm on the butt of the plane with my thumb to the left of the iron and my fingers around the rear rod on the right. It's comfortable but not as obvious as the tote on the Veritas. 

My conclusion is that the MJF is a usable plane and a good value for the price. For the woodworker on a tight budget it may be the obvious choice. I'm going to work on figuring out a depth stop for it so you may see that in a future post. If I can do that reasonably I'll be adding at least one more of these to my student tool kits.