Tag Archives: Hand Plane

Winding Laths — Improve How You Flatten a Board

A good pair of winding lath or winding sticks is sometimes hard to find — I suspect not many survived the burn pile. The good news is that a new set is easily made in an few minutes at the bench.

Sighting down a board with winding sticks
Sighting down a board with winding sticks — (This set was made by my friend Bill Anderson of Edwards Mountain Woodworking)

Why would I want a pair of ‘Winding Sticks’? What do they do?

  • This pair of matching straight-edges are a fast and invaluable tool that allows you to quickly see if a board is flat.
  • By placing them at each end of a board, sighting down across the near stick and looking at the far one, you can more easily see any twisting or warping in the board. The sticks help accentuate any non-planer surfaces.
  • By moving one stick and sighting the board at a few locations along its length, you will quickly see how the board flows.
  • Using a single stick you can also check for any cupping or warping as you would with any other straightedge.
  • Once you identify parts of the board that need to be addressed, you can quickly plane them and re-evaluate the board using these sticks. (After a bit of practice, process goes quite fast)
Winding Lath by Otto Salomon in the Teacher's Handbook of Sloyd
Winding Lath by Otto Salomon in the ‘Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd’ — a great prototype for your own winding sticks

From Otto Salomon’s ‘Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd’ above you can read a nice description for how to use winding laths efficiently. The pair of wooden Sloyd winding laths shown above nest with each other via a set of fitted wooden pins and have a nice relief one the edge of the short sides so you can easily get a finger hold in there and separate the sticks when you want to use them. Otto also calls out an interesting alternative you can use in a pinch — by turning two try-planes on their side you can use them as an impromptu set of winding sticks and sight across them.

Sighting down two bench planes as impromptu winding sticks
Sighting down two bench planes as impromptu winding sticks

Tips on making your own winding sticks:

  • Use quarter-sawn hardwood like hard maple or beech
  • Consider adding a contrasting inlay or strip to make it easier to sight across the sticks
  • I like to use sticks that are 1/2″ thick, about 2″ wide and about 18-24″ long
  • Sticks that can nest with each other or otherwise stay together are more likely to survive
  • Taper each stickĀ  on one side so that it’s clear what edge is the top (it will not stand on its own on the edge you plane down to 1/8″)
  • If your sticks ever get out of true they are easily squared up again with a plane

The next time you are out in the shop, make a quick set of winding sticks and see how much it can improve your board flattening efficiency.

-Bill

P.S. If you don’t have the the time or scrap to make your own set from wood, and don’t have 2 jack or try planes handy, you need to have a stern talking to, but there are commercially available winding sticks available from Lee Valley and others. I admit that I do have a pair of the Lee Valley aluminum winding sticks which I bought when I first got started in hand tool woodworking. They are well machined and the design hits all the major tips called out above — with the exception of being made of wood of course.

Nesting metal winding sticks from Lee Valley
Nesting metal winding sticks from Lee Valley

Much like the shop made winding sticks, these aluminum sticks work well and need virtually no maintenance.

Metal Winding Sticks in Use
Metal Winding Sticks in Use

P.P.S — This is an extended version of a post I put together for my friends at Popular Woodworking on the contributor’s blog which can be found here.

Making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson — Part 1

A single iron jointer plane is one of those tools you have use yourself to truly appreciate. Over Labor Day weekend I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make one of these planes with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson at the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC.

Entrance to the Woodwright's School
Entrance to the Woodwright’s School

Bill is a passionate woodworker and skilled teacher. You may recognize him from his appearances on Roy’s television show or the articles that he’s written. He’s a molding plane aficionado and has studied plane-making and general furniture-making with many masters in the field. He recently retired from being a Scientist for the EPA so I see a lot of parallels to my own life working in software.

Getting started, with Bill Anderson
Getting started, with Bill Anderson

The plane is made of air dried American Beech and a new old stock English iron.

Squaring up the air dried beech blank
Squaring up the air dried beech blank

We started out by squaring up the stock using a wooden straightedge and winding sticks.

Laying out the mouth and abutments
Laying out the mouth and abutments

Next up was laying out the mouth and throat. The mortises are all chopped by hand with a chisel and refined via a series of floats and scrapers. It was my first time using that many different floats, and for what looks like it might be a fairly coarse tool, when sharpened leaves a remarkably good surface.

Chopping the mortise by hand
Chopping the mortise by hand

As we worked through the throat mortise a key was to make sure you don’t overshoot and chop through the abutment.

Scraping
Scraping

One of the last steps in refining the abutment and sides of the throat was to scrape the surface using a scraper chisel.

A very nice scraping chisel that Bill made
A very nice scraping chisel that Bill made

This beast of a chisel was made by Bill and heat treated by Peter Ross. It was based on some research Bill did into traditional plane making tools. The long bar of tool steel and handle allow you to put a lot of your weight into it as you scrape the surface flat. The cutting edge is a very steep angle similar to a scraper you’d use with a lathe (upside down compared to the lathe tool) but works well since you are only removing a little bit of material at a time.

Paring away any fuzz
Paring away any fuzz

Regular bench chisels are used to clean up any fuzz in the corners. Next up is cutting in for the wedge and cleaning up a cheeks. This is an operation that requires a steady hand and the ability to work to an exacting standard. You want your test wedge, and eventually your actual wedge, to fit tightly against the abutment so the iron does not move when you are working with the plane. I took my time and was very happy with the results.

Fitting with test wedges
Fitting with test wedges

In upcoming posts I will document more about my experience in building and finishing this plane.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Bill Anderson or take a class with him, and I highly encourage you to do so, please check out his website here.

-Bill