Tag Archives: The Woodwright’s School

Making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson — Part 2

When last we left our plane-making heroes they were in the process of making a traditional single iron jointer plane with my friend Bill Anderson at the Woodwright’s School.

Bill demonstrating with a great bench plan cross section model
Bill demonstrating with a great bench plane cross section model

Bill had a great cross section model of how this sort of bench plane works — made by one of his students. With the body of the plane taking shape, next up was tuning the mouth opening and the abutments. If the mouth is too wide or too large the plane may not cut cleanly so you need to carefully fit the iron to the opening. If the abutment is not carefully placed when you re-flatten the sole of the plane you’d also be opening the mouth more. You also need to take care flatten the face of the bed that supports the iron — if there are high points the iron can pivot on those and make it tough to use the plane. One of the many testing/fitting gauges Bill had was a ‘bed testing gauge’ which looks and works much like a pair of ‘pants’ we use in timber framing to test out the thickness of a tenon, except in this case you are using it to check the thickness of the cheeks and how close your bedline is getting to the line scribed on the side the plane body.

Planing the wedge
Planing the wedge

With the mouth and throat all set, next up was making the wedge to hold the iron in place. The wedge needs to be carefully planed to fit the abutments inside of your plane and tightly hold the iron in place. Again here you are using an abutment gauge (wooden wedge of a known profile in degrees) to test your work as you go.  With all the gauges and specialized tools you can quickly see why plane-making was its own dedicated craft specialty.

Shaped and fitted wedge
Shaped and fitted wedge

The wedge is further relieved so that the shavings can clearly escape the plane body.

Templates, gauge blocks and pants
Templates, bed gauges blocks and pants

Above you can see some of the many gauges used in laying out and testing parts of your plane, along with templates for the handles.

Starting to shape the handle
Starting to shape the handle

The handle is first cut out from a rough blank and then carefully shaped by hand to have flowing, graceful lines similar to that of a quality hand saw. The result is a handle that fits the hand so well it, the whole plane feels like an extension of your body.

Auriou rasps used to shape the handle -- they were a pleasure to use
Auriou rasps used to shape the handle — they were a pleasure to use

Various rasps, files and sandpaper are used to shape the handle. Using crisp hand stitched Auriou rasps made quick work of shaping the handles.

Finished handle
Finished handle

Above is the handle after a bit of light sanding.

A finished Jointer Plane
A finished Jointer Plane

Shown here you can see Bill’s finished/sample plane which is based on an historical example.  I’ll post the final shots of my own plane when I finish it soon in my shop.

Rear 3/4 view of the completed sample plane
Rear 3/4 view of the completed sample plane

At the end of the workshop one of the most important tasks was to make sure you plane can take a nice shaving. I’m happy to report that I was able to get a nice full width shaving with my mostly completed plane. (I need to finish setting the handle, trim the edges, apply some finish and use my maker’s name stamp and it will be ready for regular use in the shop).

Making the first shaving with a new plane...
Making the first shaving with a new plane…

In an upcoming post I will complete this series with how I finished off the plane. Stay tuned…

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

P.S. You can see the first post on making this jointer plane here.

The Woodwright’s School

For Labor Day weekend this year I flew down to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina to take a 3 day class on making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson (more on that in an upcoming post).

My flight got in early on Friday and I had the chance to hang out with some friends at the school during the last day of a class on building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest with Chris Schwarz.

The Woodwright's School
The Woodwright’s School

The Woodwright’s School is located in downtown Pittsboro which is a scenic town about 20 minutes from Chapel Hill.

Roy Underhill planing a groove
Roy Underhill planing a groove

Don’t let the sometimes quiet streets fool you, once inside the school you are in a lively space full of folks who as passionate about woodworking as you are. Roy was on hand to help students as they worked their way through the last day of week long class on building a traditional English tool chest based on Chris’ book ‘The Anarchist’s Toolchest’.

The class busy working on their Anarchist's Toolchest
The class busy working on their Anarchist’s Toolchest

One of the attractions to Roy’s school is its focus on only using traditional English/American hand tools — there were no whining power tools, no Dozuki saws and no plastic handles to be seen — or at least none that I saw when Roy was making his rounds. 😉

Feeding Bill's bar tab and Khrushchev's shoe
Feeding Bill’s bar tab and Khrushchev’s shoe

If you ever read Roy’s book on public speaking you’ll get why Khruschev’s shoe is an interesting trophy. Beyond the witty stories and advice on how to keep a crowd engaged and entertained, the last chapter on the morning after a presentation was the one that resonated the most with me. Applying the advice therein has improved several lectures I have to make each year.

Drilling out a mortise
Drilling out a mortise

Traditional woodworking can feel like a very small world at times — the gentleman in the photo above was also in the class I took earlier this summer on making a Name Stamp with Peter Ross at Roy’s school — even though I was 700+ miles from home I happy to see that I could still run into people I knew.

Roy's corner cabinet
Roy’s corner cabinet

Loitering in the back of the classroom is a corner cupboard you may recognize from Roy’s show. I heard his wife has been waiting on it for a while — which made me feel a tiny bit better about the dresser I owe my wife Alyssa — which reminds me I need to get working on that again….

Chris Schwarz teaching
Chris Schwarz teaching

It was also great to spend some time hanging out with my friends Chris Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick including a stroll through Ed’s tool shop above the school.

Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick
Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick

No toolchest is ever completely filled and Ed’s shop has a huge collection of traditional tools on par with some of the best regional tool shows. I tried my best to be good and save my pennies for the Nashua tool show later this month, but I did find some new toys.

Chris' Dutch Tool Chest
Chris’ Dutch Tool Chest

I had fun chatting with everyone, examining some interesting tools and helping to sweep up before a trip to the City Tap — which is a awesome bar just behind the school with great food and drinks.

Roy helping a student
Roy helping a student

On my way out of the school I saw my old friend Otto Salomon and various other proper woodworking models from the Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd.

Sloyd Prints
Sloyd Prints

It seems the Woodwright’s School is full of new and old friends that are literally popping out of the woodworking.

If you’d like to learn more about the school, make some new friends, meet up with old friends, or sign up for a class you can check out the school’s website here.

-Bill

Making Your Mark — Name Stamps with Peter Ross

How do you mark your wooden tools ?

Carve your name into it? No.
Burn your name into it with a branding iron? Meh.
Sharpie? That’s so ’90s.
If you really want to be a traditional woodworker you’ll want to use a hand made metal name-stamp. I’ve seen some of these stamps over the years in tool sales, but never found my name or initials, so I figured it was time to take matters into my own hands. This past week I had the opportunity to take a workshop at the Woodwright’s School making a metal name-stamp. I had a great time during the class and will cover some of the highlights here:

Master Blacksmith Peter Ross at the forge
Master Blacksmith Peter Ross at the forge

The class is held in the forge/workshop of Master Blacksmith Peter Ross who was the long time master of the blacksmith shop at Colonial Williamsburg. Pete is a friendly person and a great instructor.

In the afternoon Roy came by to visit. (Bill Rainford with Roy Underhill)
In the afternoon Roy came by to visit. (Bill Rainford with Roy Underhill)

During the afternoon we were visited by Roy Underhill who came by to make sure we weren’t making counterfeit Nikes or anything illegal. 😉  It was great to chat with Roy for a few minutes and he’s every bit as nice in person as he is on TV.

My first stamp 'BMR' which will be used to mark some of my tools with my initials.
My first stamp ‘BMR’ which will be used to mark some of my tools with my initials.

Now on to business….for my first stamp I made one with my initials ‘BMR’ so that I can label some of my tools. By stamping some of my old wooden planes I’ll officially be part of the long line of owners who had them before me and those who will have them after me.

Testing my Initials stamp in some end grain
Testing my Initials stamp in some end grain

After forging the rough blank we learned to use the various types of files and letter stamps needed to make a nice stamp. Along the way we’d test the stamps in the end grain of some wood and in lead flashing.

Testing the stamps on some lead flashing
Testing the stamps on some lead flashing

Why do you use end grain wood and lead flashing?!

The stamps work by crushing some fibers and leaving others proud, thus creating a 3D surface that can be read — much like you see in the maker’s marks on the toe of a molding plane. The lead does a great job showing you crisply where your stamp is pressing and where you may need to work on it some more.

Peter teaching the class how to file and use the leg vise
Peter teaching the class how to file and use the leg vise

Peter demonstrated how to properly file and also how tough the surface of the stamps become once they were case hardened — the files were no match.

My second stamp -- 'RAINFORD' with a slight curve over the length of the stamp
My second stamp — ‘RAINFORD’ with a slight curve over the length of the stamp

Making a longer name stamp was even more challenging since the letters are all set free hand you could very easily mess it up with any given letter. If you do mess it up, file off the mistake and try again, and again as needed.

Testing my second stamp
Testing my second stamp

For my second stamp I made my last name and curved it a bit to make a gentle arch. Around the edge of the stamp you could decorate it any way you wanted, the most common being a traditional sawtooth-like border.

Another test block showing some of the variation across the stamps
Another test block showing some of the variation across the stamps

Most if not all folks in the class got a chance to make a couple of name stamps and practice their filing skills.

A beautiful lock that Pete made
A beautiful lock that Pete made

Beyond the class itself we also got a chance to see some of the amazing work Peter does in his shop. From beautiful locks, to tools, to massive Roubo holdfasts it was neat to see the variety of black and whitesmithing tasks Peter carries out in his shop.

If you are interested in taking this workshop, please check out the Woodwright’s School website here. I had a great time and look forward to my next workshop at the Woodwright’s School.