Saturday, 17 January 2009

In the immortal words of Kermit...

“... it’s easy being green

Especially when they make such darn great machines.

My first experience with one of the “good” General machines was at Rosewood Studio in Almonte, Ontario. They had two actually - a General 130 thickness planer and a 12" General jointer - model 780. I say “good” machines because there are two lines in the General family - the ones made in Quebec and the ones made elsewhere. General has created a bit of a problem for themselves because the machines made in Quebec are so well made that they last forever - even if only remotely cared for. This is one of those rare cases where you can purchase the machine new, use it for 20 years, and sell it for more than you paid for it.

Ever since that experience at Rosewood - I have been keeping my eye out for used General machines. My first find was the 130 thickness planer. It was completely rebuilt and in fantastic working order. It reminded me of my Mac - a true “plug & play” for the workshop. The only issue I had was the task of changing the knives.

A few years ago, I was attending the Kitchener/Waterloo woodworking show, and saw a DJ-20 set up in one of the booths. The guy asked me if I had ever tried a jointer with a Shelix cutterhead. Intrigued - I walked over. The machine was very quiet and the cut surface was amazing. A Shelix is a “shear cutting helix” and has several advantages. The blades are individual carbide square with a cutting edge on each side. If you get a knick - rotate the blade and you are back in business. The blades are arranged in a helical pattern around the cutterhead. This provides a constant skewed cutting action. It also means the cutterhead is moving through the air at an angle. The standard “thump, thump, thump” of the cutterhead compressing the air as it passes the infeed table is gone - resulting in a very quite machine as well as one that requires less power to run. There is another more subtle difference and it has to do with the difference between a Helix cutterhead and a Shelix. The teeth of a helix are arranged in a spiral pattern, but they are still oriented perpendicular to the cutterhead. A Shelix has them skewed. So if you are in the market for one - make sure it is a Shelix and not a helix. Oh, Shelix is a brandname and made by Byrd in the US (insert standard no-affiliation disclaimer other than a satisfied customer).




Here is the Shelix in the General 130.



The next green-machine was a bit of a surprise.

My friend Steve stopped in one friday, and as he was leaving he asked if I saw the huge jointer on the Canadian Woodworking forum. I hadn’t, so he told me that someone posted a comment that there was a huge General jointer for sale in Windsor, Ontario. Steve thought it was at least a 12" but was likely a 16". We both laughed that it would not last too long and likely sold within hours of the post.

When I went in for lunch, I checked the thread, and while there were over 20 posts - no one said “I have bought it”. So I followed the link, found the phone number and called. Amazingly - it was not sold, so I made arrangements to drive down and see it. I was the first person who was prepared to pick it up - and was therefore the “first buyer on the list”. Steve and I drove down on Monday and arrived shortly after lunch. A handshake and payment later - we were driving up the 401 with a 16" General 880 in tow. The canary feathers were still hanging from the corner of my mouth when we pulled into the drive. I had made arrangements with a Bobcat owning friend to meet us at my house to unload it from the trailer and drive it into the shop.



This is what it looked like right off the trailer. Compared to the Jackson Cochrane jointer - this one was a dream to restore (note the JC was painted green). It was less than a day to have everything cleaned and in working order.



There was a missing handle but General was quick to replace it for me. It had a 5hp, 3 phase motor which I swapped out for a 5hp single phase, replaced the belts with link belts and ordered the Shelix - which thankfully - Bryde stocks.






Here is a shot of the jointer in its new home - lovingly surrounded by burls.



And in case I ever forget what it is - someone put a lable on the machine for me.


There is a great Ford(?) ad that goes something like this;

“the only thing better than owning a truck is having a buddy with one”

This is my friend Steve. He has been a tremendous friend always ready to lend a hand, or jump in the truck and go wherever to pick-up whatever. So Steve - my deepest thanks for all your help.

The next item on the list is a monster bandsaw. I have a Laguna 16HD that has been a wonderful saw - but there are a few limitations. The biggest two are the size of the table and the throat capacity. I would like a 30" + saw - something that can resaw at least 16", has a massive table (in the 36"x48" range) and a throat to match. So if anyone knows of one, has one they are looking to sell - please let me know...and don’t worry if it’s not green…I have paint.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, machinery envy!

Please tell me more about your experience with the Shelix cutter head. How do you like it so far? I'm seriously considering one.

Dan

28 January 2009 17:08  
Blogger stephen said...

I wish I had space for power tools.... I must say Konrad I read 'it ain't easy being green' and I thought you were posting about how environmentally friendly your planes are. Sustainability? Carbon capture? ever think about these issues?

Stephen

28 January 2009 18:07  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dan,

Yeah - but I have seen the bandsaw you are working on.... talk about envy!

Cheers,
Konrad

28 January 2009 18:13  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Stephen,

Funny you should ask. I have thought about it - many times. We considered putting a green roof on the shop... it was not practical to do so though. Sustainability... using rare exotic woods is not ideal in that regard... but when you consider how many boardrooms covered in Brazilian Rosewood have ended up in dumpsters because the next CEO favours Ebony...I suspect I am using a pretty small amount of wood. At some point - we may re-investigate solar for the shop. The roof is quite large and has total sun exposure (which is why we have overhangs on those sides to shade during the hot months). Are these the types of things you are asking about?

Cheers,
Konrad

28 January 2009 18:18  
Blogger stephen said...

Great to hear it, love the idea of a solar roof. By 'green roof' do you mean covered with plants?
I have heard that they have gone back and harvested the stumps of previously felled rosewood trees. I also like how japanese planes blades are partly made of old anchor chain or other recycled metal. Go Nature!

Stephen

29 January 2009 21:39  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Stephen,

I do have some Brazilian Rosewood ”stump” wood. A lot of it is pretty crumby - but I found a few pieces that are spectacular - lots of amazing grain and color.

We are planning a veggie garden this summer - we had a large backyard tree that had to come down and has freed up some great space. Not to mention all the firewood!

Go nature is right!

Cheers,
Konrad

29 January 2009 21:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats Konrad, that's a great machine to start with, and now it's even sweeter with the new Byrd head.

Forgive me for hating you, but I'm suffering from BURL ENVY!!

Cheers,
Steve

31 January 2009 12:14  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Steve,

I don’t have too many burls - but the ones I have are pretty sweet. The burl under the infeed table is a 220lb Thuya burl - my kids call it the “dino-turd” :)

Cheers,
Konrad

31 January 2009 12:38  
Blogger jbreau said...

hello konrad. you picked my curiosity about big bandsaws. i love old machines and i'm constantly looking even if i don't quite have a space to put them. my luck was good this summer when someone called me up with a 12" poitras jointer in the village where i'm at. couldn't pass that up.
anyhow, about a big bandsaw... i assume that most people know about owwm.org, but maybe not. it's a forum with a buy and sell called 'bring out your dead'. there are regularly huge machines for sale, thought they are mostly states side. it's a great waste of time, if nothing else. there's a 30" chicago exchange bandsaw on there right now, and quite often there are 36ers.
p.s. i'm the guy at inside passage (a few years ago) that had a shepherd plane that severely needed help, so robert gave you a call, and you gave good advice. thanks.

1 February 2009 12:47  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jacques,

Thanks for the reminder about OWWM. I have been there several times but forgot about it. How is the Poitras working for you? Is it restored and running?

Glad to hear the plane advise was worthwhile - do you have the plane up and running now? Let me know if you have any other questions about it.

Cheers,
Konrad

2 February 2009 08:18  
Blogger jbreau said...

no i don't have the poitras going. it's quietly sitting in my mother in laws baby barn. i'm working out of my dad's shop which is fully geared, so all i did to the poitras was get the rust off and store it properly.
as for the plane... i followed your advice and got it nicely tuned up. but by that point i wanted to move on, so i sold it. at this point, i wish i would have kept it. it was working quite nicely by the time i was done with it.

3 February 2009 07:00  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jacques,

Glad to hear the plane tuning advise worked for you - and sorry to hear you no longer have it. I have struggled with my own collection of infills - both original ones, and ones I have made. I clearly have way more than are practical to own... but they all have great stories behind them. I am also hanging onto them for our kids - in the off chance that either of them might be interested in woodworking some day.

Cheers,
Konrad

5 February 2009 12:08  

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Monday, 12 January 2009

Another kick at the prototype can.


When Joe and I started making planes - our first goal was to have fun, and make the planes that we wanted to use. In that order. The first plane was a smoother, then another smoother - with a York pitch and brass (yes, brass) sides. Then an A6 followed by a panel and finally a jointer. With the basic bench planes done - we doubled back and worked on shoulders, a chariot and then a mitre.



I am going to confess that we really had no business making a mitre plane - neither of us really understood them... and in our intense naivety - we opted to build an “improved” pattern mitre (Brian Buckner should be smiling about now). This turned out to be a monumental flop. The plane turned out ok (shown above) - but neither of us found it comfortable to use. So it sits in a drawer.



Years later, I decided to take another crack at a mitre plane largely due to seeing one of Garrett Hack’s - made by Bill Carter (shown next to my 1/2" x 3-3/4" rebate for scale). It was amazing, and I drove home working out the details in my head. By the time I got home, I had it planned out and got to work right away. The plane worked wonderfully and was a very different experience than the “de-proved” mitre in my drawer.

An experience in Calgary got me thinking about a large mitre plane and while it took a year of bouncing around in my head - it was time to go for it. This full sized mitre would be based on several mitre planes. Steel sides were a must if it was going to stand up to shooting. I wanted to use a cupids bow bridge for a couple reasons. One - they just look wicked but I suspect they also serve another important function - they offer support for the sidewalls to help maintain the shape. And the other reason for the bridge - it meant a wedge. I love, love, love the look of wedged mitre planes. I also like the extended sole on the toe - that was a must. If I was going to extend the sole - then I really ought to cover the front infill as well - again - support for the shape. I have never liked the plain look of the Norris A11 - partly because of the lever cap - but decided to incorporate an adjuster into this plane. This is the same adjuster that was used in the Norris rebate mitre plane - and I loved the way the adjuster, the wedge and the drawbore action of the screw worked together. With all the details defined - it was time to sketch and build a construction paper mock-up.



Above is a shot of the mock-up alongside the Titanium sided XSNo.4 for scale. The bridge would be steel as well - the idea of two bronze tenons on my nice clean sidewalls would never do.



Once I was happy with the paper mock-up - it was time to cut the steel. The photo above shows the shell dry fit together.



And now piened together. Notice the tenons of the bridge are not piened yet. The little bit of flex in the sides might come in handy while fitting the infill (which it did).



The first test infills. I don’t make test infills often any more - but this plane was a new one and I wanted to get it right. The wedge took 3 tries and to date I have not finalized it. I will wait until the irons arrive so I can work with the actual blade.




The grip of the plane was very important to me. One of the other reasons I went with the bridge is it allows for maximum room for holding the plane. The screw for the bridge would be a very low profile.



The second test wedge. The shape is right - but a little too big.



Here are the Rosewood infills fit to the shell and the piece for the wedge. Everything fits pefectly. Next... french polishing the infills before they go in.



A shot showing the wonderful grain for the wedge. It is killing me not to start shaping it!



The plane is lapped and the infills are french polished. Here is a shot showing the grain in the rear infill.





And finally - a detail shot of the proper stainless steel screw. As soon as the blades arrive - I will be finishing it off. Stay tuned...

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it Konrad, simple clean design and great details.

Thanks for the update on what you've been working on.

Cheers,
Steve

13 January 2009 22:04  
Blogger Jameel said...

That's a beautiful tool. Wow.

13 January 2009 23:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Konrad,

Just when I think I'm immune to further temptation, you pull out a functional beauty like that. I want one in the worst way. I hate to see what you'll come up with next.

Keep up the great work.

Dan

14 January 2009 05:44  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Everyone. I have certainly dropped the ball on the blog these last 6 months or so. I am hoping to post more frequently. There is always a lot going on in the shop - I guess I need to stop and take photos more often.

And Dan... all part of the evil plot my friend:)

Best wishes,
Konrad

14 January 2009 07:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's looking great, Konrad - look forward to seeing the finished plane.

Cheers ;-)

Paul Chapman

14 January 2009 13:01  
Blogger Aled said...

That's just soooo sweet.

Please do update your blog more frequently, I generally check it out at least every other day for updates, your work really blows me away.

Cheers

Aled

14 January 2009 16:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a handsome mitre. Nice job.

Swanz

14 January 2009 20:36  
Blogger Raney said...

Gorgeous Konrad. Even before that stunning BRW made its way in, a beautiful execution.

I think the wedge was a very good choice, too. Can't wait to see it with the profled wedge and a blade.

15 January 2009 09:59  
Anonymous joel said...

Konrad,
Looks wonderful as usual. However you might want to consider changing the front infill. On (very) early Mitre planes - when they made them as big as yours - it was typical to have the inner edge of the front infill curl in a little so that you would have a little purchase when picking up the plane. (if you are interested I can send you a picture)

17 January 2009 10:53  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Paul. Trust me - I am looking forward to the finished plane too:)

Cheers,

Konrad

17 January 2009 11:56  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Aled,

Thanks for your kind comments. I will do my best to post more often.

Cheers,
Konrad

17 January 2009 11:57  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Joel,

Take a look at the photo with the maple test infill. Is that the curl you are talking about? It may not be too clear from the photo - but if there is something I have missed - please do send a photo to explain.

Thanks,
Konrad

17 January 2009 11:59  

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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Time truely does fly when you are having fun.


This January marks the 8th anniversary of Sauer & Steiner Toolworks and I cannot think of a better way to reflect on it than a plane building adventure with Joe (the “Steiner”). Joe stopped in over the holidays to start an an XSNo.4 for himself. It was great to be able to work together again - albeit independently... but it was fun to have him in the shop working away. As Joe was working and asking questions - I was reminded of how far all this has come over the years. It is incredible really. 10 years ago I did not even know what an infill plane was!

I was also reminded of just how much more I have to learn - and the models and styles that I have not yet explored. A perfect case in point... I took a bit of time over the holidays to work on the interior of the cutlery drawer in the kitchen. We have one of those big Henckels knife blocks on our counter and it drives me nuts - I hate clutter in the kitchen (or any work surfaces for that matter) - so this was a perfect opportunity to ditch it. We wanted a two storey solution for the drawer - a sliding try on the top for the actual cutlery - and the basement for the serving utensils and the knives. It is a big drawer - 4-1/2" deep x 18" x 18" with full extension drawer glides - so there was lots of room. A few sketches and dimensions later - it was time to build!

I had this great piece of curly maple that I thought would make a great “wrap” for the knife block. I sawed the veneer quite thick - 1/8", and then decided that I would do this “correctly” and miter the joint at the corner.

Hmm... I Don’t have the correct shooting board for this and the A11 mitre plane I am prototyping is not competed. Wait a minute - there is a piece of 3/4" plywood cut at a 45 that might work if I use the small mitre plane.




This quick and dirty setup worked better than I expected - and is a great little variation for shooting veneer. In a few passes - I had perfect 45 degree miters. It is a little hard to see the strip of veneer core plywood - it is screwed to the shooting board to hold it in place. The reason this worked is because most of the sole footprint fits on the 45 degree bevel - a very compelling reason for a narrow mitre plane:)



Here is a quick shot of the mitre beside an A5 to show how small it is - 5-1/2" long with a 7/8" wide blade, bedded at 20 degrees.

After this experience - I am all the more excited about the full sized A11.




Here is a detail shot of the knife block in the drawer to show the mitered veneer.



And the finished drawer with the top tray to the right...



... and the left.



And a quick shot of the dovetails in the top tray. These were the first dovetails I have cut since finishing the kitchen drawers a few months ago. I decided to “practice” on the lower tray because the dovetails would be hidden if I screwed something up. I went for “off the saw” dovetails again - and by the third one - I had it... just like riding a bike. And - I was thankful the first two were hidden:)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to spend time on a project and know the wife will be happy too. Nice job!

Swanz

10 January 2009 22:14  
Blogger Philly said...

Congratulations! 8 Years!
Cheers
Philly

13 January 2009 13:16  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Phil. As soon as I say “8” it sounds like it should feel like a long time... but it doesn’t at all. I guess that is a good thing.

Cheers,
Konrad

14 January 2009 07:45  

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