Sunday, 10 March 2013

Plane sailing........

As I was hoping the title of this post might suggest, I want to mention planes, but first a little about what I've been up to this week.

Firstly, a friend from school brought in a number of goodies for me this week: another rather nice, straight piece of ash which I will split out and use for spoons; he also gave me an apple branch which I took home, sawed into shorter sections, split and then had a quick go at carving and, oh my goodness, I remember now why we carve GREEN wood whenever we can. It carved beautifully and easily - more like carving soft clay than wood, and in no time at all I'd made a nice, simple teaspoon. Because it was so green I will need to let it dry a bit before finishing, but I can't wait to have a go at another apple spoon next week. I should apologise about the photos - many of them were taken with my phone, hense not great quality.

He also brought me these three green slabs of oak which he had cut with his chainsaw and out of which I will make a seat for my stool. And this brings me onto the subject of planes. I don't have a plane and don't know much about them short of what I've read and don't really know how to use one, however.....

I decided I wanted to make octagonal legs for my oak stool. You may remember, I'd already riven the oak, so yesterday I marked the shape I wanted on the end grain and roughed it into shape with my draw knife, using my shave horse to hold it. Whilst that gave me a reasonable finish, I thought that if I was to plane the surfaces, it might give me a better finish, without the need of sand paper, and a more accurate and controlled finished cut.

I asked at school, in the Design Technology department and was given a Record Number 4 plane that was rusty, dusty and buried in the bottom of a cupboard, since most edged tools have all been risk  assessed out of school work. I took it home, cleaned and sharpened it using a series of grades of wet and dry paper, set it up as best I could using common sense and lo and behold, it worked. And I must say it was very satisfying and I can completely see why some people get obsessive about planes.

The result was a pretty good finish, I think. There was a bit of tear-out where there was a confluence of knots, but I imagine I am using entirely the wrong sort of plane for green wood - if anyone knows I'd love to hear from you.
Roughly shaped with a draw knife
Black and Dekker workmate - not the most satisfactory of holding methods - moves all over the place and in the end I had to stand on it, hook my leg around one of the extending arms, and plane at the same time in order for it to stay still.

Finished leg - all in all pretty good, I thought.

A little tear-out, but nothing to worry about

And the shavings looked great in the fire.

Next, I think I'll have a go with the cabinet maker's scrapper that Julian gave me ages ago and that I've not gotten round to trying yet.

I also had a go at customizing one of my frosts carving knives - the top one in the picture. I'd had a go at the lower one previously and was quite pleased with it and so thought I'd personalize another.

I also carved another of my set of ash eating spoons - that brings me to a total of three now - half way there.
I lent my carving bag to my friend at school, knowing that I would be using the draw knife predominantly, and that he would enjoy having a go at green wood carving. This meant I didn't have my number one axe and had to use this little wetterlings axe instead. It was okay, but not a patch on my kent pattern axe - far too light in the head and because the head is quite small and thin, it glanced off the wood a lot. I'd bought the axe some years ago when I wanted a bushcraft axe, wanted one of the known brands and couldn't afford anything bigger. I guess it's good for kindling, but I wouldn't recommend it for anything more detailed or delicate.
I say it's a Wetterlings axe, but now I look on line, I can't actually find it.

And lastly, a word of advice: it's probably best not to carve and watch the rugby at the same time - I'm lucky this slip was while I was using a knife and not an axe!


  1. Loving the look of that first spoon Richard, superb shape to it.

    I know the axe you refer to and and just spent ten minutes or so looking for it, but cant find a reference to it anywhere any more, i thin Greenman Bushcraft used to sell it, but it's no longer listed if they did?.

    Hope the finger heals well.

    1. Thanks for the complement, Mark, I was quite pleased with it, though it's only tiny, really. As for the axe, they don't seem to do any axes with that 'factory' kind of finish any more, they all look more forged.It's not a bad axe, just not really any good for carving or working wood.