I HAVE OWNED for more than six months what I think will become a prized possession: a Scott Meek jointer plane – in kit form. But, my excitement for building this plane has been tempered by some anxiety of two steps in the construction process which I think will be easy to mess up. These are making the cross pin and making the wedge. But, I’ll get to my woodworking anxiety in a minute. First let’s talk about Scott Meek’s hand planes.
I like cars and sometimes I’ll make a comparison to a car to make a point. For example, a customer once told me that I sell the Mercedes of carpets. I told him I thought a Ferrari was a better comparison. Scott’s hand planes are moving from what have been like a really nice Mercedes to something more exotic. Especially now that his planes feature both choice, figured wood and his new “checkering” technique (example here). So, I think a better comparison would be to a Ferrari. Scott does with wooden body hand planes what the likes of Ron Brese, Konrad Sauer or Raney Nelson achieve with metal planes.
I have been in the company of Scott on four occasions and while we are not close friends, I do consider him a friend and the idea of owning one of his planes has bounced around in my head for quite a while. When I saw a prototype of his upcoming jointer plane kit for sale at a discounted price, I jumped at it. He only had three prototypes available and I got one. I could have fit this jointer plane kit into my schedule while making my recently completed tool cabinet, but there is that stress thing I’ll get too in a minute.
TO PREPARE FOR CONSTRUCTION I did two things: I bought Scott Meek’s “Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane” DVD and I pulled from my collection of woodworking books, David Finck’s “Making and Mastering Wood Planes”. If you ever want to build wooden hand planes from scratch, these two teaching guides would serve you well.
In watching Scott’s DVD, there is a lot to making a wooden body plane. A lot of steps which need to happen in the right order and some of these steps require a high level of precision. But, with a kit, some of this precision is already taken care of. The kit comes with the various plywood parts already milled to very rough shape. In addition to the plywood parts, I received white oak stock for the cross pin, wedge and alignment dowels along with a Hock Tools blade (see top photo).
I happen to be in Asheville right after Scott made this prototype available, so I met him in his home workshop to pick up the kit. He told me the prototype plywood parts seen above will be further refined before the kit is released for sale. Just as with my Hock Tools Shoulder Plane Kit, the various plywood parts come into alignment by way of dowels. Scott told me that with this prototype two of the pre-drilled holes actually don’t align properly. We discussed how to overcome this; but now, all these months later, I can’t remember which holes are out of alignment. When bringing the various parts together, they were in fact mis-aligned, but not that badly. Due to the alignment issue, I decided to glue the body of the plane in steps vs. all at one time.
THE STRESSFUL STEP. Before I can bring the front and rear block together with the sides, I need to make the cross pin which is some tricky business. Scott warned me that this step is the only real challenging part of the kit. The 1/2″ square stock needed to be cut size and then, 3/8″ diameter tenons had to be formed on each end of the cross pin. Scott gave me enough 1/2″ stock to make two cross pins, but I wanted to practice on a few first, so I milled up some of my own and made a jig to hold the stock at the drill press.
David Finck’s book had a great technique for holding the 1/2″ stock on end. You can see the jig pretty well in the second photo and I am using a 3/8″ tapered plug cutting bit in my drill press (I need a new drill press in the worst kind of way). The round tenons need to be centered and the same on each end. Following David’s process meant I was able to get a successful cross-pin on my second attempt, and I accidentally skipped a step in his method; so I got lucky.
The cross pin was shaped to have two rounded corners and the ramp on the rear block got a light sanding making sure it was square to the sides. I then hit the curved front ramp with some sand paper. Then it was time to glue everything together…
So, pretty rockin’ I think. Since this is a kit, Scott has taken some of the usually necessary brain power out of the construction making this a lot of fun project so far. The basic body of the plane is glued up. One more stressful step to go – next, I’ll make the wedge and with the wedge and blade installed; flatten the sole. Then I can start shaping it. Making the wedge where the curved shape is parallel to the flat back will be challenging, but just as with the cross pin, a little at a time; nice and easy and everything will be OK (plus I have enough stock for two wedges in case I mess up the first one).
ON A SIDE NOTE: I have returned to using my little point and shoot digital camera. For recent blog posts, I have simply been using photos I put on Instagram. And while cell phone photography works sometimes pretty well, I have been disappointed with such photos on my blog. So, it is back to learning Photoshop. Does anyone know of good on-line tutorials? I have been watching these YouTube videos which are good. But I feel I am learning specific tasks and not how principles of Photoshop.
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