Quite a while ago, I heard some particularly good woodworking advice: “Don’t point out your mistakes.” For the most part, I have stuck to this recommendation ever since. I’ll admit a stupid mistake from time to time (especially while a project is under construction), but mostly, I just keep quiet especially when a friend or acquaintance is looking at a finished project. There was a time when a compliment would be replied with, “Thanks, I had this terrible tear-out down there near the base, you can’t hardly see it, but it’s there.” Or, “I really wanted the quarter-sawn grain on that fine piece of oak to pop more.” Now, I usually just smile and take the compliment.
I do need to come clean on a never before revealed mistake. It’s my new workbench top. While I was bringing the top down to its final thickness, I noticed the top wasn’t flat. In fact it had a strange dip or broad gouge across the face of both tops which make up the split top design. Even though these two top slabs looked flat, I could feel an uneven surface. A straight edge confirmed my suspicion: there was in fact a shallow gouge or cup present. A fix was achieved by simply using the planer at my woodworking guild. But the extra passes through the planer meant my workbench top is not as thick as planned. Instead of the top being 3-1/2″ thick, it is more like 3-1/4″. Not a big deal, but at this point in my woodworking life, this inaccuracy was unwanted.
By the way, there is a good back story on how I obtained my planer. It was a gift from Christopher Lindsay, a woodworker I knew online. I had complained in this blog post about needing a planer (the blog post is dated 11/28/2010). Christopher had one he wasn’t using and offered it to me if I could come get pick it up. Ultimately, I paid the cost of freight and Christopher shipped it to me. It was a kind thing that Christopher did for me.
But for the life of me, I could not explain how this odd surface happened in the first place. My planer is a Delta 22-580. I initially thought the knives had become worn from all the ash and oak I had been sending through it. So I decided to do a little investigation by taking the knives out and inspecting them. This video gives you an idea of the process…
In all the years of using this planer, I haven’t touched these knives, so I suspected it was time for a new set. The knives came out easily and surprisingly, these knives are two-sided. A new edge could be obtained simply by turning them end for end. The first knife did not reveal anything unusual, a couple of nicks in the cutting edge which wasn’t a surprise. But the second knife was a different story…
When I removed the second knife, there was a sliver of wood under the knife. This wood isn’t supposed to be here; I easily removed it and moved on. The knife is slender and wasn’t bent, but I noticed the mounting bar which holds the knife in place was bent.
What I think happened is this: while running my workbench front and back stretchers through my planer, I had a pretty severe cut; one that was potentially dangerous (see this blog post). This cut, made in error, took off a large chunk of wood and I think some of it jammed under the blade. Subsequent passes with oak and ash only made the problem worse ultimately bending the mounting bar which is kind of thick steel. This in essence created a curved planer knife causing the odd-shaped cut to my bench top.
I decided to order a new mounting bar to replace the bent one. Since my planer is now getting old, it is not unusual to find that replacement parts have been discontinued, and this was the case with the mounting bar. I did find aftermarket mounting bars at Renovo.com, a company I had never heard of. It took about two weeks to get two new bars; you have to order them in pairs so as to maintain balance on the spinning planer head.
I attached the new mounting bars and cleaned the rollers and waxed the planer bed. It was time to make a test cut; I picked a piece of ash which had a rough surface…
You can easily see in the “after” photo a couple of lines indicating nicks in the planer knives, but the surface is otherwise flat and the nicks are acceptable right now. The lines are nothing a card scraper couldn’t easily remove (or a pass with a smoother). I’ll most likely order a new set of knives to get the planer where I really want it to be. I consider this a successful repair and my Delta 22-580 is back in working order. The mounting bars cost $57 including shipping costs.
The lesson here is that routine tool maintenance is important not only for keeping your tools in like new condition, but keeping them safe as well.
One more thing…
On March 9th and 10th I attended a class at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. Mike Pekovich was on hand to demonstrate the unique steps for building his display cabinet on stand. The class was sold out and we had several people travel quite a distance to take the class. A big success for our guild and a great time to learn from a master woodworker and designer.
Pretty cool stuff. In my copy of his book “The Why and How of Woodworking” Mike wrote, “Jeff, It’s a great craft without an end of challenges.” So true.
Still one more thing…
I have added a banner in the right sidebar of my blog formally announcing a service where I will custom design woodworking plans for individuals. I have begun calling the plans I make “woodworking guides” since they guide the woodworker through the process for completing a project. My starting fee for project design is $75 and plan documentation starts at an additional $75. Complex designs or lengthy plans will have a higher fee. I receive requests for design and plan service a few times a year and in some cases I have actually created custom plans for individuals. I don’t expect this to be a lucrative endeavour but if I can make a little money and help a woodworker build something, then that’s a win, win.
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