Straight and Level

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Anthony Bailey

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Last week, I was making up a butcher"s block for the magazine: all the strips of end grain were cut, glued and assembled, then clamped up and left to set. So far so good. A serious belt sanding with 80 grit over the end grain surfaces flatted it quite effectively, but I then needed to true up the edges after running the whole thing through the tablesaw to trim off the excess and square it first. This was best done with a hand plane, but it was a large board edge area that needed flat, true surfaces, and secondly, it would be cutting across the fibres, so unless I was prepared to risk using the belt sander instead, it was going to mean the surfaces would be ‘plucked’, leaving the grain rather open, however sharp the blade was.

It wouldn’t be tough like trimming end grain, in fact quite the reverse, but I was concerned about the condition of the surface even with a finely set blade. The long edges really deserved the attention of a No.7 jointer, so I pulled out an early Union No.7 with a corrugated sole, built in America but a bit mucked around with since then, rear handle changed. This one has ‘foreign’ blade - Stanley - and the blade tilt adjuster missing, although a slight hammer tap does just as well! It did very well indeed, the only thing was, even with my best effort, the edges ‘crowned’ slightly in length. As I was applying pressure correctly at the start and finish of each stroke, it suggested the sole wasn’t quite flat, indeed it wouldn’t flat the middle section alone, so more blade projection would be needed to do that, which I didn’t want as it would exacerbate the grain ‘plucking ‘ effect.

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My steel straightedges are no longer quite straight - flat - but sighting along the sole instead suggested a slight, very slight dip in the middle, which would explain the problem. So, enter my Stanley No.7 instead. This too is an old stager but sighting the base suggested it is a little flatter than the Union, so it will be interesting to see how it performs in comparison to the Union model. Bearing in mind both planes are about 100 years old, it begs the question as to how craftsmen in the past got such flat, meeting surfaces in wood. We get so obsessive now about flatting plane soles - I’m sure it wasn’t like that all those years ago! I think they cheated - yes I do. Get the edges fairly flat first, then follow on with a No.6 Fore or even a No.5 Jack to level the dodgy bits, that would do it I reckon...

Image: Stanley No.7 Jointer, Stanley No.6 Fore and Record No.5 Jack (PHOTOGRAPH BY GMC/ANTHONY BAILEY)

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