Thursday, July 4, 2012: I slept well last night, although it was difficult to get to sleep. I was so anxious for the next morning and the beginning of class. My day began by waking up to the beautiful sound of a chorus of song birds. I’m deep in a forest of Eastern white pine and beech.
There are 7 of us here right now. The first 3 days are a foundational course, covering basic skills and joinery: sharpening, sawing, basic hand tool use, housing dados, dovetails, and mortise and tennon.
First was sharpening. Edge sharpening is as controversial as it gets. I’ve read and tried a lot of the methods. I learned Paul’s method about 6 month ago, and have no intentions of looking back. It uses a convex bevel around 30° that is ground freehand, across 3 diamond stones, (course, fine, and super fine), then stopped on leather. It literally takes about 1 minute to sharpen an edge and get back to work. Plus, the extra bulk of steel behind the edge make the newly sharpened edge last longer. And when I say sharp, I’m talking about surgical sharpness.
Hand plane setting was covered next, using a very simple method that ensures accuracy. Sight your iron as close to square across the mouth as possible, then take a shaving on a narrow piece of stock, from both the right and left side. Compare the thickness of the shavings, and make whatever lateral adjustment you think is necessary. Recheck, and if they appear equal, back off the iron a bit, and repeat. Continue this process a few times, and make lateral adjustments as necessary. When you are backed off to just the wispiest of shavings, and the shavings are equal, you are properly set. It sounds like a long process, but it takes about 30 seconds to complete.
Lumber prep is more difficult than it appears. Without being able to read the grain, you must start planning a face. Once you can determine if you’re planing the correct direction, it’s time to make the board smooth and flat. The board must be flat across its length, across its width, and across its diagonals. Once the face is complete, read the grain and choose an edge to square to the face. Work the edge smooth, flat and square to the face, checking all along the length. At this point, it is very important to place the “True Face” and “True Edge” marks on the board. Waiting to mark them later will surely result in an error.
Now, work the 2nd edge flat and square to the true face. Remember to reorient the board in the vise by turning it end for end 180°, for proper grain direction.
And here is the difficult part: Plane for thickness. To accomplish this, use a marking gauge to mark your desired thickness. Begin planning, working the full width of the board, and continue until you are close to the gauge lines. Pay attention to the end lines as well, so you don’t make a crowned piece. As you get closer to the gauge line, back your iron off, and take thinner shavings, working slowly to your line.
Sawing was next, and a brief demonstration on how Paul modifies the standard rip pattern of joinery saws. Most saws above 14 PPI are filed rip. Since the tooth is so small, filing fleam would be very difficult. He changes the rake angle of the first 2 inches, leaning the first inch backwards 30° from the original 90°), then leaning the next inch, backwards 15°. This puts a much more passive rake angle on the toe of the saw, allowing for much easier starting.
Proper saw starting was also discussed. I was taught to make a few backwards passes with the toe of the saw, creating a starting place for the blade, then push forward. This however, makes starting the saw harder, since you have taken the first fibers and bent them backwards. They are now pinching the saw, making it harder to push forward.
The first joinery lesson was on housing dados, and several variations: the standard dado, a stopped dado, and a stopped, stepped dado. We made several with different methods, including chisels, saws, and router planes.
That filled the day, and left little time to clean up. I have to admit, I was not happy with my squaring exercise results. I want to retry tomorrow.