Friday, May 30, 2014

Don't Bother Learning to Plane Boards...

"Just enough broad surface planing should be done in practice to learn the correct method. More planing than that is a waste of time and should be done at the mill." 

Before you get the pitch forks and head down to South Louisiana let me explain! That was written by - Louis Roehl, in 1881, in his instructional manual of carpentry titled Problems in Carpentry, a course in practical carpentry for manual training classes. The qouted statement jumped out at me. How dare he make such a statement? How dare he attack my beloved planes and their gossamer shavings! Blasphemy! Stone him, stone him to death!

My reaction was a bit less dramatic, but you get the point. Roehl wrote this as a guide for instructors of carpentry teaching at a high school level - why would he downplay planing? Granted Carpenters build structures and structures rarely see much need for surfaced timbers but there is much interior finish work to be done with planes and it still bothered me. Roehl's very next statement is as follows:

Edge planing is an operation that a carpenter meets with in nearly every job. 
One should learn to plane an edge at right angles to the side of the board, 
removing the least amount of stock possible.

Ok, well that's a lot better - he got that part right. He at least thinks carpentry students should be proficient in edge jointing stock... but it's still ludicrous to write-off surfacing fundamentals, right? It wasn't to him. He, rather matter of factly, states it is a waste of time and should be done at a mill... Should be done at a mill... SHOULD BE DONE AT A MILL - and therein lies the answer. It was 1881, the mechanizing of industry and division of labor was already in full swing. 

The first planing machine patented was designed by Sir Samuel Bentham in 1791. Though a crude design employing a large mechanized hand plane pushed to and fro - not unlike a sash mill turned horizontally - it still relieved it's operator of the toil of manual timber jointing. Bentham described the essence of the invention as a "method of planing divesting the operation of skill previously necessary, and a reduction of brute force employed" ( Bentham's design may have been a failure but it did pave the way for other's and it was not many years before rotary planers would find their way into production facilities.

Bentham's patent was the beginning of industrialized lumber production and the death knoll for hand tooling. Exactly 100 after the first patented power planer Louis Roehl would write that it is unimportant for students to have a profound grasp of surfacing lumber with a hand plane because it was better left to mills to perform this work with power tools. The demise of traditional craftsmanship had begun.

Add an additional 100 years and we are in 1991, a time when the likelihood of finding a hobby woodworker using hand planes were slim to none. Strangely this coincides with the early rebirth, of sorts, of traditional woodworking. Granted there were a handful of people still clinging to the old ways and God bless them for keeping it alive but it has only been in the last 20 or so years that it has become fashionable to use hand tool and where you can once again find a large selection of tools being produced today that emulate the tools that Sir Bentham hoped we would leave behind us in a wake of progress. 

History tends to repeat itself and unfortunately much can be lost with each cycle. I do not say this of woodworking only but of Art the Natural Sciences and rural living as a whole. The internet is a tremendous resource for the preservation of history - you reading this is proof in the hide glue pudding! As we continue our craft and prepare for this cycle to possibly end let's be sure to document what we've learned by study and research and make sure the next generation of traditional woodworkers and students of history have more to work with than we did. 


Google Patent - Woodworth Planer

© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 
Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wood Preservatives in Historic Structures

Working with the LSU Rural Life Museum has me looking for better ways to preserve our physical history. We have over 30 historic structures representing various forms of colloquial design. Unfortunately they are showing the signs of time and are in need of aggressive conservation work. 

The link below will take you to US Forest Service's publication on the matter. If you are involved in historic preservation it's worth the time to at least browse it.


© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 

Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cajuns - French, Germans or Something Else?

I'm often asked - "What does the German Coast have to do with South Louisiana?" The German Coast is, in fact, part of South Louisiana and it's of enormous importance to Louisiana's History.

Located along the Mississippi River over the Parishes of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and possibly a bit of St. James the German Coast is the earliest successful European Agricultural Settlement in Louisiana. Though brought over by the Parisian French West Indies Co, German's arrived in mass to settle here 30 years before the Acadians, or Cajuns as they are often called.

So why is Louisiana known for the Cajun French instead of the Cajun Germans? Though the German settlers, brought here by the European French predate the French Acadians there were far less of them. The Germans were mainly only German in Culture as they hailed from areas such as the Alsace Lorraine Region ruled by France. It's an unfortunate oversight by us for not teaching this history.

The reason I focus so heavily on the German Coast in regards to subjects of Timber Framing or Early Agriculture is because they were the first to really tackle the task is South Louisiana - at least to the scale at which they did. I try to start stories on the first chapter and while this is by no means Chapter One for those cultures or for the America's it is just that for South Louisiana.

There is a lot of information out there on Early Louisiana and I by no means consider myself an authority on cultural history. I have intentionally withheld from delving too deeply into the history or time lines of the Louisiana people as there are dozens of books on the subject by credible and respected authors - yet they all differ in story from one to the next. I encourage you to do further reading on the topic on your own and form your own impression based upon the information out there.

For a bit more here on the Early German Settlers see: Lumbering on Louisiana's German Coast

- Jean Becnel
L'ébénisterie Créole

Also for additional information on the early days of settling on both the German and Acadian Coasts, please visit these fine sites below.

German-Acadian Coast 
Historical & Genealogical Society

The Historic New Orleans Collection
Germans in Louisiana and New Orleans

Genealogy & History

© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 

Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Manner of Plaining and Trying - Moxon

As a continuation of excerpts from Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises let's take a look at his explanation of Plaining and Trying or rather what we usually refer to as jointing or squaring lumber.

Moxon's ability to construct run-on sentences and write extreme redundancy has little been matched through the ages. For that reason I have edited the original text in order to make it a bit more sufferable while not removing any real content. If you want to skip his text and jump down to my re-hash simple explanation then scroll down or click here...

Moxon refers to wood in all instances as "stuff" therefore I have rather unscrupulously replaced all instances of the word stuff, save the tittle, with corresponding terms such as lumber, wood, board, material etc. You're welcome.

§. 16. The manner of Plaining and Trying a piece of Stuff-square

We will take, for example, a piece of wood called a Quarter, which is commonly two inches thick, four inches broad, and seven foot long. To plane this square, lay one of its broad sides upon the bench, with one of its ends shoved pretty hard into the teeth of the Bench-hook, that it may lie the steddier. Then with the Fore Plane, as you were taught, plane off the roughness the Saw made at the Pit, and work that side of the Quarter as straight in its length and breadth as you can with the Fore Plane, which you may give a pretty good guess at, if the edge of the Iron have born all the way upon the work, yet you may try by taking up your Work, and applying one end of it to one Eye, whilst you wink with the other, and observe if any Hollow, or Dawks be in the length of it, if not, you may conclude it pretty true: For the Work thus held, the Eye will discern pretty nearly. Or, for more certainty, you may apply the edge of the two-foot Rule, or rather a Rule shot the full length of the Quarter to your Work, and if it agree all the way with the Rule, you may conclude it is straight in length. But if you find it not straight, you must still with the Fore-Plane work off those Risings that bear the edge of the Rule off any part of the board: Then try if the Breadth be pretty straight j if it be, (the Dawks the roughness the Fore-plane made excepted) the first office of the Fore-plane is performed: If it be not, you must straighten the Breadth as you did the Length. But tho' this Quarter be thus plained straight in length and breadth, yet because the Iron of the Fore-plane for its first working the lumber is set rank, and therefore makes great Dawks in the wood, you must set the Iron of your Fore-plane finer, as you were taught and with it then work down even almost to the bottom of those Dawks: then try it again, as before, and if you find it try all the way, you may, with the Jointer, or smoothing-plane, but rather with the Jointer, go over it again, to work out the irregularities of the fine Fore plane: For the Iron of the Fore-plane being ground to a Rising in the middle, as has been shewed, though it be very fine set, will yet leave some Dawks in the surface for the Jointer, or Smoothing-plane, to work out. Thus the first side of the Quarter will be finished.

Having thus tryed one side of the Quarter straight and flat, apply the inside of the Handle to it, and if one of the adjoining sides of the Quarter, comply also with the inside of the Tongue all the way, you need only smooth that adjoining side: But if it do not so comply, that is, if it be not square to the first side which you will know by the riding of the inside of the Tongue upon one of the Edges or some other part between the Edges, you must, with the Fore-plane Rank-set, plain away that material which bears off the inside of the Tongue from complying all the way with it. But if the Risings be great,
you may, for quickness, hew away the Risings with the Hatchet : but then you must have a care you let not the edge of your Hatchet cut too deep into the wood lest you either spoil your board, by making it unsizeable, if it be already small enough \ or if it have substance enough, make yourself more labour to get out those Hatchet-stroaks with the Plane than you need. Then take off the roughness the Hatchet made with the Fore-plane Rank-set, then fine set, and last of all with the Jointer, or Smoothing-plane:
So is the second side also finished.

Gauge & Square
To work the third side, set the Oval of the Gage exactly to that width from the Gage, that you intend the Breadth of the Quarter ( when Wrought) shall have, which, in this out* Example, is four Inches, but will be somewhat less, because working it true will diminish the board: Therefore sliding the Oval on the Staff, measure on your Inch-Rule so much less than four Inches, as you think your board diminishes in working: Measure, I say, between the Oval and the Tooth, your size: If, at the first proffer, your Oval stand too far from the Tooth, hold the Oval in your Hand, and knock the Tooth-end of your Staff upon the Workbench, till it stand near enough: If the Oval stand too near, knock the other end of the Staff Upon the Work-bench till it be fit. Then apply the flat of the Oval to the second wrought
side of your Stuffs so as the Tooth may reach athwart the breadth of the stuff upon the first slide, and keeping the Oval close against the second side, press the Tooth so hard down, that by drawing the Gage in this posture all along the length of the Quarter, the Tooth may strike a Line. In like manner upon the side opposite to the first* viz.* the fourth side, Gage another line opposite to the first gaged Line, and work your Stuff down to those two gated Lines on the third side, either with Plaining along, or with Hewing, and afterwards Plaining as you were taught to work the second side.

To work the fourth side, set the Tooth of the Gage to its exact distance from the Oval two Inches wanting so much as you think the Stuff diminished in working, and apply the flat of the Oval to each side of the first fide, and Gage as before two Lines, one on the second, the other on the third wrought side. Work your Stuff then down on the fourth side to those two Gage lines either with Plaining alone, or with Hewing, and afterwards Planning, as you were taught to work the second side.

Woo… tired of reading yet? Moxon doesn’t mention proper use of the planes or rather any specific techniques – he covers that on a couple pounds of paper in an earlier section. To break this down, the nut-shell version if you will goes like this.

Secure the board flat on your bench by jamming into the bench hook. The addition of a stop for the back of the board is also quite helpful. Use a fore plane to take down the high spots and traverse the boards edge to edge (across the width) and at an angle askew to the grain. Follow up with a jointer plane to remove the peaks between the dawks or trenches left by the fore plane’s radiused iron. Sight down the board to check for flatness or use a straight edge side to side, corner to corner to check. Moxon does not mention the use of winding stick but I point out that they are quite helpful at this point. Plane down any high spots left until the surface of the board is flat and true down the the depth of the lower area of the board. You have now successfully tried or joint one face of the board – congradulations!

Place the board in a vise or other device to then joint the edge of the board square to the flattened face. – Again we are trying the board. This edge should be 90 degrees to the flattened face by use of a jointing plane. Moxon does point out that a fore plane may be used to start and even there is a great bit of matial to use that one should use a hatchet! He further cautions to be careful with the hatchet as to not remove too much material and spoil your stuff by making it unsizable. Finish up with a jointer plane and use a square down the length of the board to ensure it is tried to the previously jointed face. Congratulations again, you have now jointed two faces of the board.

Here is where I differ from Moxon. Moxon would have us use a gauge to, striking from the jointed face along all four edges of the board to give us the defining line of an opposite coplanar surface. I typically joint my opposing edge prior to jointing the last face side of the board simply because it makes the line struck easier to see. There is one disctinct disadvantage to this and that is that we may but not always loose a bit of width of the board or be forced to plane the board thinner than desired due to blowout of the edges as we use the fore plane aggressively to joint the last face. With care and practice this can be mainly avoided.

In any case the method for establishing a parallel edge for the board is to use either a large marking gauge or a panel marking gauge to strike a line from the jointed edge. I use a panel gauge and strike deeply. In the event that I have a lot of material to use I do not hesitate to use a hatchet or broad hatchet to get close to the line. Do not be afraid of hatchet work – your furniture will be a hatchet job you can be proud of. With a bit of practice and the right hatchet rough jointing boards is incredible easy and quick. It is a matter of selecting the right tool for the job to keep us efficient.

For jointing the last face of the board you will repeat the process as with the first face however now you are working to a line from the marking gauge. Set your gauge to the just less than the thinnest point of the board or to a predetermined thickness and mark all four edges. Next plane down to this with your fore plane being cautious not to remove material past the line. Remember those dawks need to be above the line so that the work of the jointer and smoother result in a level at the line.

If you have trouble with this last face and are prone to planning past the line there is a little trick you can employ to help. Using a fillister plane set about 1/2'’ wide run a rabbet around all four edge down to your line. This will give you a physical landmark to which to work as well as prevent your edges from blowing out while using the fore plane.

If possible, try to remove an even amount of material from each side of your board. Also remember that hand tooling a jointed board is no different than using power tool – for fine work you should joint your lumber oversized and them allow it to acclimate and stresses to come to a new equilibrium prior to a final jointing. This means allowing lumber that is already dry to sit overnight, at least, in the shop prior to continuing work with it. This is most important for hard wood with soft woods generally being more stable. Also a trick my friend and fellow furniture builder, Jon Brinkerhoff, shared with me is to beat large slabs being jointed with a rubber mallet to quicken the balance of tensions – you can sometimes watch them twist and cup while wailing on them with the mallet!

Other considerations for hand tool lumber preparation is to keep in mind the end use of the board. If the board will have tenons on one or both ends there is no need to shoot the ends square or give them much regard when sawing. The end of the tenons need not be perfectly straight or square and energy spent on this is energy wasted. Mark the shoulders of your tenons square and fret not about the rest. Another thing to consider is that in many instances you need NOT joint the second face of a board. Will anyone see the back side of your table apron? Again, energy and time wasted. Craftsmen of two-hundred years ago realized this as is evidenced by examples of fine work with unjointed backs of boards on the bottoms and backs of drawers, the backs of case work, etc. If nothing else this lends to the authenticity of what we do as Traditional Woodworkers.



© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 

Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Art of Joinery - Moxon

The Art of Joinery

The Fore Plane
It is called the Fore Plane. becaufe it is ufed before you come to work either with the Smooth Plane, or with the Joynter. The edge of its Iron is not ground upon the ftraight, as the Smooth Plane, and the Joynter are, but rifes with a Convex-Arch in the middle of it •, for its Office being to prepare the Stuff for either the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter.

This description by Moxon is pretty clear, it is called the Fore Plane because it is used before the Smoother or Jointer planes. The iron of the Fore Plane is ground with a heavy camber, or arc, to allow the iron to accomplish its task of quick heavy stock removal. Similar to a skewed iron the camber of the iron increases the shearing angle of the cut making it easier to use while still providing a relatively smooth but thick shaving.

Workmen fet the edge of "it" Ranker[*] than the edge either of the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter and fhould the Iron of the Plane be ground to a ftraight edge, and it be fet never fo little Ranker on one end df the edge than on the other, the Ranker end would (bearing as then upon a point) in working, dig Gutters on the Surface of the Stuffs but this Iron (being ground to a Convex-Arch) though it fhould be fet a little Ranker on one end of its edge than on the other, would not make Gutters on the Surface of the Stuff, but (at the moft) little hollow dawks on the Stuff, and that more or lefs, according as the Plane is ground more or lefs Arching, Nor is it the Office of this Plane to finooth the Stuff, but only (as I faid) to prepare It, that is, to take oft the irregular Filings, whether on the fides, or in the middle, and therefore it is fet fomewhat Ranker, that it may take the Irregularities the fooner off the Stuff, that the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter, may afterwards the eafier work it Try. The manner of Trying fhall be taught, when I come to Treat of the ufe of the Rule.

You mult note, that as I told you in Smithing? Hum. I. fol. 14, 15-, 16. it was the Office of the courfe toottfd File to take off the prominent Irregularities the Hammer made in the Forging? &c. and that you were not to file them more away than you need, fo the fame Caution Is to be g'iven you in the ufing of this fore Plane mjoynery? for the reafon there pledged in Smithing? whether, to a- void Repetition, I refer you ? only with this Con- Jideration, that there Iron, or Steel? was the matter wrought upon, and there a courfe File the Tool; but now Wood is the matter, and a Courfe, or Fore-Plane, the Tool.

Moxon is not discussing bad Mutton, when he mentions the term ranker. He is describing the extent of which the iron protrudes out of the bottom of the plane with Ranker simply meaning greater than. The Fore Plane's cambered iron is set much deeper than that of the Jointer or Smoother. The camber allows the iron to remove much thicker shaving while not tearing and digging splintered troughs through the work which in turn would require much more work from the Smoother or Jointer to remove. It should be noted that the Fore Plane is used for quick aggressive yet manageable stock removal therefore do not busy yourself with trying to leave the board smooth and flat. The planes which follow will address those marks.

Use great care when working with the Fore Plane as to not exceed the desired final depth. So while being aggressive it is important to leave a sufficient amount of thickness so that the following planes may remove all marks of the Fore Plane with out making the work thinner than desired.

Just as we know to use metal files or sanding paper from coarsest to finest grit in sequence, so also should we consider the steps with which the planes are used. Consider the Fore Plane the aggressive and efficient bastard cut file of wood planes, begin with it and work down in progression to minimize effort and increase efficiency when jointing the face of a rough board.

Modern Equivalents of the Fore Plane 
The picture at Left shows modern equivalents to the Fore Plane. This is not to say they are modern Fore Planes. In the last century Fore Planes have become synonymous with the Stanley Number 6 or Miller Falls Number 18. These modern planes are approximately 18 inches in length making them both longer also a bit norrower than the older Fore Planes of Moxon's time.

Of fetting the Iron.
When you fet the Iron of the Fore-Plane confider the Stuff you are to work upon. Whether it be hard or foft, or Curling as Joyners call Crofs grain'd Stuff: If it be hard or curling, you muft not fet the lron veay rank, becaufe a Man's ftrength will not cut deep into hard Wood and if it be not hard Wood, but curlings or knotty, and the Iron Ranker, you may indeed work with it till you come to fome Knot, or Curl, but then you may either tear your Stuff, or break the edge of your Iron; therefore you may perceive a reafon to fet the Iron fine for curling, and knotty Stuff. But if you ask me how rank your Iron ought to be fet; I anfwer, If your Wood be foft, and your Stuff free, and frowy, that is, evenly temper'd all the way, you may fet the Iron to take a fhaving off the thicknefs of an old coined Shilling, but fcarce thicker;  whereas, if your Stuff be hard, or curling, or knotty, you fhall fcarce be able to take a shaving off the thicknefs of an old Groat. Therefore you mult examine the Temper of your Stuff, by eafy Trials, how the Plane will work upon it, and fet your Iron accordingly. And obferve this as a General Rule, that the Iron of the Fore-Plane is, for the firft working with it, to be fet as rank as you can make good work with it, and that for fpeed fake.

It is important when setting the depth of the iron in your Fore Plane to consider the material being worked with. For example when working with soft woods such as fir or even hard woods on the softer end of the spectrum such as Tulip Poplar, Magnolia and Ash the iron can easily remove very thick curls. With harder lumber, or stuff, such as Rosewood, Pecan or Live Oak it is imprudent to expect thick shaving without great difficulty pushing the plane as well as tearing out large ragged troughs or dawks in the lumber. Another important consideration is the grain direction and knots. Knots can be particularly dangerous to the plane and your work as aggressive planing with a deeply set iron across a knot may even chip or break the iron's bevel. Moxon describes the thickest shaving possible on hard or highly figured woods from a Fore Plane as that of the thickness of an old Groat - again we are not talking about Mutton but of English coins about the thickness of a American Quarter. Moxon describes the shaving possible in soft woods as being the thickness of an old Shilling - again coin and a bit thicker than an American Nickel.

If your Iron be fet too rank, knock with an Hammer upon the Britcb of the Stock, and afterwards upon the Wedge; for this knocking upon the Britch, if you knock hard enough, 'twill raife the Iron a little,, and fit it fine; if you knock not hard enough, you mult knock again, till the Iron do rife; but if you knock too hard, it will raife the Iron fo much, that its edge will rife above the Sole into the Mouth of the Stock, and confequently not touch the Stuff: Therefore you muft knock foftly at firft, till, by trials, you find the Iron rifes to a convenient finenefs. But as this knocking on the Britcb raifes the Iron, fo it alfo raifes and loofens the Wedge; therefore (as aforefaid) whenever you knock upon the Britcb, you mull alfo knock upon the Wedge, to foftcn the Iron again. If you have raifed the edge of the Iron too fine, you muft knock foftiy upon the head of the Iron, and then again upon the Wedge, and this you may fometimes do feveral times, till you fit your Iron to a convenient finenefs. When you have occafion to take your Iron out of the Stock to rub it, that is, to fet it, you may knock pretty fmart Blows upon the Stock, between the Mouth and the Fore-end, to loofen the Wedge, and confequently the Iron. Thefe ways of fetting are ufed to all Other Planes, as well as Fore-planes.

In Moxon's time there were no Stanley iron planes like those of the last two centuries. No, infill planes were not on the scene yet either. The planes of Moxon's time were of wooden body, generally Beech lumber, and did not even have chip breakers. These tools were simple elegance and quite functional as is attested to in the incredible work surviving from that time. Similarly constructed planes have been unearthed in Pompeii and likely were in use much earlier than even that. That said let's discuss the adjustment of the wooden bench plane as Moxon describes it. Despite describing the parts of a plane Moxon does not show them illustrated. See the picture at Right for the components of a plane.

Unlike iron planes, wooden bodied planes have no adjustment wheels, lateral adjustment levers, adjustable frogs or mouths. That said, we need not despair! For wooden planes our one-tool-does-all adjuster is the humble mallet. With the plane sitting on a wooden bench place the iron, centered laterally, in its mortise and snugly insert the wedge. next check the protrusion of the iron from the sole. If the iron protrudes too far, or too rank as Moxon says, tap the rear of the plane with your mallet as this will raise the iron - softly at first until you learn how your plane behaves. This also loosens the wedge so that will require a tap from the mallet as well. To extend the iron for a thicker cut you may the tap top of the iron softly to advance it. Lateral adjustments can be made by tapping the top sides of the iron in either dirrection. To remove the iron and wedge you may tap the rear of the plane as above or tap the the top front of the plane, there is often a hardwood button inset here, to loosen the wedge. As there is no adjustment for the mouth of a wooden plane the planes have a fixed mouth opening suited to its job. The mouths are often in need or repair on older smoothing and jointing planes to close them a bit. Many antique planes also show damage as a result of iron hammers being used as an adjustment tool - never use a hammer to adjust a plane. Obtain, buy, borrow, steal or make a wooden or combination wooden and brass mallet if you must.

In the ufing of this, and indeed, all othef Planes, you muft begin at the hinder end of the Stuff, the Grain of the Wood lying along the length of the Bench, and Plane forward, till you come to the fore-end, unlefs the Stuff proves Crofs-grain'd, in any part of its length ; for then you muft turn your Stuff to Plane it the contrary way, fo far as it runs Crofs-grain'd, and in Planeing, you muft, at once, lean pretty hard upon the Plane, and alfo thruft it very hard forwards, not letting the Plane totter to, or from you-wards, till you have made a Stroak the whole length of the Stuff. And this fometimes, if your Stuff be long, will require your making two or three fteps forwards, e'er you come to the fore-end of the Stuff: But if it do, you muft comeback, and begin again at the farther end, by the fide of the laft plan'd Stroak, and fo continue your feveral lays of Planeing, till the whole upfide of the Stuff be planed. 

And if the Stuff be broad you are to Plane upon, and it warp a little with the Grain, or be any ways crooked in the breadth, you muft then turn the Grain athwart the Work-bench, and Plane upon the Crofs-grain. For, if your work be hollow in the middle,, you muft Plane both the Bearing fides thinner, till they come to a Try with the middle. Then turn the other fide of your work, and working Hill Crofs-graind, work away the middle, till it come Try with the two fides. 

This way ot Crofs-graind working, is, by Work-men, called Traverfing. 

Thus have you, in general, the ufe of all the other Planes: But the ufe of thofe Planes, that are defigned for other particular purpotes, I fhall fhew, as they come in Order.

Basic Parts of a Wooden Plane

Moxon describes generalized use of the bench plane here however he doesn't make a large distinction between the Fore Plane and the others. I will attempt to clarify this further as we proceed.

With the stuff or lumber placed flat on the bench, Moxon says you must work from one end to the other keeping the plane flat while also pushing down very hard. No excessive force is required with iron planes however the lighter wooden bodied planes of Moxon's time the mass or weight of modern iron and bronze versions. Moxon does not delve as deeply as one may when it comes to applying downward force on the plane as blindly doing so will cause the surface of the board to develop a crown. We will further address this momentarily. He says that if the piece be cross-grain'd it is necessary to spin the board 180 and proceed. What Moxon is referring two by this is grain run out. Some sawn lumbers have multiple directions of grain run out, Sapele for example will have areas of reversing grain making it necessary to reverse your planing in those areas. Another option for difficult or figured grain lumber would be to plain askew or across the grain or to use a higher bevel angle on the iron. The Iron's bevel angle is something he addresses later on. 

Basic Parts of an Iron Plane

Moxon cautions us against letting the plane rock side to side. If this is allowed to happen the resulting surface will not be Try - or jointed. This rocking of the plane, in regards to the face of a board, is most likely when using the Trying plane with its Rank Arched iron so this is a case when muscle memory and keeping the plane's bed flat to an imaginary trying line is very beneficial.  He further states you must make passes with the plane the full length of the board which can require you to step forward as you proceed. The only thing I will add to this is to plant your feet while progressing the plane and stop the plane while stepping forward. This adds better control and less amiss stroke to your technique. 
And if the Stuff be broad you are to Plane upon, and it warp a little with the Grain, - Its a bit confusing but Moxon is referring to a crown across the grain, ie the sides of the board or either higher or lower than the center. This is very typical and seen to a more exaggerated extent on wider boards. He again describes working the plain cross-grain'd however unlike before he is referring to actually going across the grain. Here we are certainly talking about use specific to the Fore Plane. He describes planing across the grain in this fashion to to take away all that is higher than the lowest spot. This is done on both sides but he passes over the concept of co-planer surfaces and leaves that for a later section. When using the Fore Plane across the grain, which he describes as Traversing, it is far more expedient to the end result to begin with the crown down. In this orientation the sides are higher than the middle and makes for easier flattening without following the curve. Eventually the other side will have to be addressed however learning on the hollow side promotes learning and technique building more quickly while also reducing frustration of it. 

 Of the Joynter
The Joymer is made fomewhat longer than the Fore-plane, and hath its Sole perfectly ftraight from end to end, Its Office is to follow the fore-plane, and to fhoot an edge perfectly ftraight, and not only an edge, but also a Board of any thicknefs, especially when a Joynt Is to be fhot. Therefore the Hand muft be carried along the whole length, with an equal bearing weight, and fo exaftly even, and upright to the edges of the Board, that neither fide of the Plane encline either inward or outwards, but that the whole breadth be exaftly fquare on both its fides; fuppofing its fides ftraight: fo will two edges of two Boards, when thus fhot, lie fo exatly fiat and fquare upon one another, that light will not be difcerned betwixt them. But yet it is counted a piece of good Workmanfhip in a Joyner, to have the Craft of bearing his Hand fo curioufly even, the whole length of a long Boards and yet it is but a Height to thofe, Practice hath inur'd the Hand to. The Jcynter is alfo ufed to Try Tables with, ( large or fmall) or other fuch broad Work; and then Joyners work, as well upon the Traverfe with it, as with the Grain of the Wood, and alfo Angularly, or Corner-wife, that they may be the more aflur'd of the flatnefs of their Work.  

Its Iron mult be fet very fne, fo fine, that when you wink with one Eye, and fet that end the ftraight fide of the Iron is next to the other Eye, there appears a little above an hairs breadth of the edge above the Superficies of the fole of the Plane, and the length of the edge mult lie perfectly ftraight with the flat breadth of the fole of the Plane: For the Iron being then well wedg'd up, and you working with the Plane thus fet, have the greater affurance that the Iron cannot run too deep into the Stuff, and confequently you have the lefs danger that the Joynt is wrought out of ftraisht.

The Jointer is a plane of utmost importance. The sole of a plane is it's reference point, the larger and flatter the reference then also the flatter the resulting work will be. This is why for long surfaces we need a long plane. The jointer is the largest of bench planes with the only plane larger being the Cooper's Jointer. The jointer can be used for straightening and jointing a board edge and for jointing the face of a board. Moxon describes the delicate work with a lot of excess pompery but it is true that you must maintain even pressure when using the jointer - or any plane. 
Modern Jointer Planes

The jointer does have subtleties which should be noted during it use. When jointing the edge of a board, the jointer must be kept relatively centered otherwise the plane will naturally take a heavier cut to the side it most hangs over. When done intentionally this can be used to our advantage for squaring the edge of a board to it's face.  

When jointing a flat panel or wide board Moxon says we must Traverse the board as well as work Angularly and with the grain. ie go every direction needed to make the board flat. The more variation of contact of the plane to the panel the flatter overall it will be. We are further cautioned to have the iron set perfectly even in the plane. The large reference area of the Jointer's sole is only effective if the cutting edge of the iron is also parallel to it. Moxon makes it very clear that the Jointer's iron should also be set very finely however this is not desirable in all cases. Match the tool to the work and set the iron a bit ranker until we approach a flat board and retract it for finer cuts. Don't stress over small lines left by the Jointer, those will be removed by the Smoothing Plane.

The Use of the Strike-block.
The Strike-block marked B 3. is a Plane fhorter than the Joynter, having its fole made exaftly flat, and ftraight, and is ufed for the fhooting of a fhort Joynt becaufe it is more handy than the long Joynter. It is alfo ufed for the framing, and fitting the Joynts of Miters and Bevels ', but then it is ufed in a different manner from other Planes: For if the Miter and Bevel you are to fit "be fmall, yon muft hold it very fteddy in your left hand, with the fole of it upwards, and its fore-end towards your right hand : and you muft hold your work in your right hand very fteddy : Then apply the fawn Miter, or fawn Bevel at the end of your Stuff, to the fore-end of the Strike- block, and fo thruft it hard and upright forwards, till it pafs over the edge of the Iron, fo fhall the edge of the Iron, with feveral of thefe thrufts continued, cut, or plane off your stuff the roughnef that the Teeth of your Saw made: But if your work be fo big that you cannot well weild it in your right hand, you mull fet the end of your work in the Bench-fcrew, and Plane upon it with sfmoothing Plane.

Don't let the name confuse you, Moxon's Strike-Block is not what we now call a Block Plane although there is certainly some link in the name. Only reading Moxon one could argue that he is indeed writing about a Block Plane - as we know them. It is a topic of great debate which we shall not spend a tremendous hill of words on. However this definition does emerge again in other places and with a length. Although it's nearly 100 years later, Richard Neve list the Strike-Block as being about 14 inches long in the City and County Purchaser's and Builder's Dictionary. In any case it is safe to assume that the Strike Block is a bevel down plane designed to be used with or without a shoot board to make minor adjustments of joints and joinery. Were the plane Moxon writes about approximately 14 inches long that makes it closet to our modern Jack plane or Stanely Number 5 in size. The Strike-Block plane was likely used in the same manner as both our Jack and the Stanley Number 9 as shown in The Superior Works for moderate fitting and shooting.
The Ufe of the Smoothing-Plane.
The Smoothing-plane marked B 4. muft: have its Iron fet very fine, becaufe its Office is to fmoothen the work from thofe Irregularities the Fore-plane made.

Moxon sure doesn't waste many trees on the Smoothing plane! Its a wonder actually given the romanticism that generally surrounds this little plane. He simply says the mouth must be tight and the iron extremely sharp to remove the traces of the planes that came before. The smoothing planes, with it's delicate gossamer shaving, has long been the Siren, with its song, to woodworkers. Its seducing, really, to render these fine little shavings so it's no wonder that its the topic of poems and song. Nonetheless, Moxon speaks very little of it. I believe this is because Moxon feels he has already covered, though generalized, how to use a bench plane. The truth is, there is little more to be said when those general principles are applied to the smoothing plane. Its small size and thin shaving mean little chance of gouging or tearing a work piece. Still, care must be taken of grain changes and knots. 
Smoothing Planes

One thing that Moxon does not cover, as he has on previous planes, is the grinding of the iron. There is speculation and debate as to how much camber this iron should have and if at all. I do believe that only the slightest of camber easing of the irons corners is desirable and simply to prevent the planes iron from leaving marks that would then require another tool to remove.

- Jean Becnel
L'ébénisterie Créole

© Jean Becnel, 2012. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 

Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

An Acadian Table

History is what shapes the present and for me it is what shapes my furniture!

For me, the best way to understand traditional furniture is to build it. Doing so, with the correct set of tools available, allows you to learn and recreate history on an entirely different level. Surviving pieces have so very much to teach us about the tools, the techniques and even the craftsmen that to over look any subtle details is an injustice.

I did a brief study of a mid to late 19th Century Acadian Table housed at the Tee Joe Museum in Gonzales, LA. It's simple design is typical for the furniture of utility that was quite common in Acadian homes of the South. I did not have the time necessary to truly dissect this piece, it was an initial viewing to establish prominence of the piece. I took plenty of pictures and I will be going back again in the near future for further study.

This Acadian Cypress table measures approx 76-3/4"x37-1/2"x30" with 2-3/4" legs tapering down to 1-1/2".

I am going to share some of those pictures with you here, but stay close! I'll be doing a full Deconstruction / Reconstruction of the table soon... Videography options are being determined at the moment.

Here it is! Notice the simple tapered legs. It is made of Cypress lumber and completely lacking of any profiles or other embellishments.
Here it is! Notice the simple tapered legs. It is made of Cypress lumber and completely lacking of any profiles or other embellishments.
The top is composed of tongue and groove boards a little over 9" wide and secured to the apron using iron nails. I will be doing a little more research on these nails before I comment on them. The table tops apparently was not glued together, hence there being no issues stemming from seasonal wood movements.
The top is composed of tongue and groove boards a little over 9" wide and secured to the apron using iron nails. I will be doing a little more research on these nails before I comment on them. The table tops apparently was not glued together, hence there being no issues stemming from seasonal wood movements.
To one corner of the table you see extensive wear and the marks of a kitchen knife. It would appear this table served double duty as a place to prepare dinner and eat it.
The table's Mortise and Tenon joints are assembled using through pins. Not noticeable in the pictures the pins appear to have been square tapered sort with a glue groove - which would imply hide glue was likely used on these joints. Some of the unclipped pins protrude an inch visible only from under neath the table.

Notice the layout markings.

Close inspection shows layout markings at every joint. You can see a line scribed on all four sides of this leg for marking the top of the mortise. Notice it is not a Table Tenon.

Here you can see the line of the marking gauge struck to mark the tenon of the apron.

It is clearly visible that the mortise was marked with a gauge. It is possible that this was done with a mortise gauge however this is unlikely.

As above, check back as I will be doing a full study and reproduction of this piece in the future.

- Jean

Crosscut Saw Resources

We have, by rough estimation, about 80 two man Crosscut saws, or Passe par-touts (pahs pah too) in colloquial Cajun French, at the Museum. They are everywhere, hanging from the ceilings, nailed to the walls, stacked up on mule carts and lumber buggies... EVERYWHERE. The lumber industry being what it was in Louisiana and the Delta Region in general and the fact that portable chainsaws were only invented in 1925 (by the German company Festo that we now know as Festool - yep the fancy expensive woodworking tool co.) two-man saws were in common use until recently. Every handyman of any salt in Louisiana had some form of crosscut saw.

Like most things hand tools the art of using them, sharpening and caring for these saws is mostly forgotten. There are still some Sawwrights in the US sharpening them - mainly for lumber jack competitions - and they are still used in underdeveloped countries primarily for exotic lumber poaching. As historians and interpreters of agricultural history I think it is important to document these things before they are completely lost. Luckily several US agricultural groups and others have already done this.

It is often that I am asked for help on sharpening these saws, as was the case yesterday, so I decided post a few good resources here to help those looking to get sawing with a passe par-tout

Detailed Guides for Use and Maintenance 

Saws That Sing

Tools for sharpening and setting Crosscut Saws

Brand specific considerations for authenticity and considerations for improved performance
Tooth shapes and patterns for sharpening traditional west coast lance tooth crosscut saws


© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 
Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)