hand plane technique

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I just finished building a new workbench - an exact copy of the joiner's bench from Sam Allen's workbench book. I knew going in that the bench wasn't going to be the crown jewel of benches. I went for utility and economy. I built the top out of 3 laminated layers of 3/4" MDF and a top skin of 1/4" masonite. The base is just douglas fir 4x4's and 2x4's, held together with truss rods. It's very rigid and sturdy - just not very heavy. I spent my money on a couple of good vises - a Record 52 1/2 front vise and a Vertias twin-screw end vise. (I still have to install the twin-screw vise, actually).
Anyway, I calculated the weight of the bench to be about 215 lbs. I compared this on paper to what I would have had if I made the whole thing out of hard maple with a 2.75" thick top and a hard maple base and I came up with about 250 lbs. So, even though I'm not using primo materials, the weight difference doesn't appear to be as drastic as I thought.
My problem is that I when took my bench for a test drive I had some problems. I have a big slab of hard maple that is going to become the vise faces for the Veritas vise, as well as the Record vise. It is 2.75" x 8" x 60". I clamped it in the front vise on one edge, and used bench dogs and a hold down in my board jack holes to hold it securely along the front edge of the bench. I then took my Clifton #6 and set it for a pretty thin cut and started planing one edge. Things went pretty good, but I clearly need to practice my planing technique. Then I started to get some catches. I would be applying a lot of lateral force and then hit a snag or something and the whole bench would move. I should say, I'm a pretty big guy and so I can get a lot of momentum (which I always thought was a good thing when hand planing). At any rate, having the whole bench chatter across the floor was not a good thing. I tried adjusting the plane and couldn't get it much better. I then used my Steve Knight razee jack plane, and the Steve Knight smoother and had similar things happen.
So, I guess my question is can this problem (i.e. getting "snags") be eliminated if I just knew better how to adjust my planes? Is it something to do with my technique that is causing these problems? Is hard maple not a good first choice to practice hand planing with?
I will say that the bench is going to be a wonderful tool. It sure beats the hell out of the workmate that I had used in the past hehe. I just hate finishing (well, almost) a project and then finding out I need to upgrade it right off the bat.
Mike
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[...]
That's why my bench which is currently under construction will have only one leg and rests on iron angles bolted to the walls of the corner of the workshop which it occupies. That way i do not need to make it infinitely heavy and yet have it immobile, the leg on the free corner allows to hammer down on it also.
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Dr. Juergen Hannappel http://lisa2.physik.uni-bonn.de/~hannappe
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My bench top is supported by a ledger on the wall and 5 pieces of plywood. The two ends, and 3 pieces for the 2 center sections to hold the drawer slides. At each end is an open area to hold 2 Mac tool cabinets (not chests or roll cabs -- just "extra storage" side mount cabinets made to attach to a roll cab). The top is 2 pieces of 3/4" MDF laminated together, topped with 1/4 Masonite and trimmed in poplar (I was too cheap to use maple). The drawer fronts are Baltic birch, again because I was too cheap to use maple.
All of that sits on a base made of 2x4's covered with plywood. That assembly is anchored to the floor. I love overkill!
dave
Juergen Hannappel wrote:

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Hi Mike,
I've got the opposite problem. My bench (also 3/4 MDF times 2, with 1/4 masonite top) is solid as a rock. The problem is the cheapy ($35) vise that I can't get to hold wood solidly enough. I ended up making maple faces about 3 x 7 and tapered them a bit so that the top was closer together. Even when I reef on the handle (too short in my opinion) as hard as I can I can move a several foot board if I push on it. How do you like the Record vise and what model and cost?
How about putting a couple of sturdy angle iron brackets on the legs and drill holes in the floor for anchoring the bench?
dave
Mike in Mystic wrote:

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That's push on the unclamped end, i guess. The solution to this problem is having that end of the board supported by either a "bench slave" or a peg protruding from a hole in the benches leg. Clamping so hard that a long board can't be moved is not a good idea since the lever arm provided by the length of the board give so much force that you would seriously dent the board at the vise.
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after your post today, (and Mike's) I tried two simple methods and they work fine. I used a roller stand and then I tried just clamping a piece of wood to the top of the bench so it protrudes out far enough for the work piece to rest on it. Then I pushed down on the more gently clamped workplace; problem solved! The only vises I'd ever used before were metal vises for auto work and everything was always clamped tiiiiight!
The solution is always easy when you know the answer!
dave
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Hi Dave,
I have the Record 52 1/2 quick-release front vise. It has a 9" jaw width and 13" maximum opening. It's pretty solid and works great thus far. The quick-release feature is a great thing. I got mine on a close-out at woodcraft for $85. I don't think you can get them there anymore, but they probably sell some "economy" version. Lee Valley still sells the real thing, but they're $139. If I were you, I'd go for the 53, which has 10.5" wide jaws and a 15" opening for $149.
So, how did you get your bench to be solid as a rock? Is it a free-standing bench or a wall-mounted one? Your idea about bolting it to the floor is an idea, but my shop is in the garage and I'm not sure how long we're going to stay in this house, so putting holes in the garage floor might be a bad idea, although I'm sure I could fill them in easily enough if need be. I might just put a bunch of bags of sand or something on the shelf to weigh it down.
Mike
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My bench is attached to the wall, so it's not "movable". I can (and did) stand on it (I'm 216#), or jump up and down on it with nary a noticeable deflection or groan (from the bench, that is!).
Yes, you can easily fill in the holes in the floor with that quick setting cement you buy in a small box (no need to cart home a 60# bag of cement). Anchoring it to the floor should rid it of the heebie jeebies.
Maybe I should drive up 50 miles to Woodcraft today and look at the Record vise. I can always return the POS I bought yesterday and chalk up the time wasted on it to "learning"! At least I passed up the Buck Brothers low angle block plane. I took a look at it while getting the clips at Southern Lumber yesterday. I couldn't even release the movable mouth. I took the knurled knob off completely and tried to rotate the adjuster. It was jammed, so I gave up and made a mental note that cheap is usually crappy. Like the stupid vise I thought I could get away with. sigh.
thanks for the info on the Record.
Could you tell how long the handle is? I hope it's longer than the one I'm thinking of returning. I looked in the Woodcraft catalog. they don't mention handle length. thanks, Mike
dave
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I don't think Woodcraft has the Record vises anymore, so you should call before you make the drive.
I think the handle is about the same width as the jaw faces - about 9" in my case. I haven't used it that much, but I have no trouble at all getting the vise tight.
Mike
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I believe CB Tool in San Jose, CA. had them last time I stopped by.
scott
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 16:19:31 GMT, "Mike in Mystic"

I store the heaviest stuff I have, in MDF cabinets, with doors, under my bench. I estimate the cabinets and contents to add 250-300 pounds to the bench.
What's heavy? MDF Scary Sharp panels, a pail of water with waterstones in it, a bench grinder, full bottles of finishing materials and glues, etc...
Barry
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A couple of thoughts Mike,
Do all four legs rest evenly on the floor? Even though they are touching the floor does not mean they are evenly distributing the weight. That might let the bench skip a bit under a side load.
Second, I think I remember seeing early pics of your bench and it had heavy crossmembers spanning the legs. Load those suckers up with ballast. For me that is usually chocked full of scraps of hardwood and exotics that I don't want, or can't bear to throw away. You could use some bags of sand or redi-mix.
My bench must move occasionally to get projects in or out, so I would not bolt it down or to a wall. Might work for you though. I'd like to suggest something high friction between the legs and the floor, but don't know just what that would be at the moment.
-- Bill Pounds http://www.bill.pounds.net/woodshop

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ah, were you thinking of 2 pieces of sandpaper, glued back-to-back?
Bolting to the floor, with brackets would involve removing 2 or 4 bolts on the arguably rare occasion to move the bench. From his posts so far, it seems as a stable bench is his desire, which would necessitate bolting it down. Hell, I can put a half ton of stuff in my truck, but it'll still motorvate down the freeway! :)
dave
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Should you cast bullets for reloading, the lead would be a perfect weight for the bench.
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 20:13:04 GMT, "Pounds on Wood"

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Yes, I do, and yes it would, but the lead found a home in the bottom of my gun safe.
As for the bench, after reflecting on it, I would probably try pads cut from an auto tire. That grips concrete pretty well :-)
I suppose bolting is the best bet, but I just could not bring myself to drill holes in the floor of my brand new gar>>shop. Particularly since the ideal shop layout puts the bench right in the center of the room IMHO, or anywhere not adjacent to a wall.
-- Bill Pounds http://www.bill.pounds.net/woodshop
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As a guess, possible problems...
1) blade isn't as sharp as it needs to be;
2) plane set to take too thick a shaving
3) chip breaker too far back from end of the blade
I've found that when I really have to reef on a plane it's one of the above.
djb
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Good suggestions, and probably a little of all of them are playing a role here. I did make sure to set the chip breaker only about 1/16" from the blade edge. Is this not a good placement? I'll have to double-check that it is fully seated along its width.
I found that most of the "checking" ocurred about 12-18" from the end of the board, so maybe the chip-breaker is getting clogged? Should I open the mouth up to allow clearance for these shavings? Man, I realize I have almost no instinct for this stuff hehe. Glad I'm still young enough that maybe in 10 years I'll be halfway decent so I can convince my son I know one or two things about woodworking haha.
Mike
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That should be right. You merntioned chatter as a problem, so I wondered about that particular issue.

Another thought, if the problem is near the end of the board... Are you moving your qhole body as you plane, or extending your arms?
If the latter, perhaps you're lifting the front of the plane slightly at the end of your stroke, without realizing it.
djb
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Mike,
IME, if the chip breaker is clogging -- you'll know it. Either the whole 'shaving' will catch at the breaker, and sort of pile up, rather than spill out, or you'll get little bits of dust/shaving caught up under the breaker -- it's all pretty obvious, and bad.
Regards, JT
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wrote:

Good advice. I'll add that you should read the grain and plane in so that the grain rises to the surface in the direction you are planing. With practice you should be able to read the grain correctly at least half the time.
Or, if you catch or snag, try planing in the opposite direction. Skewing the plane can help too.
Curly figure is common in maple, if it is even a little bit curly it can be tough to plane because the grain will alternately dive and rise along the edge of the board.
Poplar planes easier than anything else I've tried. Beech has been the toughest -- it's like trying to make shavings from hard rubber.
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