Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Veritas Plow Plane is Groovy, Man

OMGOMGOMG I just got the Veritas "Small Plow Plane" today and it is awesome.  I know, the entire internet has been telling you this since it came out, but this time it's true.  Five minutes after I got it out of the box I made the most perfect groove ever in the edge of a piece of pine.  Crisp, square edges all around, nice and straight, with an even depth.

Cleaner than a router table
It was quick, and clean, and quiet and all those other great things people are always babbling about hand tools - except this was easy.  I've watched videos of other people using plow planes (Roy!) so I had a clue what I was doing, but unlike sawing, chiseling, or nearly any other thing I might do at the bench, this required no learning curve on my part.  The finesse is apparently cast right into the steel.  Sweet.

Since I'm in Veritas fanboy mode, allow me to continue...  I don't like buying tools without putting my hands on them, even if everyone says they're awesome, because I just don't know if they'll fit me.  Veritas has a big booth at The Woodworking Shows, which are otherwise mostly dominated by big buckets of Chinese-manufactured goods, sadly.  It's too bad they don't do something classy like Lie-Nielsen does with their Hand Tool Events.  Would it be too much to ask for them to travel together?  Now THAT would be a hand tool event, especially if they brought along other independent makers like Blue Spruce and Bad Axe.  Anyway, I went last weekend, and got to try out their Skew Rabbet Plane and several other tools that I've been looking at for a long time.  Guess what's coming in the mail in a week or so!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Budget Moxon Vise

All the cool kids are building "Moxon vises" these days.  Actually, the cool kids built them several years ago, and I'm finally getting around to it.  It's basically a fixture to hold workpieces up a little off the bench, and especially to hold boards up vertically for dovetailing.  I've got quite a few drawers to build in the near future, so it's time.

I don't need to build a big one with $150 worth of (admittedly very sweet) hardware like you can get from Benchcrafted or similar.  I built mine with 2x6 lumber left over from a construction project, and $12 worth of hardware from the local Ace Hardware.  It works great, and unlike other "budget" Moxon vise plans I've seen, I'm not ignoring the cost of the expensive hardwood scraps that people use for the body.  I could have picked up a kiln-dried 2x6x8' stud from the local home center and built this thing for $15 as long as I also used that stud to make the handles.  The handles are long to cover the nuts, but also to cover the end of the bolt threads.  There isn't any metal exposed on the front of this thing to ding your tools or yourself on.

The $15 Moxon Vise

I used a couple of 1/2" x 5" carriage bolts to provide the clamping force, with long coupler nuts inserted into turned wooden handles for leverage.  The only little innovation to this design are some springs over the screws that push the jaws open when you loosen them.  With this setup, clamping depth ranges from 0" to about 1 5/8", and if I need more for some reason, I can just swap out some longer carriage bolts.

I milled the lumber down a bit by machine to make it square and prettier, and then used a hand plane to ease the edges and chamfer the upper front.  I clamped the two vise jaws together and drilled a 5/8" hole in the center a few inches from each end.  Then, I countersunk a 7/8" x 1/2" deep mortise around each hole with a forstner bit, using a scrap of oak to center it over the through hole.  The depth of both mortises together should be just a bit more than the length of your spring when it's fully compressed so that the jaws can close completely.

I glued a 2x4x20" base to the rear jaw, to give me something to clamp the vise down with and make the base wider for stability.  Either hold-downs in dog holes behind the vise or clamps at the front of the bench make for a secure setup.

I turned some 2" square x 3" cherry stock into simple handles at the lathe, drilled a 1/2" hole almost all the way through them, and then chiseled that hole a bit to fit a 1/2" coupling nut.  The length makes for a good friction fit into the wooden handle, with lots of bearing surface so the wood doesn't wobble or strip out.

I wiped on a coat of Watco, which, along with Zinnser shellac products, are my go-to finishes for most shop projects.

Detailed parts list:
1/2 x 5 carriage bolts, 2ea
1/2 flat washers, 2ea
1/2 coupling nut (1-3/4" long), 2ea
3-1/4" x 3/4"dia x 0.050 wire spring.  With firm finger pressure (~5lbs) it compresses fully to 3/4" length.

the hardware I used for my cheap Moxon vise
18 x 5-1/4 x 1-3/8, 2ea jaws
22 x 3-1/8 x 1-3/8, 1ea base
1-3/4 dia x 3 for handles.  If you don't have a lathe, you could use large dowels, or cut the corners off a piece of square stock to make octagonal handles.  The larger the diameter, the more leverage you can apply to the vise, but you don't need a lot.

I just finished using it to make a small dovetailed cedar box, and I've got a modification in mind already.  I typically cut tails first then I want to clamp the pin board in the vise and hold the tail board perpendicularly to mark the waste on the end.  I usually just hold it down by hand, but any small movements can make for some ugly gaps.  So, when my new plow plane comes in the next week or so, I think its first task is going to be to make a groove in the upper part of the rear jaw for a clamping shelf just below the upper edge.  That, combined with a little support device (aka block of scrap) will let me clamp the mating board down securely so I can concentrate on accurate marking.  This is a feature found on many of these devices, but I didn't build it originally because I was trying to keep it as simple as possible.