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The Indian DIY & Woodworker

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The Story of my Journey as a Hobbyist Woodworker in IndiaIndranil Banerjienoreply@blogger.comBlogger181125TheIndianDiyWoodworkerhttps://feedburner.google.com
Updated: 59 min 52 sec ago

Hand Tools - Sharpening with Japanese Ceramic Stones

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 5:47am
Blade and Honing Guide


I am a happy man! I have discovered a great regime for sharpening my plane irons and chisels. I use a honing guide, a simple Eclipse type one that costs about a thousand rupees. It takes just a few seconds to fit a blade and the results are consistent and repeatable. I find that if I use the same honing guide and the same angle on a particular blade, the bevel presented to the stone is consistent and requires very little effort to re-sharpen.

My regime requires the use of three moderately expensive Japanese ceramic stones:
the Sigma Power 400 grit (Rs 2900), Sigma Power #1000 (Rs 2200) and a Naniwa Ebi #8000 (Rs 3400). The prices quoted are for stones from toolsfromjapan.com and exclusive of shipping charges.

I follow this procedure for maintenance sharpening:
1. Fit the blade in a honing guide
2. Do initial honing on #400 stone to raise a burr. About 100 strokes.
2. Refine edge on #1,000 stone - 50 strokes
3. Polish edge on #8,000 stone - about 25 strokes

And Voila, the blade is super sharp once again.
Max time 5 minutes.

Japanese Ceramic stones: Sigma Power #1000 (left), Sigma Power #400 (Centre) and Naniwa Ebi #8000 (Right)

The key to this is the Sigma Power 400 stone which cuts like the devil and is way faster than diamond stones or sandpaper. The Sigma stones work exceptionally well with India made plane blades and the harder Chrome Vanadium chisel steels. Indian plane irons are usually if not exclusively made of EN42 steel, also popularly known as Spring steel. It takes forever to sharpen Spring steel blades on sandpaper and Diamond plates too are not great at taking down this steel. Sigma Power appears to have been designed to wear down this steel in no time at all. It is a marvellous piece of work and hugely reduces sharpening time and encourages me to keep my blades razor sharp. It's so easy.

The downside is the cost - buying the three stones will cost about Rs 10,000. Not a small sum to drop on sharpening supplies. But for the serious woodworker there are few alternatives. Sandpaper in the long run is extremely expensive and so are Diamond stones. Clearly there is a cost for maintaining super sharp blades.

Local Indian carpenters get by with a Rs 180 stone - one could go that route and add a strop with polishing compound. I have, however, tested the sharpness of those blades and the ones sharpened with Japanese ceramic stones; there is really no comparison. Local carpenters use a lot of forces while planing and chiselling which is completely unnecessary if the blades are super sharp. There is also the question of the final quality of a planed surface. The grit at which a blade is honed at will determine the smoothness of the planed surface - no question as it is a direct relationship.

Thin shavings can arise only out of the mouth of a super sharp plane

In other words, if someone is going to invest in hand tools for woodworking, I would advise they keep the number of tools to a minimum but spend on good sharpening stones.

It is better to have just three or four hand planes (Jack, Jointer, Smoother and Block) and about 6 chisels of different widths and a set of good stones. It is worth it if you can stop work and re-sharpen for just 5 minutes and then get back on the job.

I have been flattening small 15 inches square panels in between other work and my sharp planes are a huge help. They are quick, clean and satisfying. Nothing like a good sharpening regime!

Indranil Banerjie
11 October 2017
Categories: Hand Tools

How to Cut Accurately

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:30am
I received an email recently from Kaushik Nath, a hobbyist woodworker: "I made a lot of projects with both hand and power tools. What is bothering me is to get perfect squareness. Please suggest how to overcome this problem?"

I had no ready answer, for I too struggle constantly to achieve accuracy and "squareness" in my work.

There is no one way to achieve accuracy; one has to constantly work at it. Perhaps practice and experience makes working more accurate. Today, my work is far more accurate than it was a few years ago although, as I mentioned, I am far from perfect.

Inaccuracies can arise due to various reasons including inaccurate cutting or measuring tools, incorrect marking or measuring, wood movement and so on.

Get accurate measuring tools and be careful about how you measure

A few tips could make cutting and sizing wood more accurate.

1.    Get good measuring tools
Most of us rely on the tape measure, which unfortunately is not always accurate, and this is true of other cheap rulers, squares and so on. I prefer to use folding rules when I need to measure something for cutting. When choosing rulers and squares the best are the "satin chrome" ones because they are easy to read and non-reflective. When marking, place the edge of the rule on the work to avoid parallax.

Instead of relying an a tape masure for accurate measurement switch to a rule of some king

2.    Gang up your pieces
When I need to cut two pieces to the exact same length, I find it easier to gang up the two pieces by clamping them together and cutting them at one go. This is better than measuring each piece individually and cutting them one by one.

When marking or cutting two identical pieces, gang them up

3.    Use a Marking Knife and Gauge
For joinery always use sharp gauges and marking knives and not rely on pencil marks.

Good quality marking tools such as a marking gauge and knife are essential

4.    Use a hand Plane
A saw is often not a tool for fine work. Even a circular saw with guides can be a few millimetres off; a cross cut might not turn out to be perfectly square. The best way to fix minor inaccuracies is with a sharp hand plane. A shooting board can guarantee squareness more accurately than even the average chop saw.

5.    Check for square
Once your pieces have been cut, check each one for squareness on all sides. At times, I have been frustrated by joining pieces of plywood that are not perfectly square and ending up with twisted or ill-fitting assemblies. Don't assume that plywood cuts are square - only two sides (top and bottom) are parallel to each other but the sides and ends are often not square or perfectly flat. Double check and fine tune with a hand plane if necessary.

Keep a large saw of some kind at hand to check for square at every stage

6.Correct bows and Sags
Board material especially plywood is prone to bowing, cupping and sagging. An unnoticeable bow can cause problems of squareness and ill-fitting joints. These problems can be corrected by clamping a straight piece of wood to the bowed piece prior to measuring, cutting or assembly.

If a board bows its length will decrease; adjust for this or try to straighten the piece

7.    Repair Errors
Gaps, misalignments, protuberances and so on can all be corrected with a bit of imagination. I do not hesitate to fill gaps with wood slivers and glue when needed and often plane down protruding sides. Thin sheets of wood can be glued on to misaligned parts and then planed down to produce the desired surface. Fixing errors is part of the woodworker's craft and rather fun too.

I hope this post helps Kaushik Nath. Good luck to him .

Indranil Banerjie
18 September 2017


Categories: Hand Tools

How to Cut Tenons Accurately

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 3:51am

I finally figured out how to cut tenons accurately. After more than a couple of years trying, I might add! And thanks entirely to master craftsman and teacher Paul Sellers (paulsellers.com).

Cutting mortises with a relatively sharp chisel was something I had picked up a while ago. Hand cut mortises are quick, easy and accurate. I found I had more control cutting them by hand than with a router that could deviate ever so slightly and ruin the mortise.

The secret of cutting mortises by hand is accurate marking. If the mortise is marked clearly and matches the width of the chisel that is going to be used to cut it then the mortise will be accurate ninety-nine times out of hundred. The knife marks needless to add should be reasonably deep and straight. The chisel does the rest of the work.

Chopping a mortise by hand is quick but needs careful markling

An inch-deep mortise shouldn't take more than a few minutes to chop. I have found that a good thick mortising chisel also ensures the mortise walls are straight as the chisel can safely be pivoted inside the mortise to clean up the walls.

Tenons are another matter altogether. They need to be fettled so that they go in straight, align properly and are flush when you want them to be.

For years I thought the answer to cutting the perfect tenon lay in getting the right saw. I tried a couple Western saws, including a fine brass backed English saw and a number of Japanese saws.

I watched innumerable videos on sawing tenons and how you had to start sawing on one edge, then drop the saw and so on. It worked, sort of but most times I wasn't getting the best fit straight off the saw.

Then, watched a Paul Seller's woodworking video and realized that one wasn't supposed to cut on the line and get a perfectly fitting tenon just by sawing. Damn! I had been doing it wrong all along.

First test Tenon

Mr Sellers shows that one is supposed to cut slightly away from the line - perhaps a millimetre or so away. This results in a slightly fatter tenon that will not readily fit the mortise.

The next task is to pare down the cheeks evenly with a chisel or preferably a router plane till it fits. This worked the first time I tried it. Perfectly. And what a great feeling.

Perfect Fit

The problem with theoretical learning is that you often don't get the small details that matter. I have never worked with a professional cabinet maker; far less learnt from one. What I have picked is from books and Youtube videos.

Mr Sellers in my view is the only online teacher who provides every little detail of various processes and methods of work. Hobbyist woodworkers would benefit enormously by watching his videos closely.

Indranil Banerjie
7 August 2017
Categories: Hand Tools

Benefits of Being on a Budget

Sat, 07/15/2017 - 11:55pm

My Tools Cabinets: One for hand planes and the other for chisels

The title of this blog post is taken from an observation made by my friend Mike Zeller, who lives in Colorado, United States. Mike is helping me locate a few used hand tools, which I might someday manage to ship to India.

I have been telling him about how I don't have too much money these days to throw around at expensive tools and how great it would be if he could find me something cheap and in decent working condition.

Many Indians would be surprised to know that there are more excellent old tools in use in Western countries than here. Out here we don't have a tradition of collecting tools at home and even if we do, we dispose them off to the Kabariwalla once they are old and rusted.

In the West, on the other hand, old tools, especially hand tools, are often handed down over the years or sold to another generation. There are literally thousands of old woodworking tools, including thousands of excellent Stanley Bailey style planes, still circulating there. Some of these tools command high prices because of their vintage value; sometimes you can get them for a song.

Every now and then someone there stumbles upon a cache of rusted old tools left behind by a long-departed soul, and passes them on. People get lucky and can chance upon a fine tool that hasn't been touched by a working hand for decades.

It is very satisfying to know that many old but superbly crafted hand tools can and have lasted for a century and more; they have a life beyond ours!

Mike and I have been discussing various woodworking issues over email in recent weeks and he once remarked: "I think we are both on a budget of a certain amount, which for me is good because it forces me to be extremely creative about solving problems and doing much work myself."

His comment made me reflect on how my views on tools have changed over the years. Several years ago, when I closed down my consultancy, I got a lumpsum payment, a lot of which I spent on woodworking tools, mainly power tools because at that time I thought power tools were the way to go. Many of those tools today are lying unused.

These days I look at online stores selling power tools of all kinds and feel amused; if this was a few years ago I would be thinking how to get hold of some of them. Today, it seems such a waste to buy tools worth thousands of rupees that will become obsolete in a few years and newer better models will be out to entice buyers.

It is an endless process that consumes consumers. So much better to buy hand tools preferably old ones that will last a lifetime and do the job often better than all those shiny, expensive power tools.

I feel it is better to have fewer tools, only the ones really needed for the job and most of all to take good care of what one has. Tuning, oiling and sharpening included. A few really sharp well-tuned hand saws, planes and chisels can get almost everything done.

A tight budget also serves to accentuate the worth of what one has, instead of the perpetual round of wondering if one has missed out on the latest tool, the latest deal and so on.

Nowadays, I mostly concentrate on building things rather than on tools themselves. The process is getting more and more interesting as I find myself gradually but steadily getting sucked into it. This week, I spent most of an entire day cutting hinge mortises and adjusting the fit of the doors for my plywood tools cabinet.


The one on the right was completed today and my chisels are in place

It took time but was good time spent listening to some old '30s and '40s Jazz and chiselling away. The hinges took time to fix and required adjustments to get the doors to hang right with about the right amount of reveal and so on.

The cabinet is finally ready and mounted on the wall. The door knobs have been attached and a chisel racks added. I have applied a couple of coats of Shellac but need to sand it down, apply another 3/4 coats and then rub it down to knock off the shiny parts to get a nice even tone.

This cabinet is bound to make a difference to my working, since till now my chisels were in boxes and a hassle to get out every time when I want to do something. I have a similar cabinet for my most used hand planes and having them at arm's reach speeds up things a lot.

Ninety per cent of my hand tools now fit into two wall cabinets, one small cabinet with drawers and a sideboard while the saws hang on the door. Everything is at hand, ready to go. But hey, there's always room for a few more tools!

Indranil Banerjie
16 July 2017

Most of my saws hang on a door, ready when I need them!

Categories: Hand Tools