Okay, I’ll admit I tend to be pretty obsessive (my principal said “anal”) but I tell myself if it doesn’t kill me in the end I’ll be stronger. I suppose that helps explain my running history that saw lots of 50 and 100 mile mountain runs. Enough of that, lets get into this latest project that has become all consuming and much more involved than I thought it would be. It all started when I purchased a couple of pieces of Flamed Oak from Northwest Woodworks of Arizona from their booth at the Mesa Woodcarving show earlier this year. I had never seen wood with this type of grain and thought it would be a good piece for a future project — a box never entered my mind at that time!
So that’s the beginning, fast forward to me breaking down and purchasing a Veritas small plow plane from Lee Valley. I blogged about my previous misadventure with this plane here but since they fixed the depth stop problem and Lie-Nielsen still hasn’t put theirs into production I decided to get it and like it just fine! So put these two events together and you end up with the decision to use this spectacular piece of wood to make a proper box for the plow plane. As a rule, I like to hang my planes for easy access but the plow plane has a set of blades that I felt belonged together.
Another plane on my wish list was to replace to remedy the aggravation I’d had with my old Stanley #78. This is the Veritas skewed rabbet plane shown here sitting among the boards of Flame Oak for the box to be! I use the Stanley 140 trick for all of my drawer and box construction. It’s been written up in Fine Woodworking and I did this blog on it a long time ago. Lately I’d cut the shoulder on the tablesaw but that really wasn’t the safest way to go about it. So I’m not getting any younger and woodworking is my passion so decided to bite the bullet and purchase this plane hoping that it would do the same work as a pair of the 140’s plus have a depth stop. The blade is 1 1/2″ wide so I’ll be able to raise panels with it as well. Let me add my 2 cents about Veritas vs. Lie-Nielsen. In my opinion, L-N is a superior tool; I say that based on their finish, tight tolerances in threaded parts, and over-all quality. I’ve had students that bring their Veritas tools and there’s just something about them that doesn’t feel right in my hands. Perhaps that’s because I grew up using Stanley and at 67 my habits and perceptions are set. All that being said, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending either one of these Veritas planes to anyone.
Let’s start on this project. First obstacle was the size, the boards weren’t tall enough to contain the plane so had to go into “board stretcher” mode. The grain on this wood had so much variation that it was not a problem trying to match the pattern. For glue ups like this my choice is always Gorilla Glue, it has proven to be the easiest to clean up and never have had a joint fail. Once the pieces were sized it was time to begin the joinery. Dovetails were my first choice and believe me when I tell you; this wood is tough! When I bought these boards they referred to it as Fire Oak due to the way the grain pattern looks but when your plane is on it it actually sounds more like you’re scraping the blade across a piece of concrete! Almost more like working a burl than working a board. I have a Powermatic planer with a carbide, helical cutter head which handles the face grain well, plus a smooth plane performs well on it too. To square the edges the rough work was done with a #7 Jointer Plane which left an okay finish. Follow up with a Jack Plane with a super tight mouth gave an acceptable edge.
The first step was creating that rabbeted shoulder for the Stanley 140 trick using the newly purchased skewed rabbet plane. After playing around with it on soft woods I was ready to give it a try — did I mention planing concrete! The plane cut but the sounds made during the process made me fear for the life of the cutting edge so choose to go into my hybrid woodworking mode by using the tablesaw to bring the rabbet close to size and then the plane to complete it, that was the winning combination. In the right hand picture the lid is being rabbeted.
Believe me, after 2 attempts I was convinced that dovetailing the Flame Oak wasn’t going to happen. I had very little problem making the saw cuts but removing the waste between the tails and then trying to chop out the pin boards proved to be undoable (is that a word?). With that beautiful burl like grain going in every which direction a smooth chop or cut didn’t seem possible. The chisels were re-sharpened and honed but to no avail. Each attempt took almost 3/4″ off the length of the boards so I knew I needed to go to plan B which was to rabbet the corners and use dowels to hold them together — I’ll save that for the next blog.