Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cellular PVC vs. The Stanley 55 Plane

Cellular PVC is a synthetic wood-like product for outdoor applications that is rot resistant and can be milled similar to wood. There are several different manufacturers. The manufacturer claims that the product can be milled, cut, routed and finished with standard woodworking tools.

I needed to make an exact copy of some base trim moulding for a newel post.  Even H. G. Wells probably never envisioned that the Stanley 55, a contemporaneous steam-punk style moulding plane of his era, could be used a century later to mill mouldings on artificial wood.


  • No knots
  • No worry for grain direction...there is none
  • No rot

  • Plastic dust (I wore a respirator even when working this material by hand)
  • Difficult to make paper thin passes with the plane, although the thicker shavings left a fairly smooth surface
  • Thinner shavings sometimes don't pop off the wood. If you generate enough heat, that residual shaving can meld itself back on the piece when working with the moulding plane.
To make the moulding, two different cutters for the 55 plane were combined. But, the profiles did not quite match. The plan was to match as much of the pattern as possible and finish up with a scratch stock. The profile was traced on both ends of the board. The first cut was made with the board vertical in the vise, working from the edge of the board, with the reverse ogee cutter #84 tilted to about 30° using both fences as described in a prior post. This produced the upper cove and upper half of the upper bead. The stock was then worked from the face for the lower bead with the hollow cutter #44. Finally, the scratch stock finished the profile.

Two different cutters were used. The top cutter was worked from the edge using both fences. This gave a crisp clean cut.
The lower bead was worked from the face with the board clamped face side up.

Take thin passes for nice shavings

Second bead

Working the board with a scratch stock

Overall, the cellular PVC was workable with hand planes and can provide surprisingly satisfactory results, especially considering this will be for outdoor use. The product I used for the final trim was from Azek. I had another leftover piece that was smooth on all four sides from another manufacturer (Veranda brand?) for the initial trial cut that has a wood like color, rather than the white color through and through , that seemed to give a cleaner result, but I could not find this material nearby.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Modified Fence For The Stanley 55 Plane

Revamping the Stanley 55

A couple of posts back, the Stanley 55 plane's capabilities were expanded with angled fences.  As mentioned earlier, the rosewood portion of the right fence can be unscrewed and flipped over to assist with angled cuts so that both fences can be used for truer cuts.  The right fence can only be positioned to about 30-35° with the flip-over modification. But what if you need more angulation on the fence?

A fence can quickly be fashioned with the Stanley 55 plane itself using a fluting cutter and rabbet cutter. 

Pear wood

Here, the old fence is shown.
The only major difference with the new fence is that the more protruding top edge
will be  planed away as seen in the next photo.

Modified right fence now installed (left side of photo) allows for a steeper tilt of the plane
 to a full 45° to compliment the left fence's capabilities. 

If the standard right fence was used without the flip-over modification, 
the face of the fence would be pointing downwards and only the inside upper corner 
would make contact, rather than the face itself.

If the right rosewood fence was removed and flipped upside down relative to its own metal fence,
the fence could tilt to about 30-35°.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Stanley 55 Plane: Power Point

For fellow Western PA Woodworkers, here are the slides that accompanied the talk.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Expanding The Stanley 55's Capabilities With Angled Fences

Here is a tip you won't find in the Stanley 55 plane's manual for making angled or chamfered cuts.

In the wooden moulding plane parlance, a plane tilted off vertical is sprung, and its angle is known as the spring angle. Springing on wooden moulding planes decreased the amount of metal on the iron that needed to be ground away to create the profile. With wooden moulding planes, some contend that a tilt of the plane also helps to keep the plane running true since a diagonal downward force will both push the built-in fence against the stock and allow for cutting at the same time.

 Horizontal and vertical spring angle lines, seen just above
the profile, indicate the proper tilt of the plane

Figure 69, below, from the Stanley 55's manual shows a method for angled mouldings. The ability to angle the 55's profiles vastly improves your options when recreating mouldings. Unfortunately, this angled moulding is easier said than done with the Stanley 55 with the setup shown in the manual. Unlike its wooden plane counterpart, the Stanley 55's weight tends to veer the plane off course when it is "sprung", especially with steeper angles.

Each wooden fence can be positioned from a vertical position to a maximum angle of 45° downward relative to its own metal fence. Angling the left fence, to let's say 30°, will tilt the main body of the plane to the left (when viewed from the operators standpoint behind the plane) and the cutter 30° from vertical. These angled cuts can be a bit tricky, especially with the steeper angle as the plane has a tendency to slip off course. Why not just use the right fence in tandem with the left? Well, you would need to point the rosewood fence 30° upward relative to its own metal fence. Unfortunately, this can't be done with the way the fence is screwed in. The fence can only be directed downward.

The rosewood fence can be removed off of the metal portion of the fence by unscrewing the set screws and flipping the fence upside down. Be careful not to loose the cylindrical nuts. Once the right fence is flipped upside down, the fence can be angled appropriately upward by loosening the set screws. Having the use of the dual fences greatly improves consistency.

Loosening the 2 set screws on each fence allows the fence to be angled. 
The screws can be removed (keep an eye on the cylindical 
nuts so that they do not get lost) and the fence can be flipped upside down.

These are both right fences. The fence on the left is in its normal orthoganal position. The fence in the right of the photo has its rosewood fence flipped over to allow it to be angled more skyward relative to the metal portion of the fence.This can only be done by removing the fence and flipping it over.

The left fence (to the right in the photo) is angled downward and the right fence is angled upward.
You may be able to set the fence angles while they are mounted on the rods so that the faces are easier to set parallel.

Here the plane is returned back to its standard vertical orientation.
This is the cutter used 
for angled and
vertical profiles shown

The moulding on the left was created with a steep angle,
while the one on the right was made with the plane vertical.

Another setup this time using a straight cutter angled to about 35°

The right fence flip-over trick can get you to about 35°. Another option to think about is making your own custom fence to accommodate angled mouldings for a full 45° tilt...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sliding Dovetails With The Stanley 55 "Saw Plane"

The sliding dovetail joint is useful in securing drawer blades to the sides of a chest or connecting legs in a pedestal configuration. It has a mechanical advantage over a dado joint and can draw bowed case sides straight.  The joint could be glued in one area to allow for expansion along the width of a board.

I try to give a hand tool method first dibs over a power tool, but for accuracy and time, sliding dovetails are so much easier with a router. However, there are times when you may still need to resort to hand tools, for example, with narrow stock where the router bit is just too wide.

There are two hand tool methods that I use (these are my methods and may not be the best or classic method) to make the tail/male portion for sliding dovetails.

Firstly, my clunky home-made, but serviceable dovetail plane makes fairly quick work in creating sliding dovetails. For this, I make the female portion first and creep up on the fit when making the dovetail portion. 

Dovetail plane

Another option is using the Stanley 55 "Saw Plane" described in the last post. Many sliding dovetails are cut cross grain. A saw tends to give a cleaner cut than a plane crossgrain, even if the plane is equipped with a spur or nicker, without fear of tearout.

Here is the set up for the Stanley 55 "Saw Plane" for a sliding dovetail:

Dovetail set 1:6 or about 10°

A depth stop adapter, angled 10° from horizontal,
 is attached to the existing 55's depth gauge.
The depth stop is attached to the 10° angled wedge.

Loosen the screws that secure the rosewood fence to the metal portion of the fence to allow the fence to be angled.

While pushing down on the depth stop, slide the fence against the face of the board.
Reach in with a screwdriver while still in postion and tighten the fence angle set screws. This should create a perfect right angle between the bottom of the depth stop and the rosewood fence. The plane body will be angled 10° from vertical. The saw should not be in place yet during this step. 

Remove left fence. Place saw blade on rods.
Slide second runner and tighten up against saw blade. Replace left fence.

Cut to desired depth with help from the depth stop.
Ensure that the left fence is flush against the face of the board when planing/sawing (plawing?)

Now for the setup for a cross grain cut.
Use the straight depth stop adapter.

Cross grain cut.
The cut is essentially the same as cutting a tenon shoulder.

That Rube Goldberg School of Woodworking method was the easy part. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a foolproof method to make the housing or female portion to accept the sliding dovetail without an electric router. Has anyone had any luck with the wallet lightening Stanley 444 or the Bridge City HP-6V2 dovetail planes?

I use the sawing with an angled guide method with some success. The one unacceptable mistake is to make the groove too wide.  If the groove is too narrow, it can be widened with a side rabbet plane or some material from the dovetail can be removed with a scratch stock.

Stair Saw angled to 10° using the semi-eyeball method.

Alternatively, this angled fence could be clamped down to serve as a guide.

Chisel out the bulk of the waste.

Router plane

Removing slivers with a Stanley side rabbet plane

Cleaning up a portion of the dovetail with an angled scratch stock.

Decent fit, but certainly not as accurate as machine cut.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Meaning of Hybrid Woodworking: The Stanley 55 "Saw Plane"?

Resawing boards by hand is tough work and it can be especially frustrating when the saw drifts off course ruining the workpiece. To better guide the saw, a cutting gauge can be used to score lines around the edges of the board. The deeper the groove, the more likely the saw will follow a straight course. But, a cutting gauge can only cut so far. If you can combine a saw with a fenced hand plane, then cuts along the edge will stay true. 

Introducing...The Stanley 55 Saw Plane. It kerfs. It dovetails. It rabbets. 

Similar saw/plane hybrids have been made before. There is the rabbet saw, described in Alvin Sellens' Dictionary of American Hand Tools, which was useful for accurate cross grain cuts with its fence for guidance. Eric Sloane's, A Museum of Early American Tools, also describes a rabbet saw which has an adjustable fence and resembling a moving fillister plane. Another variation was described in the Manuel de l'outillage des arts et m├ętiers as la scie pour rainures, or a grooving saw, which contains two parallel adjustable width saw blades. Finally, Tom Fidgen's Unplugged Workshop shows how to create a stunning wooden version, called a kerfing plane, and some of its uses.

A Rabbet Saw
Une scie pour rainures or Grooving Saw containing two saw blades

This Stanley 55 variation is so simple to make. Just find a discarded saw. I used a beat up backsaw blade. The top edge was shaped with snips and files with holes placed corresponding to the location of the two rods on the Stanley 55. The depth stops can be used if desired.

Backsaw blade shaped to fit the 55 plane. Saw nib added for the same mysterious reason saw nibs were added on many older saws...???
Stanley 55 plane main body

Saw blade mounted on rods (this is a rip cut saw blade; the later photos show the hybrid cut saw blade)

Second fence (auxiliary fence) added. Note small Phillips head bolt through the threaded hole near center bottom of runner which is used to add support by bracing the saw up against the main body to prevent bending

The Saw Plane in full regalia with both fences and both runners

Both fences are added providing a truely straight cut

The Spruce Goose completing its landing

Note that the depth gauge can be added to prevent the skates from digging into the wood

Next time...the Stanley 55 "Saw Plane" setup for tenon shoulders and sliding dovetails.