Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brese Panel, Bench discoveries

I've been building a trio of small Shaker end tables with my niece and nephew over the past few months. Sadly, they don't have an industrial arts or woodworking program at their school, so I though it would be a good idea to give them some shop time and get their feet wet in some old-school woodworking, the kind that I was exposed to growing up. It's hard to compete with Call of Duty and Ipods, but I think these sessions will plant a seed and hopefully blossom at a later time when the lures of youth start to fade. During the past couple sessions (I'm building a table too to walk them through the process) I've found myself reaching for a plane that I've been babysitting since early October.

Ron Brese's latest creation is a stainless steel panel-size plane with an atypical infill. It doesn't really have an infill at all. I first saw this type of arrangement while browsing through some old plane patents, and later when I read an article about the Sindelar Tool Museum which featured joined-body planes with lever-caps and separate totes and knobs. Ron's plane echoes the classic lines of the old Norris planes, with its sidewall profile and traditional lever cap. The panel plane always interested me, mostly because I didn't know what it was used for. Is it a smoother? a Jack? Well, it's basically telling me what it is in using it the past couple months. I'm finding myself using it to remove jointer and planer marks on smaller workpieces where I can flatten and smooth without changing tools. I just take a couple more strokes (my shavings are about 2 thou).

The ergonomics of the tool are great. I think the sidewalls are a tad too high (this is a prototype after all), but Ron's tote's always fit my hand perfectly. I also greatly prefer the front knob to a the square bun arrangement typical of infills. There's one feature I discovered right away that I really like. See the curve in the top of the steel frog where it transitions from the inside of the side wall to the side of the tote?

This area is perfectly for my index finger. It's almost like the plane was made for my hand. I feel like I'm in total control when I place my finger here. It's great. More info later as I continue to have fun with my "loaner".

Last month I took a Sunday afternoon and made a bench dog for every hole in the top. Why didn't I do this before? I don't have to search for a single dog anymore, plus something very nice happened. New workholding opportunities are presenting themselves. I was planing some narrow boards using Chris Schwarz's leg-vise planing stop (I love using this accessory) and I needed some lateral support. Bingo, pop up two dogs and I have restricted movement in two planes almost instantly. Love it! I can even reposition the stop so the first dog lands right at the beginning of the board, preventing any kick-out at the beginning of the stroke. Here's where I could see a real advantage to having a row of dog holes a bit farther back from the front edge for working wider boards. That's a trade-off though too. No bench is ever perfect.