UJK Parf Mk II Guide System Review

An invaluable tool for professionals and home workshops alike, the UJK Parf Mk II Guide System allows you to build a custom bench top, a portable cutting board or a replacement MFT top and more. This versatile jig system allows you to make a simple configuration in just 30 minutes, but don't just take our word for it, let's hear from a professional.

Radha Sivyer. Recognise the name? Radha was a finalist on last year’s Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker and since then he has built up an incredible following on social media. Now with over 80,000 followers on Instagram alone, Radha is influencing many young people to get into woodworking.


A bit about Radha Sivyer:

Radha got into woodworking through his uncle, Ganga, who himself is a fine woodworker/turner. On Christmas of 2003, Radha received his first tool. A JET Mini Lathe, bought from Axminster Tools, and it quickly became his obsession.  For the next seven years, he would spend countless hours tinkering away in a small plastic shed at the end of the garden, practicing a huge variety of woodworking techniques. Radha came across Japanese joinery and fell in love with it. Spending up to eight hours practicing a single joint, honing his skills as best as he could.
Radha later graduated with a degree in product design and took up a role as a Junior Cabinetmaker. While there, he applied to go onto Season 1 of Channel 4's Handmade: Britain's Best Woodworker and his success on the show gave him the confidence to quit his job and start his own furniture making business, where he is now commissioned for high-end, bespoke pieces.

Radha Sivyer

Check out Radha's social media for more fantastic videos.


A quote from Radha on the UJK Parf MKII Guide System:

Deceivingly simple. Initially feeling intimidated by the UJK Parf Guide System I expected to spend hours trying to get everything aligned, but UJK have engineered a stunningly simple and highly accurate tool.

Our range of UJK accessories is designed to enhance your cutting and work holding.


Discover more...

Did you enjoy this blog? Why not check out the UJK Parf MKII Guide System write up or a review from another professional? Badger Workshop and Ron Paulk have both reviewed the system as well. The Story of the Parf Super Dog takes a look at how our first dog came to life, a very interesting read! Since 1981, Axminster Tools has proudly developed and manufactured a wide range of tools on site here in Devon.


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UJK Parf Mk II Guide System Review An invaluable tool for professionals and home workshops alike, the UJK Parf Mk II Guide System allows you to build a custom bench top, a portable cutting board or a replacement MFT top and more. This versatile jig system allows you to make a simple configuration in just 30 minutes, but don’t just…

What is green woodworking?

Green woodworking offers a fun, natural and wholesome experience when working with wood. Using largely traditional tools, it's an incredibly accessible and enjoyable craft with only a minimum of tools required to get you on your way. As the name suggests, green woodworking uses unseasoned (green) wood to create almost anything from furniture sculptures to spoons and bowls. If you are looking to get outside and be creative green woodworking could be for you. 


What green woodworking tools should you buy?

Drawknife

Traditionally used with a shave horse, drawknives are a versatile tool for any green woodworker. It can be used for rough cuts when breaking down green wood into rough shapes. It can also be used to produce more refining cuts. There are a variety of sizes and shapes of drawknives to satisfy any preferences you might have.

Shop Drawknives


Axe and Hatchet

The axe is largely used in green woodworking to get the wood pieces to a manageable and usable rough state. However, a smaller axe or hatchet can be used for carving work. Many axes in green woodworking will have a finger notch in the axe head. This allows a grip where your hand can be placed almost straight above the centre of the cutting edge, for increased precision when carving.

Shop Axes


Carving Knife

There are many different types of carving knives available. However, a good place to start is with a craftsman's knife or straight knife. It can be used to make spoons, handle bowls, and be used for both rough and more detailed work. The hook knife is another consideration. These knives allow you to work effectively in hollows and are a must for spoon carvers!

Shop Carving Knives


Froe

A froe is used with a wooden mallet to split timber along the grain. This is not only quicker than sawing, but the stock produced is much stronger and more durable. The Romans used froes to make oak shingles for roofing which, on account of being riven, showed no short grain, making them long lasting and weatherproof. Bodgers, however, will use them to prepare stock for chair spindles.

Shop Froes


Adze

Choose either a large or a small adze. The small adze is intended for single-handed use, it makes a great tool for carving out hollows, Windsor chair seats, rustic style dough bowls and similar items. A larger adze, however, makes a great tool for carving out wide or deep hollows.

Shop Adzes


Sawhorse or Shave Horse

The sawhorse or shave horse is the workbench of green woodworking.  A foot operated clamp holds the wood in place allowing it to be worked. Typically, it's used with a drawknife to remove large amounts of stock or to hold in place for more detailed carving. It can also be a fantastic project in its own right. The Veritas shaving horse plans are based on a shaving horse used by chair maker David Fleming, this is both a shaving horse and a traditional chairmaker's low bench.

Choosing the right tools for your green woodworking adventure is an important decision. Here we outline the core tools you’ll need for your green woodworking journey. 

1. More shire horse than saw horse

Saw horses they may be but these trestles have the capacity of something much bigger. Capable of supporting a weight of 590kg per trestle. Using the pair the total capacity reaches an impressive 1,180kg which equals the very highest capacities for trestles.

Saw horses in use to cut sheet material

2. Work Faster

Easy to set up, the quick release legs also fold up quickly when you're finished creating a compact design for easy transportation. Each one folds into a neat package just 84 x 150 x 895mm to either stow away or throw into the back of a van.

Each one folds into a neat package

3. Work Smarter

Rather than having to bend down, the height adjustable legs make it simple to bring the work up to you for better positioning. Also if you're working on uneven ground you can adjust each leg individually to set the right height. Each saw horse rises to a height of 826mm or if for example you're cutting with a hand saw, a lower position can be more beneficial and the lowest height you can set is 648mm.

Height adjustable legs

4. Work Safer

The advantage of having support arms on the saw horses means you can quickly create a table using 42 x 95mm timber. Alternatively you can also trim thicker pieces to size. Having the frame makes for a much safer cut as you have support all the way through the cut. This is a real benefit especially when cutting MDF sheets as without the joists the danger is that the sheet can collapse through the middle while cutting. Not what you need with a circular saw spinning at over 3,000rpm in your hand.


5. Tough construction

The saw horses are built to take a battering, made from an all steel construction for added strength. The outer layer also has a powder coating and zinc plating to prevent corrosion. On the tops of the saw horses is a hard wearing and protective plastic. The plastic prevents damage to the saw blade by stopping the blade coming into contact with the metal if you're making a cut at the top of the trestle.


Great Value

Many saw horses are sold as singles but you’ll invariably need two. We’re offering them in pairs and as such, these represent great value for money.

A detailed look at the Axminster Trade Series Saw Horses. Highlighting the key features, capacities, construction and main uses.

What Sharpening Stone To Use?

A new, or even experienced woodworker may be forgiven for finding the whole area of sharpening stones confusing. With so many different types available it becomes very difficult to know where to start. This buying guide will primarily examine the stones sold by Axminster. But, at the same time, will briefly explore some of the many alternative stones which the craftsperson might consider.

Sharpening stones

Natural or Synthetic Sharpening Stones?

All sharpening stones can be placed into two categories. Either natural, having been quarried from the ground, or synthetic, having been been manufactured. Before the industrial age, all sharpening stones were natural by default. Simply picking up a piece of common sandstone and stroking it along a sword blade may have been enough to produce an edge. This would at least remove some of the worst nicks and gouges produced by the clash of steel.

How Do Sharpening Stones Work?

Any stone is composed of particles of abrasive material that are bonded, or sintered together. The blade is passed across the stone, the steel is worn away, thus creating the edge. However, at the same time, the stone is also worn away to reveal new, coarse particles. As a general rule, the softer the stone, the more rapidly it will wear and will be more aggressive in use. Harder stones don't wear as fast. Over time, the edges of each particle within the stone tend to become slightly rounded. Particle size may be smaller, although the finished edge is very sharp, it takes much longer to hone the blade.

Grit Size

Sharpening stones are graded by the size of the individual particles, or grit. In an artificial stone they are all the same. The grit falls through a sieve with a predetermined mesh size. Stones are also categorised in terms of 'microns'. The classification can be a little confusing. Generally, a 220g stone corresponds approximately to a particle size of 60-80 microns A 1,000g stone is 15-25 microns. A 1 micron is roughly equivalent to a 10,000g finishing stone.

Synthetic Sharpening Stones

The sharpening stones sold by Axminster are all synthetic and comprise mainly of two main types; water and diamond stones.

Water Stones

Synthetic water stones are relatively new in the West. But natural ones have been the main choice of sharpening media in the Far East for centuries, particularly in Japan. This particular type of stone consists of abrasive particles which are sintered together using a very friable clay material. In use, the clay starts to disintegrate which produces a thin, slushy surface on top of the stone which is saturated with sharp particles; new abrasive grit is continually produced as the sharpening process takes place.

In general terms, the stronger the bond, the slower new abrasive particles are released and the slower the cut, but the stone will remain flatter for slightly longer. The reverse also applies; the looser the bond, the more rapidly the stone cuts and eventually a hollow in the surface is produced.

Grits

Water stone grits vary from a 240g, very coarse surface all the way up to a 10,000g superfine finishing stone. Generally a 4-6,000g stone will produce a finished edge suitable for everyday work. The coarser and medium grade stones should always be kept ready for use under water either in a special stone pond or in any sort of shallow plastic tray. They are then retrieved, complete with their holder and are ready for use at the bench. Fine and superfine stones can be stored dry, but need to be sprayed with water just before use. A small Nagura stone is also supplied which is used to build up a polishing slurry on the stone or to deglaze a used surface.

There are three different makes of synthetic water stone currently on offer. Firstly, the general duty King stones, made by Ice Bear and available in grit sizes from 220 to 10,000g. Secondly, those manufactured by the Sigma Power Corporation in Tokyo, designed specifically to cope with sharpening high alloy steels. These ceramic stones have a very fast cutting action and will release new, aggressive particles in use. However, they will wear slightly faster. Thirdly, we have Bester, manufactured by Imanishi in Kyoto, Japan. Their particle bond is moderately strong and will  quickly cut O1, A2 and PMV-11 steel. They'll remain flat for just as long as a slower cutting stone, with a stronger bond matrix.

Flattening Waterstones

One of the issues with water stones is that they will wear into a hollow very quickly. Although they cut rapidly and are capable of producing a super fine edge, they should be flattened every time they're used. This can be done in a variety of ways but the best method is to use a dead flat ceramic block over which the waterstone is rubbed. Alternatively, the DMT Dia Flat Lapping Plate is guaranteed to bring a hollow water stone back to pristine condition, as shown in the video clip below:

The final method, which is more economical but perhaps not quite so accurate is to use a piece of float glass onto which has been stuck to a sheet of 180g Aluminium Oxide paper. Whichever method is chosen, using and flattening waterstones is a messy business and it's a distinct advantage to have access to a sink and running water.

Diamond Sharpening Stones

Diamond stones offer one alternative to traditional sharpening stones and provide many advantages, the principal one being that they will remain dead flat, even after sustained use. A matrix of pure, monocrystalline diamonds is permanently bonded to a dead flat, nickel plated steel substrate. These stones are available in a wide variety of different formats, for example, double sided, bench whetstones, handled mini-hones or even credit card sized diamond plates to fit conveniently in your wallet!

They are now offered in a very wide range of grits from extra, extra coarse 120g - 120 micron up to extra extra fine 8,000g - 3 micron. The initial cut with diamond stones is very aggressive but this disappears after a while as the stone 'beds' in. Some types of stone have a pattern of circular or oval holes across the surface and this is intended to carry away the sharpening swarf more easily. A little more care should be taken with continuous diamond stones, particularly the finer grits as the surface is liable to clog more quickly. Diamond stones can be used without any lubrication, but it's generally recommended to use either water (make sure to clean and dry it afterwards), a light machine oil or WD40.

Axminster Rider Sharpening Station

The recent introduction of the Axminster Rider Sharpening Station utilises the Axminster Rider Double Sided Diamond Bench Stone and a top quality Connel leather strop, both set in a phenolic plastic board. There's a 'step like' area at each end that's been machined out of the phenolic surface. Each step has been engraved 25°, 30° and 45°. They're intended to be used with the Rider Honing Guide to ensure that the correct, repeatable honing or grinding angle is achieved every time the blade is sharpened. You can watch Jason Breach take you through sharpening with the Axminster Rider Sharpening Station, along with other sharpening methods.

'Scary Sharp'

Though not strictly a sharpening method using stones, the so called 'scary sharp' technique has become increasingly popular in recent years. At it's simplest, a sheet of fine 400g abrasive is stuck to a dead flat piece of float glass and the blade, usually held in a honing guide, is sharpened on the surface. From that simple idea, the system has evolved so that it's now much easier to apply the abrasive as a whole range of very fine, self-adhesive Hermes Aluminium Oxide papers are readily available. Lubrication is still required to float away the sharpening debris and either a fine machine oil, water or even WD40 (or similar) can be used.

'Scary Sharpening'

'Scary sharpening' is very economical; when the paper becomes worn or ineffective, simply rip it off and stick on a new piece. The system is also very popular because like diamond stones, there's also no danger of the sharpening surface becoming hollow.

Stropping

For centuries, traditional barbers offering a wet shave used (and still do) a leather strop to produce a super fine edge on a cut throat razor and this sort of technique can be used to very good effect on plane and chisel blades. The leather is dressed with a lubricant of some sort (machine oil, petroleum jelly or similar) and then a very fine abrasive paste is rubbed into the surface. When the blade is pulled (never pushed) over the strop several times, the effect is to continuously refine an already sharp edge; precisely what the barber is hoping to achieve on his razor.

Natural Sharpening Stones

Natural sharpening stones are those that are quarried from the ground as a crude slab of rock, then cut to size to adopt the familiar rectangular shape. At one time, these were the only sharpening stones available and there were many different types, most of which were in use locally in the country where they were produced. Natural stones are still available and command a premium price, for example, Arkansas stones from the USA.

Translucent stones are classified as Extra Fine and may be a shade of white, grey or even pink. Black Arkansas are Ultra Fine being black or blue-black in colour and the finest edge can be achieved with these stones.

Natural Japanese waterstones are still available, though nearly all quarries are closed. However, there still exists a large quantity of mined stone. Quarries containing the finest stones have all but been exhausted. If one were to be found, it would cost a fortune. Even so, similar, less than perfect stones that are currently produced can still fetch well in excess of €400!

Conclusion

Sharpening is a basic prerequisite for any woodworker, without a fine, honed, edge, nothing much is liable to happen. Instead, the craftsperson is likely to be hamstrung by their inability to make progress.  But, once that elusive edge is found by using a sharpening system, there's no limit to what can be achieved. It's been said before, but 'sharp fixes everything'.

Would you like to learn more? We offer a range of sharpening courses at the Axminster Skill Centre.

Confused by which sharpening stone to use? Unsure what the differences are? This buyer’s guide will leave you through demystifying sharpening stones.

Introduction to 'Hardpoint' Handsaws

Handsaws have been an indispensable part of a toolkit for a very long time and there’s well documented evidence from the time of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt for the use of serrated edge, copper blades to cut timber. The advent of a few thousand years has seen unimaginable advances in handsaw technology but were he to pick one up, the ancient craftsman from the Nile valley would still recognise the basic fundamentals of a modern saw; a triangular toothed blade which cuts its way through the wood.

Important:  all hardpoint saw blades have induction hardened teeth and cannot be re-sharpened. Once they become blunt, they must be discarded and a new one purchased.    

What’s in a ‘Hardpoint’ Handsaw?

There are two basic parts to any handsaw: the blade and the handle.

  • The Handle -  traditional handles were made from timber, usually beech, and joined to the blade with specialist fixings. Those on modern handsaws, in particular some of the Axcaliber FineLine rangeuse a plastic, injection-moulded handle, permanently bonded to the blade. Others use a more traditional nut and bolt to join the handle to the blade. In addition, they also have a softer, rubber insert, which makes them more comfortable to hold. One feature also found on some handles, are the twin angles of 90° and 45° (measured against the back of the blade) which makes marking out a board, prior to cutting, a simple matter.  
  • The Blade - this is the part that does the work - the ‘toe’ at the beginning of the blade and the ‘heel’ directly underneath the handle. The cutting edge comprises a large number of identical, triangular shaped teeth. Between each one is a ‘gullet’. The quantity of teeth vary depending on the the saw’s application and is referred to as its ‘TPI’ or ‘teeth per inch’. A saw with more TPI will cut a little more slowly, but with greater accuracy, compared to one with less teeth, which tends to cut very rapidly. The finer tenon and gent’s saws have a thinner blade and may bend or buckle if pushed too vigorously. To prevent this from happening, this type of saw is stiffened by a folded steel spine along its back. Most of the Axcaliber range of hardpoint saws use a Japanese style tooth configuration, where there are three cutting faces to each tooth. While this is primarily intended to be used on a pull saw, with some modification to the tooth shape, it can also be used successfully in a western style push saw. The change in the shape of the tooth can be seen displayed on Axcaliber handsaw blades.
1+2

Pushed or pulled, this type of tooth requires very little ‘set’ which is the amount that each alternative tooth is bent sideways to give clearance to the blade. The width of the cut made by the teeth is referred to as the ‘kerf’. Induction hardened teeth are designed to last for a considerable period of time. But this is dependent on the type of material the blade cuts, and the frequency of use. Composite and highly abrasive man-made materials, such as chipboard, will dull even the sharpest teeth in a remarkably short time.  

The Different Types of Hardpoint Handsaws

axcaliber_fineline_ptfe_handsaw_02

Handsaws

There are many styles of hardpoint handsaws with triple ground teeth, and all cut extremely rapidly. Choose a saw with a high TPI count for thinner sheet materials, and one with fewer teeth per inch for thicker, green and tanalised timber. The Axcaliber saws are additionally protected by a low friction, rust resistant PTFE coating, which makes them ideally suited to working outdoors with tanalised timber.

Toolbox Saw

Toolbox Saw

Looking fairly traditional, these handsaws are specifically designed to fit comfortably into a portable toolbox or bag, thus making it ideal for work on site. It has a universal tooth shape, is easily stored, has sufficient length and a comfortable soft grip handle.

Tenon Saw

Tenon Saw

This type of saw is designed to be pushed to cut and to prevent buckling; the blade is reinforced along the back with a strong steel spine. These saws are designed for finer work and are most often used with a bench hook for sawing work across the grain. The Axcaliber FineLine Tenon Saw is available in three different lengths and each has 11 Japanese-style, triple ground teeth per inch which cut on both the push and pull stroke.

Gents Saw

Gent’s Saw

Named after the gentlemen hobbyists of the 19th century, the so called ‘gent’s saw’ uses a much finer blade with 15 TPI, though some will have an even greater number of teeth per inch. The handle is always horizontal rather than a closed ‘D’ shape. This saw is used for much finer tasks, such as cutting small joints or beading. It’s particularly good to use in a mitre box for cutting picture frame joints.

Compass Saw

Compass Saw

The compass saw may not be used often, but when it is, you’ll be glad you had one! The Axcaliber FineLine Compass Saw uses a very thin and rigid blade which has 11 hardpoint teeth per inch. Owing to the narrowness of the blade, this type of saw works best on the pull stroke. It becomes far easier to manoeuvre the blade around curves in sheet material, which is its primary purpose.

Pull Saw

Pull Saw

In the Axcaliber FineLine range, the Pull Saw is closest to a true Japanese saw, essentially differing in the style of the handle where a pistol grip is screwed to the blade rather than the traditional raffia wrapped wooden handle. The teeth are impulse hardened for a long life. And for those who like this particular style of saw, it’s ideal for cutting timber, board materials, PVC and plasterboard.

Top Tips for Sawing Accurately

  • When using a handsaw, keep it at around 45° to the horizontal.
  • You paid for the whole length of the blade...use it! Long smooth strokes cut much more effectively than short rapid ones.
  • Apply only moderate pressure to the stroke that cuts the material. There should be very little pressure on the return stroke.This is especially important with much thinner blades. Too much pressure is also liable to break off some teeth which means that the saw should be replaced.
  • When using a tenon saw, point the index finger down its spine. Position your feet and frame, so that your sawing arm swings smoothly back past the side of the body. Also, try to position your eyes directly over the top of the saw’s spine.
  • Work is more accurate with a tenon saw at the bench if the line being cut is truly vertical.
  • Use plastic blade protectors at all times when not using the saw. It is important when saws are stored in close proximity with other equipment in a toolbox.

Conclusion

The modern, induction hardened teeth on today’s handsaws, has provided the craftsman with tools that cut efficiently, and last longer. The sound of a dull saw blade struggling to cut through material should hopefully be a thing of the past! 

Introduction to ‘Hardpoint’ Handsaws Handsaws have been an indispensable part of a toolkit for a very long time and there’s well documented evidence from the time of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt for the use of serrated edge, copper blades to cut timber. The advent of a few thousand years has seen unimaginable advances in handsaw technology but were he…

It has to be said that I’m a big fan of Japanese tools, in particular the Japanese chisel. They are, compared to their western counterparts, a ‘learning curve’ and don’t suffer fools or abuse gladly. The reason is the blades are composite, made from a super hard cutting steel and a much softer backing iron. This provides the chisel with flexibility for use at the bench on a daily basis.

Japanese tradition

Centuries ago, and even today, Samurai swords are made in a similar way. A harder cutting edge is forged on to a much softer iron core.

treating_the_back_of_a_japanese_chisel_01

The very hard (often around RC65) cutting steel, is always forged, resulting in a close grained molecular structure enabling an unbelievably sharp edge.

Like most good things in this world, there’s a downside. The hard cutting edge is extremely brittle, much more so than a western chisel. If a Japanese chisel is used to lever out waste, it’s almost certain to result in a chipped edge. This would require extensive sharpening to restore it.

Differences

One other glaring difference between a western and Japanese chisel, is that the back has a long depression ground into it. And it’s there for a very good reason. The back of a Japanese chisel still needs to be flattened, and even more so if there’s a slight bump behind the cutting edge. The depression or ura* (arrowed) reduces this area of very hard steel in contact with the sharpening medium, and thus reduces the time taken to work on the back.

treating_the_back_of_a_japanese_chisel_02
Were there to be no ura (as in a western chisel), the unfortunate owner would be standing at the sharpening station for a very long time.

It can also be seen from the same chisel, that the distance from the cutting edge, to the start of the ura (arrowed), is around 0.5mm, which is not very much.

treating_the_back_of_a_japanese_chisel_03
After repeated honing, the edge will move backwards and begin to eat into the ura. Therefore, the ura must also be moved backwards by flattening the back on waterstones.

treating_the_back_of_a_japanese_chisel_04
Using Japanese chisels is a constant process of honing the bevel and polishing the reverse side. This is so the ura is always a few millimetres away from the edge.

They do eventually, after much use, also turn into butt chisels.

treating_the_back_of_a_japanese_chisel_05
*ura meaning 'hidden' in Japanese

It has to be said that I’m a big fan of Japanese tools, in particular the Japanese chisel. They are, compared to their western counterparts, a ‘learning curve’ and don’t suffer fools or abuse gladly. The reason is the blades are composite, made from a super hard cutting steel and a much softer backing iron. This provides the chisel with…

The European made range of Rider chisels provides the woodworker with a comprehensive selection of top quality tools.
axminster_rider_chisels

The Rider Chisels range

The blades are made from chrome manganese steel, carefully hardened and tempered to 59 RC. Handles are made from either very dense hornbeam or tough polypropylene with a striking cap. Where ferrules are fitted, they’re made from stainless steel together with a shock absorbing leather washer between the handle and bolster. The range includes:

      • Butt chisels - with their smaller size, butt chisels are ideal for access to those more awkward corners in any project, as well as fitting comfortably into your favourite tool chest. Available individually in 6, 12, 20 & 25mm sizes and also as a set of four in a wooden box. Overall length 175mm.
      • Bench chisels - bevel edged chisels intended for work at the bench with slightly larger handles on the wider width blades. Available individually in 6, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25 & 32mm sizes or as a set of six in a wooden case. Lengths from 265 to 280mm.
      • Mortice chisels - robust, deep section chisels to withstand repeated heavy blows when chopping out mortices. Available in 4, 6, 8, 10 & 12mm. Overall length 305mm.
      • Corner chisel - a 10mm chisel which can be used to produce a perfect 90° corner; excellent for squaring out router cut hinge recesses. Overall length 260mm.
      • Bevel Edge Chisel: Soft Grip - the same blades, but fitted with a polypropylene handle with striking cap; superb for site work or for absorbing heavy hammer blows without damage. Available in 6, 12, 19, 25, 32, 38 & 50mm sizes. Overall length 250mm.

The Bench Test

rider_chisels_first_look_01A 20mm bench chisel was selected at random and the edge was honed at 32° using a Veritas MKII honing guide. The chisel was then subjected to twenty heavy blows, using a lignum vitae mallet into a blank of dense, hard Sugar or Rock Maple. This is a brutally ferocious test for any blade and I have witnessed the edges on poorer quality chisels collapse under this sort of abuse.

The edge on this new Rider chisel showed insignificant degradation.

rider_chisels_first_look_02&03

Stand by to be impressed!

The European made range of Rider chisels provides the woodworker with a comprehensive selection of top quality tools. The Rider Chisels range The blades are made from chrome manganese steel, carefully hardened and tempered to 59 RC. Handles are made from either very dense hornbeam or tough polypropylene with a striking cap. Where ferrules are fitted, they’re made from stainless…

In an earlier article, I spent some time examining the overall strategies required to hone an edge on a plane or chisel blade and this entry looks in more detail at the Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide together with the Narrow Blade Head.

Firstly, dealing with planes, I removed the 50mm blade from my Rider No.4 and ground a fresh 25° bevel on it (arrowed) using the Tormek SE77 jig.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-1

Following the excellent instructions included in the box, the basic guide is very easy to set up to hone a 30° bevel (arrowed), remembering to initially set the Micro-Bevel Knob at the 12 o’clock position.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-2

When the freshly ground blade is inserted against the Registration Stop, already fitted into the guide, it’ll be set to hone a bevel of exactly 30°.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-4

I use 3M films for the so called ‘Scary Sharpening’ process, in particular the grey 9 micron (about 1200g), brown 5 micron (2,500g) and green 1 micron films, which is equivalent to around a 11,000g Japanese waterstone. The initial 30° bevel is established on the 9 micron film and shows as a very thin, polished line along the edge of the blade. This is useable but nowhere near fine enough, so it now needs to be refined and polished.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-5

The next step is to remove the burr produced from the 9 micron film and at the same time, add a micro-bevel of around 2° as well as polishing the reverse side (or back) forming a very narrow ‘back bevel’.
Firstly, rotate the Micro-Bevel Knob to the 6 o’clock position.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-6
This has the effect of raising the honed edge by around 2°, thus creating a polished micro-bevel using 5 and finally the 1 micron films. The films are lubricated with a squirt of WD40 and the honing progress can be judged by the black swarf which appears ahead or behind the blade. The ‘pull’ stroke is recommended with these very fine films as they are liable to tear easily.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-7

The fine burr produced (and you may not even be able to feel it) can be removed on the 5 micron film using the ‘Ruler Trick,’

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-8

after which the blade can be stropped if required. I use a thick piece of sole leather stuck to an mdf baseboard, which is then dressed with a smear petroleum jelly. Veritas Honing Compound is applied next and worked into the leather’s surface.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-9
The honed edge is pulled back on the strop a few times, further refining the micro-bevel, making sure afterwards to clean off any accumulated stropping residue with a piece of rag.

honing-guide-narrow-blade-head-10

The blade is then flipped over and the back bevel is given a final polish using the 1 micron film, which should be around 1mm or 2mm wide at the most.

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Chisels are sharpened almost identically but using the Narrow Blade Head which is best used for smaller width blades, say 12mm or 10mm and under. Wider blades can still be held in the standard guide or the Narrow Blade Head; it’s just down to personal preference but trying to hold narrow blades in the standard guide is liable to be a precarious business!
Having fitted the Narrow Blade Head and Registration Jig (set to 30° arrowed), remember also to re-set the Micro-Bevel Knob back to the 12 o’clock position; it’s very easy to forget and if you do, the wrong angle will be honed.

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Chisel blades can be stropped (or otherwise) but the back of the blade must always be polished flat on the finest films; the ‘Ruler Trick’ must never be used as the back bevel produced may cause inaccuracy when it’s used.

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When the back is polished on short Japanese chisels, the very thick neck of the blade can often foul the edge of the sharpening medium. On my chisels, I’ve ground away a section (arrowed) so this doesn’t happen, much to the complete horror of some of my Japanese tool wielding friends where this sort of unbridled vandalism is a complete anathema.

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It’s evident that this sort of honing process is fairly long winded and involves working down through the various grades of film, but once you have a routine that you’re comfortable about, it doesn’t actually take too long and produces a really lethal edge....but how lethal?
This is difficult to quantify, but unless you have a particular attraction to plasters or you habitually like visiting A&E, you’re well advised never to shave the hairs off your arms or to try the edge out on your finger tips. Instead, find an oddment of nasty, soft pine and take off some shavings from one of the corners; the chisel should cut effortlessly through the wood and leave a polished surface behind it.
If there are any questions about my particular method of honing, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your query.

In an earlier article, I spent some time examining the overall strategies required to hone an edge on a plane or chisel blade and this entry looks in more detail at the Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide together with the Narrow Blade Head. Firstly, dealing with planes, I removed the 50mm blade from my Rider No.4 and ground a fresh 25°…

It's one of those tools that lurks in every toolbox, workshop and apron pocket. It can also be found clipped to almost every tradesman's belt and that is, of course, the ever popular and indispensable tape measure.

Axminster Precision Tapes

Introducing the range...

Axminster have introduced a new range of tape measures under the Axminster Precision brand, here we take a first look at four. All have a 5m metric/imperial tape and each have slightly different features. The first features a 'Self Lock' button, which automatically locks the tape in position when it's extended, (pushing the button retracts the tape); the second sports a silver, stainless steel blade and the third is a very chunky 'Power Blade' with a wide, deeply curved tape which enables much greater extension without collapsing. The last tape measure has a manual 'hold down' button which clamps the blade in place and it has been rated Class 1.

Axminster Precision Tapes

Classes explained

Each has been designated as either Class 1 or Class 2 for accuracy, which is a measure of the tolerance the tape measure must achieve before it can be rated. Class 1 rated tapes are the most accurate and an error of no more than ±1.1mm over a 10m length can be anticipated, where a steel tape is used with a pulling force of 50N at 20°.

For the vast majority of users, a Class 2 tape is probably going to be more than adequate with a potential error of ±2.3mm over the same 10m length and most good quality tapes have this rating.

Class 3 tapes are rated as slightly less accurate but are still adequate for everyday applications around the home.

Whichever you choose, there's bound to be one to suit every application and pocket.

It’s one of those tools that lurks in every toolbox, workshop and apron pocket. It can also be found clipped to almost every tradesman’s belt and that is, of course, the ever popular and indispensable tape measure. Introducing the range… Axminster have introduced a new range of tape measures under the Axminster Precision brand, here we take a first look…

Trammels or a beam compass set is a fairly straightforward tool used to mark out a circle or arc. To strike the curve it should be used with the timber onto which the two tramels are mounted. The radius is then set by a process of trial and error, which is irksome in itself; however, with the new UJK Technology Trammel Heads a 64cm aluminium bar (with metric scale) is supplied as part of the kit, and an optional bar of the same length can be joined on. This gives a total length of 128cm.

Standard trammels contain a pair of steel points, as do the UJK Technology set. But, in addition, a ‘V’ shaped cutting blade can be inserted instead of a point. The UJK Technology trammels, therefore, can be used to cut precise arcs or circles in paper and card. There’s also a rather smart Axminster pencil as well, enabling you to draw an arc, instead of cutting or scribing.

Trammel Set

The trammel heads are made from black anodised aluminium and use solid brass screws. The bars are extruded aluminium, finished in the now familiar UJK Technology orange colour.

Whatever your circumstances, if you need to make or cut accurate curves and circles, the new, versatile 3-in-1 UJK Technology Trammel Set should be a serious contender.

Trammel And Guide

Trammels or a beam compass set is a fairly straightforward tool used to mark out a circle or arc. To strike the curve it should be used with the timber onto which the two tramels are mounted. The radius is then set by a process of trial and error, which is irksome in itself; however, with the new UJK Technology…

To use a bit of modern parlance, it’s time to ‘fess up’. I like hand tools and especially planes. If I were to include spokeshaves, there’s thirty three of the things sitting on that table, one of which happens to be a late Norris A1 panel plane. The bronze No.4 in the middle is the original prototype of the current Rider range. I wouldn’t like to guesstimate about how much there is in terms of cash outlay, but a tidy sum.
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Do I need them all?

Absolutely not and if the truth were told, you only actually need around three or four. If severely pressed, my personal choice would be a Veritas Low Angle Jack, LN 60½ block plane, a long Veritas Jointer and a smallish shoulder plane. The only mitigating reason (or excuse) that I can offer is that over the course of many years, new planes have been acquired (or made) for specific purposes and once they’ve been used, they’re stowed under the bench just in case I need them again.

Many of the hand planes are wooden and have been accumulated over several decades. Many of them see use quite frequently such as ‘Big Woody’ which gets used when there’s some veneering to do. If there’s some rough planing where a lot of stuff needs to be removed, I’ve got a choice of either my indispensable and traditional carpenter's jack or the smaller continental style hornbeam sole scrub plane. The second carpenter’s jack in the picture has a curved sole and was modified some years ago to shape the concave seat on a small oak stool.
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Apart from making ‘Big Woody’, I’ve also had a go at making one or two others, as shown in the pic below except for the rather rough and tatty looking effort in the middle, but that one isn’t all it appears to be!
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A few decades ago the late Jim Krenov in Sweden and later the USA, popularised the use of ‘shop made wooden planes. To make the construction a lot more straightforward, they were laminated out of three pieces: a centre block and two side cheeks. The story goes that he made so many of them that he decided to sell one or two on a well known t’interweb auction site and such was the esteem with which he was regarded, the plane was eventually sold for an insane amount of money. As a consequence, in the last few years of his life when he was almost blind, he started to make small planes and I was fortunate enough to get hold of one.
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If you look very closely at the image, you can see his marking out lines on the side as well as the small ‘JK’ signature on the front. Apart from the shavings that Jim made with it (which I still have), this little smoother has never been used.

At some point several years ago, I made a couple of similar planes, one from Cuban mahogany and the other from sugar or rock maple. I used rosewood for the soles but the maple plane was built to shape the concave sides on a teak box so it was made with corresponding convex sole and curved blade.
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All of the wooden planes shown have to be adjusted by tapping with a small hammer. This isn’t too much of a problem with a big wooden jack or scrub plane, but trying to adjust a smoother for a whisper thin shaving is a completely different kettle of worms. Then those clever people at Veritas came to the rescue with their Wooden Plane Hardware Kit which enables the enthusiast to make a simple three section laminated plane. But ever one for a challenge, I’ve decided to push the envelope just a fraction further and use the kit to make an adjustable mouth version of my Ulmia Reform smoother.
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Read Part 1 on how to build a plane

To use a bit of modern parlance, it’s time to ‘fess up’. I like hand tools and especially planes. If I were to include spokeshaves, there’s thirty three of the things sitting on that table, one of which happens to be a late Norris A1 panel plane. The bronze No.4 in the middle is the original prototype of the current…

Nomi"

Japanese chisel for shaping wood

The chisel is a very useful tool in it's own right. For anyone wishing to purchase their first Japanese woodworking tool, a good place to begin is the (not so) humble chisel. Practically all aspects of the Japanese chisel encompass the renowned qualities of Japanese woodworking tools. The combination of extremely hard high carbon steel, forged to a softer wrought iron backing for support is legendary.

The main type of chisel available is the Oire Nomi (Nomi is Japanese for chisel).

To the western eye the Oire Nomi somewhat resembles a butt chisel having a shorter blade than a normal European bevel edge chisel. The Oire Nomi is the most common chisel used by Japanese furniture makers, cabinetmakers and woodworkers in general. The Oire Nomi is controllable and responsive, much suited to fine or close work.

View the full range of Japanese chisels


Manufacturing, parts & assembly

The similarity between western and Japanese chisels stems from their intended purpose; both do virtually the same job. However, the manufacturing methods, parts and assembly are entirely different. The first thing to note is that the Japanese chisel is a collection of four separate parts.

Unlike its western counterpart which generally consists of only two, the blade and the handle, a Nomi consists of a blade, a tapered ferrule, a handle and a steel hoop. The blade has a tang, which fits into a hole in the handle; the ferrule fits around the tapered end of the handle forming a socket. This method of attaching a chisel handle makes it doubly secure.

Striking the chisel has the effect of forcing the end of the handle deeper into the taper, thereby causing it to grip the tang ever tighter. It is worth inspecting the area just above the ferrule occasionally. If the wood of the handle is riding on the rim of the ferrule, then maybe pare a little away to give clearance. However, this will probably only require attention after years of use.

Japanese Chisels

After fitting the handle, the maker grinds the junction between the ferrule and blade's bolster until it is smooth and free of any burrs. In fact, he often does the job so well it is sometimes impossible to see the join. When visible it resembles a hairline crack, customers occasionally return these as defective. There is nothing at all wrong with the chisel, except perhaps the maker did too good a job on all the others. Indeed after long usage or sometimes just a change in humidity, the join may well re-appear.

At the top of the handle sits a steel hoop. Most Japanese chisels these days arrive with the hoop ready seated and the very top of the chisel mushroomed into a slight dome shape. In the past, fitting the hoop was the responsibility of the purchaser. The hoop protects the top of the handle from the blows of a steel hammer.

After years of using a large wooden mallet on one's best chisels, striking them with a metal hammer might seem like sacrilege to say the least. However, the hoop, when properly fitted, protects the handle.

There is a significant advantage in using a hammer with a small head rather than a thundering great mallet, especially if working in close. It does seem to give a lot more control and feedback.

Does your hoop need fitting?

Should you find the hoop requires fitting, remove it from the handle and gently pare or sand a little of the wood away. It is easy to see where attention is required if, when testing for fit, rotating the hoop leaves a rub mark. Stop when the hoop slips on tightly with just about 1.5mm of the handle protruding. Then gently tap the end of the handle with a hammer so that it mushrooms over keeping the hoop permanently in place. Some advocate tapping the side of the handle with a hammer, crushing the fibres to reduce the diameter sufficiently to get the hoop into the right position. A bit of judicious whittling is easier and just as effective. Some types of Japanese chisel do not have a hoop. This indicates that they are for paring by hand and not struck with a hammer or mallet.

That is about all there is, apart of course from giving some love and attention to the blade itself...

The main thing is to use the tool

The man who forged it put a great deal of pride into his work. It would be unfair to the maker not to use the fruits of his labours as fully as possible. Once the few steps described above are complete, there is an immense amount of pleasure gained from using a quality tool. The procedure doesn't take long and only needs doing once. Perhaps it's because these chisels are amongst the few virtually hand made tools available nowadays rather than mass-produced that gives them some of their mystique.

Japanese SteelJapanese Steel

Japanese steel hardens to a much higher degree. The blades of western woodworking tools are most commonly made of either O-1 or A-2 tool steel. The former preferred for edge quality, the latter for edge retention. Japanese chisels and plane blades are for the most part made of different tool steels. Japanese tools are either of White Paper steel (Shirogami) or Blue Paper steel (Aogami). The colours referring to the paper used to wrap the steel by the manufacturer, Hitachi Yasugi.

Over 1,500 years ago Japanese smiths perfected a method of smelting steel that had a high degree of purity. Using charcoal as a fuel rather than coke, they smelted iron sands obtained from the bed of the Hino River. The result, known as Tamahagane steel, was used to produce the legendary Samurai swords, famed for their incredible sharpness.

Japanese Chisels

To the naked eye, White Paper steel and Blue Paper steel look identical; the difference lies in their composition.

White Paper steel begins with JIS SK steel which after undergoing several purification processes becomes White Paper steel #2. This pure form of high carbon steel contains 1.05-1.15% carbon, with very low levels of sulphur and phosphorus. Further processing of White Paper steel #2 and adding more carbon produces White Paper steel #1. The additional carbon increases hardness, but decreases toughness. Taking White Paper steel #2 and adding tungsten and chromium as alloying agents, results in Blue Paper steel #2. A further addition of more carbon, tungsten, and chromium creates Blue Paper steel #1, with an increase in hardness but again a decrease in toughness.

Finally, if you then take Blue Paper steel #1, add more carbon, more tungsten plus molybdenum and vanadium, you get Super Blue steel, which has even more abrasion resistance. A fine balancing act, additional amounts of carbon in the steel decrease the toughness but increase the potential hardness.

Alloying it with other elements increases abrasion resistance, but of course, as sharpening is an abrasive process these steels are harder work to bring to a good edge. White paper steel (Shirogami) is one of the purest steels available anywhere in the world. Similar to crucible steel it is extremely fine grained and once forged and heat treated, displays phenomenal sharpening and edge holding characteristics. Blue Paper Steel (Aogami) slightly alloyed carbon steel is tougher and more resistant to wear. To put things into context, compared with their western equivalents, white and blue paper #2 steels contain more carbon than either O-1 (0.9%) or A-2 (1.0%). Just as O-1 is easier to sharpen but A-2 holds an edge longer, white and blue paper steels are similar except the Japanese steels will harden to a much higher degree.

It's not just about the steel

The steel used to make a tool isn't the whole story; a further factor lies in the skill of the blacksmith. Although White paper steel is cheaper than Blue, it requires greater precision to produce a quality tool. The temperature range necessary to correctly anneal, harden and temper White Paper steel is much narrower. When purchasing any tool, the decision needs to take into account its intended use. The type of timber worked and whether it is for fine finishing work or coarser roughing out. The essential differences between White and Blue Paper steels are hard to discern. In practice, quality Japanese tools have outstanding performance.

For anyone wishing to purchase their first Japanese woodworking tool, a good place to begin is the (not so) humble Japanese chisel. But why should you buy?

A Draw-stroke Cutting Action...

The most distinct feature of Japanese saws is that the teeth point towards the handle. When in use, the cutting action is on the draw-stroke. The saw cuts as the user pulls, totally opposite to a traditional western saw. It is doubtful there was ever a decision made as to which way the saw should work. It may well be that it evolved naturally through the working practices of the Japanese carpenter.

A favourite theory is that many were journeyman carpenters, needing to travel as lightly as possible. As a bench would be too heavy to carry, working on the floor became the norm. In this position, it is impossible to put any force into sawing on the push stroke. Pulling however is entirely the opposite and tremendously efficient. After years of evolution, we can see the fruits of this working practice. This is only one theory however, there are many more.

When a Japanese Saw is Working

When a Japanese saw is working, the blade is in tension rather than compression as is the case with a Western saw. In consequence, the blade of a Japanese saw can be far thinner and be of much harder steel. A Western saw is after all a compromise; it needs to be thicker and tempered in order to resist the pushing force when cutting. This makes it heavier and it will require much more frequent sharpening because the steel is softer. The Japanese saw is therefore naturally a great deal lighter in weight and will stay sharp much longer.

The harder steel allowed the geometry of the saw teeth to evolve differently. This is most noticeable on the crosscut saws where the teeth are long and fine. Closer inspection reveals not one but up to three cutting edges on each tooth. The teeth literally slice through the wood like a series of super sharp knives leaving the smoothest of cut surfaces, almost planed, rather than sawn.

Rip cutting teeth look very similar to Western teeth, the triangular chisel type. Even so, on the better quality Japanese saws the teeth are smaller nearer the handle allowing for a series of short strokes to start the cut, before bringing the full length of the saw to bear on the workpiece. Being so thin, means removing far less material from the actual cut, on average the kerf is at most only a third of a similar Western saw. This means, the worker only expends a third of the energy to achieve the same result and will finish the job much quicker.

View our full range of Japanese saws here

Shokunin Japanese Tatebiki Dovetail Saw
Shokunin Japanese Tatebiki Dovetail Saw

Types of Japanese Saw

Japanese saws or Nokogiri fall into three basic styles. The single edged backless saws referred to as a Kataba, the double-edged or Ryoba and the single edged with a stiffening back or spine known as a Dozuki. There are slight variations within each category for more specialist functions.

Kataba Saws

The Kataba saws, having no backs are ideal for deeper cuts. These are the equivalents of western rip and panel saws. Examples in the Axminster catalogue are the Hassunme rip and crosscut saws, both of which feature replaceable blades. They remain sharp for a considerable amount of time, but once dull it is simplicity itself to change the blade.

The handles of both saws have identical fittings so it is possible to purchase one saw and a replacement blade of the other type, just change from one to the other as and when required. A further benefit; removing the handle means the saw will fit neatly into a toolbox.
View the Kataba saw here

Shokunin Japanese Kataba Crosscut Saw
Shokunin Japanese Kataba Crosscut Saw

Kugihiki Flushcut Saws

The Kugihiki or flush cutting saw has an exceptionally thin and flexible blade. The teeth have no set; it is perfect for cutting the protruding ends of through tenons or dowels without damage to the surrounding area. When using this saw, it helps if you gently rest the fingers of your free hand on the back of the blade just behind the cut. This gives much greater control. View the  Flushcut saw here

Shokunin Japanese Flushcut Saw

Ryoba Saws

The most visually striking of all Japanese saws is the double-edged Ryoba style. Surprisingly, it is a recent addition to the Japanese woodworker's toolbox, originating just over 100 years ago or so. In reality, it is a crosscut and a rip cut Kataba back to back on a single handle. Instead of carrying two saws the woodworker only requires one dual purpose saw, a little less weight to carry around and a good deal lighter on the pocket.

The Ryoba must be the ultimate tenon saw, one edge for ripping down the cheeks and the other to cleanly crosscut the shoulders. The Ryoba saw from Axminster features a replaceable blade. These saws are for the professional woodworker and are not to be confused with cheaper alternatives. The maker scrapes the blades so they are thinner in the centre in order to prevent them binding in a deep cut. Careful checks on each blade ensure its flatness before it leaves his factory. The quality is comparable with the best Western saws.

Shokunin Japanese Ryoba Double-Edged Saw
Shokunin Japanese Ryoba Double-Edged Saw

Dozuki Saws

Within the Dozuki saws is the Dozuki-Me. This has a blade thickness of a mere 0.3mm. Such a thin blade needs a steel spine to give it rigidity. In a similar way to a western tenon saw, the weight of the back provides the necessary downward pressure to ensure a smooth cutting action. This saw also features a replaceable blade (because at 25 tpi it is not an economical proposition to sharpen even if a file were obtainable). For deeper cuts, a wider blade is available.

Also in this group is what has proved to be a hugely popular saw, the Ikedame. Its name refers not so much to the saw but rather to the particular pattern of the teeth. Specifically designed for cutting small intricate joints down the grain, the dovetail comes immediately to mind. This is where the Ikedame has found endless friends. Another Dozuki is the Ice Bear brand Kumagoro saw, with very fine teeth at 25 tpi. With a 190mm long blade, it falls between the two previous saws and will prove a useful tool for cutting all manner of fine joints.

To get the most from a Japanese saw the main thing, is to relax and let the saw do all the work. The only thing for the woodworker to do is to provide the backward and forwards motion. Either pushing or trying to force the saw to cut can result in one of two things, the blade will buckle or a tooth may snap off. Don't worry if the odd tooth gets broken, which can happen in very hard woods, this will not affect the saw's performance. It matters not whether you hold the handle near the blade or at the far end, whichever feels most comfortable is correct, a good quality Japanese saw will stay on line. View the Dozuki-Me Tenon saw here

Shokunin Japanese Dozuki Tenon Saw
Shokunin Japanese Dozuki Tenon Saw

Conclusion

To sum up, compared to its Western counterpart the Japanese saw is lighter in weight and thinner, therefore, requiring far less effort on the user's part. The unique tooth form results in much faster cutting. It is harder so stays sharp for a very long time and being so sharp results in cleaner, more accurate cuts.

Here we explain everything you need to know about Japanese saws and what ones to buy. From the different types to what sets them apart from western saws.

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A hobby with history

Once a hobby just to pass the time of day or, going back even further, used more practically to create tools, the hobby of carving has grown over the years and has even evolved into the world of power tools!

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For the carving purists among us, the go-to tool will always be a hand tool without an electrical plug in sight! There’s no denying that you won’t find a more relaxing afternoon than whittling on your front porch in the summer sun. However, for those of us with, dare I say, bigger ideas (in size) and more wood to remove, the use of a power carving tool can be invaluable!

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Power revolution

First and foremost, they save time, especially on large projects where you would be hand carving for days to reduce the stock; using a power carver such as the Arbortech Turboplane will take you minutes.

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Of course, you can then continue the project with hand tools and for those seeking detail in the miniature, hand tools cannot be beaten. But, as with all power tools, the new inventions are coming thick and fast. Using the range from Saburr Tooth, you can quickly reduce stock and then find a similar level of carving detail to hand carving by switching the burrs.

Saburr Tooth

An easy win?

This may sound as if the fight has been won and power carving is victorious... Not at all! Both have their place depending on the size, scope and detail of your project, and a combination of hand and power tools can work together more harmoniously on the same project than initially thought!

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The main appeal of carving is accessibility; anyone of any age can take up carving with great results. You don’t need to be a skilled craftsperson to get joy from creating your first pieces; but if you are, then the same joy can be found in the uniqueness and intricacy of work that you create. The choice of tooling should depend more on what you are carving and your own physical ability, as to whether you pick up a power carver or the more traditional hand tool.

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Don’t take our word for it?

Weigh in and tell us which you prefer, power all the way or quiet and traditional? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter or post a comment below!

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Our quick guide to using power and hand carving tools in combination...

Larger undertakings

You can’t go wrong with an Arbortech Turboplane for removing a lot of stock, it sweeps it away quickly leaving a smooth finish. Continue the detailing with a Flexcut Detail Knife.

Medium sized projects (or where less effort is required!)

Start off with the easy to control Proxxon MSG Carver to gain the shape and continue with either a Flexcut Detail Knife, or Flexcut Power Gouges.

Small, intricate work

Flexcut Carving Knives are perfect for whittling, detailing and intricate carving. The range also include chip carvers and palm chisels, all with razor sharp blades.

A hobby with history Once a hobby just to pass the time of day or, going back even further, used more practically to create tools, the hobby of carving has grown over the years and has even evolved into the world of power tools! For the carving purists among us, the go-to tool will always be a hand tool without…

Axminster Rider Bevel Edge Chisel

Chisels are one of those essential hand tools that ought to find a home in everyone’s toolkit. However, in common with much other equipment, there’s a huge range from which to choose. There are a couple of simple questions that the prospective buyer should always ask.

What will they be used for and how much should I pay?

The answer to those two questions will go a very long way to determine what type of chisels are bought and just how much you'll have to pay.

There are a number of different categories of chisel, each designed for a particular range of applications. Within each category there may be several different variations to choose from at widely differing cost. So, the would-be purchaser might be forgiven for being slightly puzzled and also a little confused.

View our full chisel range here

New Chisels on the block

To complement the industry changing Axminster Rider planes, Axminster has added some new chisels to the Rider family. You can read the story and see the range here.

Bevel Edge Chisels

This type of chisel is probably the most popular. The name refers to the tapered grinding along both the long sides of the blade. Many within this range have a shatterproof plastic handle and are intended more for site use, where they can be struck continually with a hammer. A slightly different, even stronger option is a chisel with through tang where the blade continues through the handle and is welded to the striking button.

Some users find that with sustained use, a plastic handle becomes slippery and uncomfortable, in which case, bevel edge chisels with a more pleasant wooden handle are an alternative. Axminster Rider Chisels have a range of hornbeam handles with a metal striking hoop which allows them to be struck without ‘mushrooming’ the end. Chisels with plastic handles are likely to be used for general purpose carpentry, joinery, DIY and site work where they might be expected to perform reasonably well under fairly arduous conditions.

Bevel edge chisels required for cabinet work and good quality hardwood joinery applications may warrant tools with a little more finesse, such as those provided by Axminster Rider Hornbeam handles, Lie-Nielsen and Veritas. The blades are ground with an almost knife edge bevel along each side. This makes them suitable for access into awkward spots, such as when making a set of dovetails. The Axminster Rider, like the LN chisels have very tough, socketed hornbeam handles which will absorb sustained mallet blows. Veritas use kiln-baked hard maple, sealing it against changes in humidity.

Axminster Rider Bevel Edge Chisel

Butt Chisels

In many respects a shortened, more compact version of a standard bevel edge tool, which many may find more controllable. In addition, the reduction in the overall length means that they may be able to reach into difficult areas where a full sized chisel can’t be used. View the Butt Chisel range

Axminster Rider Butt Chisel

Paring Chisels

Another form of bevel edge chisel, but this time the blade has been lengthened rather than shortened. These are specialist, quite delicate chisels intended for use in an application such as paring the side of a housing joint and the extra length means that they should never be struck with a mallet. View the Paring Chisels range

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Mortice Chisels

Conversely, the mortice chisel is built solely to be struck repeatedly with a mallet. The blades are often thicker than the width and reinforced with a steel hoop at the end of the handle and a leather washer on the ferrule to absorb the impacts from the mallet. Axminster Rider also produce an excellent mortice chisel with their traditional socketed hornbeam handle. The very thick blades makes them especially suitable to lever out the waste when chopping a mortice.

Axminster Rider Mortice Chisel

Solid Steel Chisels

These tools are made from a one piece, solid steel forging and are the most rugged of all the different types of chisel, having far greater strength compared to the handled variety. Solid steel chisels should be used for all those really heavy duty jobs such as roofing and large framing joints. They are specifically designed to be struck with a hammer and are finding more varied uses on site. They can be used for lifting old ceramic tiles as well as cutting channels into brickwork and plaster.

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Japanese Chisels

Over several decades, Japanese chisels have become increasingly popular, being distinctly unique in several aspects when compared to their Western counterparts. Firstly, the blades are very thick and a little shorter being composed of two different materials; a very hard, high carbon steel which is then laminated by hammer forging to a softer, low carbon backing. This has the effect of lending support to the all important, but very brittle cutting steel.

Once the blade has been hardened and tempered, often to over RC65, the cutting steel is so hard that it becomes very difficult to flatten and hone. It’s for this reason that much of the area of the underside of the blade is very carefully ground away. This is called the ‘ura’. It is designed to reduce the surface area so that it becomes easier to flatten and hone. One of the benefits of hot forging is that the steel will take and hold an incredibly sharp edge. However, as the steel is so brittle, a chipped and damaged edge will result if the chisel is levered to remove waste. It’s also advisable to maintain a straight bevel at all times as hollow grinding on a Tormek grinder or similar removes the softer backing steel and reduces the support offered to the cutting edge.

Find out more about Japanese chisels. 

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Blade Material

More than any other hand tool, the effectiveness of the blade depends on the quality of the steel. Questions such as the ease of sharpening and the edge obtained are crucial to the way a chisel performs. Unfortunately, many of the lower priced chisels are made from steel which is perhaps not quite as reliable as traditional Sheffield steel. There are exceptions so it’s well worth reading our unbiased customer reviews before purchase. Or, you could call into one of our stores.

The hardening and tempering process can have the effect of making the first 0.5mm of the cutting edge quite soft. This makes them liable to crumble and gives a false indication of the quality of the steel. If this phenomenon occurs, the chisel should be reground to remove the soft portion and then rehoned. It’s very likely that you’ll then find the much harder steel which will take and keep a useable edge. Alternatively, a faulty chisel can be returned to Axminster for a replacement.

Conclusion

Buying chisels can be a leap of faith, particularly if an unfamiliar brand is considered. In common with most tools, it usually pays to buy the best that your pocket can afford' As they say; "the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten".

Chisels are one of those essential hand tools that ought to find a home in everyone’s toolkit. However, in common with much other equipment, there’s a huge range from which to choose. There are a couple of simple questions that the prospective buyer should always ask. What will they be used for and how much should I pay? The answer…

Block planes have been an indispensable part of the woodworker's arsenal for many decades. However, the original use was to trim a heavy butcher’s block, hence the name ‘block plane’. The Axminster Rider range consists of five principal planes, which can be subdivided into two groups, Standard and Deluxe, but both share common features.

FILM NO. or digital DSCF…_2AX1359 as Smart Object-1

They’re generally used one handed. The cap iron has a smoothed, domed profile so that it sits comfortably in the palm of the hand. For more accurate and precise work block planes can be used two handed. The user’s other hand or thumb is applied to the substantial front brass knob. This locks the sliding shoe and regulates the size of the mouth. The bodies are made from high quality ductile iron, with copper and nickel added to improve their resistance to corrosion.

Soles are ground flat to within +/- 0.04mm or 0.0016”. The sides are also square which is essential if it’s used as a mini shooting board plane.

The most important part of the block plane is the blade. These blades are made from a blank of 3mm thick, O1 (oil quenched) high carbon spring steel. They are then hardened and tempered to RC 63. The blade is honed with a serviceable secondary bevel and is ready to take shavings.

All Rider block planes undergo a detailed inspection at Axminster to ensure consistent quality.

_2AX7560 as Smart Object-1
Standard Block Planes.

The Standard block planes consist of the No.60½ and . They look very similar but with a significant difference, the angle the blade is mounted. The No.60½ is referred to as a ‘low angle’ block, where the blade is seated at 13½°. The No.9½ has a slightly higher 20° bed. This difference makes the plane cut in different ways.

Blade angles and effective pitch

Block plane blades are always placed bevel up on the bed. To find the ‘effective pitch’ (the angle at which the blade edge meets the timber), the honed angle (usually 30°) must be added to the bed angle.

In a ‘low angle’ block plane the effective pitch is 13½°+30° = 43½°. This is almost the same as a bevel down configuration of a standard bench plane.

Reducing the effective pitch slightly to approximately 40° (by lowering the honed bevel angle to around 27°) means that the blade will slice through end grain fibres more easily, which is the plane’s primary purpose.

Conversely, the effective pitch of a No.9½ block plane, with a 30° honed edge is 50° which makes it very suitable for tackling more awkward areas of difficult grain.

By slightly altering the honed angle on either type of plane, it’s quite easy to increase or decrease the effective cutting pitch of the blade which is one of the reasons why these small planes are so versatile.

FILM NO. or digital DSCF…_2AX1915 as Smart Object-1
Deluxe Block Planes.

Deluxe Block Planes

There’s an Axminster ‘Rider’ block plane to cater for every taste. However, the more discerning user might be drawn to the Deluxe version. The highly polished bronze cap iron does give it that bit of bling!

Apart from its undoubted dazzle, the bronze cap iron does have one or two practical advantages over those sported by its less glamorous cousins.

First and foremost, from an ergonomic viewpoint, there’s more of a pronounced dome to its shape, which means that it tends to sit more comfortably in the palm of the hand.

Second and foremost, it has comparatively more mass, the result of which is that the Deluxe block planes have a little more ‘heft’ when picked up and applied to the timber.

_2AX1285 as Smart Object-1
A cast and polished solid bronze cap adds comfort and heft

One other difference which is immediately noticeable is that the Deluxe planes have a more desirable method of locking the blade in place. This consists of a large, knurled brass wheel directly under the lever cap, which is turned between finger and thumb to apply just the correct amount of pressure to secure the blade. The correct amount of pressure is when the blade firmly held, but no more.
The Deluxe range comprises the low angle No.60½, the No.9½ and a hybrid, the No.69½, which combines the best attributes of both. It has the low angle bed of the No.60½, together with the increased blade width (41mm) of the No.9½.

If you are looking how best to sharpen your hand tools watch Jason Breach's How To. 

The Axminster Rider range consists of five principal planes, which can be subdivided into two groups, Standard and Deluxe, but both share common features.

The complete Rider Bench Plane range comprises of a No. 4, 4½, 5, 6 & 7, with a soon to be introduced , however there’s usually been some confusion over exactly what each type can, or should be used for. There’s no ‘hard and fast’ rule that applies; more a set of generalisations where the boundaries can often be quite blurred.

Rider No. 4
Axminster Rider No. 4 Smoothing Plane

No. 4 - For those new to woodworking, the No. 4 smoother a good place to start. With a 50mm cutter, it’s a useful size and weight for finishing and final smoothing for almost all projects. It’s also a great general purpose plane for the tradesman, hobbyist or keen DIY enthusiast.

Rider No. 4 1/2 & 5
Left: Axminster Rider No. 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane Right: Axminster Rider No. 5 Jack Plane

No. 4½ - Similar in size to the No. 4, but with a wider blade and heavier body. This plane has the necessary ‘heft’ to cope with more difficult grain and is often part of a professional, site or enthusiastic hobbyist’s arsenal of tools.

No. 5 - Slightly longer than the No. 4, this plane is usually referred to as a ‘jack plane’ from the phrase ‘jack of all trades’. It will handle almost any task asked of it and is normally the plane of choice when used on rough sawn timber.

No. 5½ - The No. 5½ is often referred to as a ‘heavy jack’, having greater mass together with a wider blade than the No.5. It’s used for much the same purposes as it’s lighter cousin, but has more ‘heft’ or presence on the timber. As such, this size of this plane is often preferred by more advanced woodworkers, students and cabinet makers.

Rider No 6
Axminster Rider No. 6 Fore Plane

No. 6 - There are two larger bench planes, the first being the No. 6 or ‘fore’ plane. It’s a little longer than the jack and can be used for much the same purposes, but the increased length makes it more suitable for truing the edges of boards.

No. 7 - This is the longest of the Rider bench planes and is traditionally called a ‘jointer’. It’s specifically used for truing the edges of boards prior to jointing, where it’s extra length removes the high spots and straddles the low areas, so that after a few passes, the edges ought to be sufficiently flat for jointing. The plane can also be pressed into service as a ‘super smoother’ where, for example, when cleaning up the face of of a wide, framed, panel or door, the surface needs to be finished as true and flat as possible.

The complete Rider Bench Plane range comprises of a No. 4, 4½, 5, 6 & 7, with a soon to be introduced 5½, however there’s usually been some confusion over exactly what each type can, or should be used for. There’s no ‘hard and fast’ rule that applies; more a set of generalisations where the boundaries can often be quite…

It’s rare indeed in the world of engineering that a product begins by simply being ‘made’. Starting with the initial brief and subsequent research, there’s always a vast amount of work involved behind the scenes, eventually culminating in the production of prototypes or models from which, after a further sustained period of development, the final product emerges. Even then, the process isn’t complete as there’s a constant process of detailed refinement and evolution.

It was ever thus and the recently introduced Axminster Rider bench plane range is no exception. The pics show the very first prototype.

Rider No. 4 prototypes
Rider No. 4 prototypes

The body and frog have been cast in bronze, with the other components produced from cast brass and steel, the original handles having been replaced with some in teak.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The initial design brief was to produce a good quality range of traditionally made bench planes, suitable for professional woodworkers, trade, apprentices, students and enthusiastic hobbyists; at the same time being affordable to all.

The production planes are made from high quality ductile cast iron, with additives such as copper and nickel to improve corrosion resistance. Casting takes place in an up-to-date, modern, computerised foundry and upon removal from the mould they’re left outside to age for several months, after which the soles are precision ground to 0.04mm or +/- 0.0016”. The handles and totes are made from selected, oil finished rosewood from a sustainable managed source. Other important components, such as the cap iron are made from solid brass.

Naturally enough, the blades are crucial and are made from 3mm thick, surface ground, high carbon spring steel, hardened and tempered to RC63.

Blades are honed with a secondary micro bevel and then all planes undergo a rigorous, careful inspection at Axminster prior to final packing and despatch.

Tim Styles inspects some newly arrived Rider planes
Tim Styles inspects some newly arrived Rider planes

The customer receives his or her plane in a high quality, black presentation box, together with a spare blade, protective sock and instruction booklet.

They require the bare minimum of preparation; firstly a wipe down to remove the protective coating and then a check on the blade ‘set’, after which the owner is ready to start planing.

The acquisition of a few, or even a set of bench planes by any aspiring woodworker can be a daunting prospect, especially if the premium makes are in the financial firing line. The Axminster Rider range offers a very attractive alternative which won’t leave the credit card too badly dented.

It’s rare indeed in the world of engineering that a product begins by simply being ‘made’. Starting with the initial brief and subsequent research, there’s always a vast amount of work involved behind the scenes, eventually culminating in the production of prototypes or models from which, after a further sustained period of development, the final product emerges. Even then, the…

For some strange reason, woodworkers appear to think that the common or garden through dovetail joint is the high point in their woodworking endeavours. Cut a few so they fit well, look presentable and many think that they've reached the ultimate achievement in joint cutting.

To be fair, they are tricky to cut, but not that tricky and a few practice sessions will usually see even the relative newcomer making a reasonable stab at the joint. But you only have to look at some of the stuff the Japanese do to appreciate that there’s a vast amount of joinery out there which is infinitely more complex.

Over the course of the next few instalments the Resourceful Woodworker is going to have a look at marking out and cutting a simple through dovetail joint. This is the way that I cut them and most woodworkers will find their own variation on the theme, but all methods are essentially the same. Dovetails are used to join two bits of wood together across their width, the beauty of the arrangement being that the joint will resist mechanical pull in one direction which makes them ideal for, say, the joints on the side of a drawer.

The prerequisite for accurate work is the sound preparation of the timber. Each piece should be prepared flat and true with the ends planed dead square. The first step is to mark the shoulder lines with either a marking gauge or knife and try square.

The gauge line should be fractionally bigger than the thickness of the wood to allow for a little overhang when the joint goes together. Step two is to mark out the two 'half-pins' at the edges. The 'pins' are the bits of wood between the tails and there are obviously two half-pins, one each side. The general rule is that they measure half the thickness of timber plus around 1mm along the shoulder line, so these two awl dots (arrowed) are 7mm in from each edge.

Marking out the half pins at the side with awl points
Marking out the half pins at the side with awl points

These two dots, which mark the corners of the half pins, are now converted into a 1:8 slope at each side, the result of which is that there's one large dovetail in the middle of the wood. I'm using a red roller ball for clarity, but a sharp 4H pencil will produce a finer line although it may be more difficult to see.

Marking the half pins
Marking the half pins

Perceived wisdom is that there should be roughly one dovetail each 25mm or so across the width. This isn't written on a tablet of stone or even cast in concrete so it's up to the woodworker to use his or her judgment to decide how many are needed. The wood here is 66mm wide, so I'm going to have two dovetails, meaning I've got to split the big one exactly in half.

There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest is to use a pair of dividers. Set them to slightly over half the distance of the big dovetail, place one leg on the end of the dovetail and step out once to make a dot in the middle of the wood.

Stepping out from one side with dividers
Stepping out from one side with dividers

Step out from the other side in exactly the same way. You'll now be left with a pair of dots which will be equidistant from the edges and exactly in the middle of the wood.

Two dots in the middle arrowed
Two dots in the middle arrowed

The final stage in the marking out is to convert these two central dots into the middle pin, the result of which will be the emergence of both the dovetails each side.

Marking the centre pin
Marking the centre pin

I've done two dovetails here, but if the board was wider, it's simply a question of trial and error when setting out the distance between the points of the dividers. They're then stepped across the end to hopefully mark out the correct number of pins and dovetails.

Next time I'll be looking at cutting the dovetails.

For some strange reason, woodworkers appear to think that the common or garden through dovetail joint is the high point in their woodworking endeavours. Cut a few so they fit well, look presentable and many think that they’ve reached the ultimate achievement in joint cutting. To be fair, they are tricky to cut, but not that tricky and a few…

There’s always a project being made in the ‘shop, and with the current one, light, as they say, can be seen at the end of the tunnel. The job is a tall chest of drawers in American cherry. The carcase is being made in MDF, veneered with 2mm thick band-sawn veneers. This sits on a small plinth, which needs to be fixed to the carcase.

pocket_holing03_1200x800

The traditional way is to use a number of ‘buttons’, as shown in the drawing. The advantage of this is they will allow for significant movement if solid timber has been used in the construction.

The mortice in the rail is machined longer and deeper than the tenon on the button. This means that it will slide quite easily in both horizontal planes, even when it’s screwed to the carcase.

Opting for pocket holes

However, in this case, there isn’t any solid timber. Therefore,I decided to try a slightly different approach and use pocket holes. These are awkward little blighters to make freehand. However, the recent introduction of the UJK Technology Mini Pocket Hole Jig has made this task easier.

I used an adjustable square to measure a 6mm offset from the top of the rail. I then used the special UJK Technology drill, complete with its depth collar, to make the holes. It’s important that the drill is always used on the highest speed setting and the drilling needs to be done carefully, frequently clearing the debris. If not, the small pilot drill is liable to break off!

Positioning the Mini Pocket Hole Jig
Positioning the Mini Pocket Hole Jig
The first pocket hole
The first pocket hole

A couple of pocket holes on each side are going to be more than enough to secure the plinth to the carcase. It’s also advisable to use a UJK 150mm T20 Torx screwdriver bit to give clearance and some suitable washer headed pocket screws, of which there’s a very good selection.

I’m not normally a big pocket holer, but this little jig seemed the right tool to use for this application, so I’ll probably use it again on another future project.

There’s always a project being made in the ‘shop, and with the current one, light, as they say, can be seen at the end of the tunnel. The job is a tall chest of drawers in American cherry. The carcase is being made in MDF, veneered with 2mm thick band-sawn veneers. This sits on a small plinth, which needs to…

Terrific. You’ve just bought a new Rider bench plane, or even better, several of them, but now, having used them for a while, the blades are going to need some TLC to get them back to that ‘hair shaving’ degree of sharpness which most woodworkers crave.

Any discussion on sharpening and honing is bound to be fraught with all sorts of difficulties as everyone has their own pet way of achieving the ultimate edge. No one way is any better or worse than the next, they’re just different, using different methods and honing media.

Along with the new Rider Bench Plane range, we’ve also recommended our own honing guide based very closely on the original Eclipse No.36 model as well as a diamond bench stone with a very coarse 400g on one side and a finer 1000g on the other.

The honing guide and diamond bench stone work very well together. The coarse 400g side is useful for removing those inevitable ‘dings’ from the 30° honed edge or for re-shaping the 25° bevel if a powered grinder isn’t available. The finer 1000g side produces a good, but fairly workmanlike edge which will take shavings efficiently but which, if required, could be refined even further.

Enter the new Rider Sharpening Station, where a substantial lump of phenolic plastic has a couple of cut-outs in it, one for the diamond bench stone and the other for a top quality Connell leather strop, complete with a bar of honing compound. The phenolic board also has four non-slip feet on the underside to ensure that it won’t move on the bench during the honing process. The Rider Honing Guide is not sold as part of the kit, as many woodworkers may already own one.

Those Blog readers with keen eyesight will notice that there’s a strange 'step like' area at each end that’s been machined out of the phenolic surface. Each step has been engraved 25°, 30° and 45°. They’re intended to be used with the Rider Honing Guide to ensure that the correct, repeatable honing or grinding angle is achieved every time the blade is sharpened.

Left: bench plane blade honed at 30°. Right: set chisel in honing guide to the correct length to match 30° angle
Left: bench plane blade honed at 30°. Right: set chisel in honing guide to the correct length to match 30° angle

To use, simply place the blade in the honing guide; this is then held against the edge of the sharpening station. If the blade is being honed, slide it forwards until it butts against the edge of the ‘step’, directly under the 30° engraved mark. Tighten the blade in the honing guide and the projection obtained will be exactly 30°, which is the correct honing angle for most blades.

It’s important to note that these projections (the 45° setting is for the scraper plane blade) will only work with the Rider Honing Guide. Using an alternative guide with a different sized wheel will obviously provide the same projection, but the honing and grinding angles achieved will not be 30° or 25°.

Extensive tests at Ax HQ revealed that when the 1000g edge, obtained directly from the diamond stone, was treated further on the charged leather strop, the improvement was quite dramatic and after the exercise I had bald patches on my forearms!

If you have stuff that you’d like to share with us about honing and sharpening, as ever, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Terrific. You’ve just bought a new Rider bench plane, or even better, several of them, but now, having used them for a while, the blades are going to need some TLC to get them back to that ‘hair shaving’ degree of sharpness which most woodworkers crave. Any discussion on sharpening and honing is bound to be fraught with all sorts of…

Axminster Rider No.4½ Smoothing Plane
Axminster Rider No.4½ Smoothing Plane

A plane of some description is one of those tools which lurks, rusty and unloved in the dark recesses of many a garden shed or toolbox and for many homeowners or DIYers, most of the time, just one will suffice. It’s usually an old, paint bespeckled, battered No.4 or 5 used for taking a few shavings off the bottom of a sticking door.

Once you start to take an interest in wood and begin to make stuff, planes take on a whole new significance as without them, nothing much happens. Should you decide to work with just hand tools (and many do), the battered and bespeckled No.4 will need to be replaced with a whole army of different planes. All professional ‘shops and most amateur woodworkers will have some machinery to dispense with the sheer ‘grunt’ of preparing timber and so only a few are actually essential.

Even though I’ve got a comprehensive collection of decent quality machinery, for some strange and inexplicable reason, the planes under the bench haven’t been consigned to the scrap heap, even though there are only few that get used on a regular basis. At the last count there were 33 under or around the workbench and the number shows no sign of decreasing as Veritas have just brought out a very nifty little plane kit which has piqued my interest, so there’ll definitely be another one to shoehorn under the bench later on.

The acquisition of a set of planes, particularly if you’re a newcomer to woodwork, can make a very hefty dent in the wallet. It’s well worth doing some research and where possible ‘try before you buy’ or at least examine at first hand some different types of planes.

One such possibility would be the new Rider range of bench and specialist planes. The current selection of Rider block planes has been extended so that the whole range now consists of 19 bench and specialist planes. There’s a No.4, 4½, 5, 6 and a large No.7 with a 5½ to be added at a later date. Each is made from age conditioned, high quality ductile cast iron and the soles have been ground flat to within +/- 1.6 thou" or or 0.04mm with oil finished, sustainably sourced Indian rosewood handles. The blades are now a full 3mm thick and made from oil quenched, EN42 high carbon spring steel, hardened and tempered to RC 63. The cap iron and other fittings made from solid brass.

L to R: Axminster Rider No.69½ Low Angle Block Plane and No.778 Rebate Plane
L to R: Axminster Rider No.69½ Low Angle Block Plane and No.778 Rebate Plane

As well as the bench planes, there’ll be some new specialist planes, including a rather nice 2-in-1 bull nose and a 3-in-1 shoulder plane, plus a traditional pattern No.778 rebate plane. Every Rider plane will be cleaned and checked at Axminster, during which time it’ll be laser etched, then re-packaged in a very smart, high quality, foam lined, black embossed box, complete with (depending on the plane) a sock and spare blade. Blades are already honed, so that with the bare minimum of setting up, every plane is ready to start taking shavings the moment it’s taken out of the box.

All planes, though, will have a comprehensive instruction booklet tucked inside the box, which amongst a lot of other information, gives some useful hints on sharpening the blade once the edge has been lost.

Honing is always a ticklish area to discuss and can raise all sorts of hackles amongst woodworkers but we have attempted to simplify the whole process by including a Rider honing guide in the range, based on the original Eclipse design. Honing guides are useful as they allow a repeat honing angle to be replicated exactly, but only if the blade projects the same distance each time. The best way to achieve this projection is to use a sharpening board which looks rather like a little bench hook and unsurprisingly, one of these is also part of the Rider range.

Last and by no means least, you’ve got to have something to sharpen the blade on, so we’ve included a decent diamond (1000/400g) honing stone as well. I used these stones for many years and for all practical purposes, they’re 100% bullet proof. All that’s required is a squirt of lubricant of some sort (I used paraffin or WD40, but anything will do) and you’re in business.

I’ve had a very tiny input into the development of the bench planes and had the prototype  No.4½ in my workshop at home for some time. I was quite impressed and to mention an oft quoted expression these days, ‘it does what it says on the tin’.

A plane of some description is one of those tools which lurks, rusty and unloved in the dark recesses of many a garden shed or toolbox and for many homeowners or DIYers, most of the time, just one will suffice. It’s usually an old, paint bespeckled, battered No.4 or 5 used for taking a few shavings off the bottom of…

Just before Christmas last year, there appeared an Axminster blog giving some information on the new range of Axminster Trade Clamps, which are now available in store and online. This new range is designed for trade or professional use and the clamps are guaranteed to give maximum performance all day, every day.

The strength and reliability of a forged steel clamp gives it the ability to exert the maximum clamping pressure time after time, with no misalignment of the frame. Too much leverage applied to a drop forged, cast clamp will cause frame distortion beyond repair, which is an all too common sight in many workshops.

This gives a very good indication of the advantages of forged steel, compared to a drop forged, cast iron clamp. A forged steel clamp will recover its original form, even when the maximum pressure is applied, whereas a drop forged clamp frame will distort beyond repair if too much force is exerted, as I’ve experienced in my own ‘shop.

Even more important is the notion of ‘active’ clamping which is when a forged steel clamp maintains its pressure, regardless of the condition of the timber. For example, if a piece of timber with a relatively high moisture content were to be clamped in a warm workshop for an extended period, there’s every chance that it would shrink. As the timber contracts, the force applied to it will remain constant as the forged clamp frame will actively move with the timber. Conversely, the pressure applied with a standard drop forged clamp will decrease as the timber shrinks.

One of the new features of the Axminster Trade range of clamps is that the maximum clamping pressure is indicated for each type and size of clamp. This will be displayed on each clamp in the stores by means of a swing label; the website and catalogue show the figure in the text.

How was this magical figure obtained?

At vast expense, we purchased a load cell, which can be seen in use with one of the new forged range of F-clamps. Initially, we were a little concerned about the correct way to show the maximum force, but decided in the end to opt for kilograms as it’s a unit of measurement that’s familiar to all. The figure can also be quoted in Newtons, where 1kg is equal to 9.8 Newtons, roughly bigger by a factor of ten.

If you were to buy one of the new 250mm forged F-clamps with a swivel handle in store, you’d see a swing ticket attached giving the maximum clamping pressure of 425kg. Even that’s a difficult figure to visualise, but divide it by 2.2 and you’ll see it in bags of sugar equalling 193.

And that’s a lot of sugar.

Just before Christmas last year, there appeared an Axminster blog giving some information on the new range of Axminster Trade Clamps, which are now available in store and online. This new range is designed for trade or professional use and the clamps are guaranteed to give maximum performance all day, every day. The strength and reliability of a forged steel clamp…

Sums, together with spellings, were never my strong point. My parents, bless them, used to delight in the tale of my ‘needles to say' (instead of 'needless') and similar such gems which seemed to pepper my ill spent youth with some frequency. However, regarding the former, upon swiftly prodding a digit at our pages for tape measures, I guesstimated that we sell over 60 different sorts.

Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of tape measures, some of which are going to be (by a process of elimination) better than others, but which ones are best and moreover why If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

This innocuous looking bit of kit is probably the most used (and abused) item in anyone’s toolbox. There’s not a single tradesman, craftsman or DIY-er who doesn’t, or hasn’t, owned one at some time. Electricians, carpenters, joiners, plumbers, masons and metalworkers all keep a tape measure by their side. I suspect that the only practical individual who doesn’t use one is an orthopaedic surgeon and, having seen at first hand the kit they use in theatre, I speak from a little experience.

There are big ones, small ones, durable ones and flimsy ones (and there’s a gag in there somewhere too). There’s also quite a lot of stuff out there and from my delvings on t’interweb, the KISS principle, or ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’, seems to be particularly appropriate.

A brief summing up might be as follows:

Durability

For a tape to have a long and productive life, the most critical factor is blade durability. Over time, grit, dirt and debris enter the tape and grind against the blade as it’s extended and retracted, which eventually begins to remove the coating and printed numbers.

Case Durability

This is important, but to a lesser extent. Any decent tape ought to be able to withstand a 2m drop without damage and the serious, heavy duty, rubber covered constructional ones should be able to withstand some sustained abuse.

The ‘Stand-Out’ Factor

This is the distance that the blade can extend unsupported from the case without collapsing and appears to be directly correlated to its width. The Stanley FatMax Xtreme is reputed to have a ‘stand-out’ distance of around 4m but any decent tape ought to be in the range of 2.5 to 3m. Anything less and it’s not likely to last in other areas.

Tang

This is the hook which is riveted at the end of the blade and which should have a smooth back-and-forth movement. Some of them, particularly on very large constructional tapes, are massive and catch on everything except what is actually required, appearing unnecessary for everyday tasks.

blog-tape-tipLocking Lever

A traditional, simple locking lever seems to be best, rather than ones with an auto-lock feature. Remember KISS?

Measurement Markings

Do you prefer imperial, metric or both? It's very much down to personal choice, but as we’re based in the UK and Europe, metric would seem to be a logical choice. We’re reputed to have turned away from imperial measurement decades ago, but as has been examined in the previous Blog, that ain’t necessarily so...

I make no final conclusions, except for a couple of observations. The first of these is that along with the odd Hasselblad camera or three, the crew of Apollo 11 managed to shoehorn a Stanley Powerlock onto the lunar landing mission in 1969.

Second and foremost, on mentioning the subject of this Blog to my wife, she unequivocally stated that the best tape measure in the world is the one she’s got permanently attached to her bunch of car keys...and as a mere bloke, who am I to disagree?

Please let us know your views, either by a letter to the Times (always the best bit), a reply to this Blog entry or by sending a postcard with your answers to the conundrum of...‘What's the World’s Best Tape Measure?’ Seriously, if you would like to give us your views and join in the discussion go to our Facebook page.

Sums, together with spellings, were never my strong point. My parents, bless them, used to delight in the tale of my ‘needles to say’ (instead of ‘needless’) and similar such gems which seemed to pepper my ill spent youth with some frequency. However, regarding the former, upon swiftly prodding a digit at our pages for tape measures, I guesstimated that…

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