Storms are rolling in from the Atlantic bringing catastrophic flooding, very high winds and there is many a tree being brought down around where we live. That means free unseasoned timber if you have a chainsaw and something to haul it away in – there’s always an upside.
But that was not what I was focussing on today. I was focussing on the chunk of lustrous black timber I dug out of my stock that came from much further afield. I have a piece of African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) and I am going to make a smoothing plane out of it (its tuff stuff to photograph too).
But here’s a thing: whenever I consider designing something in terms of its function I tend to approach it in a different way than if I think only of its form. To design my wooden smoother using Lee Valley’s kit I decided to take a function based approach.
How does a smoothing plane function? It creates a finely polished surface by utilising a very sharp blade, a relatively short (but very flat) sole and a tight mouth.
The Lee Valley PMV11 blade supplied in the smoother hardware kit (with its neat Norris style adjuster) will certainly provide my plane with the first of these and a certain amount of diligence and (hopefully) skill will provide the other two.
That’s not all there is to it though… Certainly it is desirable for a plane to have a certain amount of mass (even a small one) and, if it is to be long-lived, the sole must be very wear resistant. Reviewing these requirements led to the conclusion that a single species might not cover off all of the requirements… Therefore I have decided to use two species: My piece of African Blackwood for the body and a sliver of Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum sanctum), for the sole. Originally I tried to get hold of a piece of Buloke (which is even harder than Lignum and, in theory at least, more wear resistant) but I think I may have been better advised to stand at the rear of a rocking horse for a while.
So, I have my materials. Enough of words. It is time to do.
– Paul Mayon