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Shop Fun with Scott Grandstaff


 
 

Fine Tools, Cheap!!!

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These words donít often go together. Good and cheap. Itís generally one or the other. The time is coming when they wonít go together anymore but for this present little window in time, you can still jump through.

I suspect we have all seen the traditional Chinese planes being imported now. These are the planes of thousands of years, still made and sold in the modern world. Woodcraft and Japan woodworker have them and many others as well.

Like western woodies, they all look the same from the outside.  Iím sure our western planes all look alike to them too.  But just like western woodies, they arenít really the same at all, not by a long shot.

Some are more carefully built and finished. The extra fine wood selection, manufacture and finish is not always easy to find.  Cutting through the clutter to get down to a kernel of good is not always so easy.

I happened to run across a Texan, named Bob McRee, who had moved to China. He is importing and distributing completely handmade and beautifully finished violins and mandolins. These are major concert quality instruments, individually carved with edge tools. The trade name on them is Jade, if you want to look them up. They are built on an island in the Pearl River, in case you wondered. 

Seeing the shop tools being used everyday by the instrument crew, Bob began to wonder what they were using to produce such brilliant work.  And inquire if they were available.  It turns out they were, at least in limited quantities.  So, he bought some, hand picking for quality control, and tried to list them on eBay. Among all the dross and confusion of the great endless market, hardly anyone noticed.  Nothing much to make them stick out, looking so similar to all the others.

If you havenít tried this style of plane there are some things about them you need to know. The bed angle is at 55degrees. A high angle plane. You can attack curly or figured wood in complete confidence. They can be pushed or pulled and equally adept at either. You can remove the cross handle and use them as you would a Japanese plane.

The blades are extra thick for the small size of the two he sent me. One, about 5Ē: long is the local rosewood relative. Bright and lovely, itís a solid rosewood plane! The smaller at 4Ē is SE ebony. Do I need to repeat myself?  Ebony! A solid ebony plane for under 20 bucks, are you kidding? 

The blades of both are 1/8Ē plus thick. They come well ground and only needing honing.  The steel appears to be M2 high speed steel, the standard for these tools.  M2 is not the fastest to sharpen but it takes and holds a great edge that is nearly bulletproof.

The bodies are scraped or sanded velvety smooth. Delightfully smooth and without any other finish. I have to tell you I was tempted to oil the rosewood plane and see if it darkens up a little. Heh heh...  The throats are as tight as you can hope for any wooden plane. There are brass throat plates set just ahead of the blade to ensure they stay that way.


 
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