Hand Tools Archive

Determining Problems by Supposition

David Weaver
...rather than solving them.

Bringing this up based on the comments below about the need to use a honing guide on bevel up planes. I used BU planes quite a lot in the past, so i'm not unfamiliar with them. They aren't friendly to anyone doing heavy work, and the flatness of the premium planes along with the level of grind makes them sticky to use in anything other than light work.

But when I did use them, I did as Derek has mentioned and honed two different blades - one for general work (35 degrees) and one steeper for tearout mitigation (+15 degrees).

That would yield effective cutting of 47 and 62 degrees. Those two will work just about anything. The former will be miserable to use in anything but pleasant wood, and the latter will ultimately be miserable to use but it's intended for miserable wood.

What turned me off about the planes is a combination of the handle angle, the flat feel (the feedback is pretty poor), and the fact that if you have a by-eye camber setup for a common pitch plane, it won't work remotely similar for a BU plane. The lateral adjustment is crap, too, but that's a hallmark of norris style adjusters and the original norris lateral adjustment is even worse.

All that said, I figured from the outset that the unicorn method would be a huge boon for bevel up planes, and supposed it would be unusable on bevel down. A quick challenge to figure that out proved it to be wrong. I supposed a problem, didn't consider making attempts at different concepts and would still not have tried the buffer on plane irons without Bill/Wiley/Winston's request.

But I would've buffed the front of my little block plane because it's cheese steel and it would otherwise never get used. In reality, it's going to get stuck back on the shelf, anyway. Trying it on the bubinga was inviting to see whether or not it would be easy to set the plane - I supposed earlier that it may not be accurate enough (it was easy to suppose).

But while on video, I also figured that if a 23 degree iron seems to have clearance considerations if it's buffed really hard (it's not out of clearance, but it feels like less clearance - we discussed that previously), it must be +10 degrees effective or more. The solution to that was to buff a little bit less and then the plane works nicely (not to forgo the round over, just to make it less large).

rather than being concerned about exactly what angle I had, I figured that a good stuff buffing of a 55 degree total effective edge would be good enough to get above 60 degrees and plane ribboned bubinga to a finish. To my surprise, it worked first try and the finish was as good as any double iron setting (because the wood is hard enough to take a polish off of a steep angle.

I think it's important with this unicorn stuff to recognize that supposing a problem and then not trying to prove that it's not a problem isn't enough. If I were dependent on guides, then I would still consider making 55 degrees total with the medium stone, and then skip the fine stone and buff. The result will be consistent to within a couple of degrees for anyone who buffs an iron. Like anything else, we'll become good at it. If we look at this a step further, the edge will also be finished every time and the average newbie sharpening BU planes isn't really going to finish edges.

I am surprised, but unicorning a 55 degree iron is a better option than honing to a finish to 62 or 65 or whatever. The results are the same, the edge is easier to complete, and on and on.

When I first came out with this stuff (my post talking about angles was on April 12 - I looked it up), I knew the first thing people would say is "what microbevel is this so that I can do that instead", and I knew I would get "just use a loaded stop". Both of these work, neither is as good as the buffer in practice.

If someone supposes a problem with this method, I will see if it is a problem and I have no skin in the game here - not selling thing, not monetizing videos, etc. If something is worse (like my comments about loss of some clearance), i will disclose it. If a supposed problem is a real problem, then I will state that. If it's not, I will challenge the supposing because it does a disservice to anyone who is thinking about adopting a method because the sea of actual solutions and supposed problems look to have about equal weight when someone reads one of each the first time.

Where I draw the line with anything is if I cannot do it repeatedly or if it takes a whole lot of time to figure it out (it will cause others trouble, too, then). If we look at this through the lens of how much time we all learned to start sharpening or change methods and get consistent, finishing with the buffer will take less every single time. Once someone gets a small handheld scope and starts looking at actual edge quality and doing real A/B comparisons, it will get even more in favor of the buffer, and then add less than ideal planing and it gets steeped even further.

The joy of all of this is my suppositions were wrong. Finding a solution that works in practice was easier than expected and the push to figure it out gave me methods that i"ll actually use now. And the method costs almost nothing and is accessible either through the internet or local (even the clearance white stick from sears proves to be spectacularly good at finishing).

I've noticed over the years that when someone supposes something won't work, they aren't going to be interested in finding someone else show that it does. I don't love that, either, but have learned to view it through what my actual goes are. Does it serve me to do anything other than adopt the better method? Not really. There may be valid reasons not to (cost of equipment, space, etc), but when there's not, I'm pretty happy to adopt things that work well even when there are people that I don't like (there aren't that many of those).

I have learned the hard lesson that if there is a troll who seems to know something, you probably won't have any luck getting it out of them, though!! That's too bad. That's not in regard to recent trolling on here (there's no evidence of any potential benefit), but much longer term in other forums.

My insistence could be seen as trolling, but that would be misinterpretation. If it makes me unlikable, I'm OK with that as long as it's because there's something to gain for others.

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Determining Problems by Supposition
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