Hand Tools Archive

Re: Cap iron

Warren in Lancaster, PA
I have used a cap iron to control tearout for over 35 years. It took several years of experimentation before that to get comfortable with the process. I was guided by the notion that cabinetmakers 200 years earlier knew something I did not. The ideal distance between the cap iron and the edge varies according to the thickness of shaving, the severity of the figure, and the quality of the timber. It is something one has to develop a feel for. I have never measured the distance from the edge to the cap iron, and frankly it has only been in the last two years that I ever measured a shaving. I can say that if you use a double iron on sound timber and are getting tearout, something is wrong. Maybe someone else can be more helpful.

I have intentionally avoided giving these measurements. It would be very easy for someone to say "I put it just where you said and it didn't work." An analogy I have used is that of a standard transmission. What would you say to a guy who says "Tell me what gear to use", or "I tried it in 1st and it was too slow so I tried it in 5th and it stalled". We don't consult a chart that says when going a certain speed and going up a certain slope and accelerating at a certain rate we should be in x gear. What we do is experiment and get a feel for what the appropriate gear is. To learn to shoot a basketball, we do not ask an expert what angle he uses to launch the ball or how many rpm it is spinning. It is helpful to watch others or to have a coach, but without many repetitions, success is doubtful.

I seems odd to need a scientist to validate centuries old technology. I guess it happens in other fields as well.

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