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Finger Planes?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by sargebaker, Apr 25, 2010.


  1. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    Hello all,

    I'm progressing in my lutherie studies and figure that now is a good time to stock up on tools. (our dollar is strong, I'm young and have relatively little financial responsibility etc etc.) I would like to get a nice set of finger planes (arch toping, brace sculpting etc.)

    The IBEX planes seem to be by far the gold standard but I'm wondering if there are anyalternatives, perhaps cheaper ones. (I'm assuming there aren't given that I've never seen anyone use anything other than the Ibex planes...) And I know it's not worth it to chince on tools, but sometimes a medium quality tool with a few fine tunings can be just as good.

    I've been looking like mad online and found the following:

    Dov Schmidt set: http://www.dov-music.com/proddetail.asp?prod=1095 The price is incredibly cheap and they are advertised as being of german design and made in Italy... which the price doesn't reflect and they look strangely similar to the Chinese ones floating around cyber space.

    I.A. Lutz: http://www.diefenbacher.com/luthier3.htm Similar deal. Never heard of them before

    Herdim: Just as expensive, if not moreso than the Ibex. http://www.howardcore.com/Catalog/tools/Planes/AS-S.htm They look quite nice.

    St. James Bay Tool Co. http://www.stjamesbaytoolco.com/luthier.html
    Hard to tell from the picture. The price is right and they're apparently all hand made but the few reviews I've seen from these guys have been quite mixed...

    Cremona Finger PLanes: http://www.cremonatools.com/product_info.php?products_id=1422&osCsid=ehsvgaemap Unlike Dov's planes these reflect a made-in-Italy (ridiculous?) price...

    Lee Valley: http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=55065&cat=1,230,41182 These are a little larger and in wood.

    I've also seen a few handmade wood ones. I don't think I'm ready to make my own yet.

    What do you guys think?Has anyone had experience with any of these brands or know of any others?

    EDIT: Added http://www.dick.biz/dick/product/710270/detail.jsf - These are GORGEOUS!
     
  2. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Lee Valley stuff is pretty good, the cremona's and Lutz are also decent, most of my small planes are either Ibex, Pressem(out of business) or custom ground steels in hand made boxes. Finger planes are a pretty defined tool mostly to violin/ viola makers, and some mandolin makers. I would get a cheap set first and a good set of 3 stones for sharpening and a good multi curve burnisher with a flat. Learn good sharpening practices, then look to replace the steels in your finger planes with better steels and make your own holders fit to your hand, it is a very easy task. good luck
     
  3. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    Thanks for the advice! I have a combination water stone from Lee Valley so far and a ceramic stone to rectify it. the 1000/4000 basic combo stone. It's been more than adequate for sharpening my chisels and my block plane blade thus far (sometimes I don't even use the 4000...)

    My concern with buying a cheap or mediocre set at first is such: I will eventually want something better if I end up pursuing lutherie full time (which is my ultimate goal). If I buy a good set right off the bat it should last me my entire career and if for some reason my plans don't work out and I ever need to sell my tools, I can probably get a better return on the better planes.

    What stones do you suggest I have?
     
  4. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    I must say I'm especially curious about the James Bay ones... although I wrote the company and haven't heard back, which is probably a bad sign.
     
  5. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I like a combination of hard and soft Arkansas stones, I have a 3 stone Asian set with a 600/1200/3000 I like also before burnishing
     
  6. Hi.

    I haven't done so, yet ;), but since You seem to have the sharpening abilities, and wood working skills, my suggestion will be DIY.

    While I do understand that the traditional tools were made by the apprentice in the supervision of the master, many tools can be made just by following plans and explanations.

    Make sure to invest in high quality blades though, and make the boxes out of hard-wood.

    Regards
    Sam
     
  7. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    By burnishing do you mean stropping on a piece of leather?
     
  8. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    Also, while this is quite personal, what do you guys find to be the most useful sizes (both curved and flat soled).

    I spoke with 2 luthiers last night, one who said he uses the (I think) smallest Ibex for ALOT of work (sculpting braces etc.) and another who said he barely uses it...
     
  9. Sardine

    Sardine

    Feb 2, 2009
    Maine
    I find finger planes overrated - I much prefer a good chisel for most tasks. But there is no denying that sometimes you really need a plane. I'd suggest one of these: http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?grp=1307

    They aren't cheap, but they are wonderful tools. Ideal for trimming kerfing, roughing braces, trimming veneers, and a multitude of other small jobs. Like I said, I usually prefer a chisel, but for what it does, this plane is great. If you can afford it, one of those and one of these:http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=102 should take care of most planing jobs. Expensive, but worth every penny.

    Even though the tiny finger planes seem like ideal tools for carving, they have no weight to them, so you can end up needing to use a fair amount of force. They are also really tiny, and your hands will be killing you in no time. I would really suggest getting a nice set of chisels (a few gouges and a full range of bevel-edged chisels, Japanese ones if you can afford it) before shelling out big bucks for finger planes. If you really want to try them, buy one to see if you like it before springing for a full set.

    And one more thing: you shouldn't strop a plane blade (or any flat-backed blade for that matter). The blades need one flat side to work optimally. The first thing you should do to a chisel or plane iron is ensure that the back is flat. Carving chisels and Japanese chisels are slightly different; read up on that if you go that route (I highly recommend it).
     
  10. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    For now as far as planes go I have:

    a Stanley Low angle block plane with the sole rectified on a marble.

    The Kunz pocket plane with the squirrel tail

    This mini block plane: http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=50232&cat=1,230,41182

    I'm thinking I will eventually want an 8" (or 12"?) bench, as well as a jointer plane and a few smaller curved sole planes....

    As far as chisels go I have the Lee Valley Japanese (entry level) set with the ugly yellow plastic handles. I have a set of 5. For what I've used them for I've been pretty happy with them, I eventually would like to pick up this set: http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/...-JACHC73.XX&Category_Code=TBBC&Search=chisels on the suggestion of Joseph Yanuziello.

    Gouges: None thus far. I will wait until I decide to forray into archtop making to think about them... Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe their use is rather limited in flat top SS or electric guitar building?

    By stropping I passing my chisels two or three times over a piece of leather glued to a block of MDF after I have finished with the water stones. My teacher tought us to do this and I believe a few other builders do as well... or at least I believe they do (as evidenced by "stropping blocks" seen around their shop) Should I really not be doing this? I don't see how it would affect the flatness of my chisels...
     
  11. Sardine

    Sardine

    Feb 2, 2009
    Maine
    If you're mostly concentrating on flat tops and electrics, finger planes are going to be pretty lightly used. I assumed you were making archtops, hence why I suggested gouges. The pocket plane and chisels are much better tools for shaping braces. You really don't need a jack or bench plane for making an acoustic. A jointer plane is nice, but with practice you can joint a top with a block plane. Another trick is to use a flat piece of MDF with sandpaper on it - get close with the block plane and finish with the paper. This is also great of you're jointing something with funky grain.

    As far as stropping goes, it forms a micro-burr on the back of the blade, reducing it's effectiveness. With a carving chisel, you can just strop both sides, taking lighter strokes until the burr is gone. But if you strop the back of a bevel-edged chisel, you get a slightly rolled edge, meaning the point is no longer in line with the back. This reduces the chisel's ability to cut shavings. For example, if you wish to profile a brace, you need to take off long, straight shavings. If the edge of the chisel is not perfectly in line with the back, you need to tip the chisel into the cut much more aggressively, making it harder to control, and less effective. I hope this makes sense, it's kind of hard to explain. But stropping bevel-edged chisels and plane irons is a big no-no. The softness of the leather is what causes the rolled edge. Instead use a piece of plate glass with 8000 - 12,000 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper stuck to it with spray adhesive. Add a dab of water to lubricate and you're ready to go. You'll still get the micro-burr, but just run the back of the blade flat across the paper to remove it. Much cheaper than waterstones, and almost as good.:) In fact, depending on what stone grits you are using, you may be getting a perfectly good edge right off the stones. Just remember to keep everything flat.

    Just to clarify, stropping is an excellent sharpening technique, but only for carving chisels. Hang onto that stropping block, because if you do invest in gouges or other carving chisels, you'll need it. I don't know if you're already doing this, but charging the leather with fine polishing compound makes it work much better.

    Hope this all helps!:)
     
  12. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    Yes it helps alot!

    But wouldn't stropping both sides of the chisel (the bevel edge and the back) remove the burr? I understand how stropping only the bevel would roll the edge, but we always finish with the back.

    I'm not arguing with you, just trying to understand. I've learnt not to accept any information from any luthier as truth off the bat :p

    My teachers have misinformed me on more than one account so I gotta question everything.

    Thank you for all the help.
     
  13. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    A burnisher is a steel rod or plate made to turn the hook. Stropping is used by some and not others, I have no comment on a strop, as I only use one on knives.
     
  14. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    Yes I have a burnisher but that's just for the scrapers no?
     
  15. GrinchBass

    GrinchBass

    Jul 26, 2009
    CT, Hudson Valley, Randland
    Just under Commercial Status!
    You're on your way to a gouge/scraper setup, I think. I've considered Ibex and similar as well, still may, but I've found a good gouge set and a gooseneck scraper to work wonders. Tapping a gouge vs. shoving a plane is personally a little easier when working arching contours, I've found. Then again, soft woods like spruce aren't an issue when power comes to mind, but I've been sculpting maple, and that's different. There are also rasp solutions you might consider, depending on exactly what you want to do and what you actually can do.
     

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