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scraper plane for fingerboard leveling

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by james condino, Jan 14, 2012.


  1. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Hi everyone.

    I generally shy away from using any variation on a regular plane for dressing and leveling bass fingerboards, mainly because I've had more than a few tearout issues in the past with them and a while back I hit a mineral inclusion in an ebony board that took about 1/8" chunk out of one of my very nice plane blades. Scarpers do the job quite well, but you spend a lot of energy trashing the hands holding on when you have a very rutted out fingerboard. Has anyone had much luck wit a scraper plane like the vintage Stanley 112 or 212? They are pricey, but I'm after high quality; generally cheap tools are worthless and frustrating over the long haul. The bronze Lie Nielson also looks pretty nice from a tool geeks perspective. I've been eyeballing the smaller model shown below, but I have no interest in a flashy paperweight that just collects dust.....

    Thanks for the input.

    Lie-Nielsen Toolworks USA

    j.
     
  2. ctregan

    ctregan

    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    I have a "vintage" Stanley No. 112, a Lie-Nielsin 212, and a no frills Stanley No. 80.
    The 122 is too large for most bass work. I like the 212, but the stock L-N blade was too hard for me, so I substituted an old plane blade that works better for scraping. The Stanley No 80 is a an all around work horse. I switched out the cheap Chromium blade that came with it, with a Hock replacement blade.

    Set up and sharpening these tools, is crucial to performance. There is a lot written on setting up the No 80.

    I use these tools all the time; they are like precision planes. They are good for knocking down the high spots, when mating the fingerboard to the neck.

    If you buy the L-N plane, you can order the toothed blade, and reproduce the grooved surface you see inside vintage German shop basses ;)

    Also, order a multitude of spare blades and keep them all sharp. That way, when a blade is dull, its a quick change at the bench and no sharpening delays. Keeps you on the project at hand.
     
  3. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I have the Stanley #112, it is a beautiful thing to use when set up right. I used to a lot of veneer and inlay work and this was the tool of choice for leveling and cleaning up veneer, bindings etc. Set it up like a regular plane - flatten the sole, flatten the face side of the blade. Adjust it by laying it flat on a clean surface then gently tap the blade with a mallet - a little tap will do the trick - lighter is better. You also want to sharpen the blade with a slight rocker on the ends so that you do not dig in with the end of the blade - the same way you sharpen a smoothing plane blade. If you find one without a blade contact HOCK TOOLS -- Blades and Such for Planes and More they will make you a sweet replacement blade
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but I have owned and used just about every tool made for flattening and removing high spots. I have the L-N scraper plane James refers to above, and it's okay for super fine work, but also very finicky to set-up just right. And you can't really re-graduate a fingerboard that needs major changes with that tool. The only tool we'll use in our shop for laying out a fingerboard is the Lie-Nielsen standard angle block plane, with the throat set nearly shut. We have about 4-5 blades and change them out almost daily. Blades are hollow-ground to 30 degrees with a secondary (tip) bevel of another 4-5 degrees. Rarely is tearout a problem, and when it does happen it is shallow and gets removed by the hand-held scraper used in the following step. The same plane is also invaluable for truing the surfaces of both neck and fingerboard for glue-up. I think that when problems occur with planing ebony it is either a dull blade, one that is ground to a too-shallow angle, or the throat of the plane is too open.
     
  5. eerbrev

    eerbrev

    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    This is fascinating, guys. I wish more of this sort of thing showed up in this forum more often.
     
  6. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Very enthusiastic +1!!! :hyper:

    Joe
     
  7. ctregan

    ctregan

    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    The little blade ajustment wheels, can be difficult to use and, setting the blade, is at times frustrating. It will only take a whisper off at a time; not a tool for hogging a lot of material.

    Hand held scrapers are good, because you can see the exact spot you are scrapping.
     
  8. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    It would show up more often, and more intelligent discussions would also arise, if only the wannabe experts would occasionally pipe down and let the truly experienced pipe up. Several highly knowledgeable makers/repairers have moved on because they feel like this part of the forum is often hijacked by folks with small knowledge and big egos. Hopefully you guys remember Bollbach, Branstetter and Lloyd?
     
  9. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    +100

    I agree completely! With difficult grain/figure, I switch to a blade with a higher secondary bevel; planing takes a little more effort, but reduces or eliminates the likelihood of tear-out.
     
  10. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Arnold has good points. I have used my scraper plane on very difficult wood with success even though I have some exceptional sharp and well set up planes. As with any hand tool it needs to be tuned up well to produce optimal performance. The scraper plane when set up well can produce beautiful, fine shavings the full width of the blade on even difficult grain - that is the situation it was made for
     
  11. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Interesting perspectives guys. I do my fingerboard shaping with a Stanley block plane and follow up with a Lie-Nielsen scraper plane with the iron set just slightly forward of vertical. I absolutely love using hand scrapers but an injury to my right wrist sometimes curtails how much pressure and tension I can load it with - that's when the scraper plane is a godsend. I also have a lovely Ott Frankenhobel that my father-in-law gave me before he passed away. The toothed blade is terrific for those twisty-grained Chinese fingerboards and the lightweight wooden body is a delight to use.
     
  12. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Shock/Horror Admission - I still often use a bog-standard Stanley #4, well tuned, for shaping a fingerboard scoop. I find its length and heft perfectly OK for most situations. I prefer this to the lighter stanley block planes I have.

    I also use an HNT Gordon smoothing plane with the blade turned over if I want a scraper plane for curly grain or for knocking down subtle high spots- it is a much lighter tool. HNT Gordon - Specialty Smoothing Plane

    I have just placed an order for a Veritas low angle block plane, with a standard and a toothed blade. Don't know whether this will make its way into my fingerboard tools box yet. But I'm looking forward to it.
     
  13. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    A couple of my coworkers have the Veritas block planes and I have the Veritas apron plane. The adjustment mechanism is very functional and the fit and finish of the plane is definitely on par with my Lie Nielson. I will also echo that having multiple blades and having a steep bevel makes tear out a non issue. I plane a lot of cheap ebony too.
     
  14. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Good feed back everyone.

    I've got a couple of great furniture jedi friends that live a few miles away from my place that I'll be visiting tomorrow to give some test runs on all of the planes mentioned. Before anyone jumps on the "furniture dork" bandwagon, these fellows are two of the finest in the country, have authored many books, dvds, and even have their own custom line of tools with LN, so although we have different areas of specialty, they have an amazing arsenal of fine tools and I respect their work highly. The real test is to pick the one that works the best for my application and my hand - BEFORE I shell out a lot of rupees trying to find the right one. The plane game is a lot like the string game....I've got a lot of nice models now, I'm after something on the more delicate side.

    Matthew, I'm not sure which low angle Veritas plane you ordered, but their fancy NX60 is one of the most used in the shop since I got it a couple of years ago. I did a review of it in American Lutherie last year. It is pretty much very highly functional tool porn....

    j.
     
  15. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    James I couldn't run to that one.

    05p7001s3.

    Sexy beast though it is.:eek:

    I ordered this one

    [​IMG]

    because it had nice long and high sides for shooting board use. Still a nice tool i have heard.
     
  16. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Whoa, those are nice block planes. Definitely "Furniture dork", I've spent too much time fixing up old tools. This tool is the one you need - Mathieson coffin shaped smoothing plane. This is the plane I use on really difficult grain or for precise smoothing. Weighs a fair amount so it is tiring to use for long periods
     

    Attached Files:

  17. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    No malice intended towards any furniture builders. I spent a good amount of time as a "furniture dork", before shifting to make substantially less moving over to the "spruce dork" category....

    j.
     
  18. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    After a session of trying out several dozen different models, both vintage and brand new, the winner to fill the void in my tool warchest wound up being a #103 block plane that had the blade reground so that the angle was close to that of the scraper plane and then and a small burr kicked up on it. 'Easy on the wallet too, since I already have the Lie Nielson #103.

    j.
     
  19. 360guy

    360guy Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2006
    Lansing, MI USA
    I can't envision the blade reground. It seems that that blade is thick and at an angle that wouldn't take a scrape but rather a shave. Could you explain?

    I use a scraper for my fingerboard dips. I also use a jig to precisely achieve a very accurate dip ( if you want to know the method I'll tell you.)
     
  20. rjspear

    rjspear Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2011
    Ithaca, New York
    Luthier, owner Singing Woods Violin Shop
    The elephant in the room here is the declining quality of the ebony that's available to us, especially in the larger sizes. I bought a hundred violin, viola and cello fingerboards about thirty years ago and have been living off the stock ever since. Major bass work came later in my career and I don't have a stash, and in just the last ten years I have noticed a decline in the overall quality of ebony that is available to me.

    It has become increasingly difficult to prepare a new board for a bass, or to dress a deeply rutted board made with Grade B material. The lesser the quality grade, the more likely the fingerboard is to need planing (as opposed to a light dressing), which means we get it from both ends. I'm pretty sure other luthiers here will have experienced sticker shock when buying fingerboards of the best available quality.

    Depending on the degree of work needed, I have found that putting a toothed blade into a medium block plane offers the best results with the least tear-out. I grind the back of the blade down a bit if the tooth is too deep so I get a shallow cut. I can finish with a hand scraper. I've looked at some of the scraper planes out there and have been sorely tempted, but my highest priority right now is an aggressive scrub plane for inside arching. :)

    For shaping the hollow underneath the board, I have found that curved riffler rasps are sometimes the only thing that work. I have a heavy steel scraper sharpened on both edges that make removing the rasp marks go pretty fast.
     

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