This year I’ve made friends with my chisel plane. In fact, I don’t think I could have installed the Benchcrafted wagon vise as a retrofit without it.
Today I got another lesson in chisel-plane use from Carl Bilderback that I’d like to share with you. Carl is a woodworker, semi-retired carpenter, tool collector and active member of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. As a finish carpenter, Carl had several specialties, including repairing finished or veneered surfaces on the jobsite and hiding those repairs from customers.
His skill at cutting a “dutchman” prompted me to publish one of his articles on his process in Popular Woodworking‘s February 2008 issue (if you have that issue, you should definitely check it out. Good stuff.)
In any case, Carl said that one of the reasons he was always sought out for repairs was because he owned a chisel plane.
Because of that tool, Carl said he could trim face-grain plugs and dutchmen without touching the surrounding finish. And he also could trim end-grain plugs with ease. Other carpenters would sand their repairs flush with the surrounding surface, which made more work for the guys who had to repair the finish.
Now I have had no trouble trimming face grain with a chisel plane, but trimming end grain with a chisel plane has always been difficult for me. Carl explained how he did it. I tried it in the shop this afternoon, and it was like the light bulb went on. I think everyone needs an old hand like Carl around. Perhaps Lie-Nielsen could start making Carls for everyone….
Here’s what you do: Set the chisel plane so its cutting edge is flush to the sole and will not cut the surface of your work. (I know, this is obvious, but I have to say it.)
Now approach the plug with the corner of the cutter. You want to try to nibble off no more than 1/16″ from the plug. Less material; less resistance.
Keep firm downward pressure on the the tool and pivot the corner into the plug, like you are picking away a small portion of the plug. Once you remove that first 1/16″, head to the next 1/16″.
I tried this procedure on some tough white oak and maple end-grain plugs and, as we say in Arkansas, it worked like a peach.