In Tricks of the Trade

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I have a meager collection of handplanes made up of mostly dog-meat users. I like using planes that have history because it’s fun to think about what each might have made during the last 100 years. None of my planes are particularly nice, but I do want to keep them from getting destroyed.

For a long time, my planes cluttered my workspace, got knocked around on my bench and were always in danger of crashing to the floor. In order to keep my tools in good shape, I decided to build a plane till.

The first thing I did was take inventory of the planes that I wanted to fit into the till. I then sketched out a plan of the appropriate size, gathered some lumber, bought butterfly hinges then started building. (The lid rests at a 65° angle, which is appropriate for my planes to rest safely.)

After all the planes were in place, the loaded lid was difficult to lift for access to the storage area behind. I considered safety lifts for toy chests, but couldn’t find any that were strong enough to hold the fully loaded lid in an upright position – so I kept looking.

One day I opened the back of my wife’s mini-van and the solution came to me – pneumatic gas springs. They would be perfect.

I found some gas springs through a woodworking mail-order supply, but the selection was minimal and the ones available also wouldn’t support the 50 or so pounds of the loaded lid.

Springs are all over online auctions sites, but it’s nearly impossible to identify load specs. Plus, most don’t include the necessary mounting hardware, or the information needed to select it. I eventually came upon Guden, in New York. The company has a complete line of sizes with ratings. I calculated the load spec required, decided on hardware then placed my order online. The springs are easy to spec, easy to install and relatively inexpensive. 

The springs work better than I’d hoped. The lid auto-lifts to almost full extension and requires only light pressure to return it to its resting position. One word of caution: You need to keep some weight on the panel at all times or it opens under its own power; a spring latch would easily resolve this problem. Adding gas springs makes using the plane till nothing short of fun. -Scott Perry

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  • jim

    Question… how did you know where to position the top of the springs on the underside of the top part of the till that lifts? It seems like the further back, the “heavier” the load.

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