All in a Day's Work

A pleasant day: breakfast in Ganges with J. and friends to start, then a successful design change to the lying-press plough and a decent afternoon's progress on a German-style finishing press with a removable pin plate for tying-up (a new design variation).

Barb's was crowded (at 10.30 a.m.) with mostly middle aged and older brunchers, confirming that Saltspring has an unreasonably large population of leisured retirees, affluent enough to be eating out on a Tuesday morning, and in no hurry to be elsewhere. Wooster-like, I pronged a moody forkful of scrambled egg, and thought of French aristocrats c. 1760 or so, and had a brief vision of a guillotine set up in Centennial Park, just between the band-shell and the playground. No guilt, but a feeling that this state of affairs really cannot last. Then we drove home in our new-to-us Honda Element (what else?), and I went back to "work". (Work is one of those words that becomes increasingly unreal the longer you stare at it; it also starts to rhyme with "dork", which is a whole other weirdness. Why doesn't "dork" rhyme with "dirk"?)

Yesterday I assembled the newly-oiled plough plane for the latest iteration of the lying press; I'd rather hoped that a disturbing slight lateral wiggliness would disappear with the final assembly, although I'd taken a lot of care with the guide strips on the press, as well as with the guide-rods of the plane (plough) itself. However, I was not to be fooled: with the non-cutting side of the plane firmly held between the guide strips, the front still had an unacceptable side-to-side amount of play. In itself, this was probably not important, but it does have the possibly undesirable effect of changing the distance of the blade from the book-edge being trimmed. Only by a very small amount, it's true, but it could only be a better thing if it didn't happen at all.


This picture is of the plough from underneath. The blade is in position, shaped and tempered and sharpened, and I'm just about to drill the pilot hole for the bronze securing screw. The ⅞" guide-rods are clearly visible, and they pass through the cheek of the plane with what I hoped was a small enough clearance to allow easy back-and-forth movement, but without excessive side to side slop. However, it didn't work that way. What to do?  The ⅞" hole is a given, and the rods must be made to fit. I could remove these rods and turn two more, but I have a feeling that making a tighter fit will only lead to jams, and not much affect the side-to-side movement. Also I very much didn't want to remove the wedged & glued rods, let alone having to turn new ones.

I let this sit for a while, and vaguely remembered a picture from Salamon's Dictionary of Woodworking Tools of a cabinet-maker's plough, quite decorative, with two additional bored sections attached to the guide-cheek. 

(I need a cup of tea, plus I have to turn off the Christmas lights at the shop, so I'll take a break and bring up the Salaman and see if I can find the picture……..)

Apparently I was wrong. It isn't in Salamon. Scores of planes are, of course, but not the one I have in mind. Which, on reflection is not surprising, because woodworkers have no need of an active moveable fence. Lots of planes have moveable fences with wooden guide bars, but once adjusted they are fixed in position, either with thumbscrews or captive wedges.

I think that I'm over-thinking this.

Anyway, here's my solution. It works beautifully, but is probably unnecessary. The original plough and press worked just fine.


Two turned wenge "bushings" provide the extra lateral stability. The effect is very marked - an additional 1⅛" reduces a ¼" or more arcing movement in the cutting cheek to an almost imperceptible amount. There's some interesting geometry happening here, with an as yet unthought-out (by me) relationship between the diameter of the rod, the thickness of the wood it passes through and the amount of lateral movement produced by a given clearance (i.e. the difference between the rod diameter and the diameter and length of the hole). 

There may also be a clue here as to why antique planes generally use square guide-bars.  It has to do with expansion and contraction across the grain and along the grain, and seems boringly technical at eleven o'clock at night. And not very important.