The elusive #5 ½ T11 finally finds a home-Part 2

In the last post, I completed the cleaning and tuning of the #5 ½. In this, Part 2, I cover three common repairs to the mangled tote.


Most tote repairs are straight forward. However, I’ve found that replacing a beavertail is very tedious, exacting and time-consuming work. That’s why I’ve described it in detail below. Still, by bother? I have four reasons.

1. I’m a woodworker and there’s a deep satisfaction that comes from repairing my own tools.
2. It can take a while to find a vintage replacement tote. And when I do, they are usually expensive.
3. I get blisters in the web of my thumb when I use totes that are missing beavers. So I find it necessary to repair them to make them users.
4. The main reason I fix totes, however, is because I want to keep as many of the original parts on my planes as I can. In so doing, my repair becomes a part of the tool’s history for some future craftsperson to enjoy. I am after all, only a custodian of these tools for they will surely outlive me.

Repair #1: Fixing the break
After removing the tote, I looked at the broken halves. The edges showed signs of wear, meaning that they were slightly rounded. That suggests to me that it got a lot of use after the break. So I used a wire brush to remove any gunk and dirt that may have seeped onto the surfaces over time.

Then I drilled 1/8” wide by 1/8” deep holes in each half to receive epoxy, and glued/clamped the two halves. There were two repairs yet to complete, so I waited until they were all done before sanding everything smooth. After sanding and staining, the glue lines were barely noticeable.

Repair #2: Filling the nail holes
To fill the nail entry/exit holes, I jammed rosewood sawdust into the cavities followed by some CA glue. Yes, you can see them in the final pictures if you look for them. But after being sanded flush, I don’t feel them at all.

Repair #3: Adding a beaver tail

Step #1: Prepare tote to accept replacement blank

The roughened break at the top of the tote doesn’t offer an acceptable gluing surface.


It needs to be flat so that it can bond concrete-tight with the replacement blank. It also needs to be parallel to the tote bottom so that a clamp can hold the glued pieces without squirting out the glue-covered blank like a watermelon seed.

I have found that the most accurate, and blood-free way do this is with a shooting board.


I clamped a combination square to the fence so that the tote bottom could register square to the sole of the shooting plane. Then I placed a shim between the fence and tip of the tote and took light passes so as not to break anything. With that done, I turned my attention to the blank.

Step #2: Prepare & glue the blank

My shorts pile included a block of East Indian rosewood that I got from Rockler. I believe it’s worth spending the money to get rosewood because the grain blends in quite well with the original tote after staining it. But before cutting it up, I needed to figure out what size to make it.

That I did by “superimposing” my beaverless-tote over a #5 tote template from Lee Valley.  It wasn’t an exact match, nor did I expect it to be because of variations in tote manufacture over the decades. Still, all I did was align the tote’s leading edge with the template and mark the location of the break.

Using that as a baseline, I drew parallel and perpendicular lines to form a rectangle around the template beavertail.

PT-02-Tote template-layout

It is oversized, allowing for 3/16” excess to the left, right and top. That gives me sufficient stock to work with during the critical shaping, smoothing and blending operations to follow. The end of the tail looked too short so I modified the template to be longer.

From the rectangle, I computed the blank’s dimensions. To determine the blank’s thickness, I measured the thickness of the tote at the break and added 6/16” (3/16” to either side.)

After cutting the blank to size, I took passes with a smoother until the blank seated perfectly flat against the tote’s prepared surface. Then, I secured the tote in a bench vise and drilled 1/8” wide by 1/8” deep holes in both it, and the blank, so that five-minute epoxy could make a strong bond. A bar clamp fit between the vise jaws to secure the blank to the tote. It held firm with no slipping due to the opposing pressure being applied in parallel between the top of the blank and the tote bottom.

Step #3: Rough-shape glued blank
Next I cut out and glued the template to the side of the blank.

PT-03-Tote template-glued-to-block

A backsaw quickly removed a lot of excess material.

PT-04-Tote template-blank-material-removal-backsaw

While some rough shaping with a coping saw produced this.

PT-05-Tote template-blank-material-removal-coping-saw

Step #4: Drill tote bolt hole and nut recess

At this stage, I like to drill through the top of the blank so that any tearout will disappear during the shaping process.

I use an extended-length, ¼” bit mounted in a brace to carry the bolt channel through the tote from the bottom.

PT-06-Tote template-blank-drilling-through-blank

That’s followed by drilling the nut recess with a 7/16” drill bit.

PT-07-Tote template-blank-drilling-nut-recess

The bit didn’t cut well, so I had to clean up the recess with sandpaper wrapper around a dowel. Once the nut seated properly it was on to finish shaping the beaver tail.

Step #5: Mid- and final-beavertail shaping

A four-in-one rasp roughed out the beavertail shape. Then a drill-press-mounted drum sander helped shape the design further. That was followed by finer rasps, then sandpaper (60, 120, 220, 330,400 grits,) and finally, a polishing on the buffing wheel (no compound.)

PT-08-Tote-beavertail-ready-for-finishing PT-12-Finished Tote-ready-for-finishing-full-shot

Step #6: Finishing

The baby-smooth surface received a coat of Minwax Jacobean stain. After drying overnight, I added two coats of amber shellac, using 0000 steel wool between coats.

PT-09-Finished Tote-ready-for-mounting PT-10-Finished Tote-mounted PT-11-Finished Tote-mounted-closeup

The final product is both functional and pleasing to the eye. Not bad for a mangled tote.


© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The elusive #5 ½ T11 finally finds a home

One snowy day, I found this while rummaging around a used tool store in downtown Denver.


I was so gold-fever blinded by my desire to fill the #5 ½ hole in my collection, that I overlooked the fact that it had lived a hard life. And the fact that it wasn’t a Type 11, my

The cold must have dulled my senses too, because when I got it home, I found this.


Cracks don’t work for me. So the plane went back. The owner’s “we only give in store credit” policy didn’t work for me either. So I’ll never do business with them again. You can keep your credit and I’ll chalk up the lost money to an expensive lesson of what happens when you don’t give a plane a really careful review.

Stanley #5 ½, take two
A year later, I had a flashback when I came across this #5 ½ in a flea market.

P1-Stanley No 5.5 Type 11-As found from antique store

Is it a type 11?

P4-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Three patent dates closeup P5-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-V-Logo P6-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Low-knob

Well yes. Parts all there? Yup. Everything adjusts as it should? You bet. Any cracks or other damage? Well, the tote was cracked clean through and it was missing its beaver tail. But I can work with that. And the price was reasonable.

Under the blaring lights of my shop, it was clear that this plane was a lot rustier and dirtier than I had thought.

P2-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Disassembled-as-found-from-antique-store P3-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Disassembled close up P7-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Some-rust-to-deal-with P8-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Barn-fresh-dirt-to-deal-with P13-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-shavings under frog

The chipbreaker, though, was properly set for a jackplane.


However, the iron was sloppily cambered and showed many nicks. The plane clearly hadn’t touched wood in, possibly, decades.

After a serious de-rusting, cleaning and oiling, her inner beauty began to emerge.

P15-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-FullView-AfterRehab P17-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-AfterRehabCollage P18-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Before-After-FrogDetail

That’s a spare, late-model tote you see in the pictures. It was on there so that I could tune it before turning my attention to repairing/restoring the original tote.

I sharpened the iron and put a mild camber to the edge. Then spent five minutes lapping the sole. Now normally, I wouldn’t bother doing that on a course-cutting plane like this. The need for flatness is not as stringent as it is for a smoother or jointer. However, I wanted to make sure that the sole didn’t have any twist. And the sanding scratch marks confirmed that all was good.

So too did test passes in some pine.

P23-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Nice-Shavings P24-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Nice-Shavings-Close P25-Stanley-No-5.5-Type-11-Nice-Shavings-Closeup

In the next post, I’ll detail three common repairs that I did to the ravaged tote.


© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The New Traditional Woodworker-Project #5-Straight Edge

I first built Jim Tolpin’s straight edge (p. 81 of The New Traditional Woodworker) about two years ago. Truth be told, I was skeptical that a straight edge made out of wood would hold up over time. Surely the changing seasons and time would warp it. But even though I questioned the tool’s utility, I still wanted to learn the skills Tolpin’s tutorial presents. So I built a 33” version. Out of poplar.

P16-Straight-Edge-33-inch-FIRST-One-Project Shot

No sense using the good stuff on something that might not pan out.

However, pan it did, and years hence, it’s still tryed and true. My total maintenance investment in the tool consists of two swipes by a #8 jointer to touch up the edge. As a result, I trust it. And I use it all the time. Especially to try test long boards.

You could spend $30-$80 or more on a steel or aluminum equivalent depending upon the length. But my experience with a wooden straight edge has shown me that you can keep that money in the tool-fund cookie jar.

The 33” version is useful to be sure, but I’ve frequently wished I had a less wieldy 24” version. Having been sold on the idea of wooden straight edges, I splurged and made this one out of walnut.

From wood selection to finishing, Jim’s step-by-step process accomplishes two things. It makes it easy to complete the project and it teaches you how to do basic techniques. To give you a taste of that, I’ll paraphrase Jim’s method for dimensioning stock to thickness. I’ve tried other means, but I use his technique exclusively now because it delivers consistent results for me.

The walnut stock I had was ¾” thick and needed to be reduced to ½”. Following Jim’s process, I marked the desired thickness with a gauge, and planed angles along the edges with a jack plane until they met the lines.


Then I marked the edges with a readily visible white grease pencil…

P02-Straight-Edge-Dimension-Thickness-Mark-Edges P03-Straight-Edge-Dimension-Thickness-Mark-Edges-Closeup

And planed the face with a try plane until the lines disappeared…


…and I brought the stock to final thickness.

Rather than going over the build, I’ll share with you what I like about Jim’s design features.

1. The curved top edge is not only pleasing to the eye, but it also reduces the weight of the tool. Using my grandfather’s draw knife to remove large portions of waste was a blast. This was a great opportunity to hone my bevel-down knifing skills.

P06-Straight-Edge-AfterCuttingTopCurve P11-Straight-Edge-Curved Top

2. Handhold. The hand hole makes it easy to hold the edge atop the surface to be tryed. And it prevents me dropping the tool given that the width at its thickest is a bit much for my smaller hands.


3. Tapered try-edge. By tapering the business edge to ¼” it’s easier to read the flatness of the surface. The taper has the added benefit of reducing the weight further. And, it’s a lot of fun to plane an angled surface to marked lines.

P09-Straight-Edge-Tapered-Edge P12-Straight-Edge-Beveled-Edge

4. Hanging holes. I’ve found that the only convenient way to store a straight edge is to hang it. It takes up a lot less space, avoids being banged about, and makes it easy to access. This project motivated me to make room on the peg board to accommodate both edges within arms reach.


Four coats of shellac with a final coat of paste wax and this baby was ready for use.

P17-Straight-Edge-Walnut-Completed-A P18-Straight-Edge-Walnut-Completed-B P19-Straight-Edge-Walnut-Completed-C

I would encourage fellow woodworkers to give a wooden straight edge a try. It’s fun to build, reliable to use, looks great on the shop wall, and saves precious tool dollars for other goodies.

© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

New Life for a Harvey Peace No 45 Panel Saw

I found this Harvey Peace saw buried under a bunch of rusty ones at an estate sale.


The nib and handle lambs tongue set it apart from the others. So even though it was covered in rust…

P04-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Panoramic-View-Left-Side P05-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Panoramic-View-Right-Side

…and caked with what appeared to be glue…


…it came home with me.

I’ve never owned or used a Harvey Peace sample before. This 8ppi specimen measures 22 inches long. Good. I can always use another panel saw.

I took a minimalist approach to my rehab, choosing to sand off decades of glue and rust while giving the handle and brass hardware a gentle cleaning.

P09-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Before-After-A P10-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Before-After-B

The handle fits snugly in my small hands with little to no hang from what I can tell.


The tooth line, however, was a mess and included one broken point.


A good sharpening would fix all that. But how to use my latest acquisition? Glancing at my saw till, I spied a gap. You see, my courser rip saws leave some nasty tear out. And there have been times—a lot of times—where I would have preferred to have had neat edges. So I decided to convert this 8ppi saw from crosscut to rip.

My first impression of the Peace steel was very positive. It took well to two jointings and a sharpening.


That went a long way towards filing out the broken tooth.

So how does it cut?
This saw is sa-weet! It rips relatively quickly through birdseye maple.


And it tracks accurately…


to leave a relatively neat finish in the backside.

P15-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Edge in birdseye maple P16-Harvey-Peace-No-45-Edge in mahogany

Overall, I’m impressed enough to recommend adding Harvey Peace saws to your till. The excellent steel, handle and fit and finish make this No. 45 a keeper. And so are the clean rip cuts I’m getting in walnut, maple and cherry.

© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Organizing the kid’s clothes

The eight- and five year-old girls living next door love to play make believe. True to their art, they make several costume changes during each “show.” From princess dresses to butterfly wings, their theatrical wardrobe is extensive. So much so, that their Mommy asked me to build something to organize their apparel. Considering the number of times our household has benefited from Mommies’ cake-baking skills—mmmmm, yummy Mommy birthday cake—I was only too happy to return the favor.

Here’s what Mommy was dealing with:

P01-A mess of dresses

When it came to materials, my watch words were “inexpensive,” “functional” and “attractive.” So I picked up two (one for each girl) pine 1” x 4” x 6’s along with a length of ¾ oak doweling to serve as pegs for duds.

Square boards are boring, so I created some edge profile options and had Mommy choose the one she liked best.

P02-profile option

With the panels shaped, I turned my attention to cutting ¾” holes to accommodate the pegs. My prototype used a ¾” Forstner bit to cut the hole clean through. That approach, however, meant that seating the peg left a portion that protruded beyond the back face. So rather than sawing and chiseling 12 pegs flush—that’s just too much, no-fun work—I chose to drill stopped holes instead. Problem solved.

P04-Stopped peg hole

I cut the 12 pegs to 3” lengths using a piece of pine as a stop.


Now before finishing the panels, I dropped by Mommies’ place to mark the placement of the wall studs. As for height, I was looking for a Goldilocks placement—not too low (the kiddies are still growing) and not too high (both the munchkins need to reach the pegs.)

After transferring the markings to the panels, I took them to the drill press to make holes for the screws. Then countersunk them to accommodate the 3/8” plugs to cover the screw heads.

A quick sanding and two coats of wipe-on poly later the panels were ready to mount.

P05-Mounted panel

That done, they were ready for service.

P06-Loaded Peg 1 P07-Loaded peg 2

A free-standing mirror fits between the two panels so that the girls can check themselves before going out to play.

P08-Finished project

So far, the kiddies are using it faithfully. And Mommy is happy to have a bit less clutter in a kid-cluttered house. But is she happy enough to bake a cake? Well. Shakespeare said it best. “To bake, or not to bake? That is the question.”

© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Projects | Tagged | 2 Comments

How to tune a try plane woodie for use

It takes a lot to get me up at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. But the “Barn sale. Tools…” ad worked like three cups of coffee. Still, my lady doesn’t share my enthusiasm for rust hunting, so to entice her, I described it as an adventure. And if by “adventure” you take that to mean that I promised to buy her breakfast along with the hope of finding vintage treasure that would appeal to her, then you’d be right.

Three people entered the sale before us and damned if one of them didn’t ace me out of a Stanley #5. The very offender was looking at the woodies when I tippie-toed next to him to slip this one off a high shelf for inspection.

P01-Ohio-Tool-Co-Try-Plane-Farm-Fresh-Right-Side P02-Ohio-Tool-Co-Try-Plane-Farm-Fresh-Left-Side

It had a crack near the handle due to shrinkage over the last century. And the previous owner had replaced the cap-iron bolt with a brass one that was too long. So he carved a space out of the back of the wood wedge to accommodate it.


Still, I figured that for $5.00, the iron alone was worth the price.


Tuning for use
The plane is 22” long, a perfect length for a try plane. I work with rough and resawn stock a lot. Since I don’t have a bandsaw, my resawn faces can be pretty rough. So after using a highly-cambered foreplane, I remove the foreplane’s scallops, and flatten the faces, with a medium-cambered try plane.

For an excellent discussion of iron camber (when to do it and how much) Bob Rozaieski’s article on the subject is a must read.

Now I could use my Stanley #7 as a try plane, but it weighs over 8 pounds versus the woodie’s 6 lbs. That adds up over the course of truing surfaces. Moreover, I’ve configured #7 as a jointer, meaning that the iron is sharpened straight across with zero camber. It won’t get as much use in its role as a joinery plane, but when I do need it, it will fit the bill. Go here to read a detailed treatise on the differences between a try plane and a jointer.

Truing the sole
Placing a straight-edge along the bottom of the sole revealed a disappointing gap of about 3/16” at the toe and heel. I was worried that I’d have to remove a lot of material to flatten the sole—nearly ¼” of an inch. If that had been the case, I would have “resoled” the bottom afterward with some beech to make up the difference.

After securing the plane upside down in a vise, I used my #7 to true the bottom. It was set for light shavings and made quick work of truing the sole without removing too much material.

P06-Ohio-Tool-Co-Try-Plane-truing-sole P07-Ohio-Tool-Co-Try-Plane-sole-flat

Dressing the iron bed
In order for the plane to perform properly, and free of chatter, the iron edge must be fully supported near the tip. However, when the iron was seated, I could easily slip a piece of paper between it and the supporting bed. To properly bed the iron, I followed Bob Rozaieski’s podcast tutorial.

The iron bed was so crusty, and uneven that I resorted to using a curve-cut mill-tooth file to remove it while leaving a smooth finish.

I also cleaned up the sides of the mouth with a toothbrush and mineral spirits to remove the dirt and crud.

Afterwards, my paper “feeler gauge” no longer slipped between the bed and iron.

Securing the tote
The tote was a little loose, and wobbled a bit from side to side.

P1-Crack by handle

Apparently the previous owner had the same issue because there’s a screw through the front of the handle into the plane body.


My preference would have been to remove the screw, then reseat the handle securely using hide glue, as Bob Rozaieski suggested to me in an email response. However, the screw would not budge. So I squeezed hide glue into the open “slit” adjacent to the handle on one side and into the shrinkage crack on the other. Now the tote is secure.

A bunch of iron work
The mating between the iron and cap iron needs to be tight enough so that try-plane thickness shavings can’t get caught between them. My test fit showed light between the two surfaces. To address this, I started by flattening the back of the iron to a mirror finish. That way, any adjustments I made to the cap iron would be relative to a “flat” reference point.

Mating the iron and cap iron
To do that, I followed Ryan’s method to flatten the underside of the cap iron. And while I was at it, I filed the cap iron bolt so that it barely extends beyond the surface of the iron it mates to.

Cambering the iron
The key to flat surfaces with a try plane is a medium camber to the iron. Using an iron with zero camber will leave track marks on the face. By contrast, a medium camber will leave gouges shallow enough for a smoothing plane to remove.

To camber the iron, I mostly followed Ryan’s tutorial here.

By “mostly” I mean that I did not rig a pen on a length of string to scribe a 12.5” arc across the tip of the iron. If you’ve never done it before, I suggest that you do. If you’re going to get into cambering blades it’s essential that you get this experience under your belt. Telling you how much to camber your iron won’t guide you nearly as much as doing it yourself and experiencing the results in use.

That said, I’ve found that when I grind to a scribe line, I end up with a heavily cambered iron that is more appropriate to a foreplane/jack plane than to a try plane. So now, to get the lesser camber, I very gently freehanded it on the grinder.

So I started in the middle of the iron and pushed it towards the spinning wheel until it ever so slightly engaged it. Keeping a very light touch, I arced it to the right being careful to keep the arc shallower than my senses told me to. Then I did this to the left, and alternated to the right then left, until I had a perceptible camber. When I put the edge to a ruler, the camber was much larger than my eyes perceived it to be, but noticeably less than that of a foreplane. Perfect.

Test cut #1
After securing the iron with the wedge, I made a few adjustments and put the plane to some pine.


The plane definitely takes some nice shavings. However, what I thought was a secure wedge, consistently came unseated during use. Upon closer inspection, I concluded that it was not original to this plane. It’s too narrow for the throat and side abutments by a full ¼”.


Making a new wedge
Bob’s tutorial on making a new wedge made the experience easy.

I would add that while the original wedge was too narrow, its angles were correct. Meaning that the wedge did mate securely with the cap iron and abutment faces (not sides.) So I measured the angle with a protractor…


…and transferred it to the wedge blank. That worked like a charm and now the new oak wedge keeps the iron secure in use.

It was a lot of work bringing this tool back to usable shape. But I learned a lot and look forward to using my new try plane on projects. Not a bad trade for the Saturday morning sleep minutes I lost. And of course, the real treasure of a weekend breakfast with my lady.

© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Posted in Hand planes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My “Over the Rainbow” Panel Gauge

For Dorothy, the key to getting back to Kansas was tapping her red-slippered heels three times. For me, the key to keeping my small workshop clutter free is to make myself “wish” for a tool three times before buying it. That has the added benefit of reserving precious tool dollars for items that get used.

And so it was, one bright Saturday morning, when I caught myself saying “I wish I had a panel gauge,” for the third time. I was sketching the corner hutch I can’t put off any longer. That project will require the accurate dimensioning of glued-up panels.

I didn’t want to dig deep into the tool money jar for a pretty gauge from a boutique tool maker. So I resolved to make my own gauge. But not some shop-made thing I slapped together. I wanted a gauge embellished with the glamor and glitz of a Hollywood film. In my mind, that meant contracting a beautiful leading lady (mahogany) paired with a dashing leading man (brass) to fuel the tool’s on-bench chemistry.

Reviewing Scripts
I looked over different gauges from other woodworkers here,  here and here.  As well as some A-list options from tool makers here and here.  That helped me come up with some specifications.

Beam: long enough to allow a 24” wide marking. I would have preferred 30” but the mahogany on hand would only accommodate two feet.

Beam accessories: a cutting gauge at one end for accurate marking and a pencil at the other for rough dimensioning.

Fence: about 7” wide with a lip to register on the panel. Shaped to a comfy form to fit neatly in my small hands.

All those considerations led to this production plan.

P20-Panel-Gauge-Fence-Plan P21-Panel-Gauge-Beam-Plan

Prototype Screen Tests
The producers are always on my ass to keep costs down. So before touching the small supply of mahogany the studio supplied, I tested my design on some scrap. It’s a good thing too. Because my original idea was to drill a hole into the beam to slide the pencil through. Then, to secure it, drill a hole through the end (transecting the pencil hole), screw in a brass insert and thread a ¼” x 20 bolt to contact the pencil’s side. Well, when I tightened the bolt, it pressed against the canter at the pencil’s sharpened end and skewed the whole assembly. See the Beam Accessory Detail diagram above.

Plan B was to call in an understudy, cut a kerf along the beam’s axis to meet the pencil hole, then “squeeze” it tight by adding a bolt through the side of the beam. Jeez. Actors.

ACT 1: Scene 1-The Beam
The key to making this scene a success is to finish the beam before cutting the mortise for it. I learned that the hard when I was directing Making a Marking Gauge, by Steve Lata. So to prevent lateral play in the mortise, measure the finished beam and use those dimensions to cut the channel.

Despite my best efforts, there’s still a bit of play. And I’m thinking that it’s a design issue. Being rectangular in shape, the mortise has to be near perfect to prevent back and forth play in the x axis. So to mitigate this, I would shape the beam into a half square shape.


ACT 1: Scene 2-The blade
I held a casting call for a saber saw blade that could method act its way into a blade role. A few minutes at the grinder removed the teeth, while some time with sandpaper on glass squared up the sides. Then I applied a curved profile to the cutting edge. I prefer this shape because the blade I made for my small marking gauge slices beautifully in cross-grain marking.


The bottom of the beam sits ¼” from the surface of the wear plate.


So in order to make the tip of the blade in the same plane as the surface of the wear plate, it needs to protrude from the bottom of the beam ¼”. To determine the length of the blade, I start with that ¼” + the thickness of the beam + extra length to accommodate future sharpening. That makes for a blade about 1 1/8” long.

ACT 1: Scene 3-Securing the Blade to the Beam
The blade is about 3/64” thick. So I cut a channel centered on one end of the beam to accommodate it.


It’s shallow by 1/64” or so.


That way, the 1/16” thick brass cover plate, secures the blade to the beam. I cut the brass to fit, drilled the pilot holes and inserted the brass screws. Then I removed them and coated the hole threads with CA to harden them. That will protect against the fit loosening over time.

Here’s some daily footage of the blade retention hardware and final assembly


Act 1: Scene 3-Securing the Pencil to the Beam
Nothing is worse during a performance than a wardrobe malfunction. So to avoid being hassled by the FCC, I took measures to prevent the pencil from falling to the floor in mid scene. The pencil sits 1” from the beam end and measures 9/32” in diameter. After centering and drilling the hole, a production house used a tenon saw to put a kerf in the beam until it met the hole.


Then they drilled a hole ½” in from the end to accommodate a small bolt.


After inserting the pencil so that the tip protrudes ¼” (to be coplanar with the surface of the wear plate on the fence,) it was secured by tightening the bolt.


Act 1: Scene 4-The beam wear strip
The fence locks the beam in place via a knurled brass bolt. In order to prevent damage to the beam’s surface, the Los Angeles Union #416 Brass Fitters added a 1/16” x ¼” brass wear strip along its length.


We will return to our regularly scheduled programming in five minutes.

[lights flashing on and off]

Please return to your seats so that we may begin ACT 2.

ACT 2: The fence
My requirements for a fence are that it secure the beam, seat well on the board edge to be scribed and be comfortable to hold and use.

Page 31 of How to Make Woodworking Tools, includes plans for a “Large Panel Gauge.”  I decided I liked the look of it and had the Art Department sketch out a template of its shape.


An Actor’s Guild Union Carpenter glued two pieces of mahogany together, then squared it up, making it 1 ¼” thick. I’m still catching crap from the producers over that invoice. Then, a grip chiseled out the mortise for the beam, and drilled and screwed in the brass insert for the knurled bolt.


After that, an Actor’s Guild Rabbet Maker cut the rabbet to accommodate the fence’s ledge wear plates. Then she epoxied and screwed them into place.


Modelers then affixed the fence profile template onto the block and rough-cut it with a coping saw. Final shaping was accomplished at a drill-press-mounted drum disk.

If someone is injured on a film, Workman’s Comp will murder your budget. So for the tricky part of rounding over the back top edge, I called in a ½” round-over bit stunt man. An unpaid intern finished the final shaping with some 100-grit paper. Then the fence spent some time in the makeup artist’s chair to get an abrasion by 100 through 400 grit papers. One minute on a buffing wheel left a polished, smooth surface. The net result was a sleek and comfy grip even the producers will like.

Post Production
With the filming finished, I handed the footage over to the editors. They finished it with two coats of Danish Oil followed by three coats of paste wax.

Premier Screening
[Lights go dark. The crowd hushes…5…4…3…2…1, and the star takes center stage]

P01-Panel-Gauge-Project-picture P02-Panel-Gauge-Forward-face P03-Panel-Gauge-Face

[In the finale, the actors kiss for the first time]


There’s no place like home.

[Fade to black]


© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments