Help with D'Angelico plane

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Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Mark Putnam » Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:16 am

I am an experienced woodworker but a first-time luthier. I am working on my first-ever instrument build, an F-style mandolin with a spruce front and maple back. I am following Siminoff's book, "Constructing A Bluegrass Mandolin: A Complete Technical Guide." To carve the two plates, I was looking for a single tool that was durable, simple to use and would last years. After consulting a couple of professional luthiers, I went with the small (10mm, I believe) D'Angelico plane sold by LMI. I also ordered a spare iron. The irons, made by Hock, seem very high quality.

The tool showed up yesterday. As with every plane I ever owned, the first thing I did was remove the iron and polish the back of the iron to ensure it is absolutely flat. Next, I took the iron to my set of three progressive diamond sharpening plates (coarse, medium and fine) and sharpened the iron bevel, careful to maintain the rounded bevel that works so well with the plane's convex sole. Admittedly, I did all of this by hand. However, I examined the bevel along the way and was confident I was maintaining the bevel properly. Finally, I stropped the iron on my usual leather strop with honing compound applied.

I placed the iron back in the little plane, bevel up (the way it arrived) and I picked up a scrap to test it on. This wasn't just any scrap--it was a back plate that I had cut out on the bandsaw already but had a number of defects. (I should note here that for budgetary reasons and because this is my first mandolin I am not using an extremely fancy species of maple. I am using typical "hard" maple that happens to have a bit of curl to it.) I took a few test passes with the little D'Angelico plane and noticed a bit of chatter and tearout. So I loosened the plane's set screw, pulled the iron a bit back in to the plane to be less aggressive. A few more passes and the plane got caught up and tore out more wood. I went through this a couple of times until the iron was pulled so far back in the plane that it wasn't making contact with the wood.

I thought perhaps I had sharpened the iron improperly. So I took it out and went back to the diamond plates, going through my whole sharpening process once more. When it was done, I tried it on the maple back plate again. Once again, I got no actual shavings like with a typical plane. Instead I just tore out a few hunks of wood and scared the maple.

I switched out the maple with a piece of scrap spruce. And while the results were improved (due to the softer species of wood, presumably) I was not getting the kind of shavings that I am used to from any other plane.

What am I doing wrong? Are these irons not meant to be sharpened as other plane irons are? Could this possible be caused by my technique? It's a simple enough tool but I realize some tools have nuances around their use. I'm just not sure what else could be causing these problems.

Thanks for any help you can offer.
Mark
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:46 pm

Hard maple is just difficult to plane. The approach that worked for me was to make a toothed blade. I did this with a Dremel cut-off disk and cut shallow, parallel grooves in the back of the blade all the way to the edge. You don't have to be real accurate with this; I made the grooves freehand. The grooves were about 1/2" long so that they will be there through a lot of sharpening. These grooves breaks the edge up into sections about 1/8" wide. Now when you start planing go against all your training and plane across the grain. The toothed blade will leave a rough surface but there should be no tear out. You can clean up the rough surface with scrapers and sandpaper.

With regard to the spruce, I think you need a sharper blade. Diamond hones are good but they are not usually fine enough. I take my plane blades up to an 8000 grit Norton stone and then hone them on a piece of MDF with green compound. The MDF provides a rigid surface so it doesn't round over the bevel, and yet it holds compound well. When I am done sharpening the bevel and the back shine like a mirror. When you plane spruce, you want to always be planing downhill so that you don't dig into the grain.

Additional concerns: Is the sole of your plane curved from side to side? If so, are you curving the blade to match this? Actually, I like to curve the blade a bit more than the sole so the edges do not protrude, which minimizes chip outs. Finally, I do not like the idea of a rounded bevel. This works well for carving chisels but not so much with planes. One more thing, some planes have the bevel up but most have the bevel down. Look at your plane carefully and look at the angle of the top surface of the blade at the cutting edge, where it is actually meeting the wood. If you turn the blade in the wrong direction you will probably have a near 90 degree surface pushing into the wood. That would be an incorrect orientation and you should turn the blade over to have more like a 30 or 40 degree angle on that leading surface.

I eventually gave up trying to sharpen curved chisel and plane blades on a bench stone as I found it difficult to control the blade and keep a consistent angle. (A curved bevel is not possible in a standard honing guide.) I ended up buying an imported, powered stone that cost a little over 100 bucks. It has a 1000 grit stone, a slow rotation and a water cooling setup. It is very easy to maintain a consistent angle and rotate the blade as you hone the curved bevel.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Brian Evans » Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:19 pm

I also use a toothed blade for hardwood. It can cut in about any direction without tearout - but does leave the aggressive toothed pattern than can take a long time to sand out. I have the Lee valley finger plane and they sell a toothed blade for it. I sharpen with a 1" Lee Valley belt sander, 600 grit, I think what they call a 15 micron grit, and a leather belt with green compound. Last time I carved an arched plate I did the vast majority of the roughing with a router on the outside, the old drill a million holes routine on the inside, and a flap disc in an angle grinder. I didn't do much plane work at all. Took far less time, and created an ungodly amount of dust. If I do it again I am going to make a jig to hold my big vacuum hose to catch the dust.

Ditto the planing downhill on spruce, or across grain works well when roughing - if you think about it, the whole arched part of the top is kind of end grain. I use that plane a lot (almost exclusively) for planing braces, and I get the typical long, thin shavings that you expect from a well tuned plane.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Aug 25, 2018 2:48 pm

As Brian indicated, having a method to rough out the maple plate is really useful. Trying to remove all the wood with only a plane is going to take forever. For roughing out I have used carving chisels; a flexible, rubber backed sanding disk in a drill press; or a Wagner Safety Plane. Lots of ways to do that.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Rick Milliken » Sun Aug 26, 2018 2:06 am

I agree with Barry, I’m not familiar with the LMI version but try flipping the blade over. I’ve made my own small planes and I use them bevel down. Similar to him, I sharpen with 8000 water stone and then strop with green compound on leather.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Mark Fogleman » Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:20 am

I've not used one of these planes but in this video it appears that the larger of the two planes is being used as a scrub plane and you need to really bear down hard on the front as you push. The smaller one is used to refine the tighter curves and not intended for course work. As my grandfather used to say "Hold your mouth different and try it again". :D
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMZPfIzTEWg&t=3s
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:34 am

I took a look at that video too and there is one shot of the bottom of the plane. It definitely shows that the blade should be installed bevel-down. No wonder you were getting severe chatter.

Is the original poster still here?
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Mark Fogleman » Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:40 am

The Squirrel Tail and LV's Palm planes are all used bevel down.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Aug 26, 2018 12:05 pm

Yep, pretty much all planes are bevel down except for low angle planes.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby John Clifford » Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:59 pm

Good advice above. As an archtop guitar builder, I'll add a plug for the Arbortech Mini Turbo Planer as an excellent tool for the roughing-out work. I discovered this after trying many other methods, and I think it's probably the best option short of a big CNC machine. It takes off wood really fast, but also cleanly and in a very controllable way, once you get used to it. Use it with a good, powerful angle grinder like the DeWalt. After that, I mostly use Ibex planes, although I also have the D'Angelico plane from LMI. As others have said, that one should definitely have the bevel down.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:18 am

John Clifford wrote:I'll add a plug for the Arbortech Mini Turbo Planer as an excellent tool for the roughing-out work.


I note you're specifying the mini. I've had the full-size Turbo Plane on several of my wishlists as I see an archtop or a carved-top solid-body somewhere in my future. Would you recommend the mini over the larger model? Also, do you use the extension? That always looked awkward to me.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby John Clifford » Sun Sep 02, 2018 3:17 pm

Steve, I haven't tried the full-size turbo planer, but from what I can see, it looks better suited to flat surfaces and shallow angles. The mini turbo planer works well on an archtop guitar, especially in the tighter curves at the waist. I think you have to use the extension arm with it. I don't find it awkward at all, in fact it helps. The trick is getting used to the way it cuts. Practice on scrap! It doesn't feel dangerous at all, but it's very easy to take off too much material. Obviously, you have to secure the work and use two hands on the tool. Also best used outdoors, as it throws loads of chips and dust in all directions.
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Re: Help with D'Angelico plane

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:36 pm

John Clifford wrote:Also best used outdoors, as it throws loads of chips and dust in all directions.


Yeah - looks like one of those tools that is fun to use as it leaves you standing ankle-deep in drifts of wood chips. Makes you feel like you really got something done!! :D
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