Eric's Homemade Stuff

An infrequent blog of stuff I make, including music.

Making a Plane

The finished handplane

I’m using the approach to learning where you attempt to fail as much as possible. The goal is not to fail, that’s just a mechanism to increase the learning rate. I’m using this to learn to make handplanes.

I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of making handplanes. The top woodworkers I know all do it and the planes seem really cool and functional. However, I have also been intimidated by the process. Handplanes seem hard to make. Now that I’m older and not as intimidated by learning, I’m trying to learn how. Here’s the current state of my abilities. This is a build log of the latest plane I made.

I started with a blade, you can see it on the right. I’ve had this for a long time hoping I’d be able to use it. Then I found some nice scraps of wood. The body is curly maple and the sole is purpleheart. Yes, purpleheart is a harder wood than maple. They are being glued here.

Gluing the body to the bottom

Next is to clean up the sides so the body and sole are the same size. I’m using my nice commercial plane to help make my planes.

Trimming the sides and sole

I have to make the sole very flat and an even thickness.

Flattening the sole

The common technique I’m using is to drill alignment holes. This helps with the final glue up of the plane.

Drilling alignment holes

Now I have to mark the sides that will be cut off. The center section is sized for the blade. This is a ridged blade that’s good for cleaning up very rough lumber.

Marking the sides

To the bandsaw to cut the sides. It’s nice having good tools and it’s good to be using them again.

Cutting the sides

The sides are cut. This blades burns one side of the cut. I haven’t been able to adjust it to eliminate the burning yet. It might be the blade and not the saw.

The sides cut off

Next is the tricky part of marking the angle cuts. One of them has to be a slightly larger angle than the blade’s primary bevel. The other is not critical as it’s just for chip clearance.

Marking Angle Cuts

Back to the band saw to cut the angles.

Cutting the angles

Done with those cuts. The center section is waste.

Angles cut

All set up for gluing. You can see why the alignment holes are used here. I will hammer short dowels into all the holes and the plane is magically aligned. It’s like magic!

Ready to glue

All glued up. You can see the alignment dowels here.

Glued and clamped

And here’s the final plane again. The rounding in back and carved section in the front are for comfort. I kept rounding and carving until it felt good.

The finished handplane

Wrap Up

What did I learn from this one?

I started this post talking about learning by failing. So, what wrong with this one? It’s about the eighth plane I’ve made and is the first larger one. Here’s the list of things that are not great or just plain wrong.

  • I made the center section too wide. It should have been smaller for a tighter fit.
  • I didn’t clamp between the alignment dowels. I assumed I’d be cutting off farther into the plane than I ended up doing. I had to do some filling and corrections because of this.
  • The clearance angle I used was 45º. It could have been 30º and the plane would have been stronger and could have been shorter.
  • The sides are a little narrow. To fix this I would have to use a thicker piece of wood to begin with.
  • The angle for the blade was not quite steep enough. If it is not higher than the bevel angle the sharp tip of the blade won’t be touching the work. I had to steepen the angle with chisels and files. This was very time consuming but I’m glad it was possible.

This was the biggest handplane I’ve made. I’m gradually scaling up and plan on making full sized planes at some point. I’ve run out of the blades I had on hand and will have to get more. Buying high-quality plane blades, called irons, is a lot less money than buy high-quality planes.

A New Vise

I’m getting my shop back up and running one piece at a time. This is my new end vise.

I’m using as much stuff I already have as possible. The jaws are made from Baltic birch plywood. It has 15 plies of birch and makes a very strong a stable vise. There are 3 layers of the plywood in each jaw.

The vise screw was full of rust from sitting on a shelf for a few decades. Fortunately, it was just surface rust and it came off easily. The runner/stabilizers are 1 ¼” maple dowels from my wood stack. They are really straight and it was great to just go grab them.

The handle is a new 1” dowel that is a softer wood, maybe poplar. It’s hard to find high-quality dowels at a local hardward store. This softer wood is just fine for handle as it will get a lot of use and will be easy to replace.

The caps on the ends of the handle are from the honey locust tree that used to be in our front yard. Most of the tree became firewood but I saved a few pieces that looked interesting.

The little blue plastic things are bench dogs. I added a series of holes in the top of my workbench and the dogs allow a flat piece to be held securely. These vises are sometimes called a cabinet maker’s vise and are very versatile.

The shop almost feels usable now. Almost…

Making Cam Clamps - the First Two

Part 2

I will need lots of clamps for my goal and they are expensive to buy. Here’s the first two of maybe 40.

There are many flaws in them but it’s a good start on getting my shop back into top condition.

I know what I have to do next to improve on the design so I’m off and running.

Making Cam Clamps - the Cams

Part 1

I’m getting more set up to build things and I’m focussed on cam clamps while organizing my shop and tools. For more information about them see this: Cam Clamps at Rockler.

The first step was to make a template I could use to make all the other cams. Here I am cutting out the template on the scroll saw. It’s made out of ¼” Baltic Birch plywood.

Next is to use the template to layout some cams and cut them out to their rough shape. These are made from a piece of cherry I had laying around that was the right thickness.

I used a spindle sander to take them down to their final shape. Here’s the first batch.

Here’s the first clamp top piece I’m using as a trial build. I’ve always thought this kind of clamp has a personality.

The trial seems to be working. Here’s a closeup with the cam not engaged.

Flipping the cam expands the jaw and makes for a nice, lightweight clamp with many uses. (It looks like a happy clamp, doesn’t it?)

Next is to fully assemble the trial and see what I think.

Woodworking Is Yak Shaving

  1. Decide you need more cam clamps.
  2. Look at the price of the clamps you need.
  3. Recover from sticker shock at the cost of cam clamps.
  4. Decide to make your own since they aren’t hard to make.
  5. Search for cam clamp plans.
  6. Watch many YouTube videos on making your own cam clamps.
  7. Design your own version of light-duty cam clamps.
  8. Look for local places that carry aluminum bar stock.
  9. Stop at local industrial supplier and order bar stock.
  10. Pick up bar stock the next Monday after calling to make sure they came in.
  11. Search for wood in your shop to make cam clamps.
  12. Realize you can’t get to all your wood because there’s too much stuff in the way.
  13. Start cleaning your shop.
  14. Realize you can’t clean the shop very easily because you now have so many tools you don’t have any place to put them.
  15. Start searching for a good tool chest for small tools.
  16. Recover from sticker shock at the cost of tool cabinets that are any good at all.
  17. Decide to make your own tool chest.
  18. Spend hours designing a tool chest that will be cheap and easy to make.
  19. Start acquiring simple materials to make the tool chest.
  20. Make many trips to lumber yards.
  21. See a large stack of high-quality, perfectly quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce at one yard. File away for future plans.
  22. Start trying to build the tool chest.
  23. Realize you don’t have any room to build a tool chest since you have too much stuff in the way.
  24. Move car and motorcycles out of the garage to make temporary space to build the tool chest.
  25. Set up saw horses with plywood on top as a workbench since your real workbench is covered with stuff you have no place to put.
  26. Clean off your table saw so you can cut out the pieces of your tool chest.
  27. Pile all the stuff that was on your table saw on top of all the stuff on your workbench.
  28. Start building your tool chest.
  29. Take your time since this is fun and you haven’t built anything since your serious shop injury a few years ago.
  30. Marvel that your design looks like it’s going to work.
  31. Marvel more that you cut out all the pieces to the right dimensions.
  32. Accidentally finish the tool chest while you are trying to avoid doing some important day-job work.
  33. Stand back and enjoy doing something… anything.

To be continued…

Using Touchposé With a Swift Project

I’m working on a project where the user interface has a lot of gestures. I want the touches to show when I’m giving demos and in demo videos. The library I found which does this well is Touchposé. The only issue is that it is an Objective-C class and my project is in Swift. I got it to work, but I could not find a single source for using Touchposé in a Swift project. This post is my attempt to supply such a resource to anyone else looking to do this. This includes me in the future.

Installing Steps

1. Clone Touchposé

There are other ways to get the code but this is the most common.

  • Clone the Touchposé repository with this command
    • $ git clone

2. Add Touchposé Class

  • Drag these two files from the Finder to your project in Xcode.
    • QTouchposeApplication.h
    • QTouchposeApplication.m

3. Copy Option

Most likely you should choose the option to copy the files to your project.

  • Check the Copy items if needed checkbox.

4. Create a Bridging Header

If your project does not already have a bridging header then this dialog will appear when you drag Objective-C files into it.

  • Click on the Yes button and a file named <project-name>-Bridging-Header.h will be created and added to the project.

5. Edit the Bridging Header

  • Import the QTouchposeApplication.h file in the bridging header.
//  Use this file to import your target's public headers that you would like to expose to Swift.

#import "QTouchposeApplication.h"

6. Add a main.swift file

  • Create a new Swift file.

  • Name it main.swift and save the file into the project. Once you have this file in your project it becomes the starting point of the app. If you try to compile right now you will get this error in the AddDelegate.swift file. The delegate file is no longer the top-level file.
    • 'UIApplicationMain' attribute cannot be used in a module that contains top-level code
  • Fix this issue by commenting out the @UIApplicationMain line just above the class statement.
import UIKit

class AppDelegate: UIResponder, UIApplicationDelegate {

7. Use the QTouchposeApplication subclass

  • Edit the main.swift file. First remove the import Foundation statement.
  • Add the following code to the file.
import UIKit

UIApplicationMain(C_ARGC, C_ARGV, NSStringFromClass(QTouchposeApplication.self), NSStringFromClass(AppDelegate.self))

8. Always show touches

I want my app to always show touches when I’m running it.

  • Add (application as QTouchposeApplication).alwaysShowTouches = true to the AppDelegate.swift file in this method. You could also change the type in the method declaration but this way makes it easier to back all this code out when you need to.
func application(application: UIApplication, didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [NSObject: AnyObject]?) -> Bool {

    (application as QTouchposeApplication).alwaysShowTouches = true
    return true

9. Done!

Now you should see the touches on the screen when you run the app in the simulator or on a device.




Some Bach and a Story

Executive Summary for the Squeamish

In January 2014 I had an injury to my right hand. We were not sure if I would be able to play my Chapman Stick again. After 7 months of healing, physical therapy, and relearning how to play with my right hand, I am able to do this. If you’d like you can watch the video and skip the longer story after that.