17 December 2014

Mujingfang remade

It's never a good sign when a new tool is painful to use. This was the case with my new Mujingfang beading plane. This is a bare bones tool manufacturer the only apparent upside of which is that their products are extremely cheap. I've bought their wares before so I know about their limitations. But as around $10 US a plane, it was hard to not try this one just once more.
One very valid criticism of Chinese manufacturing is that very often from the upper management down to the assemblyline worker, nobody in the operation has any idea about what it is they are making. That's the only way that I can explain how this beading plane ever came to be made as it is.
The cruel molding plane
The first point to notice is that the fence is on the opposite side as other molding planes for right-handed users. This might be a plus if they came in pairs for difficult to plane woods, but as far as I can ascertain, this is the only model. The other failing is that the plane is extremely small which makes it hard to push without the upper edge of the blade poking into the palm of the unlucky hand. Or was it meant to be pulled? There is a long, shallow depression on the fence side but it appears more decorative than functional.  If one tries to pull the plane, squeezing with the right hand thumb somewhere in the depression, it is not possible to maintain enough downward pressure without having the blade chatter across the surface. It is simply impossible to believe that any woodworker did a test run on this plane before it was approved for delivery.

Initially I thought about just chalking up this purchase to as yet another lesson about how expensive it is to buy cheaply made Chinese tools. But then I pondered how to salvage it. I could have cut off some length from the blade and filed it smooth, but that would still have made the tool only slightly easier to wrap my fingers around the back while navigating with a pullstroke. It occurred to me that I could build a holder into which I might be able to use this plane with. My first idea was to create a square hollow in a suitably large piece of wood. Fast, but it would have created a problem as to how to keep the plane held inside the holder. I then realized that I would have to build up a holder in layers and then cut it down to size.

I started by planing down a piece of scrap pine slightly thicker than the plan body. I then roughly sketched the outline of plane and cut the waste out with a bandsaw. The result of my transfer and cutting was that the back section was slightly lower than the front in the glueup. I knew that I would be able to quickly bring the bottom down to flat with a jointer. The finished depth was less important that the interior fit.
test fitting

I didn't want any slippage during the glue assembly so taking a cue from my experience with Krenov style planemaking, I drilled 4 10mm holes and used dowels to keep the three pieces aligned. I moistened the wood surfaces to be glued, spread some watered down glue over the wet surfaces, and pounded them together down the dowel shafts. And, as Murphy is my witness, both inside pieces split along the holes for the dowels. I quickly spread glue over these unintended joints, clamped them together, and continued. Those joints would be cut off and the holes still functioned to keep all three pieces aligned.

alignment holes
I removed the block from the clamps the next day and started to shape the piece. I cut off the waste just below the doweled holes and ripped the excess from the sides while I was still at the bandsaw.  Over at the jointer, I flattened and squared up the bottom to the sides.
The beading plane is just proud of the pine holder. If it had been too low, it would have been a simple matter of running the bottom over the jointer enough times. I had to chop some allowance for the upper edge of the blade with a mortising chisel.
view from above
There is nothing to secure the plane inside the holder. I keep my fingers on the fence as I pull it along the stock. If I decide at a much later date to do any final shaping, there is a possibility of drilling and tapping for a wooden screw that can press against the finger recess.
profile from molding plane
I did a test run on a short piece of scrap. It is still necessary to use this plane on the pull stroke, but it is also much less painful now with pine holder to help guide it.

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