09 January 2015

New Screws in New Tools

Toolmaking is a trait by which some have defined homo sapiens. Ours is a tinkering species. I freely admit to this. I've updated two tools from Veritas to make them, in my estimation, better than originals.
This first tool with an opportunity for improvement is the 5/16" Hex Brace Adapter.

Brace adapters.
The 1/4" Hex Brace Adapter is something that should be in everybody's toolbox.  It can accept any and all commercially made 1/4" hex bits. It secures these in the aperture with a small magnet that generally stays in place. I've actually had to reglue the magnets on both of mine with two part metal epoxy. An annoyance to be sure, but until another manufacturer can produce something better, Lee Valley is the only supplier that I know of.
On the larger 5/16" hex model, instead of a magnet to hold the bit securely, a 4mm set screw that requires a tiny flat tip screwdriver was employed. This tool was made available to be sold to accommodate the larger shaft of the Veritas power tenon cutters and countersinks. They either felt that a magnet was too weak or else they had no confidence with their Chinese subcontractor finding a way to keep a magnet from falling out. 
I don't like have to keep a set of tiny screwdrivers with me so I opted to replace the set screw with socket head cap screw. (I actually lost this tiny screw the first time that I tried to use the tool which initiated this idea for upgrades.)The walls of this tool are quite thin so a 4mm, 5mm long screw is all that is necessary. Not only does the circumference on the socket cap make it easier to tighten with finger pressure, if greater torque is required, it is certainly a better fit to use a hex key to turn the screw.

I applied this same idea to another tool that I have recently purchased from Veritas, the wide blade conversion kit for small plow plane. This is a center skate that helps to support wider blades and, in my case, tongue cutting blades for tongue and groove joints. Thinking about it now, I think that the marketers thought that they could more easily introduce the small plow plane with a lower price point by selling the center skate separately. This is a shame because the tool is generally well made, yet it requires a dedicated user with sufficient spare time to figure out its full potential because these components are were sold separately. (I notice now as I write this that Lee Valley has changed their website to avoid some of this confusion since they now offer the small plow plane with conversion kit under a single price, admittedly at a steep price.)

The conversion kit out of the box.

There again is a set screw requiring a tiny flat head screwdriver to engage it. I applied the same thinking and purchased a #10-32 1" socket end cap screw to upgrade the tool. There is hardly any need in this application to apply torque. The screw functions to keep the skate parallel with the main body. It doesn't require force, but rather a finesse that can be accomplished with fingers much more readily than by fiddling with a screwdriver in a little slot. The hex aperture in this application is superfluous.
The center skate installed with socket cap screw

It looks better, too.

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