I would like to find a supplier that will sell small quantities of native persimmon wood in blocks of 8/4 or thicker. I think this might be great for hand planes.
Do you wish for a great look or great function?Metod
I am looking for a very hard stable wood. Looks are secondary
If you can't find a source for persimmon, consider mesquite. It is remarkably stable. Most North American hardwoods shrink something in the region of 6-8% as they dry from green to 6% moisture content. Mesquite shrinks only .7% -- darn near not at all. It is also hard and dense -- both good properties for planes.
Swifty,Jamie gave you a rather 'usable' answer. There are several woods that are 'good enough' and have been used satisfactorily for many years. A good construction method or design will complement less than ideal wood. Some form of lamination (unless a one-piece body is the most important to you) increases stability. Modern adhesives were not available to in the past, so the one-piece construction was the only way to go. Apart from aesthetic considerations (very important but varying from one individual to another) one-piece versions justify frequent fussing (5 minutes tuning, 3.7 minutes planing <g>) which could be an important source of happiness - the pursuit of which is ... you know the drill.Sorry for the length...my coffee just kicked in.Best wishes,Metod
Swifty - Persimmon is related to the ebony tree. It's just about as hard, so chiseling a plane body may be a bit of work. From the standpoint of obtaining some in the thicker dimensions, your best bet may be to find someone with a woodmizer that saws up downed homeowner's trees. Persimmons were a valued yard tree in the 18th and 19th centuries for their fruit, which makes good preserves, so a lot of the bigger trees are around old houses.
This might be a long shot, but try golf club makers in your area. Persimmon used to be THE material for golf club 'woods'. There are a few club makers around that are into the retro thing and are making persimmon clubs again. They might have a source. Tom
Persimmon is generally a pretty small weed tree. It does have properties that would make it a good plane making wood and I've made a number of planes from it.
As long as the wood used has decent properties, grain orientation is far more important than the specific type of wood in plane making. It's very difficult to find persimmon in the sizes one would need for making planes. 24" diameter persimmon trees are pretty rare and that's about the minimum size that will yield the wood I would want. I can use 16" diameter trees for boxing in moulding planes and that's still difficult to find but is at least possible. I just need the center cuts of the tree for this.
I know of one supplier locally that saws small amounts of persimmon but they don't do mail order. Over the years, I've developed a relationship with this saw mill and they'll let me break down a five or six hundred board foot stack to get three or four usable boards. It takes some time but it's worth it to me.
This sawyer is getting elderly and his son is a lawyer with no interest in continuing the sawing. I don't know how I'll get the persimmon I need in the near future. I've talked to the local tree services but haven't come up with anything from them yet.
I think beech, maple or pear are better woods for plane making. Don't fall for the old "wear resistance" BS. It's just not an issue in wooden planes.
Good luck in your search.
Larry - I've a question that you might be able to answer. I've found 16/4 or 12/4 quarter sawn beech to be nearly unobtainable, but I've lots of quartersawn 16/4 curly maple, plain walnut (air dried) and mahogany. What's your opinion on the maple for a plane? Working it's reasonably easy (the curl just seems to give problems planing, but it doesn't seem to affect chopping), but what I'm curious about would be its stability once the plane's made.
I've scrounged the necessary uncut irons (antique Butchers, mostly) for a smooth, jack and jointer, and I've the necessary small mortise chisel and floats, but the wood issue has me stopped for the moment. I do have a large billet of ebony, but that's an expensive wood for a plane, particularly a jointer, and I hesitate to use it for my second attempt (the first attempt turned out reasonably well, though the mouth was a bit wider than I'd planned on)
I don't have a problem with hard maple for planes but I'm not sure I'd want much curly grain in a plane. I suspect hard maple would be more common in old planes except that it is more difficult to work than beech. Don has a maple trying plane he made years ago and has had no difficulty with it other than making it in the first place.
I know what you mean about the difficulty getting beech. We may have to go to our second choice for our bench planes and that choice will be hard maple. I'm not really concerned about the quality of plane maple will make but the extra work and time is a concern.
I am in favor of cutting down any persimmon that has the least chance of producing fruit- yuck!!!!!!!!!!
Obviously, you've never had one of MY persimmon cookies ... you don't know what you're missing!
Thanks for the advice, Larry. Funny thing about Beech availability is that it's everywhere here in the East. Even in Raleigh (beech is known for being a more Northern tree), there are lots of them, and occasionally they're huge. The problem is that it seems that all of it is milled up into small pieces for pallet construction, as a cheap wood for the underlayment of veneer in the furniture industry, and the like.
One of the local guys here that really wanted some wide/big beech went a route that might be practical for Clark and Williams - he purchased a few beech logs and had them custom-sawn to his specifications by a micro-mill. He got exactly what he wanted, but he'll have to wait while it air-dries.
One other way I've thought about doing this is to use mahogany. I have some very hard, very dense mahogany, and I've certainly seen it used in antique planes. It would certainly work a lot easier than maple, though I'm considering adding a boxwood (south american) sole to make it wear a little better.
I think it's a mistake to laminate planes, adding soles or otherwise. The real issue with wooden planes is stability and what you're dealing with is the differential in moisture content between the core of the wood and the surface.
The differential is natural in wood, especially thicker stuff like in a bench plane. You want a wood with a dense ray structure like beech or maple to help move moisture to or from the core. The rays are basically wood cells radially oriented at 90º to normal wood cells. The net effect of the rays, depending on the wood, is a relatively significant amount of end grain exposed on the flat sawn or tangential surfaces. This helps move a lot of moisture from the core. You don't want to do anything to inhibit that moisture movement.
At best laminating severs the pores and, in the worst case, adds a vapor barrier inside the wood. Think of this like frame and panel construction. The wood is going to do what it does and trying to prevent it often leads to failure. You want to facilitate or even encourage the inevitable changes. There's a lot of internal stress involved in the differential between the core of the wood and the surface. These stresses deform the sole and are what make seasonal tuning necessary or unnecessary.
This is why I avoid using dense heavy exotics in plane making. Moisture moves very slowly through these woods and the internal stresses are always there. I have a cocobolo jack plane and it's a good thing it's only used for roughing, for anything else I'd have to tune it every time I use it. It just never seems to stop moving and settle down. My beech planes seem to acclimate to humidity changes almost as fast as they occur. Occasional tuning is both rare and minimal.
iv'e recently begun to move towards hand planing my rough lumber to finished boards. i take my initial instruction, usually from tage frid's books. he uses a wood scrub plane to start with. i went searching for one like his and got lucky. my question is, how does one tune a wood scrub plane? i cambered the blade, flattened its back and steel wooled and oiled the body. is there more?
If the plane is working fine, I wouldn't do anything more. Roughing planes shouldn't require much tuning. I don't know a lot about European style scrub planes, they're not used in the Anglo/American traditions. The jack or fore plane fills that role for me and I think works better because of the length of the plane.
thanks for the reply.
Larry - Interesting thoughts. Because I haunt old tool events (MWTCA, mostly), I see a lot of antique planes. The vast majority are, of course, beech. But it seems that brazilian rosewood, lignum vitae (the real stuff, not the horrible green substitute), ebony and boxwood also weren't unusual in the day. Dense mahogany, and to a lesser extent, cherry and walnut seem to have been used as well.
An interesting side note to this is that rosewood and lignum vitae bench planes seem to be mostly shipwright's razee-style planes. One wonders if this was because of the very hard timbers that they commonly worked (white oak comes to mind), or whether it was simply the availability and relative low cost of exotics in a port town.
Oddly, while ebony and even boxwood were available in larger pieces in the 19th century, I've never seen either wood used in a bench plane other than in a smoother, though of course they were heavily used by the big plow plane makers in the late 19th century.
Your comments suggest one other wood that might be useable as a bench plane (and around here, it's plentiful) - White Oak. White oak has a dense ray structure similar to beech, and is hard, relatively heavy (dense) and doesn't split easily.
There's one aspect of your comments that has me concerned about the stability of a proposed long bench plane out of maple - moisture exchange. Maple doesn't have any rays - perhaps that's why some respond that "curly maple" is a description of what happens to the boards, not a description of the figure! ;-)
Ship builders had their own plane making traditions. I'm not sure what all lies behind their designs and material choices. I've read a little but I've got a lot to learn about it.
I would avoid white oak. For plane making you want a fine grained diffuse porous wood and oaks are coarse grained ring porous woods.
I'm not sure what you're looking at in your hard maple but hard maple has a distinct ray structure that's very similar to what's found in beech. Visually, it can be very hard to tell beech from hard maple.
Larry - Might be I'm just not familiar enough with hard maple. Most all of what's in my shop and available around here is soft maple, though calling that wood "soft" is a misnomer - only hickory's harder in my experience with common domestic hardwoods. Visually, anyway, the maple I've used a good bit of has no visual ray structure the way beech and oak does.
But after all is said and done, I'll probably make the first long plane out of mahogany because it's easy to work and I've got a lot of experience with it. That should give me enough practice in sinking the mortise and filing the mouth to make one out of maple, which as you noted, is a lot more work because it's a lot harder.
Thanks very much for the advice - very helpful.
If you are in need of really hard maple, You might want to check with some of the suppliers that furnish hard maple for gunstocks to the makers of fine handmade muzzle loading rifles.These are the folks that make the high dollar $3000 & over replicas of the Kentucky Longrifles. A quarter sawn hard maple board 2 1/2 inches thick goes for hundreds of dollars. When they cut out the profile of a rifle there is considerable waste. These usually go for less than $20.00. One such source is www.dunlapwoodcrafts.com, www.knobmountainmuzzleloading.com,and www.gunstockwood.com.You will need to specify really hard maple. Quater sawn might be more stable. Be sure to request a plain grain instead of the curly maple.
Beech, nothing but the beech, so help you beech.
There are thousands of woodies that are not made of beech and they perform admirably. The Japanese and other eastern planes are pretty much non-beech.
Woodworkers benefit from a well-rounded information more than from a narrow-minded one (i.e., full of beech).
Just because something works well (as does beech), it does not guarantee that something else does not or should not - the content of many of your posts. A solid course on reasoning (not the same as regurgitation of nano-information) might benefit you substantially.
I begain a search for Beech sized for plane making, here in Michigan, about 3 years ago. Just got some January 6th. About 13 bd. ft. in a size suitable for bench planes, and 13 bd. ft. in a size suitable for side escapement planes. It was obtained from what is refered to here as an "urban" saw mill. Of course it's green and I'll have to dry. This "mill" was a one man outfit run out of his home sawing logs from tree service companies and sawing at peoples properties. The tree that the wood I got was sawn in August. I hope I can dry it without too much loss. By the way the price was right $20.00 for the lot.
Larry:Thanks for the wealth of information on native persimmon wood for making planes.I think I will stick with hard maple. in a couple of weeks I am going up to visit David Finck for a plane making course.Thanks for your help and comments.Archer Yates
I have a persimmon tree on my property, I won't give it up but if anyone is interested in the approx 400 lbs of fruit it generates each year, come on over.
Where do you live?
I have some 8/4 persimmon. I will send you an e-mail.
I also have some 8/4 pecan if you want to try that.
Are you still looking for persimmon wood ?
I make violins, and though I really apprciate the qualities of imported ebony, I am always interested in substituting locally available and domestic woods for my instruments. I would like to use persimmon for fingerboards on my violins, and though there are some trees around here, getting them and then air drying the stock is more than I am prepared to do at this time. Do you have a small quantity for sale that can be easily shipped? Or, if you have a large quantity, do you live near Bristol, Virginia? Please email or call, 276-475-3584. Check the "Criddles" page under "Violins" on my website, www.johndancerviolins.com.
john the opossumibledreamer
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