Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turner Hand Planes - A Small Review

Made in Australia until around 1970, Turner handplanes are an important part of our country's manufacturing heritage, and are still to be found at markets and online auction sites.
Along with Carter, Falcon Pope, Jas McLaren, McConnell and H E Watkinson, Turner manufactured metal bodied hand planes for a tool-hungry home market.  See Reference

Turners were different from their contemporaries, and deserve a closer look.

Turner made a host of different hand tools, but are best remembered for their range of handplanes.  These included 220 block plane, and bench planes - numbers 4, 4-1/2, 5, 5-1/2, 6 and 7.

The block planes and the number 7 pictured here are not Turners, but are simply included to fill out the range.

The Turner 220 block plane was a clone of the Stanley 220, with a ruby cellulose acetate front knob instead of the beech version that the Stanley used.  This was a useful and well made block plane, but may not have sold in large numbers - as it is extremely hard to find in the wild.  Perhaps, unlike the other Turner handplanes, it did not offer anything over the Stanleys of its time.  Perhaps these small planes were simply lost - bit of a mystery that one. The adjacent picture is courtesy of the HTPAA website

The other Turner bench planes were all made in precisely the same manner, and they share two things in common - attention to detail, and quality control.
They are modelled upon the Stanley range of bench planes and share similar design features to the type 19's of the same period - 1948-1961.

Here is a Turner plane, as boxed, from the factory in Nunawading in Melbourne, Victoria.

Totes and Handles

The most obvious difference shown by the Turners was their ruby-red, cellulose acetate handles - advertised as unbreakable in Turner marketing.

It was eye catching in hardware store displays, and drew plenty of attention away from the competition.

Wooden totes that had worked loose had a habit of cracking then breaking about two-thirds down their length. Interestingly, Turner marketed their handles as replacements for the timber handles of their competition, and hardware stores carried them as upgrades.

My first speargun carried a Turner ruby handle, procured from the local hardware store.  Inverted and reversed, it was the perfect shape.

Of course, as Turner totes aged, the cellulose acetate became more brittle, and with loosening handle screws, pressure on the rear totes sometimes cracked and broke off the toe - just behind the front screw - on larger handles.  So - not quite unbreakable.

Of note, is the fact that Turner number 4 rear handles were made in two types.  One was secured only by the tote bolt that ran through the handle length, the other had a supplementary screw at the front - similar to the totes for the larger planes.  I suspect that the two-screwed version was for the earlier number 4's, as they are less common. All Turner handles had a moulded seat on the bottom of the handle - that fitted into a recess in the cast iron base - for a secure fit.


The quality of the castings for the bases is another thing that impresses with the Turners.  Made from high grade, stress relieved grey iron, the thicknesses of both bases and sidewalls, are uniform and nicely finished.
The sides are square to the bases and the bases are flat from toe to heel.
Turner never marketed a corrugated base version of their handplanes, something that Stanley USA and Sargent did to diversify their line.  As far as I know, no Australian plane manufacturer offered a corrugated sole version as an option.  No demand, probably.

The mouths are well machined and are square to the body, lining up nicely with the leading edge of the frog.  The frogs are a work of art, and are an item that would not be out of place in 21st century precision manufacturing.


The frogs are made from aluminium, and the finish is so good that each frog fits precisely onto the mating parts of the base.  I have read somewhere, but can't verify it, that Turner frogs were injection moulded rather than cast.  If so, then this would explain the precision of these finished articles.
Unfortunately, the frog is also the Turner's achilles heel.

Over-tightening of the lever cap set screw, can result in deformation of the frog and blade mating surface over time, stretching the top face into a convex shape that causes the blade to flex rather than mate perfectly flat.  When buying a Turner, always check the frog and blade for any deformation of the frog.  It will present as a gap at the side of the frog top near the lateral lever, between the frog and the blade.


The frog is equipped with three different adjusters - fore and aft adjuster for controlling the size of the mouth, lateral adjustment lever and depth adjuster for the blade.

The size of the mouth opening is set by loosening the two frog-to-base attaching screws, and winding the fore/aft adjusting screw at the rear base of the frog.  Small mouth for fine shavings, larger mouth for thicker shavings.
The blade depth adjuster is linked to the blade and cap-iron via a cast yoke, which again fits precisely, leaving very little backlash in the large brass depth adjusting wheel.  This is beautifully made, with four knurled rings for easy finger tip control of the blade depth.  In my opinion, this is one of the best designed depth adjuster rings ever made for a Stanley-type plane, and is similar to - but better than - the Stanley type 18 (1946-1947)
The lateral adjuster lever for the blade, also fits the slot in its matching blade with no slop or play, and allows precise setting of the blade edge to the timber.

Blade and Lever Cap

The Turner lever cap is based upon those of the Stanley type 16 (1933-1941) and later.  Incidentally, this was also the date for the introduction, by Stanley, of the frog design used by Turner as well.

Blades for early Turner handplanes  were made by Erik Anton Berg in Sweden, and stamped with the Turner logo.  These are highly sought after - even today, but set Turner apart as a premier hand plane manufacturer of its time, with a premium product.  Later blades were made by Turner themselves, and were manufactured from high grade tool steel, that was hardness tested before leaving the factory.
All Turner blades are quality products that take and hold a keen edge.

In Operation

Turner hand planes are easy to set up and easy to use.  They hold no vices in operation and produce excellent results.  The only thing to be careful of is the state of the aluminium frog, which may have been stressed and deformed by over-tightening the lever cap screw.  Apart from this, there is nothing to worry a Turner hand plane user.

Their attention to detail and use of quality components stood them in good stead in the Australian marketplace, and make them a popular collector's and user's plane even today.  It is pleasing to know that our wonderful country was a producer of excellence in hand tool manufacturing in its past, and this can be a source of pride for anyone lucky enough to own a Turner hand plane.

One other aspect of Turner handplane manufacturing that would set them apart, is the possibility of being an exported handtool.  I have read, but cannot verify, that Turners were exported to South America.  Whether this is accurate or simply apocrypha, I cannot say, but they were well enough made to compete on an international stage, and enough of a threat for Stanley Titan to absorb them and close them down.

If you ever encounter one in the marketplace, it may well be worth the trouble to acquire.

............................ and happy shavings to all ...............

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Repairing Broken Saw Handle Spurs

Hand saws today are most commonly provided with a plastic handle, and a blade with hardened and non re-sharpenable teeth.  As a bonus, they are comparatively cheap, and have become a disposable commodity, to be discarded after they go blunt in use.  Their replacement is often just another throw-away saw to be discarded in its turn.

The handles are generally designed for a four finger grip, with the thumb on the opposing side.  These are ergonomically primitive, and can be a chore to use.  They lack the point-ability of the older three fingered grip - that allowed the forefinger to be placed beside the handle to create stability in the direction of the saw's cut.

Occasionally, a company decides to take the issue of handle ergonomics seriously, and a contoured handle is produced to follow the curves and shapes of the operator's hand.

Here is Bahco's effort in this regard, that has a detachable handle and interchangeable blades.  The handles, of necessity in this design, are dedicated right or left handed.  It is impossible for a left handed person to use the right handed version, and vice versa.   They are essentially a mirror image of each other.  With a solid  aluminium core, they are padded with a soft rubber compound for comfort in operation.
 Unless they are a sale item, however, they are expensive and even when on sale, they are not cheap.  Compared to a  traditional wooden handled saw, they are also heavy, but - in spite of this - they are still well balanced.
The handle is still a four fingered grip, and even though I'm sure I could get used to it, this is not my preferred way of holding a saw handle.  Old habits die hard.

From time to time, a perfectly serviceable old-time handsaw comes along, that has had handle damage.  This is particularly true of older wooden handled saws from the golden age of hand tool manufacture.  They hold decided advantages over their modern equivalents in terms of price - and also because they are re-sharpenable.  They can be used with either left or right hand, and are an ergonomic delight.

The top and bottom spurs are essential for the accurate use of handsaws.  The bottom spur cushions the heel of the palm, and allows an easier sawing action by directing the thrust of the cut from the whole arm and shoulder.  Without a bottom spur, there is too much pressure placed on the hand grip, and fatigue sets in quickly.  The top spur cushions the web of the palm between thumb and fore-finger, and prevents the fingers from sliding up the grip and becoming cramped into the top of the handle.

I have always found it to be important to try saws for the fit to the hand, before deciding to buy.  The handles are a bit like gloves, they fit your hand - or they don't.  And a saw, without one or both of its spurs, is near unusable for any length of time.

This is the handle from an old Disston that has presented with a broken top spur.   Originally made from apple wood, the grip is as smooth as silk, and its position on the saw blade is exceptionally well balanced in use.  I don't have any apple wood, so a piece of Mackay Cedar was selected as a timber with suitable similar density and closeness of grain.  After cutting out the broken spur to create a squared surface, the block is glued in place with two part epoxy.  I have taken care to align the grain direction of the block with that of the handle.

Once the glued block has dried, it is time to sketch a suitable upper horn.  I tried two, and opted for the lower of them.  A quick rough cut on the bandsaw, and I am ready to start shaping with chisel, files and sandpaper.

The finished shaping now only awaits some stain - to help match the new timber with the old patina.

Of course, the finished saw is a joy to use, and cuts like a dream.  There is a warmth to old wooden handled tools that plastics simply cannot capture.  There is also the knowledge that other hands have held this saw, and that in some small tactile way we are sharing in the last 100 years of this saw's history, and the lives of the men who have used it.

Pretty cool when you think about it - that's why I love using old tools.

D.H. Lawrence

“Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.”

............... and happy woodworking to all .................

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Restoring A Gateleg Table - Part 2

Restoring a badly cared for and broken piece of furniture is always a challenge.  Sometimes the problems are minor, but still need care in the repair.
Apart from the failed dowel joints, the table has plenty of other issues that need attention.  It was not made as a piece of high-end furniture.  There is evidence that the table was made to a price, and some parts were quickly executed in its construction.

In areas that were out of sight, original marking gauge lines and over-zealous saw cuts can be seen.

The stays that block the open gate-legs are simply screwed to the bottom of the two table top side-leaves, and are roughly finished.  One is not even square cut.  All of these are part of the character of the piece and will be left as is.
Other faults need repair.

Here is an old crack in the edge of the table-top.  It can be re-glued, but the clamping  requires some ingenuity because of the curve of the table edge.

Clamping blocks solve the problem of the curved edge, and allow the crack to be pulled together while the glue dries.  Two blocks stop the clamps from marking the table top.

Replacing Worn or Split Edging

Here is an example of splintered and broken edging from one of the lower gate-leg rails.  It can be rounded over, but this is unacceptable.  Better to replace the worn part with a new fillet piece.  First step is to create a flat surface for the  replacement sliver to adhere to.  I use a plane - number 5 size works well.  Mine is a Lie Nielsen low-angle jack plane.

On the left is the planed and flattened rail.  I use a bevel gauge to first measure the angle for the replacement sliver, then transfer it to the piece to be cut.  I found a small piece of American oak that will suffice - close enough to the original English oak to be good enough.

Once the sliver has been glued and has dried, it can be brought back to the profile of the rail with a finely set plane.  Again I use the Lie Nielsen, as it has a wonderful adjustable mouth that can be set to take the finest shavings.  This is important, as the final surface has to be crept up on - so that the rail isn't over-thicknessed in one's enthusiasm.  Here you can see that I have just managed to kiss the rail with the blade, creating the scrape in the varnish.  No matter, there will be a stain finish to help the oak blend in with the older varnish.

With the repairs out of the way, it is time to finally assemble the leg frame before addressing the top.
That will be for next time.

May the rain fall soft upon your fields ..................

............. and ............ happy woodworking to all.