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My next plane will probably be a smoothing plane, not right away, but hopefully not too far in the future. I was looking at the Lie-Nielsen web site, and I noticed that their No. 4 Smoothing Plane is offered in both a bronze and an iron body version. The bronze was $50 more. So is there any advantage to bronze? And if so, is that advantage of any significance to a hobbyist like me?
The first topic on this project can be found at First Topic. When ever a land surveyor retires from my place of work, I am called on to make a "Witness Post" with a benchmark embedded into the post. Then at the retirement party he'll be sent off with this memory of his time served in our Land Surveying Division of our transportation department. This retirement post was made for our big guy, the country surveyor, after 30 plus years of service he decided to call it, and go mountain climbing. Below is the post after glue up, I glued together two 8/4 slabs of cherry, that were also 4" wide, so I came out with a true 4x4 post. It stands about 34 inches tall. I used TB II Dark Wood Glue. After I cleaned up the glue with a chisel, I ran it through the joiner to completely square it up. Then I moved on to the making of the base that the post would stand on. the arrows indicate the glue edges after I cross cut the small 8/4 slab, I'll end up with two pieces 8" x 16" long, and when glued up will form a square base at 16" x 16". If you need to glue up two halves like this, and if you want a beautiful book matched end grain at a highly visible edge, just cross cut it, then fold the two halves so the arrows meet in the middle, this will leave a wonderfully book matched end grain where your cross cut was made. As you can see I had a lot of twist going on with this 8/4 cherry, so I had to plane it flat. There we go! Two surfaces perfectly square to each-other. Though the right side and the bottom are square to each other, you can see the top has much to be desired, so since I have two reference points that are good, I can surface plane the top flat now. A full 8/4 twisted piece of cherry on the left, and a nicely joined and surfaced board on the right, as you can see we lost quite a bit of thickness, but as this is the base for the post, I did not mind having the base a bit thinner to give the over all appearance of the project some depth with differing thickness in relation to the thickness of the post. I broke out my Veritas Low Angle Jack to join the glue edges for the base. Once joined they were ready for glue up. I'll always hand join two boards before glue up, I just feel better about it, rather then going straight to glue up after joining on my Grizz 6", I'll hand join the edges, then glue up. To me, I feel it's a cleaner joint, virtually invisible, as a matter of fact when done correctly, it is invisible. Base is glued up, I never wipe the glue off, unless we are working on a cabinet where dripping glue can be disastrous, but when working with slabs or surface joints where scraping the glue is easily done, I'll just let it run and drip and dry. I feel it retains the strength of the joint this way, instead of wiping it off with a damp rag, the water could get into the joint and weaken it. Since I have made so many of these "Retirement Posts", I finally made a jig one year. I used to have to put together the black plastic lettering template each time I built one of these. But I finally got wise and made a permanent template that can be used over and over. The template below is made from Poplar, 1/2" thick. I set the depth of the bit by inverting the router on the bench, then sitting the template on top of the router, and setting by eye the depth of the cut. I like to eye ball in about a 3/8" cut with a 3/8" radius cove cutting bit. The template is clamped in place on the 4x4 post, I'll route out the top letters first, then move the clamps up and route out the bottom letters last. And now we have a lettered post with "RIV CO SUR". That stands for "Riverside County Surveyor" Next I'll spray about three coats of white paint on the entire surface of the post making sure to get the letters really good. The next step after the paint has thoroughly dried, I'll run it through the thickness planer, planing off a micro touch of surface wood, thus leaving behind some nice clean and white letters. I skipped a photo of the post after planing, but you'll see the white letters left behind after the surface planer in the next few images. I was just going to leave it as is, but there seemed to be something missing between the RIV and CO, and the CO and SUR. The letters just seemed to run into each other. So I decided for the first time since I have been making these to inlay some Macassar Ebony dots to symbolize "periods", and a break between the letters. I used a 3/8" tapered plug cutter for this job. You can see I have already hit this piece of Macassar in the past for plugs, when I made my last rocker I used this Macassar for the plugs. Then with a 3/8" forstner, I cut the holes for the tapered plugs. With a few little dabs of glue in the holes, I rammed the tapered plugs in, and planed them smooth with my Veritas Low Angle Block plane. Perfect fit, you cannot beat the tapered plugs, they go in tight, never a gap. Nice and clean. The post resting atop the base. One thing I think I would have changed, and will in the future, I'll use a longer post, so the letters at the bottom will be about 3" from the base, aesthetically I think it would look better. Below is a 3 1/2" bronze benchmark disk, typically used to mark a township, section corner, or an elevated vertical benchmark of great significance to a surveyor. What our guys did is ordered the disk and had our County Surveyors name along with his PLS number,or Land Surveyors Number and entry and exit dates of employment engraved on the mark. You can see the splayed shaft, in a field environment, these benchmarks are typically set in concrete, so when you set this mark in concrete, it is impossible for it to work its way out. Since my base is only 1 1/2" thick, and the shaft is about 3" long, well I had to go to work on it to shorten it up. The soft bronze was a bear to get through with my sweat operated hack saw. The soft metal just clogged up the teeth. But finally I made it through. I drilled out a 1" hole to accommodate the 3/4" shaft. I over sized the hole because I wanted enough two part epoxy to surround the shaft and provide some holding power. Before I set the mark into the hole filled with two part epoxy, I drilled out three holes through the shaft, so the epoxy would flow into the holes, and provide some anchor power. Before the mark was set, I sanded the post to 800, providing a nicely burnished shiny surface, then I applied two coats of BLO. After I set the mark, the final step was to rub out the entire post with Liberon Bison Wax using a 0000 steel wool, I love this wax, it is a necessary last step in my woodworking, it provides an overall even sheen, and it also hides the aroma of the BLO, and it just provides one more deep and rich step to form a wonderful patina. Sorry for the side way image, I could not get it to load upright! Hmmm, good thing we are moving our community eh! You can view the book matched end grain as I noted earlier on when gluing up the base. Well thanks folks for viewing this project, I was happy and honored to build this for our big guy's retirement. I love building these for the guys at work, I believe this is the 8th one I have done, and the third country surveyor I have built one for. It has become a tradition for our retirees, they love them, and frankly they expect them now! For a little history about the post, these posts are called in our industry a "Witness Post". It is a post that tells a surveyor there is a very special mark nearby, typically for vertical control, a big corner such as a township corner, or it could even be a combination of a few things, a corner, a vertical benchmark, with horizontal coordinates or values applied to it using the Blue Book standards as set forth by the National Geodetic Survey. If we find a "Witness Post" in the field, you can be sure their is an important monument nearby, usually within two feet of the post, and it will be laying in front of the post on the lettered side. Have fun!