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Matt Bickford Blog

  1. To the Man at Sawmill Creek Having Issues with his Side Beads

    I typed the following response to a thread at Sawmill Creek only to find out that I can't post there any more. (Do I need a membership?) If you're reading this and can post there, then you are welcome to send him here. No block quotes from here to there. 

    As stated, your main problem is that your sole is out of flat along its length. Your secondary problem is that the previous owner has convinced you that the way the profile of the iron currently matches the sole is good enough. It's not (likely).

    First, 100% of un-tuned antique planes have a high spot behind their mouth. Some of them have a slight high spot and can be used, but could work better. Others are completely out of flat and don't work at all. It sounds like you have a couple of planes that fall into this latter category. (I say 100% as a joke, but I really haven't seen one that doesn't.)

    That being said, the first step of tuning any antique should be to flatten the sole. Don't purchase a plane whose sole you can't flatten. I use hollows for rounds, rounds for hollows, and hollows & rounds for complex profiles. Side beads? You'll need a mother plane or an appropriately sized core router bit and router table to flatten the sole. 

    Side beads have a reputation as being a good plane for a beginner to start. I disagree with that mainly for this reason: flattening the sole is impossible without the correct set-up and you are probably not in possession of the correct set-up. Additionally, sharpening 180 degrees of a profile isn't the easiest place to start. Your large profiles will make both of these easier, however.

    As an added bonus to flattening your sole first, you'll find matching the iron to the sole easier once the sole is flat. 1. Once flat, you won't be looking at the horizon of the bed over the mouth as you site down the sole, thinking that you're seeing the cutting edge. 2. you won't have a patina on the sole that is the same color as the silhouette of the cutting edge.

    Steps to tuning antiques:
    1. Avoid planes that have an ill-fitting wedge. (Cars and hand planes are similar in that any of either can be made to work flawlessly. Many of both are not worth the time, effort and expense. The fit of the wedge is a glimpse at the maker's skill and/or plane's life.) 
    2. Flatten sole
    3. Fix mouth
    4. visual inspection that iron is bedded
    5. sharpen
    6. re-bed iron if the plane chatters

    There's other things that can go wrong. For instance, some of those mint antiques were never used because they didn't work on the day they left the prison in which they were made. These can be avoided by skipping over ill-fitting wedges. There are integral faults in some planes from EVERY era.

    Finally, I start snipes bills by striking a line with a marking gauge. I start side beads upon a square corner. You'll probably start yours with a running start.

    Good luck!

    If you have any questions then you can post them in my comments.
  2. No Further Purchase Necessary: 10-Year Anniversary Raffle

    The NWA Woodworkers' Showcase is the anniversary date of my business each year. The 2010 show was the first time that I actively pursued customers. This year, March 28-29, 2020, marks the 10-year Anniversary of my plane-making business.

    10 years!

    10 years of people willing to listen to me at a shows. 10 years of people reading what I write and watching what I make. Most importantly, 10 years of little-known people willing to make substantial investments in wooden moulding planes, trusted to some guy they read about on the internet or met briefly at a show.

    I've been thinking of ways to celebrate this milestone and I think I came up with a good one:

    To reward those of you that have rewarded me with your patronage, I will be randomly choosing one of you many people that have previously purchased or have already placed orders to purchase plane(s) directly from me.

    Each plane that each customer ordered will be a single entry to win a prize. There are 3,619 entries.

    To be clear, everybody that took delivery of one plane from me already has one entry. Everybody that currently has a plane on backorder has an entry. If you ordered 18 planes then you have 18 entries.

    (No further entries will be accepted for this contest, but further orders are always encouraged.)

    What will you win? I have been thinking about that, too. I think I also came up with a great prize.

    I don't want to thank only the people who have purchased planes from me. I also want to thank the businesses that have played a remarkable role in my existence. So the winner can choose a $500 gift certificate from one of the following companies:

    Acanthus Workshop
    Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking
    The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts
    Lie-Nielsen Toolworks
    Lost Art Press/Crucible
    Port Townsend School of Woodworking
    Old Street Tool

    These companies are aware that this contest is happening, but they aren't really participating. This means that if you win and choose company X then you'll tell me that you want the gift certificate for company X and I'll buy it. Don't contact company X to claim it. Do not burden them as I have.

    If you win and you want the gift certificate broken up into 2, then I'll do that. I'll prefer not buying 6 different gift certificates from 6 different places, but whatever works for you...

    As for the raffle, I'll be using "The Randomizer" like I have in raffles of the past. There will be four shots (rounds), selecting the digits A,BCD. The four shots will happen sequentially on different days, with digit A being first. The winning digit will have the most shot pellets inside or upon the border of their circle. A tie will be broken by the shot that is closest to the center point, established by the compass. The second tie-breaker is the second closest pellet to the center point, and so on.

    (Note: The '3' circle is intentionally smaller.)

    What's your digit? The order in which I delivered each plane will be your digit. If you ordered 18 planes at once then you have 18 sequential entries. If you ordered 10 planes over the course of 5 orders then you'll have 5 blocks of 2. Thirty planes on backorder means 30 entries (prize to be delivered upon you taking the delivery of the order).

    All issues shall be decided by me. In the event that I can't contact the winner (moved, changed email address, AND changed phone number or death, etc.), then I will go to the second highest count for the fourth digit. In the event that the winning customer also happens to be an eligible company (numbers 0001-0018 are, for instance), then they still win. If they insist on declining, which I will encourage they do not, then we'll figure it out.

    Finally, I will suggest the winner buy something for which they haven't yet budgeted. Take a class you haven't intended to take or buy a tool/book for which you aren't currently saving. I hope you treat the prize as a windfall for you and the business you choose.

    Results of each round will be posted on my instagram feed, @msbickford. Please free to audit the contest results at the NWA Woodworkers' Showcase at the end of the month. I'll be there, I'll bring the spent targets, I'll bring my planes for you to try and a piece to enter in the showcase.

    (Also, feel free to see vote for my piece for 'fan favorite' at this year's NWA Showcase)

    (Just be sure you're voting for the correct one)

    Note: If the winner is not in the United States and the specific company they choose does not have a location in your country (which they won't) then I'll have to purchase the tool, books, etc. and send it to you. I'll prefer not to deal with third-parties. Shipping and taxes will be your responsibility if the final total number exceeds the $500.

    Note 2: I will ask that you do not contact me requesting your number(s). I don't have the time to respond to the 600+ customers. I will publish the date range of delivery (likely on Instagram, @msbickford) that remains in play after each round.

    Note 3: If you purchased planes I made from eBay or an antique tool seller, then you are not in the running, unfortunately. Let's just hope the person who sold the planes that you have doesn't win.


  3. And the Winner Is...

    #118, #118, #118!!!

    I am always fascinated that people share my fascinations. I thank everybody for reading and responding. I'll do this again in the future. I hope to hold your attention. Thank you.

    #118 had 5 shots inside. There were a few others that had 4.

    Now, to go pick up a customs form because this plane is going to the Netherlands...

  4. Rabbet Raffle Round 1 Results

    Who will win this X-out Rabbet plane?

    The selection committee has spoken!

    The lucky many (50) who will enter the final round are listed below.

    Check to see if your number advanced and stay tuned...

    You can see my previous post to find out which number was assigned to you.
  5. Raffle to Win a Rabbet Plane

    The entry period to win a rabbet plane is closed. I appreciate all readers who entered and even those hundreds of you who didn't (read far enough here or here).

    Here are the rules:
    My son will randomly choose the lucky few/several/many to make it to round 2 with The Randomizer. He will shoot one round of shot at the target below. Anybody who has any portion of their circle pierced will make it to the final round to be held a few days after the first. One round nicking a circle equals 3 in the center. I am the final arbiter regarding any issues, but there won't be any.

    The numbers have been distributed in the order in which you responded to my request. The first person to send an email is #1, the last person is #173.

    You may find your number in the following images. The list is alphabetical based upon the email address with which you responded. I put a lot of asterisks over a large part of each person's address to keep this anonymous. Please let me know if you have any questions, but let's keep these minimal and double check your number against your known address.

    Unfortunately, it's raining today and I don't want to deal with running ink. We will have The Randomizer choose the winner ASAP. Tomorrow looks like it will be the day. I will post the full video upon completion immediately on my Instagram account: @msbickford. I'll later post the names/numbers of those who made it to round 2, along with the full video, here.

    Again, there are 2 rounds this year which is different than the one of last. (I have fun with the contest and want to prolong it. I thank you each for humoring me.) 

Class Images






Just a quick note to say how much I appreciated and benefitted from the recent 5 week intensive. I hope you get as much satisfaction in teaching it as we received knowledge from the class. I didn’t return with a trinket, a box or a table … but I did return with a better understanding of workmanship and the process to get there. That was exactly what I was looking for.

The dovetails continue to improve (someday they’ll meet my standards), the L-fence is already on the saw and you gave me sufficient challenges to keep me busy for some time.

I hope our paths cross again.





Thanks for the last five weeks. This was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. Thanks for your patience and I look forward to taking more courses in the future. Meanwhile, this summer, I'll keep practicing dovetails and I'll look forward to seeing you at the open house.