I'm working on a surprise woodworking project. Thanks to my brother Chris, I have beautiful hardwood boards, but they need to be planed to specific thicknesses. This requires a planer.
I am blessed to have a friend who is very generous with her wood shop, and that shop includes a commercial-grade planer. However, the planer is a 1985 model, bought in 1988. Unintended consequences of the generous lending of the planer are much amateur use (like my own) and not a lot of maintenance. Sara and I used this planer to make the strips for our butcher-block counter top five years ago, and found that the blades had dulled in the middle, causing a crown effect on the planed boards. My current project has little tolerance for such irregularities. Upshot: I needed to sharpen the blades.
Thanks again to Chris (who has more experience with shop tools than I), I got schooled in how to remove and replace planer blades. I handed them over to a local guy who sharpens blades (thanks, Larry!), and brought them back for replacement. However, since I want high-quality work out of this planer, I wanted to make sure the blade adjustments were also high-quality.
How to make sure the knives were set properly? Although the manual had been saved, the knife-setting key had been lost. This tool is used to make sure that the blades stick out just far enough from the cutterhead to cut wood without breaking the blades. Could I get a replacement key?
After some googling and phone calls, I discovered that the company that made this planer was bought out by another, which was then bought out by a third firm. After a chain of transferred phone calls, I got to Steve, who knew exactly how my model of planer worked and how to repair it. Steve told me both that there was no way to get a new key and that newer knife-setting jigs were available. My knowledge of power tools just keeps expanding--of necessity. Thank God for old-school tech support with a lot of experience!
Thus I found myself in the market for magnetic knife-setting jigs:
Due to the amateur beating this planer took over the last 27 years, other parts of the planer were also out of whack. So, following the instructions in the manual, I manufactured a gage block, found set screws, and stumbled my way around the underbelly of this Rockwell steel beast. The last piece of the puzzle was finding a feeler gage. Thanks to a friend with a full set of automotive tools, I was ready to evaluate gaps of 0.040". After that it was a matter of following directions.
After about 10 hours of labor to make calls, hunt down tools, learn the machine, and make adjustments, the planer performs like gangbusters. See the auspicious spray of fresh shavings from my test runs:
I'll probably only need an hour of work from the planer for my surprise project. But I find it quite satisfying to know that this old beast is back to tip-top performance, and I've learned quite a bit about another niche of woodworking.
Thanks to Bobby and Mike for their continued generosity with the shop!