We are in the happy position of seeing new students buy tools every four months so we are constantly being confronted with what is the best winged habwit for thirty bucks. The result of this is that we are constantly upgrading and changing our recommendations for winged habwits. The latest example of this is the straight edge. This is key bit of kit as without it one cannot check flatness and this can affect the fitting of components. We try to avoid spending too much money on unnecessary accuracy. Starrett have been makers of best quality straight edges for as long as I can remember and make really nice feather edged straight edges of two foot and three foot lengths. They are eye wateringly expensive and not always as straight as they should be.
We check out all flat making tool on a big granite surface plate that is really really flat. I got this a few years ago when a customer service girl from Axeminster Power Tools told me that I was measuring the flatness of the students tool incorrectly and had been doing so for twenty five years. This stone is the ducks guts covered in a protective box it is certificated to be within Eons of perfect flatness. So we put planes and other tools on it and check with a feeler guage around the perimiter. Any customer service girl that argues now gets the Certificate of Eons waved at them.
Putting a straight edge on the surface should give you a twinkling of light evenly along the length of the blade.Some Starrett edges have given problems because they have been bent in transit being relatively thin construction they will bend and this changes how they perform. Some straight edges are simple bars of steel about 4mm thick without the feather edge of the quality Starrett. Format makes a good one and I have a couple of these in my own tool collection. These are less expensive but one needs to hold the on the edge at an angle to get a reading as 4mm is a pretty thick blade and prone to obscuring light. Another product we have used was the 450SE from Axeminster Power Tools This looked very like the Starrett with a nice feather edge but was very very cheap. And very very unflat. We returned a lot of these to the nice customer service lady until I think they stopped selling it. Then we got the idea to straighten the edge ourselves. As the feather edge is less than half a millimetre across it need little work to get very flat. Most blades were concave so the two ends touched on a sheet of plate glass with 180 grit abrasive fixed to it. Rub rub rub, check, rub rub, flat. Hoorah!
Veritas have taken all the sport out of this for us now by selling a really nice extruded Aluminium edge that is less expensive and pretty flat but dont ding it, it dont ding nicely.
The other tooly fashion that is sweeping through the workshop at the moment is low angle bench planes. Daren and I bought our bench planes years ago so they are conventional style bevel up he swears by old Stanley planes and i rather sniffily have a Norris plane. We have waited for a student to get one of these low angle bench planes after reading reviews. I am always a bit suspicious of the way tool makers want to fill out tool cabinets and empty our pockets so I havent rushed out at this new development and said I gotta have this. But Jonathan did, bless him. He bought a Lee Neilsen no 5 and we were all very taken with it. Planing English oak that with Darens well sorted Stanley gave 95% polished oak and 5%rough as guts with the low angle gave a clean 100%oak surface. “Would you buy one I ask Daren?” “Yes, probably if I had a job that needed a planed finish”
came the answer. Now Tom has got himself a No7 and Steve either wants one or has already bought one…….. winged habwits!