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Discussion Starter #1
Hey folks. I have a Craftsman combination plane (most likely built by Sargent) that's the equivalent of a Stanley 45. It's only missing one part - the depth stop inside the fence -- and is overall in mechanically good condition, although the spur cutters aren't even as sharp as my butter knives. There's just one problem... it doesn't work.

Here are the two problems I've been having.

1) I've been trying to cut a 1/4" groove (with the grain) in red oak, and it just won't do it. The iron is sharp enough to shave (one hair at a time), and if my face were narrow enough I could use the back and bevel as shaving mirrors. To reduce the complexity, I used a saw to cut the edges of the groove and tried to just use the plane to remove the waste. No good. It skips, it refuses to cut, and when I do manage to make it cut it tears big pieces out of the fence side of the groove. The iron is held tightly (I can tap it with a mallet without it moving), and I have no idea what's going on. Ideas?

2) When attempting the same cut in pine, I don't get a cut perfectly parallel to the edge unless I loosen the back screw on the fence. If I do that, it works just about perfectly, although the cut is rougher than I would have expected.

So what's going on here? Is red oak just that much harder to cut? What should I be checking? Is there some piece of setup I forgot about? What angle should the iron be ground at? Maybe someone in the past just screwed that up, and I need to fix it.

Any advice would be welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'll try to get some pictures later today. I figured with the edges of the groove pre-sawn, the spur cutters shouldn't be relevant, but yeah... they need to be sharpened. It is possible I'm trying to cut too deep at once, but I don't think so... Like I said, I'll get some pictures this afternoon.

I'm starting at the "far" end, and working my way back. My understanding is that that's the standard with plow planes, to keep them from wandering too far. Hopefully that's correct?
 

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Almost sounds like you have the blade in up side down. We'll have to wait for the pictures. One of the reasons there are so many combination planes, often in barely used condition and with most of the cutters, is because they were terrible to use and put on the shelf after a few frustrating attempts.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The blade is definitely in the right way: the design of the Sargent planes means you can only put them in one way. Well.. I suppose I could probably figure out how to put it in outside the main skate, but even that would require some ingenuity. Pictures may have to wait... the day has turned out busier than expected.
 

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Almost sounds like you have the blade in up side down. We'll have to wait for the pictures. One of the reasons there are so many combination planes, often in barely used condition and with most of the cutters, is because they were terrible to use and put on the shelf after a few frustrating attempts.
I've heard this and that the setup was unbearable.
 

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They aren't that bad. I use them a lot. If I have one piece to make, it's quicker than setting up a router. With a plow plane, you have to hit it hard enough to throw chips up in the air. Look closely at this picture and you will see some in the air. This is with an old 55 set up for plowing in hard Heart Pine. This was for one piece to replace a rotten stile in an 1828 wainscoting panel.

Sorry. I forgot these Forums don't automatically downsize pictures like others do. If you are interested, look on my "Molding" page on my website.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
It turns out that this is, as many of you suspected, operator error. I went down to the shop to get some photos for you all, and when I flipped the plane over to look, I realized that the skates weren't tight together, because there was a wood chip stuck between them. Because of that the skates protruded just a TINY bit beyond the edge of the iron. I loosened everything, pulled the chip out, and set it all back up again, and now it cuts fine.

As to not cutting parallel to the edge, it looks like one of the rods is just barely off from where it should be: if I use a spacer between the outer skate and the fence, squeeze everything together with my hand, and then tighten the screws, it works (almost) perfectly, and I'm betting the "almost" part of that is my needing more practice.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions and help, and looking at it more carefully turned out to be the solution.

Also, Tom, I'm not getting chips flying the way you are, but I'll make sure to wear safety glasses while operating this thing just in case!
 
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