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Thread: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

  1. #1

    Default TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    For this first mandolin I just completed, I pieced together my plate carving techniques based on a few methods I've seen online. The insides were carved out mostly by hand after marking depths with the drill press. And the outsides were carved using a router on a homemade holding jig and eyeballing topographic levels drawn with a pencil. It was all very piecemeal based on whatever I could find... For my next project I'm doing a series of three F5s, and I'd like to implement one method that I can replicate and reproduce the same results. I also want to be as efficient as possible, as I'm putting three-times the workload on myself.

    I would be interested in your thoughts, experiences, opinions on:
    - Power carving the insides with something like the Arbortech TurboPlane mounted on an angle grinder. I already own this tool, so it would be helpful to use it if I can.
    - The Safe-T-Planer by Wagner for roughing the outsides of the plates. Coincidentally, I was going through my dad's old shop things as he is getting ready to downsize, and I stumbled on this. It's in mint condition. I think it was only ever used once. I know there are a number of builders who use this, and I'd be curious on everyone's take.

    Thanks.

    -Mark P.

  2. #2

    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Both are good options. Combined with the drill press method and a good deep dial indicator, you have about as close to an ideal setup as you can get without getting into duplicarvers and such. Do some quick roughing with the Arbortech, then establish your key targets with the Safe-T-Planer, then blend with the Arbortech, then carve, plane and scrape.

    Making parts in mutiples is much less than 3x the work.. it's more like 1.5x.

    Now finishing... that's definitely 3x the work. But it's always nice to have spare parts on hand. Make 4 of each if you want to be sure you're really going to get 3 mandolins.

    A wise man (James Condino) said, "There's always some attrition, especially with necks".

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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Yes, the Safe T Planer works well for the outsides of plates-- I carved a lot of them that way and it's a big time saver. I haven't used the Arbortech, but I used a Lancelot for the inside after drilling depth marking holes. That works well too, but it's scary and takes a bit of practice to control.

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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    i used to use the arbortech tool, you still have to watch for ship out, but is way better then a chisel. today, I still use myangle grinder, but with flap disks of various grits, hogs it out, no chip outs

  6. #5

    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Even for giant upright bass maple backs, I don't use anything as aggressive or potentially dangerous as a Lancelot. Its just a little mandolin we're talking about; a small angle grinder with rough discs is plenty...

  7. #6
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    I have always been puzzled by the idea of carving the inside first. Roger Siminoff recommended that in the first edition of his mandolin building book and the only explanation I could come up with is that it is practical in a factory where the plates are carved with a pantograph router (or these days a CNC) from rectangular blocks of wood of consistent size. Then it makes sense to carve the inside first as the inside carving is supported by the uncarved outside and when carving the outside the plate can sit on the flat edges. For a one person hard-carving shop it makes much more sense to carve the outside first, get all those tricky curves right and then do the thicknessing from the inside. A cradle will be needed to support the outside while the inside is being worked on the it allows much more control of the outside shape and then the graduations.

    I start by drawing a half outline and the lengthways arch on a large sheet of heavy paper. Then add in several cross-sections which will allow you to plot out contour lines. That allows drilling holes along those contour lines to the correct depth and removing most of the wood between the holes with an Arbortech. A 60grit sanding disk in the drill press refines the shape pretty well. Here is the contour plan for a guitar bodied octave mandolin I made last year. The holes re always conservatively drilled, usually .5mm shallower, to allow for the unexpected.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    I have always been puzzled by the idea of carving the inside first. Roger Siminoff recommended that in the first edition of his mandolin building book and the only explanation I could come up with is that it is practical in a factory where the plates are carved with a pantograph router (or these days a CNC) from rectangular blocks of wood of consistent size. Then it makes sense to carve the inside first as the inside carving is supported by the uncarved outside and when carving the outside the plate can sit on the flat edges. For a one person hard-carving shop it makes much more sense to carve the outside first, get all those tricky curves right and then do the thicknessing from the inside. A cradle will be needed to support the outside while the inside is being worked on the it allows much more control of the outside shape and then the graduations.

    I start by drawing a half outline and the lengthways arch on a large sheet of heavy paper. Then add in several cross-sections which will allow you to plot out contour lines. That allows drilling holes along those contour lines to the correct depth and removing most of the wood between the holes with an Arbortech. A 60grit sanding disk in the drill press refines the shape pretty well. Here is the contour plan for a guitar bodied octave mandolin I made last year. The holes re always conservatively drilled, usually .5mm shallower, to allow for the unexpected.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	contours.jpg 
Views:	37 
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ID:	178294
    Ever made a cradle with expanding foam? I have for other items of similar thickness just by putting a piece of garbage bag over the item then using the foam over the bag. I take a rasp and level it off after it dries. I would try it on the bag first to make sure it doesn't eat through it. Not all plastics are made equal, but foam makes a nice quick cradle. I still wouldn't put a ton of pressure on the item though, the foam is hard but not completely rigid. Just a thought.
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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    I have made a couple of plaster of paris cradles by making a frame out of 2x1" timber with a thin sheet of mdf as a base, pouring in mixed up plaster and squishing down the carved outside of the plate (covered with cling wrap) so its sits level with the edges and let the plaster set. It is good for F style plates where the scroll makes a support a bit harder to fabricate. My one concern is that the plaster gets quite warm as it sets and I did worry about softening the centre seam glue joint. The expanding foam sounds like a good idea though if it didn't collapse under the carving pressure.

    What the Saf-T-Planer is good for is machining around the edges to establish a consistent edge height.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham McDonald View Post
    I have made a couple of plaster of paris cradles by making a frame out of 2x1" timber with a thin sheet of mdf as a base, pouring in mixed up plaster and squishing down the carved outside of the plate (covered with cling wrap) so its sits level with the edges and let the plaster set. It is good for F style plates where the scroll makes a support a bit harder to fabricate. My one concern is that the plaster gets quite warm as it sets and I did worry about softening the centre seam glue joint. The expanding foam sounds like a good idea though if it didn't collapse under the carving pressure.

    What the Saf-T-Planer is good for is machining around the edges to establish a consistent edge height.
    Plaster is a much more stable choice the foam is not nearly as hard. I have used it but you don't want to do heavy pressing like with gouges and scorps but it holds well for scrapers light passes hand sanding. Things I do with a more gentle touch. I am going to try the plaster or in my case clay since my yard is full of it, to make a form then do an inverse into MDF for a template for a router duplicator. Thanks!
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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    I use an angle grinder with 40 grit pads for roughing inside and out.

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    Laps, Banjos, & Mandos rudy44's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    I'm the poster boy for the use of the Safe-T-Planer (and now it's off-shore descendants), using it for everything from surfacing rough lumber from my sawyer to finish planing cuts to level fret boards and such.

    For carved top instruments I develop contour maps in CAD, trace out each successive contour step on the top or rear blank and use the Safe-T-Planer. Once the stepped profile is done I blend and refine using a 4" angle grinder and a LIGHT touch. The final step is finishing up contours with a 5" random orbit sander controlled with a momentary foot switch.

    The plate is drilled from the backside to to set the inner contour depth using a drill press and wooden post mounted to the drill press table. I carve the inside using a Holy Galahad fine cut carving head on a 4" angle grinder. This is the easiest, most controllable method of carving the inside and the large holes of the cutter let you watch the contour is being created; no tedious "hit it and then take a look..." carving. That's followed with the 5" random orbit and 220 disc to clean things up.

    I documented an entire build on Talkbass to demonstrate many of my techniques, so the top and rear plate creation can be seen there.

    https://www.talkbass.com/threads/30%...build.1251494/

    Plate carving / contour starts at step #30.
    rudy44

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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Quote Originally Posted by rudy44 View Post
    I'm the poster boy for the use of the Safe-T-Planer (and now it's off-shore descendants), using it for everything from surfacing rough lumber from my sawyer to finish planing cuts to level fret boards and such.

    For carved top instruments I develop contour maps in CAD, trace out each successive contour step on the top or rear blank and use the Safe-T-Planer. Once the stepped profile is done I blend and refine using a 4" angle grinder and a LIGHT touch. The final step is finishing up contours with a 5" random orbit sander controlled with a momentary foot switch.

    The plate is drilled from the backside to to set the inner contour depth using a drill press and wooden post mounted to the drill press table. I carve the inside using a Holy Galahad fine cut carving head on a 4" angle grinder. This is the easiest, most controllable method of carving the inside and the large holes of the cutter let you watch the contour is being created; no tedious "hit it and then take a look..." carving. That's followed with the 5" random orbit and 220 disc to clean things up.

    I documented an entire build on Talkbass to demonstrate many of my techniques, so the top and rear plate creation can be seen there.

    https://www.talkbass.com/threads/30%...build.1251494/

    Plate carving / contour starts at step #30.
    I was trying to get my head around how you do an entire plate with the Safe-T-Planer. I guess my initial assumption was that you do the outermost level first...but in looking at your post you do the innermost level first then work your way out? So you only mark the first inner circle, cut with the Safe-T-Planer then mark the second level, cut, etc...?

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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: TurboPlane, Safe-T-Planer - Powering through plate carving

    Yep, that's how I did it, start at the middle and work outward, drawing a new contour each time.

    By the way, I seem to recall that Bill Bussmann uses a Safe-T-Planer to rough out the insides of plates as well. That's a trick I'd like to see in action!

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