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Rule

To all Lurkers, Wannabe's, Newbies and anyone else who cares:

DO NOT be afraid to make your own planing forms.  It's not that hard.  Simply go by the instructions detailed so nicely by Thomas Penrose on his pages located through the Rodmakers Tips, Tools, and FAQs page. 

One alternative means of cutting the groove which is quicker, is to use a jig and a lathe cutting tool like Bruce Conner uses on his wood form making page (available through the same Rodmakers page).  ONE WORD OF CAUTION:  when using the lathe cutting tool, be careful as its cuts the groove rather quickly and it is easy to over cut.  I used metal cutting fluid, like "Tap-It" and things went smoothly.  About every three or four passes I ran a triangular file mounted on a jig to even the cut out side-to-side.  As you near final dimensions, use the triangular file alone.

An added benefit to this method is that you can increase the depth of the lathe cutting tool instead of adjusting the bars every few passes.  You set the bars up per Penrose ONCE.  Then go from there.  You will have to be very careful on the tip side not to cut too much with the lathe tool as it will cut a .025" groove in no time flat!  If you need a drill press, Harbor Freight (some curse the name!!) has their little drill press on sale regularly for about $49!!  The capacity of the drill press throw is only 1-7/8" but that is enough to squeak by if you are careful.  You can use the drill press later for other jobs.

Bottom line:  With about $50-60 worth of hardware, 30 hours labor, and a drill press, you can make your own forms and can make them pretty accurately.  If you have the patience to make rods, you can do this as well.  I had zero metal working experience and had great success with the steel forms whereas the wooden forms gave me a lot of trouble - stripping threads, wandering groove, nicking the forms constantly.  Go for it!  (Rick Crenshaw)

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When you taper a steel form, most likely you will use a 60 degree file glued to a block of plywood. If you do, use the same setup to make a 60 degree point. Chuck a short non-60 degree point in a drill press, and lie the file glued to the plywood on the drill press table, file side up. Run it along the chucked point to get the 60 degree point. If this is hard to understand, (it's hard to explain) contact me and I will try to explain further.   (Mark Petrie) 

Mark added the following after "talking" with him:  The only other thing you need to know is to make sure the table is square to the chuck.

Rule

There was a question about creating the tapered groove on a planing form and whether to use a mill or the file/lathe threading cutter to create this groove.  Here is an answer:

The short answer is stay away from the mill and use both the file method and the lathe bit method.

The long answer is this:  The downside of using the file alone is that you have to adjust the forms constantly (and at 10 feet long, that would be a monumental task).  Also, the file loads up easily and must be cleaned frequently.   Finally,  the file cuts rather slowly.  The upside of the file method is that the file tends to cut a straighter line down the groove, with no chattering (wavy cut marks), and is very controlled so the cut is even on both sides.  The upside of the lathe bit method is that it cuts very fast and you don't have to constantly adjust the forms - you adjust the lathe bit jig.  The downside of the lathe bit is that you can easily cut more on one side than the other (which the longer cutting surface of the file eliminates), the bit tends to chatter if not pulled steadily, with constant pressure and good lubrication (which I suggest, use a good cutting oil like "Tap-It"),  and you can easily cut too deeply. By combining both methods, you can cut quickly and precisely.  Here's how it works:

Make sure your forms are filed flat on the inner surfaces where the bars meet.

Make sure your forms are filed flat on the top and bottom surfaces where the grooves will go. (per Penrose web page)

Make a jig with the longest straight part of a triangular file that you can find (make sure it's a true 60 *) and make sure the file section is glued true and flat to the jig.  Break off the taper portion and save it for some other use.  I used an old piece of Formica counter top to glue the file to.  Shim with Plexiglas if needed to clear the bolts. You might need two sizes (depths) for such long forms.

Make a jig for a 60 degree lathe bit. (there is a design in "The Best of the Planing Form" and also on Bruce Conner's web page)  Steel would be best, but hardwood is a decent choice.  (this would be an ideal job for your friend with the mill.)  The key points in making the jig are a) that it has a depth adjustment for the bit and b) that it has a true perpendicular mounting to the bottom of the jig.  The bit needs to sit in the jig so that it is square to the forms on all axis - vertical, horizontal and lateral.  I suggest using a large bit to help in cutting the deep grooves.  3/8" minimum, 1/2" is better.  buy several - they are cheap and can be dulled after much use.  Also, less likely to chatter when a sharp bit is used.

Choose the best location for measuring the gap relative to the bolts and mark the form precisely at 5" intervals from that spot along the length of the form.

Use a precise means of setting an ever widening gap in the forms.  I think that feeler gauges are easiest and very precise.  But if you are very careful you can use your dial calipers.  Just make sure they are square to the inner surfaces of the form in every direction.  I used .005" per 5", but use what you like best.  Check, double check and triple check the settings to make sure adjustments down the line don't affect the ones you just set.  I go over the forms at least twice, better three times.  Make sure the tip end of the forms aren't spread farther apart than your file jig can reach.

Once your forms are set, you are done adjusting the forms with this method.

Set your lathe bit jig on the end of the forms where the forms are closest (this will be the deep part of the groove).  Put some .01" or .015" shims (or whatever works well) under each side of the jig on top of the forms and set the jig to cut at this depth. Remove the shims and start cutting by firmly and steadily dragging the jig down the length of the forms.  Of course it will only cut at the very narrow gap end.  When it will no longer cut at the depth set, use the file jig to smooth out the area just cut.  Try to keep the plane of the 60 degree jig parallel to the forms since the face of the jig will not be able to touch the surface of the forms.

Repeat step 8 until you have achieved the correct depth at the tip end of the groove.  Cut carefully toward the end.  The lathe bit can quickly remove too much steel on the shallow ends of the groove.  Finish as usual with the file.  (Rick Crenshaw)

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I'm using Penrose's plans to build my planing forms.

I have filed down the forms to within .005 of final depth.

At station (00) is .080  to (70) .180.   

The question is when setting the depth gage on the forms and zeroing, starting at 70 and running gage down form I have three stations that are not a zero.

Station (65) and (55) are .0015 low and station (25) is high .0015 to .002)

The final depth is to be (00) .085 and (70) .155.   Everything other than this looks good.   Just   want to know if I am on the right track?   (Jim Lafary)

    If your work is that close, you deserve congratulations!  Go get a good strong cup of coffee, or whatever other beverage floats your boat.  Sit down for a minute with the better half.  Watch your favorite football team win a bowl game today.  Reach as far behind you as you can, and give yourself a good firm pat on the back. 

    Well done.   (Harry Boyd)

    PS - if you're already at .080 to .180, you might seriously consider quitting while you're ahead.

      Good job, Jim. Harry suggested you quit while your ahead, but being of a rodmaker mentality  he secretly knows that you will obsessively seek the ultimate refinement in your forms, possibly going to the other extreme. Resist the urge, and quit. You'll be adjusting the forms to the  individual taper anyway. Now, I've just got to tell you, and Harry pointed this out to me once, that your forms are off anyway. Instead of increasing/decreasing the taper by .005 per 5" in your forms, you would have needed to increase/decrease the taper by .00577. See, you've ruined them already. ;o)  (Martin-Darrell)

    If I understand you correctly, you have another .005" to go more or less. If you look at the article in Power Fibers October 2001 issue and build the "File Plane" in the "Forms Tune-up" article you should be able to get the final measurements you want. I don't know how many have  built a used the "File Plane" but Harry, Todd and myself have one. I've used it several times and it works, but then again I may be predigest, I designed it. B>)  (Don Schneider)

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A quick question about the planing form groove.  Is it possible, through carelessness or a genuine lack of skill, to file off more on one bar than on the other, resulting in a groove that is not equilateral?  Say, if my left leg is shorter than my right leg, or something, and I lean toward the left bar as I file away.  Would that result in a groove that will not make true strips?   (Jason Swan)

    Yes and no. It depends on how much the sides are off in depth, and on how close to being closed the forms are. If you are only off a little, and the forms are open, the effect is to have the correct angle, with the strip pushed a little off center in the forms, which is of no consequence. If the forms are closed, the angles will be wrong. Sketch out the various scenarios and you will see what happens.  (Tom Smithwick)

      On second thought, I should have taken my own advice and sketched it out.  It doesn't matter if one side is lower,  even if the form is closed.  (Tom Smithwick)

        It seems that the forms do not have to be all that precise, and dimensional inaccuracies of the forms can be overcome depending upon how skilled you are with the plane, and I sure wish I was better with a plane.   (Kyle Druey)

        Although it doesn't matter if the groove is cut more deeply into one side of the form, it definitely matters that the top surfaces of the bars are even.  If they aren't then your angles will not be true 60's.  (Harry Boyd)

          Right - That is a definite problem.  (Tom Smithwick)

        I'm making a lot of assumptions here, but I would think that the top and bottom of the bars would be filed before the groove is cut. Whatever it is that is used to cut the groove would follow or ride along the surface as the groove is being cut, so even if one side is lower than the other the groove would be cut so that the form produced an equilateral triangle. And I would think that if one side were lower than the other that one side of the groove would appear to be cut more deeply on one side than  the other.  (Darryl Hayashida)

          I think there is some truth in what you say, but I also think the chances of rocking the plane if the stroke is not right down the middle increase, and I think it might be more difficult to set the form accurately as well.  (Tom Smithwick)

            The stroke will still be right down the middle, it's just that one side of the plane will be lower than the other. The plane will still be flat to the top of the form. I don't think one side being lower than the other will make a noticeable difference as long as it isn't way way off. Look at it this way. Orient yourself to the top of the form, assume it's flat. If it is in reality off, all you are going to see is where the bars come together, at the bottom apex,  the split (which should be vertical) will be off a few degrees or so. In fact, I think anything less than the top of the form being 30 degrees from horizontal will still give an accurate strip.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        I think anything less than the top of the form being 30 degrees from horizontal will still give an accurate strip.   (Darryl Hayashida)

          OK, I agree with  what you are saying. We were talking about two different things, I think. I assumed Harry was asking about a condition where the tops of the bars were not level with each other. That is, if you laid a straightedge across them, it would not contact both bars fully.  (Tom Smithwick)

    It's definitely possible (depending on how you file your groove). also possible is canting the plane to one side or the other, rendering your strips out of true (no longer and equilateral triangle).  (Chris Obuchowski)

      Try the trick of using a mirror at the end of the forms and you'll quickly see if you're canting the plane to one side.  (Art Port)

    After thinking about this for a little while, I don't see it as a problem unless the center falls in on of the beveled faces of the form when you open it up.  If that is the case then the 60 degree point on the indicator would touch the form and if the point was damaged you would have difficulty setting your forms accurately.  The bigger the strip and wider the form is set, the less likely this would happen.

    Otherwise, assuming everything else is okay, you would get perfect 60 degree strips and as long as the apex is lower then either side of the groove, accurate too.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    Since the strip section is an equilateral triangle, it does not matter  if you flip the strip, it will still sit the same way in the groove.  (Tom Smithwick)

      This brings up an interesting thought. Carried to extremes, this could put a "thin spot" in each strip, unless you took extra precautions to make sure the strip was pressed  firmly into the groove during planing.

        ||
        ||
        ||
        ||
        ||  <--A
        \\
         \\
          ||
         //
        //
        ||  <--B
        ||
        ||
        ||
        ||

      Assume your groove looked like the above.  As you plane down the strip, I would think the "springiness" of the strip would make the strip tend to rise up out of the groove between A and B; flipping the strip as you plane could then plane away extra cane between A and B and result in a strip with a changed taper between A and B.  Carried to extremes, this could result in a rod with a "wasp waist" similar to the old F-106 Fighter. (Claude Freaner)

        Now, that is what I was feeling weird about!  I just couldn't visualize it.  If the top of one side of the groove (the deeper bevel) is farther away from center than the other side, then in effect, the strip will be sort of pushed in the direction of the deep bevel as you plane.  Then, the opposite would occur when the strip is flipped.  Isn't that right?  So, the angles will be there, but the apex of the triangle will be off, so the center will be off.  (Jason Swan)

    It's all academic if your strips are coming out right, or at least  within a thousandth or 2. If the measurements are any more different than that, then you got troubles. If you are in the process of making your forms now, then concentrate mostly on keeping the angles true to the surface of the form, if they wind up off center a bit, that won't hurt, as long as you can set the smallest dimension you need at each station. You can also take the forms apart and file the mating edge of the deeper side to bring it back closer to the shallower side. You can also do that to both sides if you have cut the groove too deep, I think it is better to take some off the sides of the forms than the planing surface, even if you tilt a bit with the file, the dowels or shoulder bolts will keep the top and bottom flat to each other.  (John Channer)

    My guess would be more that the file you used was not a perfect equilateral triangle to begin with.  I went through 10 or 12 files before I found one that was truly 60-60-60.  Most were off by at least a degree on two of the angles.  One was off so bad it was a 57.5-59.5-63.  Depending on how you glued it to your block, you could end up with any number of angles in your groove.  And if you were to file from one end first, then swap ends and file from the other end, you would end up with a groove wider than 60 degrees.

    Thankfully I had the luxury of using an optical comparator to accurately measure the angles (at work).  Then, after I glued it to the block, I checked it to verify that the apex was exactly normal (perpendicular) to the flat of the block.  I used Harry's file plane to get my initial groove, and have not yet put the final touches on it with my "calibrated" file block. Gotta get this first rod finished first.

    BTW, thanks for loaning the file plane Harry!  I will send back after returning from Montana.  I really love the little six footer.  It seems to have some excellent snap (haven't  put a line on it yet).  Tonight.  (Troy Miller)

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Looking through the RODMAKERS archives, I found a bit of discussion about cutting the groove with a lathe tool.  Most of those considering it seem to have been making wooden forms.  I did find one discussion, though, that said it could be done with cold rolled steel.  What I didn't find were instructions on how to do it.  Apparently there is a jig involved?  Can anyone point me to an article or some other source to find out how to do this?  I don't mind using a file, but it sounds as though the cutter idea might be quicker and less blister provoking.  (Jason Swan)

    I didn't have much luck with a lathe tool, others though seemed to get better results.  What was a great help to me was making what is known as a file plane.

    To file the groove using a file glued to a block of wood, you have to open up your forms the proper amount and then continue to adjust your forms since the depth of the file remains unchanged.  With a file plane all you need to do is open up the forms once so a taper can be created and then you adjust the depth of the file as you cut the groove.

    They aren't that difficult to make, but as you have seen in previous posts, you've got to use a little care to make sure everything is, as Troy said, normal.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    I had a machinist make me a holder for a 60 degree lathe bit, 3/8 shank. The two piece holder has two set screws to hold the bit and allow adjustment for depth of the tip.  It is 1-1/2 wide by 4 inches long.  I can use both hands to exert downward pressure.  I made the holder of aluminum, its cheaper.  The lathe bit worked great, final touchup was with a file.

    I made my forms out of leaded steel.  Much easier to drill, tap, cut and file than cold rolled steel.  I frequently reversed the form as I was cutting the groove because I also have one shorter leg. or is it a hollow leg?  (Bob McElvain)

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Thanks to all the nice folks who offered suggestions to me on my groove problem.  It looks like Chris is right, and my groove is off, though I don't know why.  A couple of months ago I posted a question that foreshadowed this problem, and it seemed like the general consensus was that a 60 degree groove, even if it is off, is still a 60 degree groove.  However, it seems that a groove that is offside offers significant problems to depth measurement.  Now, after working over the other side of my forms I see that there are significant problems with the groove, where in some places one side of the form is beveled more than the other.

So, here is my question.  It is a repeat, so I apologize for sounding desperate (I am!).  Is there any way to fix a groove that is off?  I am using a lathe bit tool that  Harry Boyd  kindly loaned me (thanks!), and a triangle file to smooth it up.  Right now I don't have much confidence in the lathe bit tool since that is what I was using when I noticed the groove going screwy (don't know if it is the way I was using the tool or the bars).  Any suggestions?  Or is it time to start over?  (Jason Swan)

    I think you can save them if you clean up the groove and use it for the deep side. I would try to mount a  triangle file on a block as Tom Penrose suggests. But I would make the block 1 3/4" wide, and screw runners to each side that hang down 1/4" inch or a bit more.  Make sure the file is dead center in the block. These will ride against the outer edges of the bars, holding the file in the center. Now set the bars 1/4" apart, so that the outer edges of the bar are 1 3/4" apart. File away until the groove is even and centered. Then, set the taper into the bars, remove the runners, and use the file to cut to finish depth. All of this presupposes that you have not already cut too deep to pull this scheme off.  (Tom Smithwick)

    One of the things I noticed when working on the prototype for the Lathe Bit Plane was there was a possibility of cutting more to one side of the form if one was to aggressive with the cut and if the push force, if you will, was not parallel with the groove. The guides help to keep the tool lined up but are not a cure all. One thing I do when building forms is use the File Plane after each pass of the LBP to true-up the groove.

    I think Tom Smithwick has a good idea to use a file to get you back on track. When Mark Wendt was building his forms his machinist friend cut the groove double depth and not a consistent slope. Rather than scrap the forms, nothing to lose and many emails between us a way was found to salvage the forms. Marks idea to establish a new baseline and I put together a Excel program to figure the settings. If you want a copy of the Excel Program let me know (get it here).  (Don Schneider)

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I'm building a Swelled Butt Form and about ready to cut the groove. I'm thinking of cutting the groove to drop .030" in 2.5" at the swell location when closed and no slope the rest of the way to the end of the form. This the right drop or should it be more/less. Your input deeply appreciated.  (Don Schneider)

    It's all in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I like to see somewhat more of a drop (or swell).  I use the Morgan Hand Mill, but I set my anvil for a swelled butt that provides a .040" change over about 2.75" - 3" distance.  The finished rod shows a nice, modest swell in front of the cork -- nothing radical, either in overall dimensions or in slope.  (For rods of 8 feet and larger, I use .0050" over a full 3".)

    I'm thinking that your resulting total of .060" across 2.5" might look nice in a very small rod, but would be barely noticeable (and perhaps too short) in a rod, say, 7 1/2 feet or longer.  The proportions you suggest don't seem to be quite enough to create the nice, swelled effect you're probably after.

    But, you know, you could try a couple test strips.  Cut your forms to the .030" that you suggest and then plane just two strips -- strips that would be only a couple feet long, and of a dimension corresponding to, say, what you would have at the butt-end of a 7 1/2 foot rod for 5 weight line.  Place the strips in your form so the swelled effect begins about 2/3 of the way towards the "grip" end.

    When finished, just mate the two strips with your fingers and hold that profile up to the light at arm's length.  The silhouette would be the full width of a finished rod, and will show you whether or not you have enough swell to please your eye.  If not, you can always go deeper (and longer), as I have suggested.  (Bill Harms)

      After thinking about it, I believe you are correct, .030" over 2.5" won't be enough. I seldom, if ever, build a rod less than 7 1/2' anyway and the proportions may be more pleasing with a longer/larger swell.

      The other concern I have is how the swell will affect the rod action. I'm thinking, a very dangerous process for me, a longer swell would give a more gradual transition of the power stroke of the cast to the rod. The additional length in this case may not be noticeable, but it is just a thought. On the other hand, a larger/shorter swell would give more of an abrupt transition. This is all probably hair splitting, so maybe I should just make it look good.

      I'll take your advice and try .030"/2.5" on some test strips. I can always make the swell longer/larger. It is kind of hard to put metal back into the form though if I go to far :>) I don't mind building forms but am not thrilled with taping all of those holes !

      What kind of swell proportions do others on the list use? Does someone have a formula similar to ferrule proportions for a pleasing look for swells?  (Don Schneider)

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I have access to a machine shop to build me some planing forms.  The slop will be .001 per inch, my question is at what depth do I start my slop?  (Ref. starting at tip end)  (Galen Smith)

    I'd start my forms at .025" and go to .085" (or .095" if 72" forms) for the tips, then start the butt slope at either .075" or .085” for longer forms.  More than that, I would be dead certain that the machinist new exactly what you wanted.  Many a good machinist has screwed up form making.  It takes someone that REALLY knows what you want.  (Harry Boyd)

    The instructions found on Thomas Penrose's site suggest that the tip should taper from .025 to .095 and that the butt side be from .085 to .155.

    Those are the numbers I shot for, but after planing a couple of rods, I would suggest reducing those numbers by .005.  Why I say that, is because stations 1 and 15 (assuming a 6' form) are located 1" from their respective ends and in my opinion, particularly for those of us that have hand filed our groove, these are the stations that are mostly likely to have an error in them.  That's because when we're filing, the block that the file is glued  to isn't fully supported by the form, so there is an opportunity to cant the file out of alignment with the form.  So Stations #1 & #15 are pretty much useless in my opinion.  If you are having your forms machined that may not be an issue.

    Another reason I would reduce those dimensions, it is that when setting a taper, I try to set the tip as far from the end of the form as I can. Ideally, I would like this to be Station #3.  Of course that would depend on the rod length but that would give me 11" past the end of the tip that my plane can rest on as it comes off of the strip that is being cut.  Plus that leaves me with some room to slide the strip up slightly if I need that extra .001 taken off of it.  (Another reason I try to do that is because of how my work space is laid out.  That end of the form is pretty crowded by another workbench.)   unfortunately, I cut my groove a little deeper than what I intended and I am forced to use Station #2.

    I'll reinforce what Harry suggested about machinists.  I have a couple of friends that are machinists and normally when I ask them to make something they come up with ways to "make it better".  I now have a vee block.  If I could only find a caliper big enough and a welding machine to attach it to the jaws.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    Historically the smallest across the flats tip that I have seen or modern taper is a .052" - so if you were to start with a .025" depth you should be able to create any rod you chose into the future - as Doug Hall put it when making a 6' 3" #2 weight recently - "Damn Small" - that is the tip side - now for the butt side - that dimension isn't so clear to define - but keeping the thought that the forms can always be opened up - the smallest 2 piece taper that I know of uses a ferrule dimension of .135" so a start point dimension for the butt side might be .065" - again these dimensions are for very petite rod - but into you future of rodmaking you never know what tapers you might like to try.

    Another issue that several have faced is that of getting a machinist to be able to understand the finished product - there have been several unfortunate stories shared here on the list of first production forms - be sure that whoever is doing the form fully understand what the end product is to be - take books and print out of web site pictures to them to reassure that they know explicitly what you want.  (Wayne Cattanach)

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I am at at the point in my Penrose forms where I am filing with a 60 degree file. My file is glued to a wood bloc

and I  am closing the forms by ten thousands a each pass. It seems that I am filing one half more than the other. Could this be because I am pushing from one side all the time. Has anyone else ever noticed this as they were filing the forms. I haven't gotten very far yet, maybe halfway, so I can still correct any problems I am having.  (Mark Bolan)

    Go to my article on making wooden planing forms. The procedure for cutting the groove is the same for wood or metal forms. There are also two tools you can build to make the job easier and accurate. Several on this list have used the procedure and both tools to build their metal forms. If you have any problems, give me a shout.  (Don Schneider)

    Is your file glued to the block skewed to either side?  That might make a difference.  If you think the difference is caused by pushing or pulling too hard from one side, try reversing the direction of the forms -- in other words, flipping the forms end for end -- after every few strokes, or perhaps each time you close the forms up a little.

    And let me echo Don's advice about the article on the Tips site... it's definitely worth the effort to make the tools he has described there.  (Harry Boyd)

      Files aren't perfect either! Someone wrote in awhile back about how far off triangular files can be. I proved him to be correct!! Mine had a bit of a twist to it and didn't track right. I cut out the good part and reglued it to the block. Works good now.  (David Dziadosz)

Rule

I recently had a machinist friend mill the groove in my steel forms and I have found that their is an inconsistency between two stations.

The first station on the tip side is fine at a depth of 0.020" and then gradually tapers down to 0.040" at the fifth station, but at the sixth station it is also at a depth of 0.040". From then it tapers down 0.001"/inch as required (the last station on  the  tip  side  is 0.085", it should be 0.090")

He told me that the 0.040" at two stations doesn’t matter as you can compensate because the forms are adjustable?  What are your opinions? Should I attack it with a 60 degree file on a block or just leave it?  (Andrew Chan)

    You can go either way. I really don't think you need to worry too much about the groove being .010 off, the forms are adjustable.  What you do have to check is that the groove is 60 degrees the full length. Don't ask me how I know. I bought a set of forms that were professionally made locally. The first three blanks I made on them had very noticeable glue lines. I noticed that the glue lines were in about the same place on each blank. Checked the groove and found that it was less than 60 degrees in those areas. Cleaned the groove up with a triangle file and the forms are OK now.  If the groove would of been greater than 60 degrees, the forms would make good pry bars.  (Tony Spezio)

    IMHO forms are a lot easier to use and do a better and more accurate job if they are made with a consistent slope. This is especially true on the tip side of the form.

    When planning a strip, the cross section of the strip should be supported by the form more than half the depth of the strip. If it isn't supported properly you can very easily plane a twist into your final section because the strip will/can roll in the groove while planning. On tip sections you may not notice this condition until after glue-up and falsely blame your binder.

    If you want to fix your form, I'll send you a Excel Worksheet off list. Just follow the instruction on the worksheet and it will tell you how to setup/fix your form.

    I'm leaving Sunday morning on a two week cruise, San Diego to Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal. Be glad to help you when I get back if you have any questions.  (Don Schneider)

      Let me tag on to Don's reply.  Don and I emailed back and forth when I was having problems with my forms, and he sent me his excel worksheet and it worked out great!  My forms are now durned near perfect.  I also got to use his form tools that Todd Talsma had, and let me tell you, they made fixing the forms very easy.  Once you get the setup done correctly, it's just a simple matter of time involved in getting the forms done right.  The tools and the spreadsheet made it easy.  (Mark Wendt)

Rule

I just got my cold roll steel,  set screws,  shoulder bolts, dowels, etc. and I'm about to start.  The only confusion I'm having, and I think I've read about every method there is,  is how to put the tapered groove in.  Thomas Penrose advocates the triangle file.  I didn't understand Cattanach's method and I don’t understand the method in Jack Howells book with the lathe and how they set the taper.  Which is the easiest method.  Thanks a lot.  also for the surface treating, mill bastard file or the India stone.  thanks and I'm glad I found out about this forum.  (Kris Fox)

    The easiest method is with a 60 degree thread cutting tool. I have one fashioned in a block of rosewood that I used when I made my brass forms years ago. I will lend it to you if you pay the shipping and promise to return it. The last guy from the list I lent it to stiffed me on the shipping costs.  (Marty DeSapio)

    I'd highly recommend looking at the article written by Don Schneider either in Power Fibers or here.  The article is actually written for making wooden forms but the groove cutting would work just as well for steel forms.  It was about the clearest explanation that I've seen.   No offense to any of the other descriptions out there but Don's instructions were a lot clearer to me.  (Todd Talsma)

Rule

I just finished installing the last bolt in my 10' form.  I need to know the best way to cut the grove in fear that I will screw-up all the time I've spent building this form.  Some suggest the file method, "the lovely reed" suggests making a jig with a thread cutting lathe bit.  A friend said bring over my first set of bar stock and I will cut the groove on my mill!!!!!  Now that I'm on my second set of bars I won't be doing that again.  (Mike Brown)

    The short answer is stay away from the mill and use both the file method and the lathe bit method.

    The long answer is this:  The downside of using the file alone is that you have to adjust the forms  constantly (and at 10 feet long, that would be a monumental task).  Also, the file loads up easily and must be cleaned frequently.  Finally, the file cuts rather slowly.  The upside of the file method is that the file tends to cut a straighter line down the groove, with no chattering (wavy cut marks), and is very controlled so the cut is even on both sides.  The upside of the lathe bit method is that it cuts very fast and you don't have to constantly adjust the forms - you adjust the lathe bit jig.  The downside of the lathe bit is that you can easily cut more on one side than the other (which the longer cutting surface of the file eliminates), the bit tends to chatter if not pulled steadily, with constant pressure and good lubrication (which I suggest, use a good cutting oil like "Tap-It"),  and you can easily cut too deeply. By combining both methods, you can cut quickly and precisely.  Here's how it works:

    1. make sure your forms are filed flat on the inner surfaces where the bars meet.

    2. make sure your forms are filed flat on the top and bottom surfaces where the grooves will go. (per Penrose web page)

    3. make a jig with the longest straight part of a triangular file that you can find (make sure it's a true 60 degrees) and make sure the file section is glued true and flat to the jig.  Break off the taper portion and save it for some other use.  I used an old piece of Formica counter top to glue the file to.  Shim with Plexiglas if needed to clear the bolts.

    You might need two sizes (depths) for such long forms.

    4. make a jig for a 60 degree lathe bit. (there is a design in "The Best of the Planing Form" and also on Bruce Conner's web page)  Steel would be best, but hardwood is a decent choice.  (this would be an ideal job for your friend with the mill.)  The key points in making the jig are a) that it has a depth adjustment for the bit and b) that it has a true perpendicular mounting to the bottom of the jig.  The bit needs to sit in the jig so that it is square to the forms on all axis - vertical, horizontal and lateral.  I suggest using a large bit to help in cutting the deep grooves.  3/8" minimum, 1/2" is better.  buy several - they are cheap and can be dulled after much use.  Also, less likely to chatter when a sharp bit is used.

    5.  Choose the best location for measuring the gap relative to the bolts and mark the form precisely at 5" intervals from that spot along the length of the form.

    6. Use a precise means of setting an ever widening gap in the forms.  I think that feeler gauges are easiest and very precise.  But if you are very careful you can use your dial calipers.  Just make sure they are square to the inner surfaces of the form in every direction.  I used .005" per 5", but use what you like best.  Check, double check and triple check the settings to make sure adjustments down the line don't affect the ones you just set.  I go over the forms at least twice, better three times.  Make sure the tip end of the forms aren't spread farther apart than your file jig can reach.

    7. Once your forms are set, you are done adjusting the forms with this method.

    8. Set your lathe bit jig on the end of the forms where the forms are closest (this will be the deep part of the groove).  Put some .01" or .015" shims (or whatever works well) under each side of the jig on top of the forms and set the jig to cut at this depth. Remove the shims and start cutting by firmly and steadily dragging the jig down the length of the forms.  Of course it will only cut at the very narrow gap end.  When it will no longer cut at the depth set, use the file jig to smooth out the area just cut.  Try to keep the plane of the 60 degree jig parallel to the forms since the face of the jig will not be able to touch the surface of the forms.

    9. Repeat step 8 until you have achieved the correct depth at the tip end of the groove.  Cut carefully toward the end.  The lathe bit can quickly remove too much steel on the shallow ends of the groove.  Finish as usual with the file.  (Rick Crenshaw)

    I did it with sections of triangle files that were glued into inlets cut into a wooden block. You should be aware that all triangle files are not created equal. If you choose this method, take your thread gauge (60°) with you and check all the files at the store. I used first a bastard cut, then a second cut, then a finish cut, followed by a triangle India stone and oil. The India stone was dead on 60°.

    I cut the full length of a hard maple 2 x 4 and planed it all so that I had the same material thickness for all four blocks. Then I cut the dado inlet throughout the full length, then cut into shorter pieces. You may find that some of the inlets will require more depth, so don't take your rip fence down 'till your sure.

    To adjust the forms I used machinist's bore gauges, though this will not give you quite the exact amount you will need between stations, as you will only be able to increase by thousandths, and not the fractions needed to actually have a true ratio. For a more detailed explanation of this see Thomas Penrose's site.  (Martin-Darrell)

Rule

I've been working on my forms steadily for about a month now.  After drilling and tapping my holes, I find out that it's too tight and so I take it to a machinist to give it a little shimmy room.  Problem solved.  Then I file each flat to prepare for the groove.  No problem.  Now, I've got a  2 x 2 with a groove routed in it and I've epoxied the triangular file into it and that's all I'm going to use for the time being because I figure it's foolproof. Maybe more work, but foolproof.  So I measure as I'm taking material off with the dial indicator and I would assume that regardless of the fact that the forms aren't closed, that I would still get measurements that have a difference of .005 from station to station, correct?  Also, the base for my indicator does not sit flat on the forms for some reason.  How could it possibly have gotten that misaligned especially since I filed AFTER I got it back from the machinist.  Any help would be appreciated as I am extremely frustrated at this point.  (Kris Fox)

    I feel your frustration!  One thing I did to help get accurate measurements at the  stations was to close the forms all the way, and measure the  outside edges of the forms with my caliper.  With the forms all the way closed, I set the width of the forms to "0" on my caliper.  Then, I marked the width of any stations that were not "0" with the forms closed on a piece of masking tape, on the bench.  This established a consistent reference.  From there, I could get a more accurate reading of the gap by measuring the outside width of the forms after each adjustment.  Took a little more time, but since my groove was so screwy, I had a hard time getting accurate measurements from between the bars.

    BTW, the .005" slope between stations is correct.  However, if  you are measuring it with your depth indicator, sliding it along the length, you may not be getting accurate readings.  I know the Penrose site says to slide the indicator down the bars, hoping to see no change after the groove is done, however, when I tried that the measurements changed slightly (+/- .002"-.005") because my groove was a bit off center in some places, and the point would ride up a bit on the bevel.

    Also, after the groove is finished, you should have that .005" groove slope only when the bars are perfectly parallel, either closed or open.  So, if you want to test that slope with the forms open, you'll need to make sure each station is reading the same width.

    Finally, one of the most frustrating things for me when I built my forms (didn't do so good, and I actually need to do them again) was realizing that my flat filing may have been flat, but tended to cant to one side or the other as I worked.  The end result was a bit of a high spot near the middle of the forms, and some funny bevels to the top of the forms.  Rats.  That may explain why your depth indicator doesn't sit flat.  Or your indicator base isn't flat.  One or the other.

    Good luck.  I hear the frustration goes away after a while...(Jason Swan)

    You're looking at it the wrong way.  You're not frustrated, instead you have been blessed to find a hobby where the fun just won't quit.  You've only scratched the surface of all the great joys you will be experiencing.   ;^)

    Now, seriously,  a couple of ideas that might help.   First, one end, the tip end, has a smaller groove which also means that for each .001" of depth there is less material to remove.   The butt end, has more surface in contact with the file, so it takes more effort (passes) to cut .001" of depth.  That  may not be any of your problem and you may have realized that early on in the process, but since the obvious things are quite often the most difficult to see, I thought it warranted saying.

    As for the indicator not setting flat, there may be a cause that you can fix.  Before you started, did you put the indicator on it and if so, was it flat then?  As you file, a burr is turned up along the edge of the groove. I don't know if you are always filing in one direction, say left to right, but if you are I think the side of groove closer to you will have more of a burr.  Remember that the teeth of the file are at an angle to the axis of the file.  As you move the file left to right, the cutting action of the side closest to you is upward while is the cutting action on the opposite side is downward.

    Now a lot of the above is pure speculation on my part.  Looking at a file, it would seem true and I know as I filed my groove, a burr did occur along the edge of the groove.  I would suggest that you take a stone and knock off the burr before measuring or lightly drawfile file it.  You also want to make sure you knock the burr off rather than just turning it into the groove.

    Because you are using a file glued to a block, you can not adjust the cutting depth of the file and you have a couple of issues you have to keep ahead of.   If, when you start filing, you haven't opened your form up enough, you can rock or cant the file off to one side or the other.  I'm not certain I can explain this easily, but you don't want to barely open the forms and then let the file cut down to the finished depth.  Instead you want to make sure that to cut any deeper you close the forms a very small amount at a time.  Again, that may have been obvious to you, but if not, I wanted to say it.

    From here, I would suggest knock off any burrs, close the forms and measure the groove.  Keep track of the areas that need more cut and when you open the forms back out work those areas a little harder than the others.  Repeat this process.

    Don't despair, as long as the groove is 90 degrees to the surface of the form, the form is usable.  It will just take knowing where to make the proper adjustments.  In other words if you want a final measurement of .100 and you keep getting a strip from that station that measures .102 then set your station to .098.  Measure often on the first several strips and you can dial-in how your form works.  Once your "strength" returns you can make your second form.  (Tim Wilhelm)

      I thought about this, but just didn't have the heart to tell Kris of all the fun he is yet to have, of the tales of splinters, cuts, splintered sections, warped rods, flawed finishes, etc., ad infinitum. I think I still don’t have the heart. What else can I  say? Welcome to the joy that is rodmaking, AKA extreme frustration, Kris.  (Martin-Darrell)

      My wife at a Corbett Lake meeting told the crowd that bamboo rod making was more of an art than a craft.   Much applause. And everyone knows that all artists must suffer before doing their best work.  (Ed Hartzell)

Rule

I am taking the first steps to building my own planing forms, cold rolled steel (yes, I have been reading that thread carefully).  When filing the taper, do I have both of the steel bars perfectly parallel with one another or is there a minimum taper that is ground into the form?  How versatile is one form?  Is the same form that would be used for a 7 1/2' rod the same as one that would be used for a 9 1/2' for example?   (Aaron Tester-Hall)

    NO!  The bars are NOT perfectly parallel when filing the grooves.  They are increasingly apart from one end to the other, about .001" per inch of length. Thus when using a file or tool bit to create the grooves the groove becomes tapered just like the splines that you are trying to create.  Yes, The same forms can be used to create a 7 1/2' rod or a 9' rod or even a 4' 4" Banty rod.  That is why the forms use push/pull bolts so that they can be adjusted to create different tapers.

    Besides following the thread on forms on the list the last week, you need to look in the archives and also look a Todd's Tip site and at Tom Penrose's Site.  These sites will give you a much clearer idea of the forms, how they work and how to make them.

    Welcome to the list and Good Luck  (Dick Fuhrman)

Rule

I want to make a set of rough out forms with the help of a table router.  A straight 60 degree V-groove is the easy part.  My question is about the 53 to 56 degree angle the other groove. Does anyone have a good jigging idea for cutting this groove with a router?  I'm asking hoping I can take a little of the error out of the "trial and error" process.  (Mike Maero)

    What about building up one side of the board with either Masking tape or Duct tape.  It shouldn't take much to make up 4°.  (Dick Fuhrman)

      I've tried using masking tape to change the angle but instead of putting the tape on the board put a narrow piece on the router table top next to the fence. Take a pass and if you need to open the angle, put another and repeat till you get what you want. You are correct, it doesn't take much.

      If you make your rough form adjustable & non-taper 60° groove on the other side you can tune the non-taper side depth, when building the form, so that when you flip the form no additional adjustment of the form is needed to finish the 60° rough strip. I make all of the strips the same size, .200", no matter where they end up in the rod prior to heat treating.  (Don Schneider)

    My roughing form is a birch board 8 inches wide and 2 feet long. On one side I have two 60 degree grooves, one shallow for tip strips, and one deeper for butt strips. On the other side I have the same shallow and deep grooves, but I used a 90 degree router bit. Turns out that you don't have to be real precise with the initial angle, just break it down a little from the raw edge at 45 degrees and it starts nicely in the 60 degree side. You could even start with a real deep 60 degree groove - just flip the strip frequently and take off the same amount from both sides. For a long time I used my metal final planing form as a roughing form. I just opened the form up until the raw strip sat in the groove.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I use an adjustable 60 degree roughing form.  One side is deeper for larger butts and the other shallower for tips and small butts.  Of course, being adjustable, the possibilities are endless.  I used the instructions from Don Schneider (look here) and just made the groove straight, not tapered.  (Todd Talsma)

      Like Darryl, I have 60 degree angles in my rough out form. My form is six feet long and I have three different depth grooves to work with. When my strip is ready for the rough 60's I just flip it from side to side, works like a charm. I cut my grooves with a router.  (Steve Trauthwein)

    I have done some on the 60 degree forms. All you need to do is get a start.  (Tony Spezio)

    To answer your question, an easy way to make the 60/30 form is to rout the 60° angle as you have done, then use a hand Rabbet plane to cot the other angle. One side of the routed angle guides the side of the rabbet plane. It's quick and easy.

    Having said that, let me also say that I abandoned the use of that type form a long time ago. It is much easier to use the deep "V" for the initial angle. Holding the strip in a 60/30 form takes a lot of finger pressure and some skill to master.

    Prepare your rough strip by planing it roughly square with slight inward angles. Put it in the "V" form and alternate sides after every pass or two with the plane.  The angles will start out wrong, but will soon be correct. It's much easier.   (Tom Smithwick)

    Like several others who have responded, I just use a straight 60 degree groove for roughing out.  I think it works better than an asymmetric groove.  With an asymmetric groove, you are trying to use the split side of the strips as a reference to get your initial 60 degree angle.  I have never been able to keep splits perfectly perpendicular to the enamel, and I doubt that anyone else can.  With a 60 degree V-groove, you use only the enamel side of the strip as a reference for your angles.  I think the rough planing goes quicker and getting the angles right is easier with just an untapered 60 degree V-groove.

    I made my roughing form 4' in length from 2"x2" maple and routed a groove down the center of each face.  Each groove is a different depth so you rotate the form each time you want to change grooves.  The helps keep debris out of the bottom of the grooves.  (Robert Kope)

      Can anyone help me find one of these 60 degree router bits ? I have searched everywhere around here and only get dumb looks and smart remarks.  (Jimi Genzling)

        Try Tools Today web site.  (Rich McGaughey)

        Don't know where you live but Amana Tool is one source that my have a store/outlet near you or you could order from their site.

        60° router bit

        30° and 60° trim/chamfer bits

        30° bevel trim/chamfer bit at Grizzly

        Hope this helps.  (Don Schneider)

        Check out the Woodcraft catalog, either online, or paper. What you are looking for is their sign-makers bit. Or maybe it is a sign makers bit. It has a 60 point that you will use twice: once to make your roughing forms, then two or three rods later when you are making the bed for your Medved beveler.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I use a 60 degree wood strip and use a power planer to cut with. Lay the strip in the groove and run a power planer over it, change sides and repeat. Quick work.  (Mark Dyba)

Rule

I just finished filing the 60 degree groove in the tip side of my planing forms (a little left to go on the butt side) and had to tell someone.  My wife certainly doesn't care (she just thinks I nuts) or appreciate how amazed I am that it actually worked out okay.

It took WAYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!! longer than I ever thought it would.  Thanks to Tom Pembrose and Don Schneider for the great Internet instructions.  I ended up taking a little from each.  I think it worked out pretty well.  The tips end of my tip side starts at .027 (Tom said .025 and Don said .030 - so I split the difference) and when the forms are set .005 less at each successive station I don't get a difference at any point of more than .001.  To me that's incredible.  I worked for the better part of the weekend. 

Filing a 60 degree groove in cold rolled steel makes nodes seem fun.  For any other new makers out there thinking of making planing forms you really need to get a set of feeler gauges.  (I didn't even know what they were three weeks ago.)  Even with a digital set of calipers I couldn't get the accuracy I wanted until I switched to the feeler gauges.

I have a little more filing to go on the butt side this evening.  One question.  What's the absolute smallest the tip end of the butt side should be.  (Tom says .085 and Don says .100)  Without making a new file block I'm probably not going to be able to get much past .085.  Will this measurement enable me to make most trout size rods.  I could  always file the groove deeper at a later date.  My forms are 72 inches long with 15 stations.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    IMHO, a bit too shallow is better than a bit too deep.  If the groove is shallow, you can open the form a bit more but if it's too deep you're kind of stuck.   Of course, my opinion and a couple of $ will get you a cup of coffee if you're not too fussy.  (Neil Savage)

      I agree.  I'd go with 0.085".  You can also take off more later.  (Lee Orr)

    The forms are adjustable.  Having the tip end of the butt groove 0.085" simply means there will be a little less support of the strips.  It in no way limits the size of strips you can make.  The upper limit on the size of strips is determined by how far it is down to the screws.  However, if the tip end of the butt groove is 0.100", that means that the smallest flat-to-flat dimension you can make on that side of the forms is 0.200".  (Robert Kope)

    I would stick with .085. If you go to .100, the smallest  rod butt  you can plane will be .200, at the ferrule, a size 13. You may well  want to build some light rods that take a 12, or even an 11 ferrule.  As others have suggested, you can always open the forms, or start at  the second station to make heavier rods.   (Tom Smithwick)

    Good job!  It is a lot of time consuming work but well worth the effort.

    70" forms are a different animal than the normal 60" forms. If you plan to make 3 piece rods on 70" forms, starting at .080" or .085" and incrementing the stations by .005"/station on the butt side may be a good choice to accommodate most tapers. This overlap of the groove on both sides will give you more flexibility with the forms. You probably got the idea I was recommending a target dimension of .100" for the first station on the butt side from the spreadsheet I sent you. You can plug in any number you wish. My fault, I should have been more explicit. I had to put some number in the cell and chose to put in the number from the last station on the tip side. I've modified the instructions, hopefully for the better, on the spreadsheet.  (Don Schneider)

Rule

Do they make a triangle shaped hone and where might I purchase one. I'd like to take down the last .001 or so on my planing forms with a hone if possible. Again, use my e-mail instead of the list if you wish. (Wayne Kifer)

    I'd say if you're within a .001" or so, quit!  A triangle hone is likely not accurate enough for that anyway, but I don't think you'd notice a thousandth or two anyway.  My form is off by about .010" in a couple of places, but it works just fine.  (Neil Savage)

Rule

I've been pounding salt the last couple of days cutting the groove in the forms.

I'm using the lathe bit plane, shaving anywhere from 1.5 to 3 thousandths off at a time. Filing (1-2 light passes) every 5-7 passes with the LBP.

It seems that at the butt end of the forms, the CRS has about 12" of crap metal. It chatters, chips, and is giving me all sorts of grief to cut.  It's incredible because the entire length of the bars are a smooth cut, it's just that last 10" or 12" that are just breaking my butt. I'd cut the damn thing off but I was hoping to keep them at 72" so that I can make swelled butts.

I've looked through all of my saved posts and can't locate the post recommending a different, softer, metal for the forms. I sure wish I had it. I swear I'd put these aside and start from scratch. Maybe not.

The palm of my right hand is throbbing right now and I'm semi pissed off (actually just aggravated), guess it's better than pissed on, eh?

Anyway, I'm open for any ideas.  (Ren Monllor)

    It's probably not the steel. More likely its the tools. When I was making my forms the ends were a bit difficult to cut because you don't have as much material stabilizing the tool. The best thing I can recommend is to take a few very light finish passes when you get close to your final dimension.

    Just be glad you used Cold rolled steel instead of Hot rolled! You could always make your forms out of Aluminum.   (Mark Shamburg)

    Cutting the groove in my forms was the most aggravating, time consuming, boring, tedious, and physically hard part of my rod making experience thus far.  A note on the Lathe Bit Plane.  I too found it difficult to use near the ends due to the lack of tool rest on the forms.  Once I got the groove started with the lathe bit plane I switched over the the triangle file glued to piece of wood as described on Thomas Penrose's web site.  It meant a lot (and I mean a lot) of resetting the forms every few thousandths.  But look on the bright side its good practice for setting your forms.

    Here's the link to the web site.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    The free machining alloys that are usually used are the leaded alloys. 12L13 or 12L14 are probably the most common.

    Incidentally, a tin-based alloy has recently been developed that might well do away with the need for lead in the free machining alloys. I don't think it has been produced for the market yet though. I believe they are calling it 12T14.

    I'd sure look somewhere else before I suspected a bad piece of metal. You are taking a pretty healthy cut, and it's at the end of the bar. I'd bet on vibration causing the chatter before I looked at the metal. Try lightening up on the cut, clamping the ends, putting them on rubber, basically anything you can do to change the vibration. Did it cut OK when you first started cutting?  (Larry Blan)

    It's been a long time since I made any forms, but I seem to remember adding a wooden "extension" on each end of the forms to give the cutting tools something to follow.  (Harry Boyd)

    Having some sort of extension on the end of the form to support the LBP runout may help. Taking small cuts will also help. The problem may be because you don't have a pocket in front of the bit for the chips to go into. If no pocket, the chips will stack up in front of the bit and jam or chatter especially on the butt end of the form because you are  removing more metal per chip.  (Don Schneider)

      A dumb question - are you using cutting oil?  I remember chattering with my homegrown abomination jig when I did my forms - until I started using cutting oil.  I also assumed that the lathe tool was only for hogging off the mass, followed by filing for the final shape and 400 grit paper to smooth out the marks from the file.

      I think it was Wayne Cattanach who said that making the forms is a good test to see if you have the gr.. - wait, determination needed to make a rod.  Making my forms was one of the biggest tests of my patience.  (Greg Dawson)

Rule

I have run into another hurdle while attempting to build my planing forms.   Let me see if I can explain my problem(s). 

A couple months ago I drilled and tapped my holes in 3/4" cold rolled steel bars.   Inadvertently I drilled the holes slightly of center.  I figured I would just use the side that the bolts were closest to for the tip side.  One of the list members kindly sent me a lathe bit plane and a "fixed" file plane.  I have not had good luck getting the lathe bit plane to work well for me, so I decided to use the file plane.  The problem is I am hitting the top of the shoulder bolts with the file.  The width of the file plane at the base is .225". 

|       |
 \    /   
   \/

|------|  ====> .225 in

This requires me to have the bars spread quite a bit to start my filing.  If I draw the bars closer together, I do not think I would have a problem with clearance.  I see two ways to do this, either shim the "fixed plane that I have, so that less of the triangle sticking out, or build an adjustable file plane, such as the one Don Schneider has come up with.  Since the fixed plane is borrowed, I thought I would just build my own adjustable plane.  I am having a bit of a problem following Don's plan. 

It looks to me as though the file plane should "swing" on the steel straps.  But it looks like the thumb bolt would only allow it to move vertically which it cannot do attached to the straps.  I am sure I have just  misinterpreted how  this thing goes together.   Am I correct that if I had an adjustable plane it would allow me to start with my bars closer together, which would help provide the clearance I need?  Does anyone have any more pictures of Don's creation?

Another issue:

2)  I am also curious how you determine when you have reached the proper depth.  Most instructions talk about setting the forms with a .001/in taper, taking off as little as possible, then slowly closing the forms until you get to your desired depth.  From what I read it seems that most are using the end of their dial calipers to take the depth measurement.  Is this correct?  Is seems like this could cause a lot of inaccuracy.  I have an idea but do not know if it would work.  If we know the width of the file at the base of the file plane, and we know the target width of the grove, couldn't we determine the distance that bars would need to be separated for the final pass? Then I could use feeler gauges to set the spread, and know I'll hit my final dimension.  

From the January 2005 Power fibers, I used Tony Spezio's (I'll give him credit even if he didn't discover it) Tangent of 30 degree's formula to come up with the width desired. 

Station

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

Tip Side Target Depth

0.0250

0.0300

0.0350

0.0400

0.0450

0.0500

0.0550

0.0600

0.0650

0.0700

0.0750

0.0800

0.0850

0.090

Tip Side Target Width (per side)

0.0144 

0.0173

0.0202

0.0231

0.0260

0.0289

0.0318

0.0346

0.0375

0.0404

0.0433

0.0462

0.0491

0.0520

Station

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

Butt Side Target

0.0850

0.0900

0.0950

0.1000

0.1050

0.1100

0.1150

0.1200

0.1250

0.1300

0.1350

0.1400

0.1450

0.150

Butt Side Target Width (per side)

0.0491

0.0520

0.0548

0.0577

0.0606

0.0635

0.0664

0.0693

0.0722

0.0751

0.0779

0.0808

0.0837

0.0866

 

       

       

  

                 

 

 

 

Obviously, I am not an engineer or machinist, so this could be fraught with problems.    (Matt Fuller)

    If you look at the side view picture of the File Plane in the article the near side of the plane body is removed so you can see the parallelogram and how it works. The Thumb Bolt is threaded through the top rail only of the parallelogram and rests on the bottom rail. By turning the thumb bolt in or out you can adjust the file depth up or down. In use, the bottom rail will be in contact with the thumb bolt as you file thus limiting the upper movement of the file.

    Start filing with very little of the file protruding out the bottom of the plane. When the plane won't cut anymore, turn the thumb bolt in a couple of turns and continue.

    To check your depth, use a Dial Indicator with a 60° point attached not a Dial Caliper. I would not recommend using feeler gages and doing the math.

    I have spreadsheets for, 50", 55", 60" and 72", forms that tell you how to setup the forms to cut the groove. Which do you need?  (Don Schneider)

      I posted a few pictures of a dumbed down version of the file plane on my blog if you want to take a look.  I don't think an explanation is needed.  You should be able to build one from the pictures if you want to.  Double click the pics to see the full size image.  Save them if you want to have them to refer back to.  I'll delete them from the blog in a few days.

      There are two planes in the pictures, a big one and a little one.  I didn't really care for the big really aggressive one, can't remember why.  Used a bit plane instead.  The little one worked great.  I made two inserts for it.  A more aggressive one and a fine one for the final passes.

      Oh, I couldn't resist adding a river pic.  That's looking up stream toward the swinging bridge access on the Little Red here in Arkansas.  That's just a couple miles from where the world record brown was caught.   (David Bolin)

      Don has some great spreadsheets he can send you that will really help with cutting the grooves.  Yes, the file should swing and works really well (can be adjusted to up or down to help with the depth).  I just finished using the tools that Harry Boyd lent me, and am sending them back to him.  Maybe you can borrow them from him.  (Louis DeVos)

        Be happy to loan them out again.  Those things have been all over Europe and North America!  (Harry Boyd)

          Maybe I should make another one and send it to you. The file is probably worn out by now... Incidentally, the file cuts better/faster if you spray WD 40 on the forms & file. I made the original FP body out of Jataba and the WD 40 doesn't seem to hurt it.  (Don Schneider)

Rule

I have to order the necessary tools to cut the groove in my maple planing forms, and wanted recommendations regarding what method to utilize.  Schneider's instructions use two specialized tools, and Penrose suggests a simpler jig made of a 3 square file.  Considering that I am dealing with wood verses steel it probably doesn't matter what approach is used, but ultimately it certainly doesn't hurt to ask to potentially avoid any problems.  Regarding a file, what coarseness of cut (medium, fine, etc.) as well as teeth pattern (single or double) would you recommend?  (Ron Delesky)

    I did the initial rough cutting with a lathe bit setup similar to the one shown in Schneider's instructions I used a file for the last 20 thousands or so of cutting.

    A three-square file is double cut with sharp corners. Most hardware store files are single cut triangular files with rounded corners used mostly for saw sharpening. The file I used on the second try was an 8 inch three square second cut, since that was all I could get locally. There is a coarser bastard cut and finer smooth cut as well, as other sizes, at least a 6 inch and a 10 inch version. The 8 inch double cut seemed an OK compromise for material removal, without cutting too fast. I was able to get to the final form dimensions without over cutting and not having the filing take forever. I chalked the file frequently to help with clogging and the chalk made cleaning the file easier. A lathe bit cutter (or maybe a large bastard cut three square file?) is needed to do most of the material removal, except for the last part of the tips.

    Note that a three-square file is not exactly 60 degrees in each corner. My file was off over half a degree in one corner and off a quarter of a degree in the other 2. But things have worked out so far after 6 rods so the file was good enough. There are Swiss pattern files available, if you can find them, that are more precisely made than the Nicholson files with more accurate angles.  (Joe Hudock)

      The Nicholson file I like best is here.

      The file is about 1/2" per side and not tapered.. Called a Machete file.

      To setup the forms to cut the groove you may want to try the spreadsheets I made for different length forms. The directions for their use are in the spreadsheets. The Spreadsheets are on Todd's tip site.  (Don Schneider)

    I took the page from Wayne's book on the roughing forms to a local cabinet store and their shop made my roughing forms out of scrap wood for about $20.  I think Tom Penrose's method (Tom is a good guy that I used to fish with) and Wayne's are the same for the final planing form. I hand cut the groove for the final with an implement I made using Tom's method.  It worked good, but took a long time to make the groove.  You file down each side of the key stock so that you have (relatively) flat sides, then drill and tap your forms, add your shoulder bolds, set screws, and keys, adjust your opening and start grooving.  The more open the form, the shallower the groove.  Pretty good method if you are on a budget (I am cheep).  (Rob Clarke)

Rule

I have just finished a set of forms (my first), all of it, except for cutting the groove, I have looked for (in the various books that I have and all over the internet) and I can't find a standard depth for the groove on both sides, I assume there is no "standard" depth. My form length is 60 inches, What depth would you all recommend as the starting depth  for the butt end on the "big" end, and for the male end of the "little" end.  I am really anxious to get started on this, and I would appreciate ya'lls input.  (Joseph Freeman)

    It's all right here!  Probably the most useful place to look for building steel forms ever.  (Bob Brockett)

      You might also check my two part articles on making Metal forms in Power Fibers17 and 18. I do them a bit different. (Tony Spezio)

    For most tapers a groove on 60” forms starting at .030” will work. Of course you could make taper less than .060” if you wish. Depends on what size rods you intend to make.  (Don Schneider)

      I'd prefer .025 as a start to give you a bit more room to work without going off the end of the form.  That's worth what you paid for it.  (Ed Berg)

    I'd start even smaller than others have recommended.  The Bellinger Forms we use in the Ozark Rod Makers School begin at about .018" and increase to about .088" (72" forms).  On the butt side, they begin at about .060" or maybe .070" and increase one 1/1000" per inch.  (Harry Boyd)

    I echo the advice of them who wrote first.  One tidbit that struck me when I made mine was the question "what type of rods do you plan to build".  Of course, that will change over time.  However, if you plan to make sweet light rods for small streams and small trout, make sure that the tip (or shallow) ends of your grooves are shallow enough to enable this.  If you make the shallow end of the tip groove 30 thousandths deep (when the forms are fully closed), then 60 thousandths is the most delicate tip you will be able to plane (without standing on both your left feet, muttering incantations and whatever else you can think to make the grooves shallower - which has been rumored to require a wee dram of aged scotch).  If you then decide to make a 2 weight rod after filing your grooves to 50 thousandths, well - you get the drift.  Can't remember what I did to mine, but I planned to make a 2 wt for the beautiful east slope streams of the Rockies in Alberta.  Of course, then I moved to Yukon and now want 14’ spey rods.  Go figure  :)

    Read Penrose's advice thrice.  His advice was the backbone of my form-making.

    Of course. you can always draw-file the forms later to make the groove shallower.  Yeah, right - don't think so.  (Greg Dawson)

    I am pretty sure from memory that Wayne Cattanach has all those data in his book.

    If not, then how small are you ever going to want to build a tip? Maybe .040".  Then your tip end groove wants to be a bit smaller than that.  Same stunt on the fat end.  How thick?  .500"? then make it a bit fatter than that.

    Also remember that you can always make the damn thing deeper, but there is a lot of draw filing involved in making it shallower!

    In fact, what I did was to put the estimated extreme measurements back one station from the tip and the butt ends.  And where do I build all my rods?  In the middle, more or less, but it's nice to know the extremes are there if I ever go mad and actually  decide to use them.  (Peter McKean)

      Sorry, having done all   that I forgot to point out to you that your actual groove is only half of that measurement.  (Peter McKean)

    If you haven't started the tapered grooves yet then you are about halfway done.  :>) Obviously start on the Tip side. That way if you screw it up it can be filed deeper and become the Butt side.

    One word of warning on trying to make a very fine tip side grrove is that all Cold Rolled Steel comes with a very slight radius on the corners.  It looks to me to be about 1/64" radius. The radius is small but not so small that it won't screw up your groove if you are trying to make a very small groove.  You need to mill the flat on the tip side down around 3-5 thousandths to get rid of enough of this radius that it doesn't take away from you tapered groove at the very end where it is the smallest. I just drew this out in CAD and the smallest tip groove you can possibly get by removing all of the 1/64" rad.on the corners is 0.027".  That will give you a 0.054" tip. That's pretty fine.   Maybe not a one or two weight but still finer than I want on a rod. By the way if you have a tip groove that is too deep for you then a more efficient way to make it "less deep" is to take the forms apart and flat file the "Insides" of the steel bars.  By removing steel on the inside of 60° angle of the groove has more effect on the depth than removing the same amount off the faces. If you file down 5 thousandths on the faces you have decreased the Depth by 0.005" If you file down 5 thousandths on the "inside" of the bars you have decreased the Depth by 0.0087". Also there is less steel to be removed after the grooves have been formed. Or if you Really want to make a very fine tip you could just sand or file the tip to dimension.  A fine tip is 100% power fibers so it doesn't matter if you take off the bamboo from the inside or the outside at that point.  There is no pith left.

    Good luck with the form.  I'm sure it will turn out fine.  Just takes a lot of filing.  (Larry Swearingen)

Rule

I am doing a set of steel forms to Don Schneider's plans and have made the tools necessary.  I would like to know roughly how long does it take to cut a tip side of the form using the lathe bit plane?  Mine seems to be just like metal scraping on metal.  I've noticed too that if I hold the bit at an angle, about 50 degrees, and scrape, I will get the tiny spirals of steel coming off.  Has anyone built a lathe bit plane that isn't vertical?  (Alfie Wee)

    If you are holding the lathe bit at an angle, you are not scraping a true 60° groove.  Try it out on some wood, then check with a screw gauge and you will see.  (Harry Boyd)

      If you look at a 60° lathe bit closely you will see the angle of the cutting part of the bit is less than 60°. You will also notice the face of the cutting surface is tilted back slightly so that the cut/groove comes out to 60° and the chip/shaving is directed upward. If the shank of the bit is anything other than vertical  you will not have a 60° groove. Tipping the shank backward more than 90° will give you a groove more than 60°.  (Don Schneider)

        I think that he's talking about twisting the bit slightly sideways. That would give a less than 60° groove.  Not a big problem as it will be straightened out to a true 60° with the finish file plane.  (Larry Swearingen)

    What kind of lathe bit are you using?  Carbide or High Speed Steel? I've been making a few forms to sell since last winter and have made 13 sets so far as a sideline so I speak from some sweat experience.

    I make 6 ft Planing Forms BTW.

    I'm not familiar with Don Schneider's plans so don't really know what kind of lathe bit plane you are using but mine is a 2x2 chunk of Steel about 7" long that holds the bit perpendicular to the face of the planing form. It can be twisted side to side though.  Bear in mind that when you twist the bit to get a little bite that you have changed the angle of the cut.  It then becomes "narrower" than 60°.  I use a steel body because it takes a bit of pressure for the bit to bite into the steel form blank.  Weight on the plane helps you do this. I use carbide triangular Inserts to assure that I am getting true 60° cuts. These bits are held in a holder machined to fit the bit and hold it square to the tool.  The carbide doesn't take quite as sharp an edge as HSS but it stays as sharp as it gets longer and you can rotate it 120° to get new cutting edges for 3 sharp points per insert.

    You will not be able to get to a smooth finished groove with these bit as you will inevitably get some chatter.  You will have to finish with a 3-square triangular file to get it clean.  Don't use the Taper versions of the triangular files.  These files are tapered too much and you will only get a small part of the file cutting, the larger part of the taper.

    How long does a tip side take.  Don't know for sure.  How long are your forms? The longer the form the deeper the butt end is and the groove is longer = more filing.   You should be able to get the tip side planed to rough in less than 2 hours I would think.   Then start filing.

    Be careful with the tip end.   It is very easy to get it too deep.  The butt end is where all the grunt work is.  That's where your bit doesn't want to cut very well.  (Larry Swearingen)

      Buried in an article I wrote for Power Fibers, are the plans for the Lathe Bit Plane and the File Bit Plane.  (Don Schneider)

        I made two pairs of these to make some sets of wood forms, work great.  One set is with Todd to be used by others.  I think he has sent them out to someone recently.  (Scott Grady)

Rule

I've got a couple of questions about putting the V-groove in metal planing forms.  I've been following Don Schneider's instructions and the advice of several list members.  My forms are 72" long and I began by grooving the tip side.  I wound up filing a bit too deep in several places and bit too shallow in others, so I've had to do some extra draw-filing or spot grooving.  Here are the depths I arrived at last night, with the target depths followed by my measurements in parentheses (I had to estimate measurements less than .001"):

.030 (.030)
.035 (.0352)
.040 (.040)
.045 (.045)
.050 (.0497)
.055 (.055)
.060 (.0602)
.065 (.065)
.070 (.0702)
.075 (.075)
.080 (.080)
.085 (.085)
.090 (.0897)
.095 (.095)

.100 (.100)

Since I'm looking at ten-thousandths-of-an-inch variances, which would require some quite delicate filing, let me ask, "Are these depths close enough?  Should I stop now?"

One other question, prompted by a look at Don's worksheet for 72" forms.  On the butt side of the forms, the target dimensions he provides jump from .090 to .100 between stations 17 to 18 and they jump from .130 to .140 between stations 24 to 25.  Are these typos or is there a reason for the groove to have a steeper jump between these specific stations?

Don, if you're reading this, could you email me off the list?  I've got a really dumb question and I don't want to embarrass myself in public.  (Alan Boehm)

    Those numbers are so close you may as well call them "dead nuts."

    Don't obsess, make rods.  (Al Baldauski)

Rule

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