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Thread: Spruce

  1. #1
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    Sep 2015
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    Canton, NY
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    Spruce

    So just a general question here, but is working with spruce always a pain or did I just happen to get dull chisels, or maybe I just dont know what I'm doing?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
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    Coffee City, Texas
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    Spruce crushes and tears more easily than most woods.
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  3. #3
    If you are used to soft pine with an even grain, yes it is a pain. Even though it looks similar, it often is much less easy to work and requires everything to be sharp. The alternating hard and soft rings can be challenging. And it can be quite splintery.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2007
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    Cache Valley, Utah
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    1,362
    Head over to the Neander forum and all your questions will be answered. They'll even answer questions you didn't know you had. Before too long, you'll have more answers than you'll know what to do with, but you'll have $5000 in Japanese chisels and sharpening stones. (Shaptons are the way to go, BTW.)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Silicon Valley, CA
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    390
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cav View Post
    ... (Shaptons are the way to go, BTW.)
    Nah! Sigma waterstones or diamond plates and Spyderco ceramic bench stones!

  6. #6
    Don't Fear the Neander. There are some of us over there who are cheapskates and only have Baileys we got at flea markets and garage sales, and sharpen on inexpensive combo waterstones. Although full disclosure, I do have a set of Two Cherries and a Tormek.

    That said, for spruce you want to keep as sharp as you can, use a low angle on your chisels, and preferably vintage or O1 steel. A2 isn't ideal but would probably work if you keep it sharp; it will still need a higher angle to keep the edge from chipping. Avoid planing against the grain; skewing may help. Pull the slivers you get as soon as you get them, they are almost as bad as Douglas Fir slivers. There, that was the Neanderthal in me, although similar holds true for power tools.

    Give yourself 10 bonus points if you caught the BOC reference.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    Canton, NY
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    72

    Spruce

    I started this thread over in the general section and I was told over here would be a better spot. So just a general question here, but is working with spruce always a pain or did I just happen to get dull chisels, or maybe I just dont know what I'm doing?

    Pictures of my mortise will be loaded tonight

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
    Posts
    609
    Very old heart wood could be hard to work but I doubt you have that. Usually a pleasure to work. Chisels ground at 25 degrees? Yes they need to be sharp.
    Spruce can be tricky as you can bruise the edges of mortices more easily so work up to the edge very carefully. It is easier to practice with mahogany!
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  9. #9
    Reaper. +10 for me

  10. #10
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    Sep 2015
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    Canton, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    Very old heart wood could be hard to work but I doubt you have that. Usually a pleasure to work. Chisels ground at 25 degrees? Yes they need to be sharp.
    Spruce can be tricky as you can bruise the edges of mortices more easily so work up to the edge very carefully. It is easier to practice with mahogany!
    I'm working with construction grade 2x4s. KD spruce so I highly doubt that it is old heartwood.

    As for sharpening, I dont have a sharpening station yet so out of the box will have to do until I can get a bench built.

    What seems to be happening is that the internal fibers of the 2x4 seem to be ripping apart. I cant get a nice smooth cut

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA
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    349
    Very soft woods really favor a low cutting angle. If you can sharpen at 25 or even 20 degrees you should notice a reduction in tearing compared to the more typical sharpening angle of 30-35 degrees. Rob Cosman keeps a dedicated softwood chisel sharpened at 17 degrees for this reason.

    Someone mentioned that it alternating soft and hard rings. I'm not that familiar with spruce, but if that's true then it will always be a bear to work with a chisel, because the hard rings will tend to destroy a very low angle edge. I've worked with a lot of yellow pine this year and there is a huge difference in hardness between rings. I swear it is harder on my chisel edges than white oak. If you increase the angle to keep the edge intact, then the soft rings tear badly. The best compromise I found is to keep a moderate angle on the chisel and sharpen very frequently, and always take small bites. You will have to keep it extremely sharp to get clean results, much more so than with a typical hardwood.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
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    Out of the box sharp is not sharp! Use a kitchen counter, a tree stump, anything to sharpen those tools!

    Cut the fibres donít rip them!
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  13. #13
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    Sep 2015
    Location
    Canton, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hazelwood View Post
    Very soft woods really favor a low cutting angle. If you can sharpen at 25 or even 20 degrees you should notice a reduction in tearing compared to the more typical sharpening angle of 30-35 degrees. Rob Cosman keeps a dedicated softwood chisel sharpened at 17 degrees for this reason.

    Someone mentioned that it alternating soft and hard rings. I'm not that familiar with spruce, but if that's true then it will always be a bear to work with a chisel, because the hard rings will tend to destroy a very low angle edge. I've worked with a lot of yellow pine this year and there is a huge difference in hardness between rings. I swear it is harder on my chisel edges than white oak. If you increase the angle to keep the edge intact, then the soft rings tear badly. The best compromise I found is to keep a moderate angle on the chisel and sharpen very frequently, and always take small bites. You will have to keep it extremely sharp to get clean results, much more so than with a typical hardwood.
    I wonder if drilling it our and then paring it would be a better solution?

  14. #14
    My local construction lumber is spruce as well, save for the 2X12s which tend to be pine. It is a pain to work. It chips, it's full of sap and it's generally a mess. I've found the difference in density between growth rings is significant. I'd recommend staying away from it if possible. I just threw together a base for a kitchen island and thought I'd get fancy and make some quick lap joints by hand, I chipped one of my chisels clearing some of the waste at one point on a tiny knot.

    If you can, look in the pile of knotty 1X12 pine, generally you'll get lucky with a piece of two that is pretty darn clear. I found that to be great to work with while on a budget. But it still demands sharp tools.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Virginia
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    744
    Yes, two by fours can be hard on chisels. You can have areas with surprisingly large voids between growth rings (which I think causes the ripping you are seeing) lots of sap, and knots, all of which can be very hard for a “softwood.”

    Sharp chisels will help, but even with sharp tools spruce is aggravating.

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