Let's Build an Infill Shoulder Plane! #1: The beginnings

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Blog entry by Ripthorn posted 04-03-2013 02:23 AM 13291 reads 15 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Let's Build an Infill Shoulder Plane! series Part 2: Peining Time »

Alright, so I planned on doing a multi-part series on building an infill shoulder plane, but then got going on the project, so there won’t be as many parts as I would like, though each part is likely to be long. So get out your notebooks and popcorn, and let’s start this thing!


Let me first say that this is not my own design. I took a lot of ideas, inspiration, etc. from Jeff Wittrock at SMC. His great thread is here. This is my first infill plane, my first for a lot of things, so don’t think that my way is perfect. I try to sprinkle in the lessons learned along the way for your edification.

Now, I wanted to build something on the cheap if at all possible, so keep in mind that that governed a lot of my decisions. Also, I am pretty terrible at taking pictures in the middle of a project, but I did make a concerted effort to take more. Finally, I will try to include tools used and lessons learned in each part along with time estimates. So without further ado:


I tried to stick to very low cost materials (more on that later), so here is a quick break down of what it cost me (approximately) and where I got the materials.

3/16”x2”x36” Hot Rolled Steel (HRS) flat bar ($11 BORG)
1/4”x1”x36” HRS flat bar ($7 BORG)
1/8”x36” Cold Rolled Steel rod ($3 BORG)
Rabbet plane blade ($5 Lee Valley, here)
Super glue

Tools (for this installment)

Hack saw
jig saw with metal cutting blade
bench grinder
belt sander
chunk of granite
drill press and bits
machinist vise (I mean this very loosely, as mine is as cheap as they come, $3 from a thrift store and worth about that much)
flat bastard file
scratch awl
center punch

Dimensioning the Pieces

First, I cut the pieces to rough dimensions. I decided I wanted this to be about 6” long, so I cut the following pieces:

2 – 3/16”x2”x6” (sides)
1 – 1/4”x1”x6” (sole, trimmed to 5/8” wide)
2 – 1/4”x1”x2 3/4” (blade ramp and lever cap, trimmed to 5/8” wide)
1 – 1/4”x1”x1 1/2” (lever cap pivot piece)

Lesson Learned!!

Now, one thing to keep in mind (and I learned this the hard way): the sides of the HRS are very much NOT SQUARE. So before you trim the 1” wide pieces to 5/8” (to get a 1” overall width for the blade listed above), you must grind and then belt sand one side flat and roughly square (doesn’t have to be exact at this point).

To cut to length, I used the jigsaw with metal cutting blade. This is not fast going, but faster than a hack saw. Don’t force the saw in the cut, just take your time. You may go through one or two blades doing this.

Lesson Learned!!

I cut everything to length, then trimmed the width. This very hard with the shorter pieces, and it had to be done with a hack saw. Cut one longer piece, then trim to width, then cut individual lengths, it will save you a lot of time and muscle ache. Also, when using the hack saw, let the saw do the work, you don’t have to bear down on it super hard.

Here is what we have so far:

Time Elapsed to this point: ~1.5 hrs

Lapping the pieces

Now comes a very important, yet extremely time-consuming step (if using HRS): lapping. The cross section of the steel is kind of rainbow shaped. Here I spend a good three or four hours with 100 grit paper on the granite. What I did was to lap the critical surfaces flat first. These include the insides of the sides, both sides of the sole, both sides of the blade ramp, both sides of the pivot piece, and one side of the lever cap. Why both sides of the blade ramp and pivot piece? Because one side of each will show and the other side will butt up against the infill, and we want them to fit with as few gaps as possible. As you can see below, the 2” wide sides had significant hollows on the side I chose to be inside. I ended up descaling the last bit of the hollows with my hand just because I would have taken forever to get a truly flat surface across the whole inside face. Yes, I cheated. You can see a little trick I came up with for lapping these thin pieces, double stick tape them to some MDF. Believe me, your arms will thank you. I did the same thing for the smaller pieces, you just have to be very careful not to rock the pieces and end up sanding one side more than the other. It’s a bear to straighten out.

This HRS stuff is not fun, here is my sole that has one edge rounded over as it came from the factory, this took a lot of lapping just to get to this point. Took even more to get rid of it.

Next comes the task of making sure sides are good and square. This does not apply to the side pieces, just the sole, blade ramp, and pivot piece. Pick one side of each piece to be your reference side, and use a square (I used a small machinist square) to see what needs to be adjusted. Take a few strokes, and check again. This was actually surprisingly easy to get nicely done. I did try using a guide block, but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.

Lesson Learned!!

I am a very frugal person, but buying precision ground tool steel stock like O1 would totally be worth it. I spent about $20 on the steel for this. The same amount in O1 would be around $75 shipped. Totally worth every penny if you ask me. I didn’t think it would be so before I did this, but for the next ones I do (this one is just practice for a matched set), I am totally buying the good stuff and saving myself like 5 hours of work.

Time Elapsed to this point: ~5 hrs.
Cutting the Blade Ramp Bevel

Next up was cutting the blade ramp bevel. I decided that since this is a shoulder plane, I should have a lower cutting angle. Since this is going to be bevel down, I chose 40 degrees so that it slices through end grain easier. So first I used a protractor to mark it on the piece with a scratch awl, put the piece in my vise, and made a very rough cut with the hack saw.

Then, I cut a piece of MDF on the miter saw to 50 degrees (since 40 + 50 = 90) and used that to help me get the angle right on the belt sander.

Now, my belt sander is not terribly exact, so I fine tuned on the granite block using another MDF piece.

Time Elapsed to this point: ~6 hrs.


So here is what the innards of this thing are going to look like. The idea is that a lever cap will pivot on the rounded end of the pivot piece (imagine that!).


With all the metal dust being made, please wear a respirator. I forgot once or twice and it is miserable. Also, to clean up the shavings, I stuck a rare earth magnet in a plastic bag, dragged it around the bench and emptied into the garbage can. Also works to clean up the sandpaper to get some extra life out of it.


Now comes a part that feels like progress, drilling the holes for the rivets. I marked the center line of the sole, blade ramp, and pivot piece. At first I center punched the holes and drilled them in the pivot piece, like so:

This turned out to be a bad idea, as the mushrooming out on the other side made it so that I had to file it off, which put my square edge in jeopardy. So then I super glued the sole, blade ramp, and pivot piece to one of the sides. I left a small overhang of the side past the sole so that I could get a really nice flat surface for the sole later.

Lessons Learned!!

Center punching a piece of metal super glued to another piece will knock it loose. I ended up just using a center drill. This was still mildly problematic. The way it should be done is to center punch the pieces, then glue them to the side piece.

Progress shot:

I also decided to round over the back edge of the lever cap just for fun:

Fitting the Infills

Having the pieces glued to one side presents an opportune moment to get the angles for the infills cut so as to minimize gaps. So I found some walnut (doesn’t need to be much).

Drilling for Rivets, Continued

Okay, so with the innards super glued to one side, I drilled for the 1/8” steel rivets. I drilled slowly so as not to overheat the glue and loosen it. I started by drilling two holes through each piece and through the side so that if one did come loose, I could just use some locating pins and drill the rest. This proved a very good idea, as each piece ended up coming loose at some point. This is where my first oopsie happened. The HRS had a rounded part on the outside of my side piece, and the downward pressure of the drill bit caused it to rock, so the hole was drilled out of square. Couple that to a hole off the center line, and you get this:

A closer look:

I don’t think this is a deal breaker, but it might make for a noticeable blemish. We will just have to see what happens.

Lesson Learned!!

Take it slow and frequently clear the chips! If not, they will bind, which is terrible. Heat, catching, etc. On the very last hole, it caught, and peeled the side of my pinky pretty good. Luckily, no doctors required, but plenty of blood. If you have a drill press vise, I recommend it.

So here is what it looks like with all the holes drilled.

Finally, I re-glued the pieces to the side (since they had all popped off). Remember to re-clean the pieces before doing this.

Time Elapsed to this point: ~9hrs
Final Rivet Hole Drilling and Reaming

Next, I superglued on the other side and drilled all the holes through that. Expect the super glue to come apart at some point, so drill two holes for each piece first, then do the remainder. Again, you can use locating pins when they come loose.

To ream the holes, I used one of the tapered reamers shown below. I got mine at Harbor Freight for all of $5.

To ream the holes, I used firm to hard pressure and gave it four or five good twists for each hole. I maybe did a little too much on a couple of holes. You can always ream more if you need to.

Time Elapsed to this point: ~11 hrs

That’s it for now, next time will be peining!

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

15 comments so far

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 2722 days

#1 posted 04-03-2013 03:39 AM

Sweet. Thanks for sharing!

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2287 days

#2 posted 04-03-2013 04:31 AM

I really like what you’re doing, but a shoulder plane has quite a low bed angle around 12-20 degrees. Your plane will work great for cross and with grain planing, but will bog down trying to square up a shoulder. Just FYI. Don’t give up!

View Julian's profile


1348 posts in 2719 days

#3 posted 04-03-2013 04:37 AM

This is great stuff. If you continue making planes it might be worth getting a milling machine.

-- Julian

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2597 days

#4 posted 04-03-2013 10:47 AM

I Bought o1 steel for my last #4 size infill from mccmaster carr and it wasn’t that much.

very good blog.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2083 days

#5 posted 04-03-2013 12:17 PM

good job

-- Joel

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3014 days

#6 posted 04-03-2013 12:19 PM

Deycart, I am doing bevel down at 40 degrees, which should be about the same as a 25 degree bevel up iron on a 15 degree bed. If it fails, this one is just practice anyway.

Don, the price I listed was for 36” lengths of the two sizes. I plan to do a matched set for myself after this one, a shoulder and a bullnose rabbet (always wanted one, even though I don’t really know why!). Was your O1 flat and square? That is what I imagine precision ground stock to be.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2597 days

#7 posted 04-03-2013 02:06 PM

mine was flat, but not necessarily square.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3014 days

#8 posted 04-03-2013 02:09 PM

Well, square is much easier to take care of, if you ask me, so that is definitely the way I’m going next time.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3181 days

#9 posted 04-04-2013 02:02 PM

Awesome stuff Rip. I’m really enjoying all this infill action.

Couple of questions. For the next build isn’t there some mind steel you could you use? O1 is high carbon tool steel which is still hard to work. Would some precisions ground mild(low carbon) steel be better? I don’t know, just asking in case you find out, it would be good to know how to order that stuff.

Also, why have a steel bedding surface for the blade? Is that how it’s usually done? Wouldn’t wood make a better surface?

Great info man! I’m off to read the next installment .

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3014 days

#10 posted 04-04-2013 02:11 PM

Thanks, Maur! Precision ground mild steel does exist, but it is actually more expensive than O1. I plan to get O1 in the annealed state which hopefully shouldn’t be much harder to work.

As far as the bedding surface, that is how the example I found did it. I emailed the guy and he said he did it just because. You can be on my next one that I won’t, I just already had the piece cut, etc. etc. When I make my real ones, I will just do a wood bedding surface. Should be much easier, use less material, etc.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2597 days

#11 posted 04-04-2013 02:17 PM

I just posted this on my infill blog. I think the O1 is much harder than it needs to be.

the O1 is used straight out of the box. I think its already harder than it needs to be. Next time i’ll use a low carbon steel, and save the O1 for the chip breaker. If I made my own irons, it would need to be hardened on the sharp end.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3181 days

#12 posted 04-04-2013 02:21 PM

Yeah, just saw that Don. Looks like Rip actually looked into that and it was more expensive. Seems odd though you would think it would be cheaper.

Don, since you have the big belt sander though you might be able to get away with using the stuff HD sells. It wouldn’t take you as long to grind it flat.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2597 days

#13 posted 04-04-2013 02:30 PM

precision ground standard is more than milled O1, but less than precision ground O1.

I could use HD stuff, and will try it, but most likely it will be Tractor Supply, they have a better selection.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3014 days

#14 posted 04-04-2013 03:04 PM

I actually found some stuff at Enco that is precision ground mild that is about the cost of O1. Don, I have been looking at, they are cheaper than McMaster, but I have never used them, so I can’t vouch for anything yet.

I will have to see if there is a tractor supply around here, as I have been disappointed with the selection from Lowes and HD.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Don W's profile

Don W

18756 posts in 2597 days

#15 posted 04-04-2013 03:06 PM

I’ll check out

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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