Shop Built Hand Tools #1: Block Plane Trial

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Blog entry by USCJeff posted 05-23-2008 04:25 PM 1853 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shop Built Hand Tools series Part 2: Router Plane »

I recently posted a project of my first attempt at a plane. I was very happy with the outcome, both appearance and function. After putting it to work on scraps and such to give it a real trial, I’ve found some fatal flaws. I initially blamed the the original designer, which was submitted to Wood Magazine. I then decided that I took too many liberties and caused the error. The big problem is the wedge and rod that secures the iron. The plane sides are not quite .25”. I gave the wedge a a moderate tap and one side split by the wedge rod. I epoxied it back and it happened on the other side a day later. I’m debating between laminating the sides thicker or letting it look pretty on a shelf and starting over. The wedge really doesn’t hold the iron very well. The iron backs out after several swipes. I think the rod might be too far back on the iron. I can’t be certain, but maybe the wedge would hold better if the pressure was closer to the point of force. Any thoughts? All my metal planes have cap screws or such to hold the iron. Wooden planes don’t for the most part, based on what I’ve seen.


-- Jeff, South Carolina

5 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3789 days

#1 posted 05-23-2008 05:11 PM

This is a real downer, Jeff. I hope that you can solve the design difficulty that you are facing.

Good luck. And keep us posted on your progress.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View jcees's profile


1058 posts in 3766 days

#2 posted 05-23-2008 05:14 PM

The pic is a bit small but I’m guessing the amount of wood above the rod is way too close to the top edge. Not enough meat there. Also, you’ll always have a problem with the iron backing out due to the metal rod. A beefy wooden one would give you a bunch more friction and a better grip on the iron. Basically, you’re trying to hold a wooden wedge between two slick metal surfaces. Not good.

I’m assuming there isn’t a chip breaker? If not, that adds up to bad geometry as there is no opposing wedge shape to secure the blade from creeping backward under use. The editors of Wood magazine should know better. But then again, that’s part of the reason I don’t subscribe to that magazine anymore.

Personally, I think this one’s a pretty paper weight. For building wooden planes you might want to give a look at Krenov’s plans for wooden planes. He specifies a wooden pressure bar that is NOT round in cross section rather it is more like a bloated triangle. I have three such planes [I didn’t build them] and they hold the iron fast and can take a shaving that’s the envy of an English infill plane.

Sorry for the problems but all of woodworking is a process of learning and amending your discoveries.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4036 days

#3 posted 05-23-2008 06:48 PM

Thanks for the candid comments J.C.. I’m with you on the paperweight thing. I haven’t read Krenov’s book, but have seen it referenced over and over. So, I have parts here and there as well as plenty of photos and such of his work. His website has some good stuff as well if I remember right.

The friction comments also make sense. The plane iron definitely isn’t designed to resist wood. I’ve seen planes that don’t really have rods for the wedge. They have triangular crevices shaped to compliment the wedge on the inside wall of the sides.

Back to the drawing board. One of the reasons I love woodworking is the problem solving and trial aspects. “I need this outcome. . . what wlil get me there?” Your Einstein quotation shares that somewhat.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4023 posts in 4031 days

#4 posted 05-23-2008 07:19 PM

A recent article on wooden planes in FWW had a front cross dowel that looked like the letter D in cross section, with the straight side against the blade/chipbreaker assembly. Round tenons were formed on this piece and it was allowed to swivel while the dowels in front of the mouth and behind the blade bed actually held the plane together. Good luck in your hunt for the perfect woody. I have a few 1 7/8 blades hanging around from scavenging, so I’ll be looking to see how the adventure continues.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3863 days

#5 posted 05-24-2008 01:03 AM

Jeff – sorry about the problems you are having with the plane building. Keep at it, planes are sooooo much fun to use.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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