Making the dw infills #1: Part 1 Envisioning and a bit of a Rant.

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Blog entry by Don W posted 03-29-2013 09:32 PM 3664 reads 8 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Making the dw infills series Part 2: Let's dovetail »

Making an infill has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. Making tools to me is more of a hobby than the actual woodworking.

If you are looking to build an infill, you’re welcome to follow me along. I’ll try to keep the blog as up to date as time allows and would love feedback from others taking the same path.

The metal work of the infill intimidated me a bit and I’m not really sure why. I can weld, I’ve done my share of body work, gunsmithing and tin work, but the finish type metal work seems beyond my capabilities, which is why my first few I made from existing plane bodies.

Click for details The #4 infill blog

Click for details The #3 infill blog

Click for details The #4 infill blog

Click for details The #6 size infill blog

But I’ve come to the realization that fitting the infill into an existing body is a lot of extra work you don’t have when you make your own body. And the metal work…....well it doesn’t need to be that intimidating.

I’ll work through some of my issues, some of my mistakes, and some of the processes I’ve dug up. I spent a lot of time researching and looking at infill planes.

So first, if you’re thinking of following along, let’s talk tools. I’m still basically (for the hobby part of my life) a woodworker. Almost all of my tools are woodworking tools with a few exceptions. So let talk about the exceptions.

I have a horizontal metal bandsaw. I’ve had it forever and just discovered I can also use it vertically. In my defense, until now I’ve never had a need to use it vertically, so there’s my excuse for that bit of foolishness.

Almost everything online tells you you can do the cutting with a hacksaw, and I guess theoretically it’s true. Even some of the professionals who have how-to blogs say they cut the planes out with a hack saw. I say bull crap. I think they are telling us that so we don’t find better ways to make our own. If I had to cut them all with a hack saw, I’d be back using the existing blanks.

Files. You’re going to need files. Because of all my other hobby’s, one of which is buying box lots of crap, I’ve got a pail full of files. Flat ones, round ones, triangles shaped ones, some that work well, some that should become tent stakes, but you get the idea. If you’re new, and don’t have a pail full of files, plan to buy quit a few.

A good hack saw, sanding equipment, good epoxy, countersinks, drill bits, drill press, and metal marking tools.

Taps. You’ll need several sizes for the cap, depending on how you plan to attach it.

A way to polish. Shiny is good in the infill world. This can be done with sandpaper but for brass, you’ll really need a wheel and compound.

You can use a sharpy to color the metal to scribe with, but layout die is >$4 for a bottle. And if you smart enough to not dump half the bottle all over your bench (yes I did) it will last a very long time.

A metal scribe. Again, I paid $3 something with a mcmaster carr order. Spend the few bucks. It’s easier to use a metal scribe on wood, than the other way around.

Pick your size. I recommend staring with a smoother or jack. Something mid-size. Don’t go to small or too big to start.

Pick your bedding angle:

Pitches and uses:

20° and under—Used for low angle planes such as mitre planes, shoulder planes and block planes. The blades for these planes are used with the bevel up, which has the effect of increasing the overall pitch by the amount of the bevel angle. As these planes are usually used for end grain work, having a lower angle with the blade supported right to the tip and a fine mouth opening is a major advantage.

45° (Common Pitch)—Used for most bench planes, from wooden bodied ones to Stanley/Bailey type. A bedding angle set at 45° is optimum for most softwoods and straight grained hardwoods and the blade is used with the bevel down, requiring a chipbreaker in most cases (especially when using a thinner blade). Japanese style planes don’t need a chipbreaker because the blades are usually quite thick.

50° (York Pitch)—Used for hardwoods and is especially useful for highly figured and interlocking grain. Also used for rebate (rabbet) planes and some grooving planes.

55° (Middle Pitch)—Mainly used for molding planes for softwoods. I’ve found my 55° works very well even in some hardwood.

60° (Half Pitch)—Used for molding planes for hardwood.

70° to 90°—Used for toothing planes, side snipers and side rebate (rabbet) planes.

90° plus —Scrapers and scraping planes.

Have some JB Weld on hand. It’s like wood putty for covering up your metal mistakes.

And if you need to buy the metal, figure out what you want.

There is a lot of information about what to get, so here is a recap. Note none of this is set in stone, and slight variations are of little consequence.

For the sole you can use anything from 3/16” up to 1/2”. Go with the 3/16” or so if you are going to dovetail, go with 1/2” if you are going to pin or screw. As for the kind, it doesn’t seem to matter. Grab the hot rolled your local box store has, or order some O1 or 1018 online. Remember if you’re going to dovetail to add in the width.

Sides. I’d suggest 1/8” or 3/16”. This can be Metal, brass or bronze. I’ve read Bronze 464 or Brass 220 is good, but again, it seems lots of guys use lots of different material with very similar results.

Use 1/8” O1 for the chip breaker.

I’ve been using Hock Irons. First they are exceptional, second Ron Hock will answer your questions, 3rd he doesn’t make planes, so your plane won’t be mistaken for a Ron Hock plane.

Pick a style.

—Dovetailed metal. Cool to look at, and a solid base.
—Pinned. Again, cool to look at and you’ve got some choices depending on your metal and your style. You can match the pins to the metal and make them virtually invisible or use contrasting pins.
—Screwed. You can tap the base and screw the sided. Again some choices. Countersink and level them showing (actually one of my favorites) cut the heads and peen them over and make the flush. Again with like metal to make them invisible or contrasting to make them stand out.

Welded. You can weld the sides to the base. Here you’re limited to metal all the way, but it’s an option I plan to at least try.

So the question often asked, “Is there a benefit to infill planes? Do they perform better?”

1. its just cool!!
2. Mass. Its heavier.
3. Infills are typically bedded at 50 or 55 degrees. (this one is 50)
4. Steel. A drop means a dent, and maybe some wood damage which is repairable.
5. they are cool!
6. Brass is shiny.
7. You get the more solid, vibration dampening, blade bedding of a wooden plane with out the sole wear issues.

Next we’ll talk about dovetailing the metal. I’ll bet you’re right on the edge of your seat!

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

13 comments so far

View JayT's profile (online now)


5679 posts in 2240 days

#1 posted 03-29-2013 09:38 PM

Very cool, Don. This will be a fun blog to follow, even though I have zero metal working skills.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2627 days

#2 posted 03-29-2013 10:02 PM

Hmm? My first coment just disappeared. May the web gods are trying tell me something.

Look forward to more Don. As always, thanks for sharing.

View terryR's profile


7169 posts in 2337 days

#3 posted 03-29-2013 10:17 PM

I’m with JayT…no metal skills here, either…
But tthis is very cool, Don! Thanks for sharing…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2868 days

#4 posted 03-29-2013 10:26 PM

OMG I love this.
Don I dont know if I can build one (time) but I will follow along.
This is great!

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View runswithscissors's profile


2768 posts in 2054 days

#5 posted 03-29-2013 10:39 PM

I find a handy way to mark metal for cutting is to use Pres-a-Ply labels, which then can be marked with pen or pencil. I get the full sheets, then cut them to the right size for my project. The regular ones stick very tenaciously, and can be a bit of a pain to get off. They also make a “repositionable” variety that isn’t so bad.

I too have a metal cutting bandsaw, but I converted a regular 14” Grizzly woodcutting bandsaw, simply by putting in a jackshaft and step pulleys. I have a local saw shop make up 1/4” wide variable pitch bimetal blades for modest cost. These will cut a surprisingly tight radius if you slow down the feed rate and just let the teeth widen the slot a little at a time. The blades last a long time, I surmise because they don’t overheat, the blade having plenty of time to cool during its 97 1/2” course around the wheels. I could switch this bandsaw back to normal mode, but never bother, because I also have an 18” woodcutter. For small cuts in wood I do sometimes use the metal cutter, though of course it is very slow.

With the narrow blade, this saw isn’t so good for cutting straight lines. For that, I’m likely to turn to an angle grinder with the 16” thick metal cutting abrasive disks. They cut fast and leave a clean cut, except for an easily removed burr. You can actually cut quite thick metal with those.

I’ll be interested to watch your progress with this. Good luck.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2230 days

#6 posted 03-30-2013 01:18 AM

Actually Don I am on the edge of my seat, as this is something I have considered doing for some time and have not had the stones to try.. so thanks for kicking me in the stones and letting me know how and what to and not to do.. keep up the great info.. Papa

-- Papa...

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2864 days

#7 posted 03-30-2013 03:40 AM

You left off the soldering option for attaching the sides. You can do dissimilar metals that way and the joint is more then strong enough. Frequent testing of silver solder joints shows that the joint is far stronger then the material holding it together. Need wanting a steel bottomed brass infill project done that way but too cheap/chicken to risk the cash on screwing up brass.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View Brit's profile


7387 posts in 2871 days

#8 posted 03-30-2013 11:35 AM

Don you’ve outdone yourself with this blog. Humor (American spelling out of respect), eye candy and suspense – that’s the making of any good yarn right there. Looking forward to the next installment.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3217 days

#9 posted 03-30-2013 03:14 PM

Great work and Blog!!!! Keep it up.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Tokolosi's profile


678 posts in 2384 days

#10 posted 03-30-2013 03:30 PM

Can’t wait for the next part!

-- “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” ~ JRR Tolkien

View getlostinwood's profile


224 posts in 2631 days

#11 posted 03-30-2013 04:19 PM

holding my breath for the next installment. Always fascinated with your work Don.

-- The basis for optimism is shear terror

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3180 days

#12 posted 03-30-2013 05:17 PM

Wow, I am at the edge of my seat. I will try to make one day and will add this blog to my favorites for future reference.

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

View AnthonyReed's profile


9761 posts in 2469 days

#13 posted 04-03-2013 05:36 PM

This is going to be good!!

Thanks Don.

-- ~Tony

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