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.
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!
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