|Project by Brian Havens||posted 04-18-2011 08:04 AM||3903 views||8 times favorited||15 comments|
While I was in Montana, building the Shaker Style Bench with Todd Clippinger, I used a small wooden plane that someone made for Todd to clean up the dovetails on the drawers/boxes. This plane felt just like my general purpose plane, the first plane I ever made, only its smaller size made it more comfortable for boxes. More recently, after finishing up the Asian Cabinet, I decided to spend some time practicing making dovetail boxes/drawers. My restored Stanley knuckle joint cap block planes did a great job performing the same task, but I find after cleaning up a few joints, even the knuckle joint cap style of block planes can get uncomfortable on the driving hand. During the box making practice, I also noticed several other opportunities for planes aimed specifically at box/drawer making. This got me to thinking that, perhaps, there is an oppertunity here to make a few planes aimed specifically at box making.
This is the first in that new series of hand planes aimed at making box/drawer making easier. This plane is aimed primarily at squaring/cleaning up edges on drawer stock, and cleaning up joints, like the pins and tails of a dovetail joint. The shape may look a little odd, but there is a purpose for its shape. Here is the features and problems I was out to solve with this plane:
- The back/butt of this plane is quite wide for a plane of this size. I find this extra girth better for control and more comfortable, especially after cleaning up a dozen or so joints.
- The sole is extra wide in the back 2/3’s of the plane, making it easy to use with what I have been calling a “reference block”. I use this reference block when planing the edge of drawer stock to keep the edge square. (You can see me using a reference block in the video.)
- I often use figured stock, like curly maple, for drawer stock, which is prone to tear-out. I increased the pitch of the iron to 50 degrees (York Pitch) as opposed to 45 degrees (Standard Pitch). I am finding that this extra 5 degrees can make a big difference when planing figured wood.
- The front of the plane is quite narrow, almost the same width as the iron. I find this very comfortable for the way I use this plane. If I am using a reference block, this narrowness makes it easy to control the plane and hold the reference block with my lead hand at the same time.
- The very nose of the plane turns up, giving the thumb of my lead hand a place to push or pin the plane. This has a lot to do with the technique I use for trimming the end-grain of, for example, dovetails while cleaning up a joint. Instead of trying to shove a plane through a cut of tough end-grain, I pin the front of the plane and swing the tail of the plane around, causing more of a slicing action on the end grain. This technique is much easier with a place to offer some leverage to my thumb.
There are two other things I did differently, that do not have to with box making.
Having restored several metal, Stanley hand planes, and from copious reading about hand planes, I was under the impression that a chip breaker was an absolute must for a plane to perform. Well I noticed a few Lumberjocks, one in particular, Philip Edwards was not using chip breakers. I asked Phil about it (it was a long time ago) and he indicated that his planes were working fine without one. I gave it a try, and, low and behold, I don’t need no stinking chip breaker!
The iron in this plane is neither A2 nor O1 tools steel, but rather HSS steel. The funny thing that I have been finding with HSS steel is that I can never get it to be as sharp as O1 or A2 blades, but they seem to perform well nonetheless. With O1 (high carbon steel) I can easily get an edge that will effortlessly shave the hairs on my forearm, but with HSS steel, it is difficult to get past the point where it is just beginning to shave hair. However, when I use the HSS blade at that rate, the resulting surface is every bit as smooth. I am no expert on tool steel, and I would sure like to hear from someone who knows more about metallurgy than me, who could shed some light on this phenomenon.
-- Brian Havens, Woodworker http://brianhavens.com