Converting #5 to a low-angle version

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Forum topic by luthierwnc posted 12-04-2015 03:30 AM 863 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 1802 days

12-04-2015 03:30 AM

Hi All,

Forgive me for hogging the hand tool forum but I’m wrestling with an idea that won’t go away. I’m wondering if anyone has ever tried converting a garden-variety #5 bench plan into a low-angle version. Beater 5’s are readily available cheap and the mouth seems to be the right size. The mechanism look like block plane parts.

At any rate, I might give it a try if the winter gets bad enough but any words of experience would go a long way.

thanks, sh

9 replies so far

View jerryminer's profile


928 posts in 1467 days

#1 posted 12-04-2015 05:55 AM

Interesting thought. No, I haven’t tried it. Are you planning on machining your own low-angle frog? Or…??

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View bridgerberdel's profile


50 posts in 1268 days

#2 posted 12-04-2015 06:09 AM

It’s on my list of things to do someday, but probably with a #4. I want to keep it bevel down with a chipbreaker, so low angle probably means about 35° to 40°. I’m thinking that i’ll probably machine metal off of the bottom of the frog, which will mean that the frog adjuster and mounting screws won’t work anymore. Probably just epoxy it into place.

-- occasional musings on my blog:

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1802 days

#3 posted 12-04-2015 09:18 AM

I took some of my Stanleys apart and Sharpied a line on the side replicating a 12 degree angle from the back of the mouth. It would take some serious metal removal to lay in a new bed. I think a much better platform would be the Shelton #4 or #5 for sheer antique tool desecration. I haven’t done anywhere near the research I’ll need to do but that tool is basically what I’m thinking about except for the low-angle re-imagining. They can also be had reasonably.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything about this but I really love the 60 1/2. There are times I wish it were a two-handed unit with a bigger base for leverage.

Please keep ideas, what-if’s and red flags coming in, thanks, sh

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2644 days

#4 posted 12-04-2015 01:56 PM

Not having an adjustable mouth would be a downside. Not sure what you’d tab the block plane mechanism to once the frog is pulled. Interesting idea though. How thin would the modified sole be? Big issue with the #62 is chipped mouth opening.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1802 days

#5 posted 12-04-2015 02:50 PM

The Sheltons don’t have a frog. They are a lot like the wooden planes I’ve made with a stout bar running between the sides that is wedged to hold the blade and cap down. Attached are a restored #4 (photo pinched from here, with gratitude) and the guts of one on Ebay. The restored one shows the cross-bar more clearly since they are usually Japanned with the rest of the body.

Oddly, there is a newer model using the same patent number (?) that incorporates a similar adjustment mechanism inside a Bailey-style lever cap. I haven’t found any pictures of the interior but I’m thinking it has to have a frog. This will be a frog-free zone unless I make one. On the Stanleys, the minimum angle before you have a lot of iron to displace is about 25 degrees.

I have a bid in on a beater #5 right now. I thought about the more common #4 but wanted the extra distance between the cutter assembly and the tote to maneuver. A jack plane is as good as a smoother for what I have in mind—if not better.

I’m just going by pictures but it looks like the metalwork required would be lowering or eliminating the cross-brace on the bed that supports and sets the angle for the blade and moving (probably replacing) the cross-bar to match the new lie of the cutter. The mouth is almost certainly milled to match the cutter angle and that will have to be modified. 12 degrees doesn’t leave much metal so I’ll need to bolster that and also make an assembly to replace the structural loss of the bottom brace.

I could spend forever trying to design it in the abstract but I’ve had modest success figuring things out practically when the parts are sitting on the bench. Right now I think brazing a piece of brass to lie in the bed. Mating the new bed and the mouth will take some fancy brazing and I’m not the worlds’ best welder.

As Smitty correctly mentioned; non-hillbilly versions have an adjustable mouth from the front end. Without welding a new sole on with a dovetailed adjustable mouth (not going to happen) I’ll just have to decide where I want it to go and maybe widen the mouth in beta-testing.

Again, when it is sitting in front of me ideas will flow and get quashed pretty quickly.

We’ll see if the seller takes the offer but I’m following that model if this deal falls through, thanks again, sh


View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2593 days

#6 posted 12-05-2015 01:21 PM

One issue you will have is the same issue with the original #62. The low angle makes the back of the mouth weak with the cast. I’m not sure how you could work around that, but adding an infill so it adds support may be enough.

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

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 1987 days

#7 posted 12-05-2015 01:46 PM

One issue you will have is the same issue with the original #62. The low angle makes the back of the mouth weak with the cast. I m not sure how you could work around that, but adding an infill so it adds support may be enough.

- Don W

Maybe someone that has a mill could mill out a dovetail slot in the back of the mouth and add some steel. Hint hint. :)

And Luthier, I’ve got a #4 Shelton like that if your other offer doesn’t go through and you still want one. Let me know.

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1802 days

#8 posted 12-05-2015 03:31 PM

My best offer was accepted so for twenty bucks (plus postage) I’m the proud soon-to-be-recipient of a #5.

I surfed around more and found better pictures of the guts along with the original patent drawings. I think I got a little lucky. As far as I can tell, the position of the mouth and the lateral supports to either side have the same dimensions for both the 4 and 5—as well as the iron, cap and adjustment mechanism. There is about a half inch of solid iron behind the mouth. That will have to be reduced but it should provide enough support.

With some trial and error (and having to learn cosines to flip images in Paint) I made what I hope is a more accurate hack-butchery drawing of the #5. The infill support will be less than I thought because the iron-side cross support goes more-or-less under the thumbscrew. That’s all the support the original had so a chunk of brass next to it might be all it takes. As always, that’s subject to change when we go 3D. The patent numbers are an issue.

The hard part is going to be grinding down the mouth and rear support with any accuracy. The crossbar has to be moved so it won’t be in the way but filing cast iron is not one of my favorite hobbies—sounds like you’re beating a donkey. The front brace keeps me from being able to just position the body in a chopsaw with a depth-stop and hogging material out. I have a 4” angle grinder that might see use but I also don’t want to take too much. Decisions!

I’m not sure what to think about the mouth. Flipping the blade will make it pretty spacious since the edge will be the original bevel’s length closer to the back. Say it’s 1/8” to 1/4” too wide for fine work; I may just braze-in a shim after everything else is done and measured. Come to that, it could also be a replacement for the front brace if I get impatient and do the chopsaw hogging method. Sparks! Better do that outside.

I don’t know how much more I’ll have to report for a while. The plane is a week away. Then I’ll have real choices about the plan of attack and get to work. The condition and/or suitability of the iron figures in. There are some projects in front of it too. When I make some progress, I’ll keep the thread alive and let you know how things go.

Thanks for all your interest. sh

View bridgerberdel's profile


50 posts in 1268 days

#9 posted 12-07-2015 05:49 AM

The modification I have in mind will keep the blade bevel down and the chipbreaker and all of the blade adjusting mechanism intact. Since 25° is pretty much the minimum sharpening angle and I really don’t see a need to make a plane that is a pain in the ass to keep sharp I’ll be aiming for a bedding angle of about 35° to 40°. To avoid weakening the back of the mouth I’ll take most of the metal from the bottom of the frog.

This should make a plane that is nice in soft straight grained woods.

-- occasional musings on my blog:

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