Mostly completed low angle bench plane

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Forum topic by luthierwnc posted 03-23-2016 01:32 AM 1370 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 1770 days

03-23-2016 01:32 AM

When I first joined LJ a few months ago I wondered in my introductory post if anyone had built their own low angle shooting plane. I didn’t give up on the idea and tonight I had a very successful test of the prototype. Since there will probably only be one, I’m sure the collector value is already soaring.

This is a Sargent 414 body I got on Ebay. After some halting attempts to mill the frog base myself I took it to a local machine shop and had them mill a 12 degree bevel indexed off the back of the mouth. Then I marked where the blade would go and drilled two holes through both sides of the body for a pair of drill rods. The one towards the back is where the iron rests. The front one is the fulcrum for the lever cap.

There are also two tapped holes alongside the iron near the mouth for set screws to adjust and hold the iron exactly in place. I may put them in later for fine adjustments but the lever cap crushes any resistance out of blade movement. The cap itself is a piece of 1/4” brass that I routed a groove in to mate with the cross rod. I used a stainless steel thumbscrew to apply pressure.

The tote is three pieces of 1/2” sapele. The grain on the two outside pieces runs parallel to the base and the center piece is 90 degrees off that for stability. You can see from the handle shot that it leans towards the right. My plan is to use this as a shooting plane for guitar backs and tops and I’m hoping this design will help me keep from skinning my knuckles. It isn’t so extreme that it is uncomfortable to use upright. The knob is repurposed from a Fulton 7809.

Not shown; I took some test passes on a piece of red oak and it works great. Well, at least as well as a regular plane. It might be a while before I start a new acoustic guitar. That will be the acid test. The iron is a piece of 3/16” O1 steel sharpened to a 25 degree bevel with a slight microbevel giving me a 38 degree attack angle. I heated it with a pair of torches and quenched it in motor oil. Half an hour in the oven at 375 degrees for a nice straw color and it was still hard enough to hold a good edge. Only about 1” is hardened and tempered. That’s a lot of steel to get hot without better gear.

There is still some finish work to do polishing the brass and fine tuning but so far, this one is a keeper. The machine shop charged me $25, the body was seven bucks plus shipping. The brass I had and the thumbscrew wasn’t much. So this is a very inexpensive project compared to the undeniably better-made Stanley or Lie-Nielsen offerings. Still, I do this for fun and had a good time.

Hope you like and feel free to contact me if you need more pictures or information, sh

9 replies so far

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 1897 days

#1 posted 03-23-2016 05:51 AM

That is really nice!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2561 days

#2 posted 03-23-2016 10:31 AM

Great project.

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

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1770 days

#3 posted 03-23-2016 12:42 PM

Thanks guys,

After I posted this I went back to the shop and ground the set-screws down to fit the blade. It isn’t going anywhere. Without a depth adjustment it does take some trial-and-error to set. The mouth gap is fine as-is but it would be easy enough to shim either the back X-rod or the bed the change it. Getting the angle on an iron this thick takes some work. Fortunately, when you plan to quicken and temper the edge later, you can grind as hot as you like when it’s still annealed.

Tonight I’m hoping to lap the sides and sole and do the bright-work on the brass.

In the last six months I’ve gone plane-happy and made, modified or restored about a dozen of them. This one was near the top of the list because I don’t have anything like it in the rack. It took longer because of the milling work and life generally. In elapsed time it wasn’t a big job and I’d highly recommend it if you’d like a low-angle plane in your arsenal. I got the O1 steel and the screws at They are a great supplier. Things are always in stock and they get it out the door that day.

When I get it shiny I’ll post a couple more pics. Cheers, Skip

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146 posts in 1770 days

#4 posted 05-21-2016 01:38 PM

Low angle update:

I like to put these types of threads to bed and had the first opportunity to test the project in real life.

I made a bunch of drawer frames for my new Roubo/Shaker bench out of poplar salvaged from a day bed I’d made years ago. Just to be safe, I left 1/16” to 3/36” of end-grain overlong on the front pieces. With the frames in the vise, the low-angle plane made exquisite passes. The shavings (pics not included, sorry) actually stuck together like with-the-grain cuts. No chattering, no bumping.

The iron tempering wasn’t at all scientific. I quickened the steel as hot as I could get it with a combination Mapp gas torch and Mapp/Oxy cheapie torch. At 3/16” thick I could only do about 1/2” back orange/red. I quenched it in 5/30 motor oil (you must do this outside!), cleaned it on a wire wheel and threw it in the oven at about 375 degrees for half an hour. That temp will get you the desired straw color. For a while I had a homemade forge but even with the torches, it’s effective. If you do this, put the rough bevel on the blade while still annealed. That saves you having to worry about overheating the steel. It will get a lot hotter soon enough.

At any rate, the iron edge doesn’t even look like it was used. No need to touch it up after nine frames times four ends each.

Long-story short, I highly recommend this project to anyone who: a) needs this type of plane in the till, b) doesn’t mind DIY tools and c) doesn’t mind saving a lot of money. If I ever do it again, I’d figure out a depth adjustment to save the trial and error when setting the iron. I don’t know if I needed the set screws on the side for holding the iron but they are actually useful in centering the edge and maybe adding a little skew within the slop of the side-to-side movement.

The last, much delayed plane project will be a York pitch #4 along the lines of one Bob Smalser explained on the wooden boat forum maybe 10 years ago. It’s all cocobolo and I’m trying to decide which sanding belts to ruin.

Cheers, sh

View MikeUT's profile


170 posts in 1353 days

#5 posted 07-06-2016 09:58 PM

I love what you did here. Do you have any before/after photos of the body of the plane where you had it milled? I am guessing that the material that needs to be removed would be a little different if I end up doing this with a Stanley plane but the reference would be nice. This is going to the top of my project list, not only do I need a low angle jack plane, but it also looks like a lot of fun.

Thanks for sharing.

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146 posts in 1770 days

#6 posted 07-06-2016 11:14 PM

No before pictures but it was just like these:

I just had the machinist mill from the thin edge of the mouth back at a 12 degree angle to the sole of the plane—maybe 2.5” of material. Then I mixed a batch of PC7 epoxy and filled the gap between the mouth and what was left of the three mounting blocks. I squished it with a masking tape lined block of wood clamped where the blade would go. That was to support the blade the whole length so it would seat cleanly.

Then it was just a matter of drilling two holes through the body for the support rods. The back rod supports the blade at the 12 degree angle and the front rod is where the lever cap pivots.

The tote was for a shooting board but it would have been much easier to just use stock wood parts. Except for the contract machine work, there wasn’t much to this project.

Those Sargent 414 planes are pretty cheap in rough condition—although this one was in good shape. The VBM-era units are a bit more but not out of reach. I chose it because they have heavy castings and simple receiving blocks. If you use a milling machine, any plane body would work fine.

Good luck if you give this a try, sh

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146 posts in 1770 days

#7 posted 07-08-2016 10:11 AM

View MikeUT's profile


170 posts in 1353 days

#8 posted 07-11-2016 07:48 PM

I was surfing on Ebay and found this. The K-series Keen Kutters are collect but this looks like the perfect bed angle already milled. YMMV, sh
- luthierwnc

I saw that KK5 and a few others. I have a Stanley No 5 that I found with several parts missing but I may go for the KK because doing it with a Stanley is a little boring.

I was looking on Lee Nelson at their LAJP and noticed that they have a scraper blade. Since I had to buy 18” of steel I may make a few blades.

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146 posts in 1770 days

#9 posted 07-11-2016 08:55 PM

On the subject of scrapers, there are a lot of little finger planes on Ebay. Smaller than block planes with a fairly high iron angle. You could turn the hook on the blade and use it backwards as a mini scraper. Something like this:

Low risk project for sure! sh

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