DIY Chipbreaker

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Forum topic by Anapolis7 posted 10-24-2012 03:37 AM 2744 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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50 posts in 3123 days

10-24-2012 03:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question pine purpleheart plane

I am considering making my own chipbreaker and had a few questions for my fellow tool-makers: Is the steel used for the chipbreaker all that critical?

I am a tad behind on posting my finished projects to lumberjocks. My most recent project involved creating a pair of coffin-style smoothing planes—a 50 degree and 55 degree. I am sure many of you will think that I have lost my mind building a 55; however, I tend to use a lot of figured wood or extremely dense exotics, neither of which is terribly fond of lower angles. The 55 is the one that is giving me some trouble. I forgot to mention, but these are wooden planes. The throat opening is adjustable allowing me to close the opening to within a few thousandths of the blade. Both of the planes have Hock irons, the 55 has a 2 3/8”. I don’t need a chipbreaker for chips, the blade angle makes it near impossible to tear out ahead of the cut. However, the blade is flexing in the cut. You can see undulations in the cut and it is giving off that loud chirp/tear sound that planes make when not adjusted properly. I have the wedge seated a lot lower that I would on a Krenov-style and I had hoped that this would prevent this problem, but no luck.

So, can I go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and get some of the junktastic steel they sell to make a chipbreaker? I have a piece of 3/16 Starret O1 tool steel, but I use that for blades and I can’t really see how that level of hardness is needed here, but I have been wrong before.

Thanks for your help!

9 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3014 days

#1 posted 10-24-2012 03:53 AM

You can buy a hock capiron for 29 bucks. Im not sure you would be happy with a homemade one. I dont think you ll find the right material at lowes for sure. I dont know who started all of this chipbreaker stuff but what your talking about is called a capiron. I guess thats ok, it gives me a good idea about how long one has been around this stuff. Good luck !

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50 posts in 3123 days

#2 posted 10-24-2012 05:16 AM

To answer your question about who created the misnomer of cap iron vs. chip breaker: Woodcraft certainly seems to be propagating the chip breaker term ( toward the bottom). I think it is up there with the tails first vs. pins first debate.

The main reason why I don’t just buy a hock chip breaker/cap iron is that I am working on my second degree and money is tighter than it used to be. Well that and I tend to take DIY to an extreme that most people would consider ill-advised ;)

Even if it is an academic question, I am just wondering what difference a lesser quality steel would make. It’s function (on the plane in question) is more for stability and support. Though they aren’t all that widely used in the US, there are bi-metal blades that cheat in exactly this way.

View Sylvain's profile


752 posts in 2705 days

#3 posted 10-24-2012 12:30 PM

Have a look at the megathread “handplanes of your dreams” starting at comment #21901 one day ago

Although it was about metal handplanes, I would say the comments are valid :

- wax the sole;
- don’t close the mouth too much;
- try the Paul Sellers trick.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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752 posts in 2705 days

#4 posted 10-24-2012 02:00 PM

Look also in the same thread
comment #21913, from Don W :
”I’ve come across a fair amount of wooden plane with leather glued under the blade.”

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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50 posts in 3123 days

#5 posted 10-24-2012 02:39 PM

I will look into this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the body did at least contribute to the problem. The sole of the plane is purple heart laminated to a pine body. If you have ever dealt with purple heart in any depth, the with the grain/against the grain difference is very pronounced. Also, purple heart, at least in rough condition, i prone to splintering on sharp edges. So, if I messed up and put the sole on backwards, that could be a really nasty source of friction. I will give the Sellers method a shot and report back.

As for the leather, I hadn’t considered that, but I have seen crazier things work. On another forum question, someone told me to place paper under the blade to even out the minor inconsistency in the ramp that was causing blade instability. It worked flawlessly, so I could see something like leather dampening the vibration markedly.

Thanks guys!

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50 posts in 3123 days

#6 posted 10-25-2012 02:07 AM

I read Paul Seller’s post and used the oil method to lube the sole of the plane. I have to say, I am SHOCKED at the difference it made. The plane went from feeling like a Krenov jack plane to feeling as nimble and connected to the wood as my Krenov smoother. As for the chattering, it’s still not to the point of silence, but I think with some practice and taking the advice about isolating the blade, it could very easily get there. As for the cut, the undulations have almost entirely disappeared. They are now so small that you can’t see them, though you can feel them to the touch.

I have to say, the difference is pretty shocking. Thanks for the input guys! I didn’t even know about that thread.

View Btsutherland's profile


1 post in 212 days

#7 posted 05-20-2018 04:07 AM

I’ve used another blade as a chip breaker, putting the blades back to back.
Your wooden wedge is acting both as the cap iron and the chip breaker. Adding a piece of steel above the blade/cutter will work much better to break chips. The wedge will force the blade and the chip breaker against each other, and also force the blade/chip breaker together against the bed of the plane.

-- Bill, Minnesota,

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Don W

19018 posts in 2773 days

#8 posted 05-20-2018 12:04 PM

Making a cap iron ( or chip breaker) is pretty easy and almost any metal is fine. They are not heat treated. The intent of a cap iron is to stiffen the blade by reducing vibrations. A chip breaker (like on a Stanley-Bailey plane) is meant to break chips. Most actually do both.

At 55 degrees you really should not need a chip breaker and if your bed is solid and flat all the way to the edge and you’re wedge has a perfect fit, you should not need a cap iron IMO.

All the Hock cap irons are is a piece of flat stock with about a 60 – 80 degree bevel and a slight bend. Drill and tapped. Even with limited equipment one can be made pretty quickly.

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

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2167 days

#9 posted 05-21-2018 05:36 PM

Along with Don’s comments, I’m going to guess that your iron and bed are not mated perfectly enough. I don’t know how flat the Hock iron’s are, but if it’s flat your bed may not be as perfectly flat. How carefully have you measured it’s flatness and twist?

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