24 hours later and I’m back in my favorite chair! It sounds like some has already sourced plane irons in many different ways. Good! Bertha is ordering a brandnew blade, Derosa found some old plane blades at a local junk store and his Dremel with cutting disc is eager to go! Grittyroots has some old molding planes and wants to use an iron from on of those. Bearpie in Jacksonville has some old worn out metal cutting saw blades about 1/8” thick by 2” wide and 18” long. Good idea, Bearpie! Correct me if I’m wrong but I think those are also made from HSS. It will do the trick just fine in my opinion. I spent a few months in Jacksonville once during my sailing days. There was this one girl….Sorry, I’m getting off track here….
To remind us where we are going:
The plane body – making it.
The basic process involves first cutting the shape of your plane from some timber, then cutting the plane body lengthways into 3 pieces on the bandsaw. This allows us to work on the middle part where the tang of the blade will be before gluing the whole lot back together again. Bear with me, it will get clear soon! Doing it this way makes life easier. It can be done with a solid piece of wood but that involves cutting a rather small mortise at an angle through your block of wood. A tricky operation….I know because I did it on this Coach makers Rabbetplane:
Let’s go the easy route first. We can get to the solid body type later if you want…
OK, I found a piece of HSS steel that will do the trick for me. My blade will be 15mm wide when done. That is a little under 5/8” if you speak American. Yes, it is narrow, but I want to make a tiny plane!
The finished width of the plane body needs to be a little less than the width of the blade. For now, let’s say it needs to be the same, thus 15 mm. Because I will be cutting it into 3 pieces on my band saw, I add twice the bandsaw kerf width which is 1,5mm in my case. Therefore 2×1,5mm = 3mm. Let’s make it 4mm to allow for sanding. Thus I thickness my timber to 15 + 4 = 19 mm. Whilst I’m at the machines, I also joint the edges square.
Draw the shape of your plane on that nice, freshly dimensioned piece of timber. Any shape that pleases you, fancy or simple, will work. You might want to think about ergonomics if you want this fellow to sit nicely in your hand. About the only important thing is that the length of the sole in front of the blade should be less than the length behind it. Take a look at any other Western style plane to get a sense of the proportion. Oh, and I guess you do want your blade to come out the top, so check your shape against the length of your planned plane iron!
Referring to the photo above, mark a 45 degree line to show where the bottom of the blade will sit. This is a good time to talk a little about that angle since it will determine the characteristics and use of your plane.
What are the advantages of the different set angles?
• 45º – Great for planing softwoods and North American hardwoods such as maple and walnut and such. It can handle figured maple well, but will have problems with figured cherry and walnut. This angle is the easiest to push/pull.
• 47° – A good compromise between good tear-out performance and effortless use.
• 50º – Great for North American hardwoods with some to lots of figure. It can handle pine, if needed, and can take on straight grained tropicals, too. This plane takes more effort than the 45 but is not hard to pull/push.
• 55º – For highly-figured American hardwoods and figured tropicals. This plane takes more effort to push/pull than the others, but easily gives good results on figured woods.
• 60º – For extremely hard-to-work woods and for use as a scraper plane. It takes the most effort to use this plane.
If you want to use your shoulder plane mostly for cross grain work, such as cleaning up tenons, you might even want to lower that angle some.
Back to the photo above. The leftmost line represents the bottom of your blade. Using the actual blade as a marking/measuring tool, draw the next line showing the top of the blade. The distance between these two lines represents the thickness of the blade. Then, mark out for the wedge. The red line in the photo represents the top edge of the wedge.
THIS IS IMPORTANT. Note that I start this line from the point where the upper blade line meets the sole. I’m not allowing anything for the mouth opening at this stage! That will come later.
The cross hatched area in the photo shows where the wedge will eventually be. Don’t ask me what the angle for that wedge is, I just eyeball it! If you really want a number, I guess something like a 1 to 8 rise will do. Using a little tri-square, transfer the lines onto the sole and top of the body.
Next, drill the large diameter 19mm hole as in the picture. It is important to line the edge of the hole with the line representing the bottom of the blade. If you are clever, drill the hole first, then draw your lines! Easier that way! The distance between the bottom edge of the hole and the sole is around 10 mm in this case. If you are building a bigger plane, the hole and the bottom distance can be larger.
I use brass brazing rod to make pins to index and hold all the parts together. In my case the brazing rod’s diameter was 2mm, so I drill the 4 small 2mm holes. 1/8” brazing rod will work well for bigger planes, even 3/16” if you want.
Right, to the band saw to cut the thing into 3 pieces. Wait, first a little thinking again! My tagline doesn’t say for nothing: “A woodworker’s sharpest tool should be his mind!” It is hard but I try… The middle section need to be the same width as the tang of the blade. If you buy a finished blade it means you have to dimension the thickness of the centre piece to the width of the tang on your blade. It actually needs to be a little more to allow for some lateral adjustment of your plane iron. Since I haven’t made the blade yet, it can be whatever I like and I can cut the blade to suit. I decided to make the cheeks about 3mm thick in my case. So the middle piece will eventually be around 15 – (2×3) = 9mm. More or less! Set the fence 3mm away from the blade, add a little cause it just looks so narrow (!?) and clamp down.
Cut a cheek off each side. As you can see my blade was not too sharp. That frigging Purpleheart burns so easily!
My cuts were not too wonderful, so I decided to sand away the band saw marks on a flat sanding block. If you have a sharp and decent bandsaw blade this is probably not necessary. With the crappy blade I used, I got a little wander. I wish I could buy decent bandsaw blades in this joint. You guys are spoiled for choice! Oh, and a bad craftsman always blames his tools……
2 thin cheeks and one thicker middle piece ready to go! By picking up the marks on the sole and top, reestablish the blade and wedge lines on the centre piece.
Dry fitted my 3 pieces back together again just to check that my sanded surfaces fit well…
…Then cut that middle part into pieces! Carefully cut to the inside of the lines on the band saw or with handsaw if you want. If you look closely you will see that I left the lines just visible. I sand/plane the landing straight and square to the side. Save that middle piece! Later on this will give you the shape of the wedge to be made.
Testing the landing with the blade to be to check that it is nice and flat and square. You will notice that I didn’t leave any gap between the body and the blade where the mouth opening will be. For now we want it tight, we can always open it up a little more later.
The 2 central body pieces and the 2 cheeks temporarily assembled with my brass pins which reference all the parts nicely. You can see the opening at the top where the tang of the blade will come out. The wedge will go in there to hold the blade tightly in place.
The view from the bottom. You also see the piece of jointing knife that will become my blade. Everything looks OK, so it’s time to glue the parts together. Pull the four pins, give all the glue surfaces an even coating of your favorite sticky stuff and pin together again.
Clamped together with my motley collection of 1” and 2” clamps. Rather too many than too little…
Now we have to watch the glue dry! This could be a good time to clean up the shop a little…or …an even better time to enjoy something wet whilst contemplating matters of importance. Mads can light his pipe now and I will do the same. After all, glue drying is not a process to be rushed!
We have to be well rested for tomorrow ;^) Important work awaits. The mouth of our plane needs to be finely tuned then!
If anything is not clear, give a shout and I’ll respond in due time. There is nothing I can do if your mind is not clear. That something wet we talked about…?!
-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."