Why make a plane when it would likely be far easier to buy one? One can best understand the feel for using a tool and understanding how it works by building it from scratch. Obviously tools involving metallurgy are more challenging to build, so tools made from wood are a good place to start. With this in mind I signed up for a Lee Valley workshop on plane making back in June 2013. The idea was to spend two days and build a smoothing plane in the style of Krenov. The workshop was run by Steven Der-Garabedian of Black Walnut Studio. Firstly, Steven is a great teacher, and the workshop was a lot of fun.
Preparing the stock
For first-time plane makers, obviously two days is stretching it, so Steven prepared the stock, milling the rough Jatoba blank to size, sawing and cleaning both 5/16″ wide cheeks. For the 1-1/2″ Hock blade we used, the core is 1-9/16″ in width. Jatoba is a nice tropical hardwood, which is fine grained and heavy. The first step involves marking the ramps on the core – this includes a 45° rear ramp and a 60° curved forward ramp. The rear ramp is cut using a tablesaw, and the forward ramp with a bandsaw.
Cleaning up the cavity
Next the rear bed is cleaned up using a block plane, and the rough forward bed using a cabinet scraper. When smoothing out the curved ramp of the front body block, I used the scrap piece cut out from the throat to support the acute lower edge of the sole to avoid tear-out (see Fig 2.). A 1/8″ straight chamfer is cut on the bottom of the curved ramp. A 3/4″ stopped groove is cut into the ramp of the back body block using a router. This allows clearance for the bolt head that fastens the chip breaker to the iron.
Bringing the pieces together
The front block, rear block, and cheeks are clamped together whilst resting on a flat surface, and the blade is positioned so that it is half-way on the 1/8″ vertical portion of the front block. Now two 1/4″ holes are drilled at each end of the composed block (on each side). The holes should be located in a part of the stock which will be removed when the plane is shaped. These dowels allow the four pieces to be registered together using 1/4″ dowels so that the pieces can be accurately reassembled during the glue-up stage. Now the scrap triangular piece can be placed back into the “assembled” plane and clamped together – this allows a 5/16″ hole to be drilled for the cross-pin, without tear-out.
Now the cross-pin can be made. This involves making 5/16″+ round tenons at either end of a square-sided piece, 9/16″. We did this using a tablesaw, but it can easily be done using hand tools as well. The trick is not to make the round tenons too small, or there will be too much play in the cross-pin. Make small adjustments, and test for fit. Once it fits nicely, the top of the cross-pin is rounded.
Once the cross-pin is done, the glue-up begins. This process uses two board covered in painting tape to hold the cheeks of the plane. Now glue the plane up using a white glue, and clamp together, leaving it 4-6 hours (or preferably overnight) to set. After gluing, the sole of the plane is flattened on a jointer, followed by 120 grit sandpaper. Alternatively it can be flattened using graduated sandpaper grits.
The final part is to build the wedge that fits between the cross-pin and the iron, from the triangular piece of scrap. The wedge should be 2-1/2″ in length with a 7° angle, and a 45° angle at the tip. The top of the 45° angle should have a thickness of about 1/8″, the other end of the wedge should be 7/16″. The curve on the wedge was cut using a bandsaw, and smoothed using a cabinet scraper. Make small adjustments and test the fit until it holds the iron firmly in place.
The “nearly finished” plane
Here’s the quasi-final product. From here, the body will be contoured to create an aesthetically pleasing plane – I’ll get to that once I finish my work-bench. How does it cut? Sweeeeeeetly!
For specific measurements, I’ll refer you to David Finck’s excellent book – Making & Mastering Wood Planes. My goal is to eventually design more wooden planes, and recycle old metal plane bodies into hybrid infills. Stay tuned!