Author: Jay T
I built a couple of what came to be called Transitional Infill Shooting Planes.
A few people asked for a blog, but there weren’t enough pics to really document the build, so it wasn’t done. Well, after completing a few other projects, I decided to build one more and will try to do a detailed enough blog that someone else could follow along and build their own shooting plane.
Lets get started.
Gathering materials. First thing is to find a donor transitional plane. These can usually be found very inexpensively where the wood is shot, but the iron parts are salvageable. From this, you will need the frog assembly, frog screws, iron assembly and lever cap.
For those that don’t know, the irons on a transitional are the same as iron bodied planes, but the cap iron has the adjustment hole up higher. If you have a frog, but no iron assembly, you can modify the cap iron from an iron plane by making a second adjustment hole. You’ll know the extra hole is there, but it’ll be covered by the lever cap when in use.
Any width or brand of iron & frog can work for this build, as long as it uses a screw for the lever cap to provide tension. (There are some out there that have a cross pin and screw cap. That style will not work for this kind of build.) On the first two planes, one had a 2-3/8 Stanley and the other a 2-1/4 Sargent. This build is being done with a 2in wide set from a Union.
Next part needed will be the infill wood. For this build, I’m using a piece of jatoba. The blank needs to start out at least 1-1/2 inches wider than the iron (so 3-1/2 wide for a 2inch iron, 4 inches wide for a 2-3/8 iron) by 1-3/4 thick and a bit longer than the finished piece. This plane will end up about 15 inches long, so I’ll start with a rough blank that is at least 18 inches. If you want a fancier look, or just don’t have a big enough single piece, feel free to do a laminated blank. Both of the original planes were laminated blanks. The stiffer and heavier the wood, the better off you will be in the end, but any stable hardwood will work.
Next, there are the fasteners. The list for this build is:
Qty 5 – 10-24×1/2 steel phillips flat head machine screws
Qty 5 – 10-24×1/2 solid brass slotted flat head machine screws
Qty 5 – #10×1-1/2 steel phillips flat head wood screws
Qty 5 – #10×1-1/2 solid brass slotted flat head wood screws
Qty 10 – #8×1 steel phillips flat head wood screws
Qty 10 – #8×1 solid brass slotted flat head wood screws
Qty 2 – #10×1-1/4 slotted round head wood screws (these are for attaching the frog. If you can salvage the screws from the donor transitional, that is probably best, otherwise you’ll need to get others)
You’ll quickly notice the duplicates in different materials. That is because you want solid brass for the final assembly, but do not want to use the softer metal when doing preliminary work—that is what the steel fasteners are for. Also, make sure to get slotted solid brass for the final assembly work. The heads will be ground off and brass plated would look silly. Additionally, the slotted heads are not cut as deep as a phillips. If you try to use brass phillips screws, it’s not possible to grind them all the way down to get rid off the dimple.
For the metal, I used precision ground O1 steel. The precision ground costs a bit more than basic flat stock, but is totally worth the extra cost for the time savings and more accurate product. I purchased from Enco, but there are other sellers out there if you prefer to use them.
The base is 3/8 thick by 2 inches wide. The side plate is 1/8 thick and needs to be ~1/2 inch wider than the iron and frog. So for this build, 2-1/2 inches. If using a 2-3/8 set, you’ll want 3 inch wide steel. The steel comes in 18in long pieces, so just about the right size. If you are going to build additional planes, buying the 36in long pieces will save quite a bit.
Do yourself a favor and when ordering the metal, order the taps you’ll need for the machine screws and a tap extractor, as well. The taps carried by the industrial suppliers are far better quality than those you can find at your local big box or hardware store. The tap extractor will quickly pay for itself when (not if) you break off a tap. Doesn’t seem to matter how careful you are, a tap will break at the worst possible time. I like to start with a plug tap and finish off with a bottoming tap.
OK, if you’ve made it this far without falling asleep, then congrats, you’re well on your way to building one of these:
Oh, yeah. I’ve got a Sketchup file that shows the basic construction. If you are interested in a copy, drop me a PM.
With materials in hand, it’s time to start the actual work.
First step is to create the mouth, bedding surface for the iron and front escapement area for the shavings. For infill bench planes, the wood can be cut completely apart and held on with the two metal sides during final assembly. Since this shooting plane only has one metal side, that strategy is not a good possibility.
With many wooden plane builds, making this opening requires either chiseling out the area or doing a Krenov style plane by cutting off the sides and gluing them back on. For this build, I came up with a way to more easily create the void by utilizing the characteristics of a shooting plane.
Looking at the exploded Sketchup file, you can see that the channel can be cut from one side of the wood blank. The metal piece that is the base will end up supporting the wood. Kind of a hybrid approach of infill on one side and the wood body chiseled out on the other, but able to be done much easier than either.
Layout is pretty straight forward. Before doing any layout, make sure that you have a perfectly square corner on the wood blank where the two metal pieces will meet. This will be essential in having a good performing shooting plane. Note: I did the layout and took pics of the process on the jatoba, but the layout lines didn’t show up very well in pics because of the color of the wood. In order to better show the process, I retook the pics, using a short piece of scrap 2×4.
Bedding angle of a transitional plane is 45 degrees, so that will give us the first angle. Flip your wood blank so the narrow, bottom side is facing up. The mouth on the plane needs to be about 1/3 of the way from the front of the body. So for our 15 inch long plane, measure back a little over 5 inches and make a mark on the side that will be the mouth. (Your wood blank is still a bit over long, right? Even a 1/2 inch or so is enough) Make another mark about 1/8 in front of that one and then mark out 45 degrees each way. Front of the plane is to the right in this pic.
Note: All layout is being described and shown for a right handed user. For you lefties out there, just mirror image everything.
Turn the wood blank so that you are looking at what will be the wide side of the mouth opening. For best performance, you want a skewed cut. A couple reasons for this. First is that skewing the cut reduces the effective cutting angle by a few degrees, which helps cut through end grain. The second, and IMHO more important reason, is that having a skewed cut forces the workpiece down and into the fence of the shooting board, which helps hold it in place when shooting.
The skew angle is not critical, but I use 20 degrees as a guideline. It’s a simple matter to mark out the angle using a protractor or speed square, with the line going from the mouth opening and angling toward the front of the plane.
A sliding bevel can now be set and used to transfer the marks.
Flipping the blank over to the mouth side, we can use the bevel to mark the mouth, as well.
Double check to make sure that the angles on both sides are going the same direction.
Final piece of layout is to mark how deep the cut needs to be. Take the iron, line up the cutting edge with the mouth opening lines and mark the depth. You’ll want to add about 1/8 inch to allow the iron to make lateral adjustments in use.
A marking gauge can be used to transfer this dimension to the top of the blank.
That’s the basic layout. It took far longer to type out than to do.
With layout all marked up, it’s time to cut the opening. I did this with a sliding compound miter saw and the plane was designed to make that the best tool to use. If you don’t have a SCMS or are just more comfortable with a table saw and miter gauge or handsaws, no reason not to use them.
For a miter saw, set the bevel to 20 degrees and the miter to 45 degrees. Hopefully you have a depth stop. If so, mark the proper distance up from the table on a piece of scrap and do some test cuts until it’s just kissing the line. Again, make sure your mark matches the distance from the table on your wood blank, not the depth of cut, unless your scrap is the exact same width as your blank.
Once the depth is set, you can make the first cut on the wood body blank.
The cut will most likely not exactly match the skew angle that is marked out, though it should match the 45 degree bed angle. That’s OK. Unless you are an engineer and want to do the math, the compound miter causes the angles to skew off a bit. The reason for marking up the blank is to ensure you are cutting everything the right direction.
Now, leaving the bevel angle alone, switch the saw to the opposite 45 degree miter angle and make the second cut. The goal is to have the blade track through the exact same opening where the mouth is going to be.
Depending on your saw, it may or may not cut clear to the line on the back side. Mine does not, but it’s a simple matter to either put in a spacer on the miter saw or finish out the cut with a handsaw, as I did. You can see the difference in the kerf width.
To remove the waste, a couple light blows with mallet and chisel will pop most of it out. The back surface will be rough. That is not a problem, we are going to have to pare it out anyways.
Using the frog and iron, measure or mark out about how far back you will need to pare to get everything to fit.
Then a hand saw can be used to extend the angles down to that line. Do not cut the mouth itself any deeper, the cut should angle from the mouth opening to the top face.
With a sharp chisel, pare back the body to your mark. The paring cuts will taper from being wider at the top to just hitting the edge of the saw kerf at the bottom. You’ll end up needing to match the skew with this face of the opening. A wider chisel is best, as it allows better registration against the bed that the saw made. Since you may need to be cutting some end grain, make sure the chisel is SHARP.
As you get close, use the iron to check width. A small square can be used to mark a line on the bed perpendicular to the skew angle that will make it a lot easier to see when you are getting close. Once the body is pared back enough to where you can lay the iron in and have about 1/8 inch between the iron and that line, you are good. Do any final paring you want to clean up the surfaces.
Mouth opening has been cut and worked to final dimension. Now it’s time to get the frog to fit.
A transitional frog has the little bump out on the bottom where the lever cap screw attaches. On an original body, there’s a pocket for that part, we just need to recreate it.
Easiest way to mark it out is to first use a small square to mark a line perpendicular to the bed intersecting the line on the face of the bed. This will be the edge of the frog. Then lay the frog face down and mark the bump out location. Finally, use the frog to determine depth in both directions.
Once this area is marked out, the waste can be chiseled out. You’ll need to remove the depth adjuster to check fit, as it extends below the base of the frog.
Once you have a good fit and are satisfied, mark the back of the frog.
With whatever tools you have and are comfortable with, you’ll need to create a channel so that the depth adjuster can operate freely. I used a couple of gouges and did this by hand, working from the edge of the blank and stopping at the line that marks the back of the frog. There are several other possible ways to accomplish the same thing, only limited by your skills and available tools. If you have a good idea on how to do this easily and cleanly, please share.
With everything ready for the frog to be installed, it’s time to start adjusting to some final dimensions.
First thing is body depth. If your blank started at 1-3/4, you should be close to the correct depth, as most transitional bodies are 1-1/2 thick and there is about 1/4in of cast iron frame on top of that. Here’s the best way I’ve found check thickness.
Adjust the depth adjuster knob to about 1/2 way from front to back and set the frog on the body. With the iron and cap iron locked together, set it on the frog and check to see where the leading edge of the iron is. Do NOT attach the frog. If there is a depth problem, the fix could cause the holes to be in the wrong location.
You do not want to use the lever cap, as any tension there will throw off everything setting flat.
Go ahead and use the depth adjustment and see if the iron will be able to extend through the mouth. The iron and especially the cap iron may not actually fit through the mouth at this point. That’s OK. All you need to do is be able to check that the leading edge will be able to extend far enough.
If the body depth is fine, skip the next part.
If it is too thick, you have a decision to make. The only possibilities, of course, are to remove stock from the top or the bottom. Both have pros and cons and I advise reading through both before determining a course of action.
First choice is removing stock from the bottom. This probably seems the easier route, but will open up the mouth and cause you to have to go back and readjust everything from the width of the channel that has been cut to the location of the frog. That said, if you only need to remove 1/16 or so, it might be the better route.
Second choice is removing stock from the top. This will mean redoing some the work of chiseling out the notch for the bump out in the frog and the channel for the depth adjuster, but everything else will remain the same. If needing to remove very much, this is probably the better route.
It seems like extra work, but I’ve never figured out a really accurate way to find the correct thickness before cutting into the blank, other than doing all the work on a piece of scrap. I tried on the first two and ended up with one blank a little too thick and one that had to be scrapped because it was too thin and I felt shimming up the frog would look silly. Thinking it through, this was the best I came up with and it worked well for this build. Once again, if someone comes up with a better method, feel free to share.
Once you have the correct thickness, we can start working on the infill look.
Part of the design of this plane involves getting a bit of an overstuffed look. It gives a really clean look and gets rid of some possible sharp edges. This means insetting the 1/8 thick piece of steel into the body. Set the 3/8 piece of steel on the bench, the wood body on top of that and the 1/8 piece on the side. Clamp the body to the 1/8 piece.
With this done, mark on the wood the line that is the top of the steel. Pull the steel and check to see where the line hits in relationship to the mouth. Ideally, they should be approximately even. If not, now is the time to make any adjustments and remark the line. If the mouth extends past the width of metal you have, it’s really not an issue.
Now you’ll need to remove the wood in that area to a depth of 1/8 or just over. (I’d pick just over. It’s easier to remove a bit of wood to get them even later than a lot of metal) Do it however is comfortable—table saw, rabbeting plane (such as a #78) or router. I used a router table.
With the body rabbeted out to accept the side plate, it’s time to cut the actual mouth.
If you haven’t yet, now would be a good time to cut the metal pieces to final length. Since the O1 hasn’t been hardened, it cuts pretty easily. I did the first two planes with just a hacksaw. For this one, I used a hacksaw on the 3/8 and a jigsaw on the 1/8.
Lay the piece of 1/8 steel on the bench and the wood blank on top and tightly nestled in the rabbet. I hope your wood blank is still a bit overlong. If so, let the wood overhang the steel just a bit on the front. Add the 3/8 steel standing up tight against the wood blank and use a sharpie or similar to mark out the mouth opening.
Pull the steel and you should have marks ending 3/8 of an inch from one edge of the plate and extending to nearly the other edge. With a combo square or other 45 degree tool, mark the opening on this edge as well.
Using your metal cutting tool, cut out the mouth. I used the jigsaw again and am much happier with the results than the first two planes that were done with a hacksaw. It worked fine, but the cuts were very rough and required a lot of filing to clean them up. The cleaner the cut, the less cleanup will be needed later, but always better to leave some of the line and sneak up on a good fit later than to over cut and have to scramble.
Set the wood body back on the steel and check your fit.
Now is also a good time to double check the body thickness and make any adjustments.
Once you are satisfied with the fit, the frog can be attached. If you still have the screws from disassembling the transitional plane, those should work great. If not, round head wood screws can be purchased and used.
Question: If your mouth winds up a little wider than you would like it to be, is it best to cut the steel flush with the frog side enough for the blade to fit through and have extra steel showing on the chip collection side or should they just be cut to the hole regardless? I’m thinking the smallest cut in that metal the better for thin shavings unless I’m not thinking it through?
With the mouth cut, it’s time to start the metal work.
First step is to connect the two pieces of steel. Now, I don’t claim to be a machinist and there are likely better ways to do some of these steps. But I’ll post what worked best for me and you can change and adapt as your skills and available tools allow.
At the end of the piece of 1/8 steel, mark where you want to install the first machine screw. If you have layout fluid, that would be best. In place of that, I just marked over the area with a marker and scratched the lines through the black. Worked just fine.
I went about 3/4 in from the end and 3/16 up from the bottom in order to center the hole in the 3/8 base plate, scratched the lines with a marking gauge and knife and marked the point with an automatic center punch.
After that, both pieces were clamped to a squared up piece of scrap every which way I could and taken to the drill press with the appropriate sized drill bit (#25 for a 10-24 tap). If you haven’t drilled much steel, the best way I’ve found is to create a dimple using the drill bit dry, add a drop of light oil or cutting fluid to the dimple and drill some more.
Go ahead and drill through the 1/8 plate and dimple the 3/8. Using a squared up block clamped to the steel really helps stabilize it while you drill.
Then the 1/8 can be removed, a drop of oil added and drill down into the 3/8. Every 1/8-3/16, pull the drill bit up to clear chips and add another drop of oil. You’ll need to drill deeper than the length of the machine screw to allow enough room for the tap to work correctly and for chips to accumulate. While I’m sure there’s a standard formula for this, I just add 1/2 inch to the length of the machine screw and drill to that depth.
Note: When doing this, I decided that 3/4 machine screws were probably more than necessary and got some 1/2 inch ones instead. I’ve updated the first post of the series. You can certainly use the 3/4, it just means drilling and tapping more metal, along with the increased risk of breaking a tap.
So for my 1/2in machine screws, there is a 7/8 deep hole drilled into the 3/8 steel.
Now that hole can be tapped. As mentioned before, make sure to use good quality taps. Those you can buy at the big box or hardware store are fine for cleaning up existing threads, but not the best choice for cutting new ones. Take your time and go slow. Use plenty of cutting fluid, make sure to start the tap straight (make an alignment block if that will help) and reverse the tap frequently to break off the shavings. All tapping operations are time for patience—think tortoise over the hare. Impatience will probably result in a broken tap, followed by lots of cursing. (In case you haven’t figured out, breaking a tap sucks. I’ve done it three times and it’s a sinking feeling every time.)
I like to use a plug tap to start. It has a longer taper on the end that helps to get started straight. Every 1/8 to 1/4 turn, the tap gets reversed. When I feel it binding, it’s time to back the tap out and add some cutting fluid. Once the hole is well started, I switch to a bottoming tap. It allows cutting closer to the bottom of the hole, but with the sharper taper, is not the best choice for starting a hole.
Note: I had very good success this time switching back and forth between the plug tap and the bottoming tap. When the plug tap started to bind a bit, switching to the bottoming tap allowed it to cut the tapered threads to full depth without starting new ones. Once it started to get difficult, going back to the plug tap allowed it to just cut on the taper. This meant that both types were cutting less length at a time and therefore had less stress and were less likely to break.
Check frequently to see when you are at correct depth. Some people have feeler gauges for this, I just used one of the steel machine screws. When it goes all the way in, the hole is good.
Now the hole in the 1/8 plate can be enlarged at the drill press so that the machine screw passes through freely (for the 10-24, a 13/64 bit was the perfect size). Fasten the two pieces of steel together with the one machine screw and repeat the process at the other end. Mark, drill, tap, enlarge and fasten. Then the middle screws can be marked out . . . .
. . . . and drilled. With machine screws installed on both ends, you can drill through both pieces of steel at once. Here I have the steel clamped to two squared up pieces of scrap to help keep things lined up. The one in the back that cannot be seen is tall enough to support the side and base pieces.
Tapped and machine screws installed. Note that we’re still using the steel machine screws, as they will go in and out several more times, so you don’t want to mess up the softer brass ones. Save those for final assembly.
Again, go SLOW! I cannot emphasize this enough. While the earlier blog post about laying out for cuts took much longer to write than to actually do, this is the opposite. I’m sure someone with machine shop skills and tools could do this much faster and better, but this what I had to work with.
Now a very small countersink can be put on the holes-it doesn’t take much.
The best way to check is to use one of the brass screws and make sure that the bottom of the slot stays above the steel.
Once proper depth of cut is established, it can be set and transferred to the other holes. Reinstall the steel machine screws.
Now it’s time to add the body.
While the steel and wood are still separate pieces, it’s a good time to mark out any major shaping you would like to do. The way I’ve built them allows for no tote if shaped well. Clamp the body and steel together, figure out where your hand will set comfortably and mark.
I cut the metal with a jigsaw and the wood on the band saw. There are plenty of other ways to do the same tasks, depending on your available tools. On the first couple of planes, the steel was cut with a Dremel and cutoff wheel and the wood with a coping saw.
Let me say that most of these next steps could probably be skipped and the plane would still function just fine in the end, plus not doing them will save quite a bit of time, both now and even more later. Please read the post through before deciding whether to go through the effort or not. Obviously, I felt it was worthwhile or wouldn’t have spent the time and effort. See what you think at the end.
The decision that has to be made is how to attach the body to the steel. I’m going to use the brass screws, plus epoxy. First thing to do is lay out where the screws need to go. Take into account stress points, location of other screws, the mouth opening and yes, aesthetics.
The bottom is fairly easy. The line marks the center point of the thickness of the wood body and I decided on four screws—one in front of the mouth and three behind, all right down that line.
The side is a bit more involved. I did some on either side of the mouth, near the edges and a couple more where there were large gaps between other screws.
Center punch all the locations and drill through using a bit just large enough for the screws to slip through. I’m using #10 screws up through the base and #8 screws for the side. Then the holes can be slightly countersunk. Just like when doing the machine screws, check the countersink by dropping in one of the slotted brass wood screws and checking that the bottom of the slot is above the steel.
The body and steel now need clamped together exactly how you would like them to be when finished. Any misalignment here will result in more work later to clean it up.
Once clamped up, pilot holes for the wood screws can be drilled. The best tool to make sure they are accurate and centered is a self centering bit, sometimes called a Vix bit.
If you haven’t used one of these, they are very useful. The tapered tip centers the bit in a countersunk hole and the end is spring loaded so that when pushed into the hole, it retracts and the drill bit extends to drill the pilot hole. Using the proper sized bit, start holes at all the locations you’ve previously drilled in the steel one one piece of the steel. I started with the base. The self centering bit doesn’t drill very deep, but will give a good start so you can drill to proper depth using a handheld drill or drill press. Install a steel wood screw into each hole. Using the steel screw cuts the threads easier than trying to do it with the softer brass screws.
With the base secure, the same can be done with the side plate. The vix bits come in different sizes, make sure to use the right one (a #8 pilot hole is 7/64, a #10 is 9/64)
While tapping, it was time to think tortoise over the hare, the next part is time to be the hare. We are going to epoxy the body to the steel, so you want to work quickly and have everything set and planned out before mixing. Back to the decision mentioned above. With the epoxy, the screws may not be necessary I don’t really know. The epoxy will do most of the work, so if you don’t want to do the screws, you should be fine. I like the extra security and using the screws as clamps, plus I like the look when done. You decide what’s best for you.
OK, moving on. Clean off the steel to remove all traces of machine oil, fingerprints or anything else that might interfere with the glue bond. This can be done with a variety of cleaners. I use brake cleaner.
Now you’ll want a slower curing epoxy, do NOT use the 5 minute stuff. West Systems or similar would be ideal, but if you don’t keep that around, I’ve had good luck with Devcon 2 Ton Epoxy from the hardware store.
Mix up a good batch of epoxy, spread it liberally on the wood body, including letting it run down in the screw holes. I like to tint the epoxy to something close to the final wood color, so that if any shows or if there is a small gap, it gets camouflaged a bit. Once you have the epoxy spread, quickly position the body on the steel and attach with the brass screws. The epoxy in the holes ensures they won’t ever come out.
Set the blank aside so the epoxy can cure.
After letting the epoxy cure for a couple hours, the steel and body are now firmly attached and the machine screws holding the two pieces of steel together can be removed and replaced with slotted brass machine screws. Make sure to use a degreasing cleaner to clean any remaining cutting fluid out of the holes (I use brake cleaner again) and use some kind of thread locker on the machine screws. I use epoxy, tinted to a brass color, just in case one of the screws and the countersunk hole don’t have a good seal, but permanent Loc-tite would work, too.
After this, I let the epoxy cure overnight.
Next step is to flatten the metal faces. From here on out, the greatest enemy of a good result is heat. Overheating the steel will break down the epoxy and weaken the bond. Once again, it’s time to be the tortoise.
There are several possible ways to take down the screw heads. Every one has pros and cons.
File – Pro: Little heat buildup Con: Slow
Hacksaw – Pro: Quicker than a file, little heat buildup Con: can gouge the steel and tough to get to center heads because of the frame
Belt Sander – Pro: Fairly fast Con: Lots of heat
Angle Grinder – Pro: Fast and can localize heat Con: Easy to gouge steel
End Mill or Surface Grinder – Pros: Fast and accurate Cons: I don’t have one :^)
Other than the screws cut off with the hacksaw for the pic, I used an angle grinder with a flap wheel. Less heat than a cutoff or grinding wheel and pretty fast. You have to be very careful to avoid creating a gouge or hollow, but it worked well.
Whatever method you do, go slow and check the metal where you are working frequently. If you can’t hold your hand on it for several seconds, take a break and let it cool. Keep in mind that the metal will transfer heat, especially the brass, and you have a large insulator on the other side to trap the head against the epoxy. Once the screw heads are ground down, the entire surfaces can be flattened. For that I used a benchtop belt sander.
Here is where the blog post title comes in. A Rondo is a musical composition where the same theme comes back over and over again, interspersed with other melodies. When flattening, I would run one side on the sander for a while until it started to get warm and then set the plane in front of a fan to cool while I went to do something else. Come back later and repeat.
Sand, metal gets hot, go to the grocery store while it cools.
Sand, metal gets hot, start supper while it cools.
Sand, metal gets hot, eat supper while it cools.
Sand, metal gets hot . . . . You get the picture. Making sure to frequently check with a straight edge and square to keep everything aligned and a good 90 degree corner where the metal meets.
Here’s where I’m at:
Overall looking good, just a bit of a gouge where the hacksaw blade bit in too much around the rear screws. It’d be perfectly fine to use, but leaving that way is not the level of craftsmanship I strive for. I’ll keep working on it in sessions until there are consistent, even scratch marks front to back. Then I’ll go up in grits to a point where it has a nice brushed finish look.
This process is the biggest reason to possibly skip the screws and just trust the epoxy to hold. If you go that route, the only screw heads to take down are the machine screws and the flattening process would go pretty quickly. Once again, I feel the extra security and enhanced look are worth the time and effort. You decide what’s best for you. If someone does decide to do without the screws, I would love to know how it goes and how it holds up over time.
With the bottom and side flattened, the next step is to work the mouth and shape the body. Doesn’t matter which you do first, or if you have a short attention span like me, feel free to switch back and forth to break up the monotony. For the blog post, however, we’ll cover one at a time.
Finish the mouth
With a slim file, work the mouth to even up the metal and wood, smooth the surfaces and adjust the mouth to final dimensions. If the wood overhangs the metal, a sharp chisel can be used to pare it back.
For this, I most of the work with an ignition point file. It is very thin and easily slips through the mouth. Of the mouth is a bit wider, a flat bastard file will be a bit faster and allow better registration with the wood faces to end up with a clean look.
Additionally you’ll want to round off the tips of the metal to avoid a sharp edge that can dig into a workpiece. I round off the bed side and do a counter angle and round off on the escapement side. Kind of like this (iron bed is to the left):
Take your time and make sure not to mess up the bed side—any mistake there and the plane will never work correctly. I wrote this in a few minutes, but spent 2-3 hours total on just this step to get it right. (Now you know why I alternated working the mouth and shaping the body) Use the iron occasionally to ensure everything is working right. On this build, I ended up with a twist in the iron bed somehow and had to carefully chisel and file the bed back flat.
For the body, you can shape as much or as little as you wish, depending on your preferences and available tools. As with other steps, there are multiple ways to do many of these. I did a lot with the benchtop sander, but also used files, grinder with flap wheel, rifflers, a router and sandpaper. Here’s what I do.
First step is to cut off any excess wood from our overlarge blank that overhangs the metal (handsaw works best, as you definitely don’t want to hit the steel with your table saw blade) Then I squared up the ends to fix this messy hacksaw cut
This was done with the grinder to get close and finished on the disc part of the benchtop sander.
After that, The body was shaped and cleaned up with the belt sander.
Added a subtle curve to the nose leading to the sharper curve at the top . . .
. . . and cleaned up the rear portion with some graceful curves
Once satisfied with the shape, it’s time to get rid of the sharp edges. I use a 1/4 inch roundover bit in a trim router to get most of the edges, being very careful not to hit any metal. The remaining wood can be blended to the curve with rasps and files or even sandpaper.
On the other side, the router won’t get all the way to the edge.
A few minutes work with rifflers and some sandpaper and we have a nice consistent roundover.
The rifflers were also used to further shape the top corner where the hand will rest. You’ll want to grasp this as you would use the plane and remove any pressure points. The area circled in red will most likely need to be taken down a bit to get a comfortable grip.
Most of the body is now shaped, but a couple more areas I like to touch.
The corner of the 3/8 base plate is still at a 90 . . . .
. . . . so I round it to match the wood body and eliminate a sharp corner.
I also round over the top of the escapement area a bit to eliminate that corner, as well. No picture of what it looked like, but these are the areas that get some attention.
Now it’s just a matter of sanding everything to whatever level you desire. Don’t forget the metal around the mouth, where it gets scratched by the files when working the mouth.
I sand both the wood and metal up to 180, taking into account what direction I want the scratch pattern to be on the metal. You’ll also want to make sure to knock down any sharp metal edges with a couple sanding passes.
Make sure to use different pieces of sandpaper, though, or you’ll get black metal dust into the grain of the wood. If you want a fully polished look on the metal, feel free, just know that the unhardened O1 will scratch very easily. That’s one of the reasons I keep it with a brushed look.
After sanding, finish is applied
Once finish is dry, everything gets a coat of wax and the plane can be assembled . . .
. . . and tested
Sometimes, shooting end grain just gives dust, but if you are getting shavings, then everything is definitely working correctly.
Especially if they are see through.
Whew! That’s it, we’re done. It’s quite a bit of work, but there is definitely a satisfaction to using tools you’ve made yourself that can’t be matched. Hope this page helps some of you that wish to build your own shooting planes.
About Jay T
From a young age, I loved playing the the dirt, working with my hands and with tools of all kinds. Unfortunately, my parents would tell you that usually ended up with things being broken and destroyed. Fortunately, I had a very patient father who enjoyed spending time with his boys and teaching me how to use the tools correctly. All along, working with wood spoke to me much more than metal or machines. While many of my high school classmates took welding and auto repair, I was drawn to the smell of sawdust.
Along the way, there were some excellent teachers that showed how to build fine furniture, but the shops were all machine based. It wasn’t until well into my adult years that I discovered the joy of hand tools and was instantly hooked. There is just a more personal connection with the wood when using hand tools, It also allows a person to use all of their senses as part of the experience–something that is lost with noisy motors, hearing protection and machines that require to be hands off, lest you lose them.
As I explored deeper into hand tools, a whole new world of opened up. The tools from 100 years ago were made to not only work, but also have a certain flair and style. There are manufacturers out there making quality hand tools today, but those designs just don’t make my heart jump and inpsire me to want to improve my skills to be worthy of the tool. As I ventured deeper into this world, it became apparent that there is an enormous quantity of vintage tools out there, but very few that want or know how to use them. As a result, many of these tools have become neglected, sentenced to a rusty purgatory of old barns and garages.