The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Happiness is a sharp chisel.


Yesterday afternoon I managed to get in a little more work on my plane while the cat was away. Before I started, something had been bothering me that I decided to look at, and that was the holes I drilled into the cheeks of the plane for the cross-pin dowel. On the previous planes I had made, I started by squaring up the cheek stock to the body stock used for the back half of the plane. I would then mark the spot for the dowel hole, and drill out both pieces simultaneously using a drill press. That plan was the very same plan I had in mind for this plane, but then I did something foolish. I drilled out the first hole, and during the middle of the process noticed that the second cheek had some tear out at the back. Rather than finishing the drill out and then cleaning up the board, I sawed off a bit of the end, and without compensating for the sawed off difference, drilled out the second dowel hole. The result left me dowel holes that were out of line by nearly 1/16 of an inch, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot until you attempt to push a half-inch oak dowel through it. Nevertheless, I managed to get the dowel through, which leaves me a slightly crooked cross-pin. How this will affect the adjusting/wedge, or the overall usefulness of the tool I’m not exactly sure yet, but, live and learn.

Rather than despair, I continued working on the plane. First thing I did was clamp the body down and plane down the sole to get it flat; ironically I used a smooth plane for this. It really only needed a few passes before it was finished. I then used sheets of sandpaper and my tablesaw bed, starting at 60 grit and working up to 150. The plane sole is now nice and flat, though I will still do some more sanding before I call it completely finished. I want to hold off on the final sanding until the wedge is fit; I will then finish it using 220 and 400 grits.

Trueing the sole

Trueing the sole

The marks tell you when it's flat

The marks tell you when it’s flat


After I was happy with the flatness of the sole, I decided to try and attempt some initial shaping of the plane. I don’t own a band saw, so I traced out a shape using some French curves and attempted to use a jigsaw to shape the plane. I quickly found that the jigsaw was not an option, so I turned to spokeshave, rasp, block plane, and chisels. I had only a basic outline in mind at first, so the shaping was really just a trial and error process. After roughly 30 minutes I managed to achieve a fairly decent shape/curve. I don’t want the plane to look overly machined, so I got the front shaped to a look that seems pleasing and left it at that. At that I called it a night.

Saturday, after work, and running some errands, I decided on a little late evening woodworking. For the back section of the plane I was going for a more pronounced curve, so I got out my 1 1/4″ chisel and started pounding out the shape. I progressed from the large chisel to smaller chisels as I needed. I also used the block plane for some of the initial shaping, and then finally the spokeshave to clean it all up. I was attempting to achieve a graceful front to back curve, as well as a more subtle side-to-side arc. In around 45 minutes I had the carving portion finished; I then spent around 15 minutes hand sanding. I like how the plane looks: graceful, yet still made by hand. More impressively, my lovely wife actually spent a few minutes with me while all of this was going on. She was quite impressed that I knew how to carve, and she liked the contrast of the light and dark woods on the plane itself. Today, I hope to finish the wedge and make the first test shavings.

Right side angle

Right side angle

Other side

Other side

Full length

Full length

Carving and shaping tools

Carving and shaping tools

I don’t necessarily know the reasons, but I like making planes. I need to make more, many more, before I can call myself good at it, but I am improving. I have a construction technique down, now I just have to perfect it. But planes are fun to build. The material is generally reasonably priced, and you only need basic hand and power tools to get it done. With a handful of sharp chisels, a spokeshave, a table saw, and a block plane most woodworkers can make a handplane. And, more importantly, if you are a handplane user, I can’t think of a better way of learning how to use a plane than to make one of your own.

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9 Comments

  1. That’s impressive. I’ve got a Stanley 4.5, 7, and a little block plane that I’m going to refurb. I got all of them for $20 at a thrift shop. A lot of rust but I think they’re serviceable. Are you strictly a hand-tool guy? Or a little of both?

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks! I use mostly hand tools. I have a table saw that I use a lot. I have nothing against power tools in the least; if I had the space I would love to have a band saw. I don’t have much room for anything besides a table saw and workbench, so most of what I do is with hand tools. I also have a router, but the truth is I’m not a big fan of using it.

  2. gman3555 says:

    Damn Bill! I really like the shaping you’ve done on this plane. It’s looking great.

    Greg

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Greg! Having the French curves really helped. Honestly, it didn’t take long, and I can’t imagine that a bandsaw would have made it go any more quickly than doing it with chisels and a spoke shave. The funny thing is, that it probably would have gone even more smoothly if I had sharpened my spokeshave and 1 1/4″ chisel before hand.They both had a decent edge but I hadn’t sharpened them in months. I should have at least touched up the big chisel because I hogged off the bulk of the waste with it, though the iron was hardly dull. Luckily, the block plane and the other chisels were sharpened and ready to go.
      I had thought about tapering the back all the way down, but that wouldn’t leave a place for tapping with the mallet, so I left it flat.
      Bill

    • billlattpa says:

      Looking at the photos, I probably should have cleaned out the frog and front ramp. There is still a good deal of wax caked on them.

  3. Jeff Branch says:

    Nice looking plane. Really like the wood selection.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jeff. Even my wife remarked on it. The next one I make I think I’m going to go with Maple for the body and something such as Sapele for the cheeks, or possibly the Bubinga again, which is always a good choice.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  4. bloksav says:

    Really nice job on the plane.
    The two darker sides that are triangular in the shapes look super.
    Brgds
    Jonas

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