Working With A Wooden Plane

Adjusting wooden planes is an art in itself, it takes patience and practice. The iron, of course, must be sharp and the edge of the chip breaker should be set about '/« in. behind the iron's edge. Begin by setting the iron so that it is not yet through the mouth and tapping the wedge firm. Then turn the plane upside down and sight down the length of the bottom from the back end. Gently tap the end of the iron with a small hammer until just a glint of it pokes through the mouth. With your eye or your finger, check that the iron projects evenly. Give the wedge a good tap to hold the iron in this position.

Test the plane on a scrap of wood. If you get an even, thin shaving from the center of the blade, the iron is ready to go. Often it takes a few tries to achieve this.

If the shaving is broken lengthwise, your iron is either slanted to one side or it has a nick in it. If the plane chatters, you may have the iron sticking out too far. To retract it. turn the plane upside down again and tap the back end of the plane-gravity will act to pull in the blade. You'll need to tap the wedge again.

Chatter may also be resolved by hollowing out the underside of the wedge to increase the pressure on the iron. Your stroke, too, will affect the shaving you get. Keep the motion continuous, shifting your weight from the front of the plane at the beginning of the stroke to the back of the plane at the end of the stroke. If you allow your body to enter into the stroke, you also will avoid fatigue in the arms. Holding the plane at a slight diagonal to the direction of your stroke helps you keep the stroke smooth. In time, you will be able to make the adjustments very rapidly, and the movement will become as graceful as a dance. - F.H'.

FIG. 4: MAKING THE PIN

Rout the mouth opening in the sole with a guide-bushing equipped router and a template.

Rout the mouth opening in the sole with a guide-bushing equipped router and a template.

FIG. 4: MAKING THE PIN

Distance between plane cheeks.

Saw pin from longer piece.

Round three sides.

Distance between plane cheeks.

Round three sides.

Round tenons with knife or chisel.-

Saw pin from longer piece.

Round tenons with knife or chisel.-

Place the pin in one side of the plane before applying glue so you don't forget It in the rush.

FIG. 5: TUNING THE IRON AND CHIP BREAKER

FIG. 5: TUNING THE IRON AND CHIP BREAKER

With your file angled in toward the front ramp, file the front of the mouth to reveal the iron.
The chip breaker hat a gentle curve and a sloping face that allows the shaving to pass up the face of the breaker.

measuring perpendicular to the ramp—draw a line parallel to the rear ramp as shown in the drawing. Drill a Via-in. dia. hole at the point where this line intersects the line you drew parallel to the bottom of the plane. This is best done with a drill press or boring machine, since accuracy is important. Place the pie-shaped block you cut out of the midsection back in temporarily to prevent wood blow-out when the drill breaks through the cheeks. Repeat the entire procedure to mark and drill the other side.

The cross pin itself comes next. You need to cut a '/lain. dia. round tenon on either end of the pin. I roughed out a square tenon by making a series of crosscuts on the tablesaw then rounded the tenon with a knife. Draw a cross on one end of your 12-in. length of V-i-in. square pin stock to find the center. This point becomes the center point for the tenons. Cut a Vi*-in. square tenon at one end by making a series of crosscut passes on the tablesaw. Measure from the inside of one cheek to the other and mark off that distance on the pin stock to locate the second tenon. The length of pin between the two tenons should be slightly less than the distance between the cheeks of the plane. You don't want it too tight—the pin should be able to turn in its holes.

After you've sawn both tenons, cut the pin off from the 12-in. piece of stock, round the tenons to fit the holes, and shape the pin so that it's Hat on one side (the side that will contact the iron) and round on all the others as shown in Fig. 4. Fit the pin in its holes and make sure that it can turn. Then, holding the plane sections tightly together, saw the pin's tenons oft flush with the outside of the cheeks.

Now you're ready to glue the plane together. You'll need two scrap pieces of wood the same height and length as the plane, and several clamps. Insert the cross pin in one of the cheeks while you spread the glue—many a plane has been glued together with this critical pin left out. Don't make this mistake! The dowels will provide you with the proper placement of the cheeks. Place the protective pieces of wood over them and then the clamps, crowding them on as evenly as possible (approximately at 2-in. intervals). Allow the glue to dry overnight.

Once the glue dries, make the wedge from the pie-shaped piece you cut out of the midsection. Draw a wedge on the flat side of this piece with the grain running the length of the wedge. The wedge angle should be cut at approximately I0C so that it holds well. Saw out the wedge on the handsaw, and, with files, round the edges and smooth the bandsaw marks on the angled face.

With the iron, chip breaker and wedge in the plane, the wedge should contact the pin fully across its width. A wedge that is not properly fitted will sometimes produce a hollow sound when you tap the back of the plane. If this happens, try making the underside of the wedge slightly concave, and make sure the wedge has full contact with the pin. If the wedge slides out when you tap the plane, the angle of the taper is too steep.

You can now glue on the sole. Begin by passing the bottom of the plane lightly over the jointer to clean up the surface. Take as light a cut as possible. Set the plane on top of the sole, making sure that the grain direction of the sole is oriented so that any run-out goes downhill toward the back of the plane or you'll have chip-out and extra friction. Trace the mouth opening onto the sole and cut out this slot with a chisel, coping saw or a router. The back edge of the sole opening must

Flatten the bottomofthe plane bysanding. Replace the Iron and breaker with a piece of wood to tension the plane.

If you're making your own chip breaker, form the curve by bending gently with a shopmade lever.

Flatten the bottomofthe plane bysanding. Replace the Iron and breaker with a piece of wood to tension the plane.

be chopped at a 45° angle—an extension of the ramp above it. Sight down the flat of the ramp, and shave or file this opening until it is exactly even. Do this with care because the iron must lie perfectly flat on the ramp. Even a slight error means a poorly positioned iron. Note that even after you have cut this slot, the iron should not yet protrude from the mouth —this result comes later with a bit of filing.

Next, clamp the sole in place and locate the sole with '/«-in. dowels as you did with the cheeks. Drill and install one dowel at each end and saw the dowels off flush. Glue on the sole using scrap pieces to protect the sole from the clamps. Allow this to dry overnight.

Now you're in the final stretch. Flattening the sole is the next step. Replace the iron and chip breaker assembly with a piece of wood the same size and thickness as the iron and breaker pair and tap the wedge down on it. This assures that the plane is set at its usual pressure yet, when you pass the plane over the jointer there is no hazard of the iron falling down into the cutter. First joint one side of the plane, taking care not to remove much wood. Next, pass the bottom of the plane once over the jointer in the proper direction taking as light a cut as possible keeping the side you just jointed against the fence. If you remove too much wood, you'll open the mouth too far and ruin the sole. Finally, joint the other side of the plane.

Set up a long piece of sandpaper on a Hat surface, such as a piece of glass or the tablesaw top. Rub the bottom of the plane back and forth over the sandpaper until you have a flat surface square to the cheeks. Again, the iron should not be poking through yet.

Opening the mouth is the next step. With a thin file, slowly file the front edge of the mouth until the edge of the iron just pokes through, making sure the mouth opening is even across the plane. This front edge should angle forward toward the curved ramp so the shaving can exit properly. Also, file a small chamfer on the back edge of the mouth to prevent chip-out.

At last, you are ready to give the plane its final shape. The options are numerous, and the only parameters you have to meet are comfort, accessibility to the iron and wedge, and a Hat area on the back end of the plane to allow for adjustments of the iron (done bv tapping on the back end with a small hammer.) The band-saw is the best machine for cutting the initial shape, you can then refine this with spokeshaves, files and carving tools. Sometimes crosshatching on the sides, where the fingers clutch the plane, provides extra control. Also, indentations for the fingers are a possibility, though if these recesses are too large they may reduce the stability of the plane.

Once you've finished your plane, the main work is completed, but you will occasionally need to check the flatness of the plane bottom. Wooden planes have a tendency to acquire hollows just in front of the iron and bulges just behind, but check the entire length and width of the bottom with an accurate straightedge and flatten the bottom, if necessary with either a scraper or sandpaper on a flat surface. The iron's edge. too. will need frequent attention —don't expect a quality shaving from a dull iron. A

Fiona Wilson learned about planemaking in the Fine Woodworking Program at the College of the Reduxxxis in Fort Bragg, CA. She is grateful to the program's staff for its help with this article. She is Assistant Editor of AMERICAN WOODWORKER.

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