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Thread: Need help with wooden plane design questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Carlsbad, CA

    Need help with wooden plane design questions

    Inspired by the thread here, I'm planning to build two wooden planes; a 14” Jack and a ~8” smoother.

    The problem is I have no experience with Western-style wooden planes. All my planes are metal or Japanese. Over the years, thanks to you lots of good advice from SMC and other places, I've learned to make these all work quite well.

    However, without any experience using Western-style wooden planes, I'm looking for advice and suggestions from the knowledgeable Creekers here about a couple basic design questions to help me figure out my own build.

    I have invested in wood and blades (LV, A2 2 3/8” wide blade with no chip breaker for the Jack and a same size blue steel blade and chip breaker from Stu for the smoother) and I really need help to avoid investing lots of time, effort and $ to create expensive firewood!

    I've read a couple tutorials online (thank you Derek!) and Scott Lynn’s book "A Woodworkers Guide To Hand Planes", and have a rough idea of what I think I want, but would like to check with the experienced folks here before I dive in.

    My primary objective is purely functionality -- in other words at the end I'm really hoping for planes that will work! I'm not as interested in developing my plane building skills and I'm really just looking for the easiest, "most likely to work" path.

    I'm sure some of these questions are a matter of preference, but without any experience using Western wooden body planes, I'm hoping to learn from those here with experience. Any advice or suggestions on the following questions (or in general for that matter!) would be much appreciated:

    1) 1) I'm planning to go with the three-piece, laminated construction, per Derek’s tutorial. I'm thinking I will use abutments to secure the wedge (I made a small trial plane with this technique and it worked okay), but could be talked into a cross pin (which Scott Wynn suggests), if others thought that offered advantages?

    2) 2) For the Jack plane, I'm planning a razee (?) design about 14” long. I will use this for smoothing rough timbers and glued up panels -- between the #5 Bailey I use as a scrub and the #6 that I use as a fore plane.

    Should I add a rounded tote to the front of the plane (like all the metal planes I currently use), or is gripping the traditional rectangular shaped wooden body of the plane okay? The wood I'm planning to use is some kind of tropical "Rosewood" and quite dense/heavy; adding a rounded tote to the front of the plane and reducing the height of the body would result in design that weighs less -- I'm just not sure if that's good or bad?

    3) 3) For the smoother, I'm considering adding an adjustable mouth (which is what Scott Wynn shows in his book). My rationale is I think I have a better chance of achieving the small mouth opening I'm looking for -- I'm just not sure that when it comes to actual execution I will be able to pull off the goal of getting the uniformly flat sole and small mouth opening.

    Is it worth giving this a shot or should I just go with the fixed mouth and brass wear plate?

    I'm guessing these subjects have been discussed here before and apologize if these questions are redundant. As I say, I welcome any advice and/or suggestions from the talented folks here who have actually been down this path before.

    Thanks in advance,

    All the best, Mike

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX
    I have made wooden planes both with and without a tote. I find the traditional grip on a wooden plane to be uncomfortable, the tote helps in creating a balanced and comfortable grip when working on a large panel. But if I am jointing edges for glue up the tote gets in the way of the grip I use (with thumb on the top and other fingers under the plane trying to keep a constant lateral position). Drill and thread a hole in the front of the plane where you can screw (machine type) a tote and if you don't like it you can always take it off, at least that's the solution I adopted.
    I would go with the fixed plane first and see how it works out. The trick I used was to glue the throat plate the last after all other assembly was complete. I then stuck a sheet of paper in front of the blade and then clamped/glued the throat plate flush with the paper. Once the glue has dried I will usually drill a couple screw holes and thread them to attach machine screws. The final flattening of the sole will take care of any minor protrusion of the screw heads.

    In my experience building wooden planes is an evolutionary process, i.e. you improve the more you make, with each iteration you will find out ways to improve. I would suggest that you use your first plane build as a fine tuning exercise for the second one, as such use any common wood you have lying around the shop. Save your expensive wood for the second plane.
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  3. #3
    * I would skip the front knob, you'll probably find you don't need it on a razee style jack. Put a strike button up there instead.
    * if you have a drill press, you might find a crossbar and wedge easier to execute. As long as you do a good job either way and give room for the shavings to leave the plane, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference in performance.
    * I don't know if you need an adjustable mouth. I'd be more inclined to set the plane up so that you can insert a mouth that'll provide the clearance you want.
    * you might want thicker irons if you're going to take any heavy cuts. Thin irons will work, but the reason they work so well in a bench plane is because the lever cap to the cap iron fit imparts pressure all the way right down on the edge of the iron - something you won't be able to do in a wooden plane. My oldest of planes that have thinner irons (old wooden planes) do tend to chatter a little more than planes with heavier irons in a heavy cut, despite the fact that they're bedded well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Carlsbad, CA
    Thanks a lot Zahid and David -- I really appreciate the advice!

    I can't tell you how helpful is for me, having never built any wooden planes, to be able to benefit from your experience. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions and share your insight!

    David your comments about in a wooden plane thinner, contemporary plane irons chattering more in a heavy cut, {despite being well bedded) than you typically experience in a metal bench plane with the lever cap and cap Iron is particularly helpful. I guess I'll go Ahead and try a wooden smoother and it doesn't work out I can always use the blue steel iron and chip breaker with a rehabilitated Bailey style metal plane.

    All the best, Mike

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