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Thread: Chisel steel for plane floats

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Verchères, Québec, Canada

    Chisel steel for plane floats

    Still new to this forum, but learning a lot!

    From NORSE WOODSMITH: A Pair of Planemaker's Floats (edited by me for brevity)
    Another option was brought up by english plane maker Bill Carter, in an interview

    Do you use floats or anything else for the beds?

    Bill Carter.
    I've got floats but I never use them. I mainly use a modified chisel.


    On truing beds:

    Although ..[snip]... Get a normal woodworking chisel - any width - and heat it up to cherry red, then quench it. The chisel then becomes exceptionally hard and it will even cut steel. If you then grind the end of it to make it ninety degrees it will scrape timber like nothing else. It won't dig in, but it will remove high spots like they weren't even there

    I thought i'd try this, however i'm wondering if I quench by default in oil assuming that the steel is O1? The chisels I own are mostly old used ones bought you know where. (Note: one of these days i'll post some gloats about the shop and tools, for the time being too many things to do and the shop is a disaster area!) I've made a couple of wooden planes for emergencies and i'd like to make a few more that I won't think of using for kindling. I'm also thinking of using a couple old chisels for actual floats as found in Garrett Hack's book on planes (old chisels cheaper than tool steel!). Thanks in advance for any advice.
    AH CRAP, I should've measured twice.

  2. Nah, he means any high carbon steel, which O1 is. Just don't try it with a new LN A2 steel chisel or a new AI chisel and you'll be fine. In fact, best just to get a beater chisel and use it. Usually the only thing lacking is the good hardening.

    Also note that you should flatten the back prior to hardening. You won't be able to afterwards if you have hardened it enough. Well, with a DMT diamond stone you will, but it will be slow going.

    Take care, Mike

  3. #3
    Just to be fair, that quote is from an article on Cameron Miller's site, - the actual interview with Bill Carter where he mentions this is located here (I've updated my page because of a dead link):

    Cameron has put together an excellent resource for hand plane makers, and I would suggest anyone interested in them to check it out.

    O1 steel can be used for this method, or any high carbon steel. My preference is like Mike's - just use an old beater chisel that you don't like, or won't hold a good edge - square off the end and harden it as described, and it makes for a great "plane float".


  4. #4

    Thanks for the links. I knew I had read this tip somewhere but couldn't figure out where. I went through my whole library looking for it. I was starting to think I was imagining it.

    Do you think it is really necessary to harden the chisel if it is only going to used on wood? I've a got a chisel that's a perfect candidate but I don't really have the tools to do the heating and quencing.


  5. If the chisel presently holds an edge, then you just need to square it, hone 'er up and use it. If, though, you select a cheap chisel which doesn't presently hold an edge well, then just harden it after you shape it.

    For instance, I can find ten-cent chisels all day long I wouldn't hesitate to make into a float, but they wouldn't work well for a float without torching and quenching it.

    Take care, Mike

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Verchères, Québec, Canada
    Thank you all, I've got a couple of "beaters" i'll eventually use for floats, and thank you Mr. Hanson for the correction on the quote. I've learned a lot from hanging around at Sawmill Creek and would like to thank everyone for their graciousness and generosity with their knowledge and hope my eventual contributions will help sooner or later (still learning!).
    AH CRAP, I should've measured twice.

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