Make a Wood Hand Plane in an Afternoon

Shop Tools: Wooden planes offer flexibility that is unmatched by metal planes. Using the same construction, a plane can easily be made long or short, wide or narrow, or radiused across the width or the length of the sole.

Make a Wood Hand Plane in an Afternoon

Make a Wood Hand Plane in an Afternoon



Photos by Jacques Breau; Illustration by Len Churchill

INFO:DIFFICULTY – 3/5, LENGTH/TIME – 2/5, COST – 2/5

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In this article, I will show you how to build a bevel-up high-angle plane in an afternoon. The main advantage of this bevel-up plane comes from the high cutting angle and tight mouth, which can cut difficult grain without tearing out. Changing the bevel angle on the iron changes the cutting angle making this plane adaptable. The lack of a cap iron makes taking the plane apart faster and easier, hopefully leading to more frequent sharpening.
 
This plane makes a great smoother that can handle exotic woods, or a jointer that can tackle an edge with reversing grain.
 
Materials
In order to build these planes quickly, I leave them square and boxy, use a dowel for the cross-pin and a piece of brass for the mouth insert. The bevel-up design also cuts into the build time by not needing to rout a groove for the cap iron screw.
 
The materials needed are: a piece of hardwood that is well seasoned and stable, 3/8" hardwood dowel, 1/8" thick brass, and an iron. I’ll be using a 2" Hock iron for this plane. I chose the 4 -1/2" long iron in order to make this low-slung plane easier to adjust.
 
Straight and square stock
The first step in construction is to mill your stock straight and square. Make sure your blank is at least 1-1/4" wider than your chosen blade, and 3" longer than the target length. For this project, the length of the plane is up to you. The extra width allows us to rip both cheeks from the center block. A good height for the plane is 1-1/2".
 
After marking the top for alignment, go to the bandsaw and set the fence for a 7/16" cut. Saw the first cheek. Joint the sawn face, reset the fence to 1/8" wider than your iron and saw the center portion. The remaining offcut is the other cheek. Check the center portion of the plane to ensure that the jointed face is square to the sole of the plane. Run the parts through the thickness planer until the cheeks are 3/8" and the center is 1/16" wider than your iron.
 
The next step is to cut the ramp; the blade will be seated on at 30˚. It is crucial that this surface be perfectly flat and square to the sides of the plane. Take some time to make any adjustments needed. I like doing this with a block plane set for a fine cut. Once the surface is acceptable, put a slight flat on the end of the ramp to help protect it.
 
Now cut the front of the blade cavity to shape. Keep in mind that you will need finger clearance to remove any shavings that might get caught in the mouth. The offcut will be of use later, so don’t discard it.
 
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Square and Flat – After cutting the center portion of the plane body in half, and on an angle, make sure the resulting surface is square to the edge and flat. Breau takes very light passes with a block plane to make any adjustments.
 
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Trim the End – To protect against chipping, add a slight chamfer to the end of the rear portion of the plane body before assembling it.
 
Glue-up
We can now start gluing up the plane. I clamp the center portions of the plane onto a flat surface and add the sides, all while clamping the lower surfaces of the parts to the platen to maintain alignment. The mouth is slightly open at this point, just enough to allow the blade to protrude through the body.
 
Use the offcut from before to make an 8˚ wedge while the glue is drying. Too steep or too shallow and the plane will be difficult to adjust. Making the wedge the same width as the iron allows it to seat properly on the blade.
 
After removing the clamps from the plane body, true up the sole of the plane by taking a light pass on the jointer. Then take a pass in the planer to clean up the top surface.
 
To locate the holes for the cross-pin, start by taping the wedge and the blade together so that the wedge ends 1/16" above the bevel of the iron. Sit the plane on your bench and place the wedge and blade firmly onto the ramp allowing the blade to rest on the bench. Measure 3/16" up from the wedge and 7/16" down from the top of the plane. This intersection is the location of the cross-pin. With a square, transfer these lines to the outside of the plane.
 
Drill some test holes to find the proper bit to use for the cross-pin. Place the off-cut in the opening and use a drill press to drill the holes from both sides. Cut a length of dowel and press it into the body for the cross-pin. Trim away any extra length.
 
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Assembly Line – With the parts cut and shaped, bring them together on a strong, flat wood platen to ensure the front and rear portions of the body area assembled in the same plain, then apply pressure with some clamps.
 
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Perfect Wedge – Cut the wedge from the waste portion of the plane body. Eight degrees is the perfect angle to cut the wedge on.
 
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Dowel Hole Locations – With the blade and wedge in place mark a line 3/16" up from the top of the wedge. Mark another line about 7/16" down from the top surface of the plane. The points at which these two lines intersect are the hole locations that will accept the dowel.
 
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Drill two Holes – After transferring the hole locations to the outside of the plane, drill both holes. Placing the off-cut in the opening of the plane will reduce chipping.
 
Brass mouth
Prepare your brass by starting with a piece that is long enough to span the width of the plane, and wide enough to counter sink some 3/4" long screws in. I clean up all four sides of the brass on some sandpaper using a guide block, keeping the edges parallel and square.
 
Fitting the brass mouth requires a dado across the bottom of the plane, directly in front of where the blade exits the body. To start, mark a line on the side of the plane showing where the blade comes through the sole of the plane and another line corresponding to the width of the brass insert. Waste out the wood on the table saw and refine the depth with a router plane or chisel.
 
The goal is to have the brass fitted tightly in the rabbet widthwise. If you can, get the fit off the table saw; if not, remove material from one edge of the brass. With the insert fit in the plane, counter-sink the brass for two screws and pre-drill some holes in the plane. Now you can make the brass flush with the bottom and sides of the plane using sandpaper on a flat surface.
 
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Position the Brass – Determine the location for the rear edge of the brass insert, then use a square to position the brass and mark the front edge of the dado. Transfer both lines onto the side of the plane.

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Cut the Dado – Cut the dado on a cross-cut sled to ensure it’s square and even. If the resulting surface isn’t completely flat, level it with a router plane.
  
We can now adjust the mouth opening of the plane by removing material from the edge of the brass insert. I use sandpaper on a flat surface and a 90˚ block to guide the brass. I often check the dimension with calipers to make sure the brass remains parallel and to gauge my progress.
 
The mouth opening on this plane is very small, so proceed with caution and test the mouth opening with the iron often. Stop as soon as the iron protrudes the mouth even a little. Now that the mouth opening has been adjusted, cut the plane to length, chamfer and shape to your liking.
 
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Minor Adjustments – In order to adjust the mouth opening, Breau abrades the edge of the brass on a piece of sandpaper. He uses a square edge of a wood block to ensure the brass is held perpendicular to the sandpaper. He also checks his progress often to be sure the brass remains the same width, producing an even mouth for the iron to protrude through.
 
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JACQUES BREAU
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Jacques enjoys hanging out in his shop with his boy Emery, and is building his inheritance one plane at a time. All this will be yours one day, young man.