Let's Build an Infill the Easy Way! #1: Roughing it Out

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Blog entry by Ripthorn posted 04-15-2016 01:55 AM 2438 reads 3 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Let's Build an Infill the Easy Way! series Part 2: It's Cleaning Up Nice »

I’ve done several blogs on making infill planes, but I thought it might be fun to show how I make one from an old, defunct iron bodied plane. I have done one of these before, but didn’t think to do a blog about it. So here we are.

In the beginning

I picked up an old, rusty, Stanley #4 in an antique shop, but I didn’t check it out really well. The lever cap had the lever broken but (poorly) welded back together. The front knob wasn’t original, which I realized after purchase was done because the threaded boss had broken off. The tote had the horn broken off and the lateral adjuster was bent and missing the ring that seats in the slot in the iron. So what to do? Make an infill, of course! Here is the patient:

Totes Magotes

I poked around in my stock looking for what would make a nice looking tote. I have some really highly figured, .98” thick maple that has a bark inclusion in it that looked just right. So first, we lay it out:’

I made a pattern some time ago from a Ron Brese picture that I tweaked to my liking. This is a smaller tote size with a 50 degree pitch. I made sure the rough stock had a nice straight edge to work from, then cut the angle on the miter saw (50 degree pitch is 40 degrees off of square). Then band saw the rough shape and use a jig saw to cut out the inside of the tote. Notice how there is a little lip between the bed and the horn on the tote. This is important for hammer clearance so that you aren’t banging your tote with your hammer every time you go to adjust.

Once this is done, I sanded all the contours on the spindle sander until they were smooth and flowy. Once that is done, I used a 3/8” roundover bit on the inside of the tote and from the bottom of the horn until just above the bottom of the tote’s back side. From there, I worked it with Iwasaki files and sandpaper to get a nice, organic shape. Sand up to 220.

Once the tote is all nice and sanded, we need additional pieces to create the blade bed so that the whole width is supported. My original stock was wide enough that I was able to take a piece about 3” wide and cut at the exact same angle on two ends, like so:

Then, I drew on the tote what kind of profile I wanted. This is very individual, as is tote shape, but for me, I like very smooth, organic, flowing curves. I bandsawed and spindle sanded the pieces and then sanded to 220. Now we are ready to glue together:

Now, this is almost 3” wide and a #4 is only 2” wide at the iron, so it will need to get cut down, but we save that for later, because first it’s time for…

The Daily Grind

To prep for infilling, I am first going to grind the guts out, then mill with my milling machine for nice smooth surfaces. However, if you don’t have a milling machine, you can grind more carefully and then use rasps and sandpaper wrapped around blocks of wood. That is how I did my first one. It needs to be relatively flat, but not pretty, since it’s getting covered in wood.

Here I have most of it ground out. I just used my $10 HF grinder with a $2 metal grinding disc from HF. It took maybe 20 minutes tops to get this to this point. Notice how I left the threaded boss and the spike from the tote area? I’m going to keep that to help register the infill when it gets epoxied in. This is because epoxy makes the wood more slippery than gorilla snot and it will want to slide around. Having some positive registration will help keep it where it belongs.

Up Next

That is where I left off for now. Total time in so far is about 2-3 hours. Next up will be milling out the inside of the body, fitting the tote, and creating a bun. After that, there will be lapping and fitting the blade to the tote, making a lever cap, fitting the lever cap, and making a lever cap screw. I have no idea how long this project will take, but stay tuned!

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

4 comments so far

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

4049 posts in 3417 days

#1 posted 04-15-2016 03:21 AM

Nice, Brian. Looks like a good use for an old plane body. I’ll be following along.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Hammerthumb's profile (online now)


3099 posts in 3141 days

#2 posted 04-15-2016 01:29 PM

I’ve never made one before Brian, but I do have some candidates that might fit the bill. I’ll be watching also.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View JayT's profile


6427 posts in 3376 days

#3 posted 04-15-2016 01:31 PM

Looking forward to this series, too. How careful do you have to be when grinding to not overheat the cast iron?

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 4150 days

#4 posted 04-15-2016 01:51 PM

Jay, because cast iron is essentially a powdered metal, you can be very aggressive. It will spew black dust around, but I was bogging down my grinder (not a really hard thing to do) long before I got the metal very hot. Cast iron is rather forgiving that way, just don’t drop it!

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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