Metal working in a wood shop.

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Blog entry by rhett posted 04-25-2013 02:15 AM 4736 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When we started Nice Ash Planes, all the woodworkers we talked with assumed we would go the normal route, buy premade irons and drop them in our plane. Nope, we decided to learn a bit about metallurgy and then tackled that bear ourselves. The real trick is in the heat treatment, but more on that later.

Our steel comes from the original steel state, PA. It shows up to our shop as 1/4” by 36” flat ground bar stock. Each bar will produce 10 blanks. The first few blades were cut with an angle grinder and then shaped from there. This process would be fine, if we were making just a couple of planes.

Bring in the big guy. This is our cold saw. It is basically a chop saw, but it runs 50 rpm at the blade. The blade is M25 steel, constantly quenched in a lubricating coolant. This little torque monster weighs in a bit under 200lbs and is the same size as a 10” mitre saw. The reason we took this route is the finished cut is clean, practically burr free, dead square and there are no sparks. Thats a big plus in a wood/metal set up.

We cut the blanks at a 45 degree bevel then send them off. By doing this, we ensure we are grinding up into a nice, tight, carbon matrix.

Here is where the magic happens. This is a quench and temper furnace, at Ky Heat Treating, in Winchester Ky. Fully automated, baskets of O1 steel get brought up to critical temperature, then quickly queched in warmed oil. They are then transfered to ovens where proper temperature is maintained to achieve the desired Rockwell hardness. We have ours hardened to Rc 60-61. This lprecision control of temperature and time ensure a consistent iron.

Back at the shop, its time to get sharp.

A horizontal edge sander, fitted with a 40 grit silicon carbide belt, produces a nice hollow grind. The grit on these belts is much harder than aluminum oxide and they handle steel wonderfully. The primary bevel is 25 degrees. I know it’s not spark free, but hollow grinding the blades on the wet stone was a time destroyer and we are, dare I say, trying to make a profit.

From here we move to a different machine, to get our secondary, 30 degree bevel. The constant water bath keeps the most susceptible part of the blade safe from the accidental “blueing”, that destroys the temper at the edge and produces much foul language. From here the blades get their backs flattened and cutting edges honed, via a combo of scary sharp and Japanese waterstone.

Side by side of 45 to 30 degree, double bevel, hollow grind.

Our blades next to other “standard” blade thicknesses. There is no chip breaker in a Nice Ash Plane. They were originally added to hand planes, to counteract the harmonic resonance of thin metal blades. With a 1/4” thick blade, chatter and harmonic resonance are virtually eliminated.

Thanks for reading.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

12 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4350 days

#1 posted 04-25-2013 04:16 AM

Wow, thanks for taking us through your process! Those look like some great blades.

-- Robb

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4310 days

#2 posted 04-25-2013 05:04 AM

looks bad ass

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Don W's profile

Don W

19242 posts in 2984 days

#3 posted 04-25-2013 10:56 AM

thanks for sharing the process. Very interesting.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3368 days

#4 posted 04-25-2013 01:47 PM

Very cool! Looks like you’re doing things the right way. I wish you the best in this business!

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View stefang's profile


16705 posts in 3750 days

#5 posted 04-25-2013 02:19 PM

I think that your business idea and the simplicity of your plane body united with such a heavy blade is very good and I hope that it will be a winner. I wish you all the best of luck with your venture. It is refreshing to see someone pursuing the American dream with optimism instead of whining about how terrible things are. Business, (and life) are what you make of it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3758 posts in 2668 days

#6 posted 04-25-2013 02:47 PM

Thanks for the backstage pass on the process. It’s like watching “How It’s Made” in still pictures.

I wish some of my wood body planes had a 1/4” thick blade with no chip breaker too. Good concept and execution.

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

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1903 posts in 2386 days

#7 posted 04-25-2013 04:01 PM

Really cool process. Hopefully this summer I can get one

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4064 days

#8 posted 04-25-2013 05:36 PM

Have you thought about adding some texture to one side
of the iron?

One issue I’ve had with the couple of planes I have with
1/4” thick irons, no chipbreaker and wood wedges
is I really have to pound the wedge in hard to prevent
the iron from moving… so hard the iron is hard to

Some old planes have a tapered iron. I think it may help
prevent iron slippage.

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2955 days

#9 posted 04-28-2013 05:47 PM

Loos like a winner to me.

-- I never finish anyth

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4310 days

#10 posted 04-29-2013 02:27 AM

keep the file to the furrow

many great things come from it

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View TobyC's profile


580 posts in 2292 days

#11 posted 05-03-2013 03:14 AM

Very cool, that’s a lot of steel, I like it!


View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4083 days

#12 posted 05-05-2013 01:00 PM

Save 50% by grinding and honing the blades yourself. Get your ash to work and save some money!

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

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