Building a wooden shoulder plane #2: About body parts and even a mouth...

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Blog entry by Div posted 05-21-2011 10:31 PM 29497 reads 31 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: First you gotta do some thinking...and find iron Part 2 of Building a wooden shoulder plane series Part 3: The mouth. Don't open wide, we are not at the dentist! (sorry Ken) »

24 hours later and I’m back in my favorite chair! It sounds like some has already sourced plane irons in many different ways. Good! Bertha is ordering a brandnew blade, Derosa found some old plane blades at a local junk store and his Dremel with cutting disc is eager to go! Grittyroots has some old molding planes and wants to use an iron from on of those. Bearpie in Jacksonville has some old worn out metal cutting saw blades about 1/8” thick by 2” wide and 18” long. Good idea, Bearpie! Correct me if I’m wrong but I think those are also made from HSS. It will do the trick just fine in my opinion. I spent a few months in Jacksonville once during my sailing days. There was this one girl….Sorry, I’m getting off track here….

To remind us where we are going:

The plane body – making it.
The basic process involves first cutting the shape of your plane from some timber, then cutting the plane body lengthways into 3 pieces on the bandsaw. This allows us to work on the middle part where the tang of the blade will be before gluing the whole lot back together again. Bear with me, it will get clear soon! Doing it this way makes life easier. It can be done with a solid piece of wood but that involves cutting a rather small mortise at an angle through your block of wood. A tricky operation….I know because I did it on this Coach makers Rabbetplane:

Let’s go the easy route first. We can get to the solid body type later if you want…

OK, I found a piece of HSS steel that will do the trick for me. My blade will be 15mm wide when done. That is a little under 5/8” if you speak American. Yes, it is narrow, but I want to make a tiny plane!

The finished width of the plane body needs to be a little less than the width of the blade. For now, let’s say it needs to be the same, thus 15 mm. Because I will be cutting it into 3 pieces on my band saw, I add twice the bandsaw kerf width which is 1,5mm in my case. Therefore 2×1,5mm = 3mm. Let’s make it 4mm to allow for sanding. Thus I thickness my timber to 15 + 4 = 19 mm. Whilst I’m at the machines, I also joint the edges square.

Draw the shape of your plane on that nice, freshly dimensioned piece of timber. Any shape that pleases you, fancy or simple, will work. You might want to think about ergonomics if you want this fellow to sit nicely in your hand. About the only important thing is that the length of the sole in front of the blade should be less than the length behind it. Take a look at any other Western style plane to get a sense of the proportion. Oh, and I guess you do want your blade to come out the top, so check your shape against the length of your planned plane iron!

Referring to the photo above, mark a 45 degree line to show where the bottom of the blade will sit. This is a good time to talk a little about that angle since it will determine the characteristics and use of your plane.

What are the advantages of the different set angles?
• 45º – Great for planing softwoods and North American hardwoods such as maple and walnut and such. It can handle figured maple well, but will have problems with figured cherry and walnut. This angle is the easiest to push/pull.
• 47° – A good compromise between good tear-out performance and effortless use.
• 50º – Great for North American hardwoods with some to lots of figure. It can handle pine, if needed, and can take on straight grained tropicals, too. This plane takes more effort than the 45 but is not hard to pull/push.
• 55º – For highly-figured American hardwoods and figured tropicals. This plane takes more effort to push/pull than the others, but easily gives good results on figured woods.
• 60º – For extremely hard-to-work woods and for use as a scraper plane. It takes the most effort to use this plane.
If you want to use your shoulder plane mostly for cross grain work, such as cleaning up tenons, you might even want to lower that angle some.

Back to the photo above. The leftmost line represents the bottom of your blade. Using the actual blade as a marking/measuring tool, draw the next line showing the top of the blade. The distance between these two lines represents the thickness of the blade. Then, mark out for the wedge. The red line in the photo represents the top edge of the wedge.

THIS IS IMPORTANT. Note that I start this line from the point where the upper blade line meets the sole. I’m not allowing anything for the mouth opening at this stage! That will come later.
The cross hatched area in the photo shows where the wedge will eventually be. Don’t ask me what the angle for that wedge is, I just eyeball it! If you really want a number, I guess something like a 1 to 8 rise will do. Using a little tri-square, transfer the lines onto the sole and top of the body.

Next, drill the large diameter 19mm hole as in the picture. It is important to line the edge of the hole with the line representing the bottom of the blade. If you are clever, drill the hole first, then draw your lines! Easier that way! The distance between the bottom edge of the hole and the sole is around 10 mm in this case. If you are building a bigger plane, the hole and the bottom distance can be larger.

I use brass brazing rod to make pins to index and hold all the parts together. In my case the brazing rod’s diameter was 2mm, so I drill the 4 small 2mm holes. 1/8” brazing rod will work well for bigger planes, even 3/16” if you want.

Right, to the band saw to cut the thing into 3 pieces. Wait, first a little thinking again! My tagline doesn’t say for nothing: “A woodworker’s sharpest tool should be his mind!” It is hard but I try… The middle section need to be the same width as the tang of the blade. If you buy a finished blade it means you have to dimension the thickness of the centre piece to the width of the tang on your blade. It actually needs to be a little more to allow for some lateral adjustment of your plane iron. Since I haven’t made the blade yet, it can be whatever I like and I can cut the blade to suit. I decided to make the cheeks about 3mm thick in my case. So the middle piece will eventually be around 15 – (2×3) = 9mm. More or less! Set the fence 3mm away from the blade, add a little cause it just looks so narrow (!?) and clamp down.

Cut a cheek off each side. As you can see my blade was not too sharp. That frigging Purpleheart burns so easily!

My cuts were not too wonderful, so I decided to sand away the band saw marks on a flat sanding block. If you have a sharp and decent bandsaw blade this is probably not necessary. With the crappy blade I used, I got a little wander. I wish I could buy decent bandsaw blades in this joint. You guys are spoiled for choice! Oh, and a bad craftsman always blames his tools……

2 thin cheeks and one thicker middle piece ready to go! By picking up the marks on the sole and top, reestablish the blade and wedge lines on the centre piece.

Dry fitted my 3 pieces back together again just to check that my sanded surfaces fit well…

…Then cut that middle part into pieces! Carefully cut to the inside of the lines on the band saw or with handsaw if you want. If you look closely you will see that I left the lines just visible. I sand/plane the landing straight and square to the side. Save that middle piece! Later on this will give you the shape of the wedge to be made.

Testing the landing with the blade to be to check that it is nice and flat and square. You will notice that I didn’t leave any gap between the body and the blade where the mouth opening will be. For now we want it tight, we can always open it up a little more later.

The 2 central body pieces and the 2 cheeks temporarily assembled with my brass pins which reference all the parts nicely. You can see the opening at the top where the tang of the blade will come out. The wedge will go in there to hold the blade tightly in place.

The view from the bottom. You also see the piece of jointing knife that will become my blade. Everything looks OK, so it’s time to glue the parts together. Pull the four pins, give all the glue surfaces an even coating of your favorite sticky stuff and pin together again.

Clamped together with my motley collection of 1” and 2” clamps. Rather too many than too little…

Now we have to watch the glue dry! This could be a good time to clean up the shop a little…or …an even better time to enjoy something wet whilst contemplating matters of importance. Mads can light his pipe now and I will do the same. After all, glue drying is not a process to be rushed!

We have to be well rested for tomorrow ;^) Important work awaits. The mouth of our plane needs to be finely tuned then!

If anything is not clear, give a shout and I’ll respond in due time. There is nothing I can do if your mind is not clear. That something wet we talked about…?!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

31 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7279 posts in 4320 days

#1 posted 05-21-2011 10:35 PM

Gonna go and do me one of these…ONE DAY….

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4306 days

#2 posted 05-21-2011 10:48 PM

time to check the wood pile
i just got some stuff
that is hard and heavy
will hold it and see how it feels

thanks for the time and teaching

have a good smoke/drink and rest

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3854 days

#3 posted 05-21-2011 11:07 PM

Hi Div.

Nice, straight forward instruction method you use my friend. I like it. I also like the topic, as wooden planes hold a fascination for me and are something I want to do at least a couple of. I’m also in the process of making a marking guage too.

I like your choice of purpleheart, and I’m using it along with some maple for my guage project. I think it would improve the appearance if you’d used a light wood in the middle for contrast. Still, purpleheart looks so good on its own…

Next time I’m at the wrecker’s, I’m gonna check out a broken spring or two.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View mafe's profile


12844 posts in 4055 days

#4 posted 05-21-2011 11:19 PM

Smoke rings in the distance, I see you Div.

I’m still at the same stage, had two days of rough migrene, so nothing done.
I have ten of these block plane irons I got at at a sale for 5 dollar so I will cut one up, the wood is cut in three and I have the drawing on the body (not my own body do not worry).
Ohh yes I plan to try and make a low angel version app. 11 degrees where I turn the blade arround, that should give me 11 + a 25 degree bevel = 36 degree this should be cool for end grain yes? (I’m a bad student).
So I will catch up fast.
Thank you for taking the time.
Best thoughts,
it is wonderful to follow you here,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3906 days

#5 posted 05-21-2011 11:46 PM

Degoose, it doesn’t take long to build one of these. We mostly spend more energy thinking about things than we do actually making them!

Patron, hard and heavy is good! Are you playing along? Nice to see you here.

BigTiny, from far away Canada! Glad you are also interested. I remember you talking about spring steel a long time ago on another post. You said to look for much older models, so far no luck this side ,but then I don’t go to scrap yards on a regular basis! It is in the back of my mind, still like to try it.

Mafe, I just saw your smoke rings rising above the Northen horizon! Take it easy brother, no rush. I like your low angle idea! No, not a bad student, an inquisitive, adventurous, experimental, intellegent one! I like that kind!!!

Really low angle might be problematic with wood, failure of the very small glue line near the thin end of that low landing. It happened to me once when I tried it. Maybe just had some bad luck, but I think a solid bodied version might just work better.
Smoke signals departing now…

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3906 days

#6 posted 05-21-2011 11:50 PM

Mads, why turn the blade bevel up? If you leave it bevel down and make the ramp/landing at 36 degrees, it will give the same and make for a stronger plane. Could then even steal down to 30 degrees!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Brit's profile


8231 posts in 3808 days

#7 posted 05-22-2011 12:20 AM

I’m definitely going to make some of these Div. In the words of Humphrey Bogart “Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon…”

You’re an excellent teacher my friend.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View SPalm's profile


5337 posts in 4847 days

#8 posted 05-22-2011 12:55 AM

Hey Div, this is so cool. I remember when you first posted your coach maker’s rabbet plane. I was blown away. So I will attempt to follow along and someday do one of these. It looks like a lot of fun.

I have never used planes very much, as I was always a power tool guy. But I should learn, and building one seems like a good transition from power to hand.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3983 days

#9 posted 05-22-2011 04:37 AM

I have not been able to work in my workshop as it is a mess right now because I am in the middle of super sizing it. I am going from a 12’ x 20’ to a 24’ x 20’ doubling the size! I’m excited because it means I’ll have more working space. It is supposed to be finished next week then I get all the fun of finishing the interior, insulating, wiring, putting down solid vinyl tiles, making shelves, painting… get the picture! Hopefully I will be able to do it within a month, at least that’s my goal for now.

I will be making one when I get caught up and thanks Div for the excellent instructions!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4081 days

#10 posted 05-22-2011 06:24 AM

great blog Div
thank´s for taking the time to do it

take care

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4300 days

#11 posted 05-22-2011 07:12 PM

The construction looks very straight forward Div, however, I will probably be using a spade bit for mine. It seems to me that the mouth would have to be more narrow in the part where the shaft will be to prevent sideways movement. I sure would appreciate hearing your solution to this problem if you have one.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3906 days

#12 posted 05-22-2011 09:12 PM

Brit, please do. It is not that hard, real fun and it works!

Bearpie, good luck with the upgrade. Let us know when you get down to it!

Dennis, no problem.

Stefang, the middle block of your plane needs to be just a bit wider than the shaft of your spade bit. Some sideways movement is good to allow for adjusting the blade. If the cutting edge of your blade is not exactly square, sideways movement will take care of that. It also allows for centering the blade exeactly.
Once the wedge is in tight, the blade won’t go anywhere. Does that make sense to you? The photos in the next installment will clarify a lot!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4306 days

#13 posted 05-22-2011 09:38 PM

got some katalox
almost like ebony
hard and heavy
think i’ll use rosewood
got lot’s of it
5/4” in the rough
and hard maple too

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3906 days

#14 posted 05-22-2011 09:47 PM

never heard of katalox? Rosewood will be beautiful, you know what kind? That stuff real expensive down here. We have African Rosewood but it is not a real rosewood.

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4306 days

#15 posted 05-22-2011 09:57 PM

this rosewood from indonesia
here is some

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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