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Posted by on January 30, 2019

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Although most professional boat builders use wooden planes to a great extent, probably most amateurs use them almost not at all. This fact is sometimes taken as a sign that the pro is eccentric, parsimonious, and of a weak mind, which he probably is -but his use of wooden planes is not the best evidence you can present. In fact, wooden planes in boat work have a lot of advantages over metal ones. This is particularly true on the biggest planning job of all- smoothing the hull. And if you have a grinder and another plane, you can shape the blade and the bottom to fit any surface on the boat. Of course, the thing to do is to collect half a dozen, wooden planes or more, of various lengths, weights, widths, and curvatures. But the best way to get them is to make them, which is fairly easy to do in the simplified form I will describe here.

The traditional type of wooden plane, as you probably know, is made from a solid block of hardwood. The cutter is held in place with a wedge, which fits into tapered channels cut into the wood of the sides. The blade may or may not have a chip breaker (it’s known as a “double iron” if it has one) and is at least twice as thick at the cutting end as the blade in your iron plane. The smoother plane usually has no handle. If the workmanship is perfect – if the wedge and the passageway for the chips is shaped exactly right, smoothed to a high polish – then this plane is a good one, not subject to the usual amateur criticism that you have to spend half the time setting the blade to the right depth and the rest of the time trying to dig out the jammed shavings.

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I have seen planes of this type that are works of art, and I have even made some myself that were

Satisfactory, but the job of making one requires too much time and patience to suit me. The type I have developed for my own use (and for which I claim no originality, by the way) is very easy to make, and so far as I can see has all the virtues and none of the faults of the usual type.



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Almost any hard, dense, tough, and heavy wood can be used for the plane. The old boat builders like to use a block of lignum vitae, rosewood, ebony, or other rare and costly tropical wood for their pet plane, but beech, hard maple, locust, live oak, dense white oak, walnut, and elm do very well. The harder the wood the less it wears away and the easier it slides, but the excellence of material is not so important in a plane that you can make in just a couple of hours.


The cutter is more of a problem. Years ago, every hardware store, particularly in shipbuilding districts, had an assortment of single and double “irons” on hand especially made for wooden planes. For some reason, unknown, the shops that made these blades were always run by brothers, and for some other reason the blades were better than any you can get nowadays except the same makers -and any who have survived are now probably making power lawn mowers. Try the oldest hardware store in town; ask them to show you Buck Brothers’ catalog. Junk shops are another possibility; but beware of a used blade unless you test it for hardness, as someone may have burned the temper out in grinding it.


Most boat builders prefer a double iron for all – around use in a smoother. The chip breaker, set as close as possible to the cutting edge, is especially valuable on irregular grain and absolutely necessary on such wood as dark – figured Philippine mahogany, because it (in combination with a very small throat opening, of which more later) prevents the contrary grain from picking up. A single iron cuts somewhat more easily, however, and is the type to use in a rounded hollowing plane. It is really interesting to know you that our website make you a woodworker thanks for the read.


As for size: a blade width of 1 3/4 or 2 inches is most common for a smoother or a hollowing plane. It’s worth remembering that a narrow,  round-bottomed plane with a fairly low – angled blade and large throat opening, used across the grain, is almost as good as an ads for removing a lot of excess wood quickly and easily – tapering an oak rudder, working down deck blocking, and fitting the ends of floor timbers, for instance.


The only other materials required are a few wood screws and a nice of me-harass in or what have with. I confess with embarrassment that I always use one of Mr. Stanley’s excellent steel joiners in the plane making, as in most other bench work.


Making the Body

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This style of the wooden plane is made in two pieces, to simplify cutting the opening for the blade and the wedge. The first step, then, is to get out a piece of stock twice as long and half as wide as the finished plane. The plane shown in the drawings is made from a piece of 1 3/5-inch by 2 1/4-inch by 22-inch stock.


Cut the piece in two, joint off and square the inside and bottom surfaces, and mark for the cuts on the inside of one half. This must be done with some care. With your tri-square at a 45-degree angle from the bottom of the piece, mark for the back of the blade. Place the blade on edge against this line, and mark the intersection of the forward face of the blade with the line of the bottom. From this point, mark the forward end of the opening at an angle of about 30 degrees with the vertical. These marks allow for no throat opening. Now square across on the top and the bottom, and mark lengthwise for the depth of cut-1 inch from the center line for a 2-inch iron, of course.


Before cutting, clamp the other half to the marked piece, and extend the top and bottom marks to it. Take the pieces apart again, and proceed to cut the two notches with your saw. Be very careful to cut exactly square on the end marks, especially on the bottom of the plane, and still allowing for no throat opening.  It is safer to file this opening after the assembled plane has been trued up and otherwise completed, including the wedging. Now make two or three more saw cuts to the correct depth between the end cuts, and split out the pieces with your chisels.


The next step is to fasten the halves together. You can use through-dowels and resin glue, blind dowels with fox-wedges, copper rivets, or plain flathead wood screws. (I prefer the screws.) For the plane shown in the drawing, use 2-inch No. 12 steel or bronze screws, with the heads set in 3/4 inch, located as shown – two driven from each side. True up the sides of the opening so the blade is a close fit at the bottom and can swing about 3/16 inch each way at the top, and the plane is ready for the fitting of the wedge and the handle.


It is probably best to make the wedge before boring for the through – bar that holds it against the blade. The wedge will, of course, be the same width as the blade and is usually made from the same type of wood as the rest of the plane. Shape it with a very slight

Hollow (lengthwise) on the under surface. The angle should be about 8 degrees.

Lay the blade in place, hold the wedge in position, and mark where the upper surface fits against the sides of the plane. The wedge should be about 5/16 inch thick where it hits the bar. You will probably have to cut off the point to get it down to the proper position.


Now locate and bore the 5/16-inch hole for the bar. Insert a piece of rod of the same size, cut it so the ends are flush with the outside of the plane, and spread the ends with a ball-peen hammer just enough to hold it in place.


Finish off the bottom of the plane fair, flat, and smooth. The final finishing can be done by rubbing the plane over a piece of sandpaper laid on a true surface, such as a machined saw table.

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The size of the throat opening, which is adjusted next, is important. If the opening is too large, the plane will tear up the surface of the wood you are working on. If it is too small, it will not allow fast work on softwood. File or pare the wood with a very sharp chisel to provide a plumb face about 3/64 inch ahead of the cutting edge. An opening of this size ought to give well all-around performance. While you have your hand in, though, it would be a good idea to make another plane to take the same iron but with a throat opening of half the size – and then enlarge the first one to 1/16 inch or even more, for rough work.


If you want to do without the handle, the plane is now ready for use except for tapering the ends slightly and adding another pair of screws in the after the end. But unless you are used to this simple block form, you will probably find the handle a worthwhile addition. The drawing gives dimensions for cutting off the top of the block behind the blade. Cut a slot 7/8 inch wide, 2 1/inches long, at the back end. Make the handle with the grain running lengthwise, fit it to the slot, and through – fasten from side to side with 2 1/4-inch screws or copper rivets. Let the heads in, of course. Shape and smooth the handle to suit, and chamber or round off all the corners.


A nice touch is to simmer the plane body for an hour or so in paraffin carefully heated slightly above the boiling point of water. This will effectively get rid of all moisture in the wood, and give it a built-in lubricating system.


Once you get used to it, adjusting the blade in a wooden plane is as easy, quick, and accurate as in any other. It’s all done by tapping-with a light hammer or a mallet – and doing it gently. Hold the plane upside down, front toward your eye and sight along the bottom to see where the cutting edge is. Tap down on the nose to retract the blade or to remove the blade and wedge. Tap on the front end, low down, or on the upper end of the blade, to get a thicker shaving. And, of course, tap the wedge in, but not hard, to keep the blade where you want it.


Use a fine carborundum stone, with kerosene on it, for sharpening the iron. It will seldom need grinding, but when it does, keep the iron cool, and keep it straight across. Whet the corners back a bit for planning across the again on such woods as oak and hard pine. And keep it sharp, even as does the pro, who never begrudges the time it takes to sharpen up, even when he’s working for himself.


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