chisels
Photo 1. I made it myself!!

The photo should get the message across: A thoughtfully designed, hand-crafted wooden plane can really make a guy (or gal) smile. And, smile they should because making a wooden plane that actually makes gossamer shavings and leaves a silky smooth finish on the wood takes a lot of work and dedication. But, if the wood worker perseveres, then the result is what you see above.

I can see James Krenov smiling as well.

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chisels
Photo 2. My assortment of planes.

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I GOAL Before we begin, lets recall the ancient proverb, '"If you do not know where you are going, then any road will get you there." This is not how we are going to start this project. One of the most important things that we can do before we begin is to define our goal. IOW's, what are we going to expect from the plane we are planning to construct. This is not a trick question, but it is one I am more than familiar with having made a few wooden planes in the past. You may be thinking, "Well, I want it to be this long and that tall and … ". OK, that's a start, but how about what it is supposed to do when you use it? My goal is to make a plane that has the finest throat that I can possibly make with the tools that I have. Period. Lets define some terminology to get us off on the right foot. A simple plane is made of four basic parts: • Right Cheek • Left Cheek • Front Ramp • Rear Ramp Your iron rests on the rear ramp. A more complicated plane would use a separate piece of dense wood for the sole or bottom of the plane. We are not going there with this project. We will keep it simple for the time being. I will be referring to the front and rear ramps collectively as the 'body' of the plane.

Heads Up!! This is the second most important thing we can do before we begin this project. If your jointer and table saw (and its sled or accessories) are not tuned to near perfection when you begin this project, I can almost guarantee certain disappointment when you are done - if you do not give up before. The table saw will be making a crucial cut later on that will guarantee success - or failure. The jointer cuts will be just as important. If you use a planer you pretty much have to be satisfied with the way it was set up at the factory. Normally, this is consistently accurate, but there are rare exceptions. This project will truly be the sum of ALL of its parts. IOWs, if one part of this project is not up to spec, it could drastically alter whatever expectations you have for it - and not in a good way! (I am assuming that you will be using these power tools to flatten or square your plane stock. If not, then skip over this and move ahead.) And, just to be clear, I am not referring to the finish these tools impart, I am referring to the accuracy of the planes they leave your stock at. We want all of our edges to be absolutely perpendicular (or parallel) to one another. So, for instance, if your jointer fence is not perpendicular to your infeed and out feed tables, then expect problems as you progress with your plane project. The details will come later, but I am just warning you about this before you proceed. My sincerest wish is that your finished plane please you in every way. However, this will only happen if you pay strict attention to all the things that can (and will) result in a mediocre (or worse) plane. That is not what I want for you at all. In truth, having all of your tools in good working order is a very basic premise that each of us should strive for at all times. This project is no different. Having all of the tools we are going to use for our plane tuned as accurately as possible will practically guarantee a sweet working plane. The rest is up to us.

Looks are secondary to our plane goal. While we should care how it will look, this truly is not important. You can be thinking about this, but do not let this get in the way of constructing a plane that makes gossamer thin shavings and is a joy to use. Let me add this before we continue. All of this should already be obvious, but let's be crystal clear: While we could just say that, "This is my first plane and so I'm not expecting too much from it.", that would not be very helpful to us. You could take on that attitude, but I believe that we can do better than that if we try. So, this is not the mind-set we want to proceed with. Now that we know where we're going, let's get started.

II CHOOSE YOUR IRON (AND MAKE A SIMPLE DRAWING) You can use what ever iron you wish. This is entirely up to you. However, after working your way through this section, you may want to choose a different iron for your design based on what you may learn about your choice. Note - Wide Irons While you can use any iron you wish, think about this for a moment: The wider the iron, the wider your plane is going to be. Your hand size will determine what is comfortable and what is not. This project has everything to do with ergonomics. You are the final judge. I am simply trying to point out things that will affect how your plane will feel and ultimately work for you. An uncomfortable plane is no fun to work with. The first thing we want to do is make a simple drawing based on: • The length of the iron you plan on using • The ramp angle By ramp angle, I am referring to the angle that your iron will lay at in your finished plane. Most choose a ramp angle of 45-degrees. There is a lot of discussion about a steep ramp angle for planing hardwoods and a lower ramp angle for planing softwoods. I am not going into that because this is about plane construction, not plane iron angle theory. After doing a lot of testing, most wooden plane makers usually end up using a ramp angle of 45-degrees for all woods. That is the angle I choose for all of my planes. You can base your own plane on any angle you wish. Use your best judgement and be content in doing so. You do not have to do what everyone else does. It does not hurt a thing to experiment on your own. This is a learning process for all of us. Think 'out of the envelope'. There is nothing wrong in doing that, and - you may learn quite a bit in the process.

Looking at the above drawing, we have drawn our iron to length and at the ramp angle of choice. In this case our iron is 4-1/2 inches in length and is laying at a ramp angle of 45 degrees. You will also note that the vertical height of this configuration is slightly over 3-inches for the iron. Depending on how much of your iron you want exposed above the plane, you have less than that to design the final height of your plane to. Our drawing depicts a final plane height of 2-1/2 inches, which will expose about 1/2-inch of the iron above the plane and fit our hands very comfortably when finished. This simple sketch should tell you a lot about what the possibilities are with your choice of iron and ramp angle. With this information you can go forward as planned or make changes as necessary.

III DESIGN OK, so now we know how tall we are going to make our plane. Now we must determine how long we want it and so on. This is all a personal choice based on what we want to our plane to do

Looking at the sketch above we see an exaggerated view of a rough board we are anticipating having to smooth out with our plane. The roughness is depicted by the peaks and valleys. We can see that a long plane will plane down the peaks quite effectively, while the shorter plane would tend to 'ride' the waves or peaks. This is precisely why plane maker's long ago realized that different boards required different planes to flatten the board efficiently. I made a 20-inch maple plane (see below) that I made to flatten a large walnut crotch coffee table top a few years back. I have not used that plane since, but it will be ready for any future projects which will require a longer plane.

The point to all this is that you will need different (longer or shorter) planes for different boards and project surfaces. There is no getting around that. However, for this project we want to concentrate on making a smoother or shorter plane what we can use for nearly all of our projects. So, let's aim on making a plane of about 12-inches in length. This is a good all-around length that will come in handy for us nearly everyday should we need it that often.

chisels
Photo 3. Sharp chisels.

IV CONSTRUCTION we must now chose what wood we want our plane to be made of. Maple is a good choice, but you can use whatever you have on had, but hard wood will serve you best. Maple or oak are good choices. Soft woods will not last long. We want to cut stock that is roughly 2-inches longer than our finished plane length (12-inches) and is roughly 1-inch taller. NOW - LISTEN UP!!!! After you select your stock, you must continue construction with the grain of all parts of your finished plane oriented flowing towards the back of your plane. This is crucial because after we have glued up all the parts we will be passing the sole of our plane over the knives of our jointer to insure that the sole (bottom) of our plane is dead flat. Picture this: the grain of the body of your plane is glued up differently than the grain of the cheeks. Then we pass it over the jointer knives. The result would not be good. We would have serious tear out which would pretty much render the plane worthless. To avoid this, always keep the grain of all parts of our plane flowing towards the rear of our plane. The tried and true cabinet maker's triangle marked across the top of the plane (with grain oriented in the same direction) would be an excellent idea. In practice, you would probably need to use two triangles: one over the front ramp and another over the rear ramp. Now you're good to go.

V SETTING THE IRON I set my wooden plane irons very differently than most. I do not set it by feel, nor do I set it by peering at it against a bright light source. This is how I set my irons. I take the plane and lay it on a perfectly flat surface, such as a thick sheet of glass, your jointer infeed/outfeed table, a slab of machined-flat granite or something equally stiff and FLAT. I prefer glass or my jointer infeed table. I then gently slide in the iron and then slide in the wedge, leaving the wedge quite loose. I then take my finger or the eraser end of a pencil (which you use will depend on the plane and its design. Sometimes my finger will not fit, so I use the pencil) and carefully push the bottom of the iron so it is snug against the ramp and then I push the wedge into place, all the while pressing down gently on the plane. (to be continued)

Phasellus imperdiet, risus ut cursus ultrices, augue sem tempus nisl, sit amet euismod leo quam in ipsum. Nam sed est sit amet dui tincidunt suscipit. Integer suscipit, turpis vel dictum cursus, sapien purus porttitor diam, ac facilisis sem augue et risus. Sed in ligula. In semper augue sed nisl. Nunc eget ligula ut magna tempor fringilla. Etiam mi nibh, laoreet ut, rutrum ut, accumsan sed, arcu. Sed eu mauris eget orci dignissim lobortis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nam quam. Nunc venenatis urna eget mi. Praesent placerat. Suspendisse potenti. Sed odio leo, tempus ut, sollicitudin id, vehicula quis, erat. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Phasellus blandit lectus ut risus. Suspendisse massa. Curabitur vulputate, est eu consequat condimentum, risus ligula egestas lacus, in dignissim nisi metus a metus.

END!!!