Building Wooden Planes

by Lambdafarm on July 17, 2011

I have had David Finck’s book Making & Mastering Wood Planes: Revised Edition
for a while. I also have the book Tool-Making Projects for Joinery and Woodworking: A Yankee Craftsman’s Practical Methods
by Steve A. Olesin that includes how to make a plane. What had me stymied was the idea of fabricating the plane iron. Cutting a blank from an old saw blade was tough, and without a bench grinder to square it up and sharpen it, futile.

making plane irons from saw blades

Finck talks about using iron that is soft, then tempering it with a torch. Not really something I can do. And of course, then you need the bench grinder to put the initial angle on the bevel. I looked at new plane irons, but they were more money than I had. So I put that idea away for a while. It never really went away, though. Then I got Chris Swartz’s The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.

Not only did Schwarz talk about which planes were important and how to use them, he has a list of sources for tools in the back of the book. In addition, he talks about how to buy old tools without loosing your shirt. One of the vendors he listed, Joshua Clark, specializes in user grade used tools. I explained what I wanted to do and for $30 including postage, got two very nice plane irons, with chip breakers. They are wide, 2.25 inches and almost 3 inches, and perfect for a jack plane and a joiner plane. Joshua sent them to me for inspection after sending pictures that were very clear. The irons were exactly as they were pictured, and Paypal is our friend.

I have glued up a block of maple that is hard as a rock to use for the jack plane. I am making it without power tools, which means it is slow going. Finck assumes you have a band saw, joiner, planer, bench grinder, and all manner of toys that I lack. So a panel saw, block plane (my grandfather’s) and a lot of elbow grease will have to suffice. Hopefully soon I will have pictures of a working jack plane.

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