Simply a Plane diversion

Half finished projects fill my little shed.  The place needs a good clean-up and some paint.  The sidewinder lathe and the “raked leg” workbench are awaiting completion.  So what do I do?  Of course, I allow myself to be diverted and completely distracted from all the stuff that I’ve got to do.  For what reason?  To build a toothing plane.  A what?  Yes, you heard right, a toothing plane.  I don’t need any more planes!  I’ve built a lot of them over the years.  I’ve bought a lot of them over the years.  So why a toothing plane and why now?

While reading about toothing planes on the Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker blog, I remembered that I’ve had several historic designs rolling around in my head for a number of years.  I knew that, at some point, I’d incorporate them into some little plane for use around the shop.  The toothing plane is an uncommon but very useful tool for anyone working on highly figured stock or around knots.  But I wanted to do something a little bit different from just the standard, everyday, purpose-built wooden plane.  So I delved back into history…

The famous Renaissance artist Durer included a fanciful plane (along with the famous number puzzle) in his work Melancholia I.  It’s got some pretty wide marginal lands, but it is a real sweetheart design.

Melancholia I

Here’s a little closer look at the actual design of the plane.

Durer plane - from the book, "Planecraft"

A.J. Roubo shows a number of beautiful plane designs in his book, “l’art du Menuisier”.

So I decided to incorporate features from both designs and add a “mechanically affixed” sole, similar to the soles found on Ulmia and ECE planes today.  So here’s the design that I came up with.

The body is Swiss Pearwood.  The horn, wedge and sole are made from Bloodwood (Satine).  I opted for a brass pin as opposed to “cheeks” to hold the wedge in order to maximize the throat opening, which is substantially reduced due to very high bedding angle of the iron (80 degrees).

The sole is joined with angled box joints (and some good old Titebond III).  Hand cut dovetails could be used as well.  But I must admit that I made a little box joint sled and cut the slots with a dado on my table saw (yes, I still own a table saw – kinda like a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat).

example of sole joint

The iron is made from O1 (oil hardening) tool steel.  In its annealed state, O1 can be easily cut with a hacksaw and filed into shape.  I used a 6″ slim taper file to cut the grooves.  If I had it to do over again, I’d use a cold chisel as suggested in the piece by Anthony Hay’s shop.  I know that all of my knife making friends will find this disgusting, but I actually quenched the iron in hot water, as opposed to oil.  I know, I know, this is not recommended.  But I chose not to fill the shop up with oily smoke (if and when the quench bath caught fire).  I was lucky.  The iron did not fracture and warping was minimal.  It was easily honed flat.  The heavy section of the iron probably prevented catastrophe.  It’s 3/16 x 2.

iron after shaping and hardening

 After the quench, I tempered the iron by placing it in our kitchen stove for 30 minutes or so at about 500 degrees F.  Having no technical means of checking the surface hardness, my guess is that it’s 60-62 Rockwell C, based on how it honed.  To “prettify” the iron, I used a little Birchwood-Casey cold gun bluing to darken it down a bit.  Maybe on the next plane I build, I’ll heat blue or chemically blacken the iron.

The horn was carved and the faceted surfaces were left un-sanded.

The "horn"

Rough parts ready for finishing

I used Weldwood Plastic Resin glue to glue the horn in place.  It’s an excellent product that’s been around for years.  Have to give a nod to my friend Les for educating me in it’s uses.  After finishing individual parts and assembly, I gave the plane a couple of coats of Birchwood-Casey Tru Oil.  It’s a gunstock varnish made with tung oil and some “secret” ingredients.  Two coats was all that was required.  Slap it on, wipe it off.  Just doesn’t get any easier.  It’s a fantastic finish.

The string like shavings made by the toothing plane

Alright, enough already with the distractions.  Now it’s time to get back to work.

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3 Comments on “Simply a Plane diversion”

  1. Carl Kuhnle Says:

    What direction of planing gives you the best results? Do you go with the grain, or slightly skewed? Can you cross plane like a scrub plane?

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Just slighty askew when doing finish work, straight with the grain when joining and cross grain when dimensioning.

  2. Ismail Nuri Says:

    “But I chose not to fill the shop up with oily smoke (if and when the quench bath caught fire). ”

    I quench in olive oil. Buy the cheapest gallon can you can find, “Can-open” the top and quench in it. The smoke is minimal and it smells kind of like oatmeal cookies. Make a wooden lid for it. Top of when necessary. I used the stuff when making O1 sheath knives.


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