Peter McBride

Antique and Old Tools

Oct 2008 

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Page 1
Making a dovetailed bench rebate infill plane.  
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Plenty of different Crafts and Trades will share the skills needed for planemaking. Some original and contemporary makers come to planemaking from an engineering / machinist background and some from woodworking (like Stewart Spiers). To some degree these different disciplines will flavour the look of the planes and also the techniques and tools used. Making Fine Handcrafted Jewellery for 30 years has given me a feel for good balanced design, and a run-up start on some the skills needed for plane making. (I've filed metal almost 6 days a week for 30 years) It shouldn't be a surprise that I will use many of the tools from the jewellery bench when making the planes. I like to think my planes will contain some of the history of my professional life as a gold and silversmith, and as keen amateur woodworker, and in the distant past as a student in mechanical engineering.
This plane is based on the Stanley #10 1/2, and will be similar to a longer plane I have in my collection. It will have a 54mm (2 1/8 inch) wide blade, set at an angle of 50 degrees, bevel down with a back iron. A removable lever cap will be located with a pair of steel pins under hooks in the sides. The sides are made from 5mm ( about 3/16 in) cartridge brass, thicker than the usual 3mm (1/8 inch) I use. The need for more rigidity had me thinking I might make an all steel plane, but now the sides are cut out, I'm confident the brass will be plenty strong enough. I made a lever cap for this plane last year whilst making the one for my smoother. seen here. Although I have drawn a closed handle, I might use on open handle on this plane also. The files, hack saw, vice and other tools I use are just what I have on hand, and most good quality tools will do the job.

rebate00a.jpg (42215 bytes) lever_04.jpg (69796 bytes)

After making a cardboard template, I traced around it onto the brass with a "Sharpie Pen" and with a metal cutting blade in the jigsaw, roughly cut out the sides. Both sides are then filed and cut with a hacksaw close to the finished size. Note the height of the vice: set 30 years ago to give me a horizontal right forearm at a comfortable height. 

rebate01a.jpg (108946 bytes) rebate02a.jpg (103119 bytes) rebate03a.jpg (102791 bytes)

To remove the waste from the side openings, I made a couple of straight cuts with the plate in the vice (soft brass jaws), then used my jeweller's saw with a Vallorbe 2/0 blade to cut the curves. I use Bahco Sandflex 24tpi Bi-Metal blades in a good rigid hacksaw saw ( Sandvik ) and the files I've used so far are a mixture, Wiltshire flat "wundacut", half-round, a Dick triangular file and an unknown really aggressive round file.

rebate04a.jpg (108302 bytes) rebate05a.jpg (115051 bytes) rebate06a.jpg (112277 bytes)

With both sides close to correct shape, they are put together into the vice for matching and finalizing the curves. Layout blue ink ( from RS-online) is painted on to the sides and a small surface gauge used to mark the base line of the dovetails. (Permanent marker pen will do the job instead of the ink) I was toying with the idea of a steel or brass front piece, but decided against it because the sides, being 5mm thick, are quite heavy and I don't want an overweight plane.

rebate07a.jpg (129982 bytes) rebate08a.jpg (118464 bytes) rebate09a.jpg (85848 bytes)

This plane will have the tails cut into the sides, and the pins in the steel base, so the sides will be fitted in from the sides of the plane onto the sole. The dovetail angle I like is 70 degrees, and the spacing is just set out by eye. One side is marked, and then the two are placed together in the vice and the marking transferred across with a small engineer's square.

rebate10a.jpg (107258 bytes) rebate12a.jpg (129831 bytes)  rebate11a.jpg (127387 bytes)

With the two plates aligned carefully and clamped together in the vice,  I cut down to just above my horizontal layout line on the waste side. This line is one of the most critical for the success of the plane. It is what makes the base flat and straight. Once all these cuts are done, I go back to my jeweller's bench and cut the waste out with jeweller's saws. This work with a jeweller's saw is a bit time consuming, to cut them all out took 45 minutes with a ten minute break in the middle.

rebate13a.jpg (102625 bytes) rebate14a.jpg (139064 bytes) rebate15a.jpg (104250 bytes)

The time spent on the sides so far is about 2.5 hours. That isn't counting the time spent drawing and thinking, nor the time spent making the lever cap and screw.

Page 2 - filing down to the baseline.

Copyright Peter McBride 2008