Originally written Mar 27, 2020

The completed plane with carved wedge, viewed from the right The left side of the completed plane

The spring swap this year was a surprise swap, so we could make anything we wanted. Since my shop was being built, and would not be complete until reveal week on the swap, I spend a while thinking about what I was going to build for the swap. I decided I'd make a skew rabbet plane. I have an old one which I use, but it's hard to find a nice old plane, and I felt I had okay chances of being able to make a nice-looking plane that was functional.

My "user" skew-rabbet plane, which shows the signs of lots of years of use

So I started trying things. I had a bunch of pallets from the hardware store, and used some of the lumber from them to experiment on. The first try had some issues. I couldn't drill the holes for the mortise as precisely as I needed with a bit and brace and without much better workholding than I could achieve on the tailgate of my pickup using a pallet as a workbench, and with only a half-dozen three foot long bar clamps.

Misaligned holes for the blade

The second try didn't go a lot better. The mortise was maybe a little less raggedy, but I had geometry problems with the multiple angles for the skew and the bedding angle and the different sized escapements needed on the two sides. I'm glad I was practicing on pallet wood while working out the details, since it was pretty clear I still had to so some more thinking.

Attempting to saw the compound angle for the mouth / escapement of the plane

My third try, I decided I'd make it a composite plane. I could then cut the mortise with a hand-saw and get good angles, and drill the sides separately, and most of the complicated geometric issues could be simplified. So I started by gluing a piece of poplar to a piece of ipe that I was planning to use for the sole. I went with the poplar because I still wasn't sure this plan was going to work, and I should have used something a little more stable.

T-board forming the core of the plane

It was about this point that I found that I was sending the plane to Brian in Spain, so I decided I'd keep my schedule as tight as possible so that he wouldn't be waiting on international delivery while everyone else was revealing the goodies they'd received in the swap.

Since clamping (and really any other operation) on this T-shaped piece of wood was difficult, I used a few drywall screws to screw some pallet wood to the sides of the poplar. That turned out to be the real trick, and I started making good progress. I got the mortise and the bed for the blade cut, and was feeling pretty good. The picture below shows the cutting, which was made easier by clamping the piece so I was cutting more or less straight down.

Cutting the mouth of the plane on my fancy workbench

Since I don't have a forge for heat-treating, this was when I roughed out the blade, too. It's a rabbet plane blade from Lie-Nielsen, and while it was a little expensive, there's no way I could've succeeded without it. Then I sent it off to Dave Kelley in AZ for heat-treating, as he volunteered to help out. Thanks, Dave!

This was also the point that I realized I'd made an error in my geometry, and had cut a left-handed plane body. On a skew-rabbet plane, you want the forward point of the blade on the inside edge of the rabbet, since that will tend to pull the plane tightly into the rabbet you're cutting. I decided that I was far enough along that I didn't want to change things to make it a right-handed plane. I've used both left and right-handed, and I can usually manage, even with a plane that goes the wrong way – it's only been a problem when I'm also fighting the grain, and that's why I have both left and right-handed skew rabbets in my collection.

Once I'd gotten the core of the plane cut, I removed the pallet wood sides, and started working on the nice cherry sides that were going to make the final plane. I laid out and drilled holes for the escapement (pictured below), cut a wedge from alder, then drilled in some indexing holes I could use when gluing all the pieces up (also below) so I could keep things from creeping while I was clamping all the pieces together.

Drilling holes for the escapement of the plane Drilling alignment holes for the dowels that would align all the pieces

Now that I had an idea of how all the pieces would go together, it was time to get the wedge cut and tweaked for thickness. It's not rocket surgery, but it's a lot easier to do when you can take the sides off the plane and look at the angles and draw directly onto the wedge with a pencil so you get things right. With that done, it was time for the glue-up.

Once the plane was glued together, I had a few days to wait for the blades (I made two, in case I screwed one up) to get back from AZ. I rough-carved the escapement at this point, but I needed a blade to know exactly how tall the escapement needed to go to make room for the blade.

Left view of the plane Right view of the plane

I then cleaned up the blade (removing scale from the heat treat, mostly), and put the final edge on the blade to match the actual glued-up plane body. Once that was done, I could fettle the plane, flattening the bed for the blade with floats, opening the mouth up enough to handle the blade thickness, carving the end of the wedge to help steer shavings out the escapement (they curl because of the skew, and I'm still not enough of a pro to know just how tightly they'll curl), and using my belt-sander to bring the plane down to final thickness (you want the plane to be just a hair thinner than the width of the blade so the blade edge protrudes just a bit). With no shop, the belt-sander just got wheeled out into the driveway, and I let the New Mexico winds blow the dust to Texas.

With the thickness right, it was mostly finishing work. Cut the chamfers on the edges of the plane so it feels nice in the hand, carve a little detail in the wedge because I knew Brian would appreciate that, and hit the various pieces with some linseed oil and paste wax.

And here's the note that went in the box:

pages 1 and 2 of the handwritten note, text reads: Brian, Happy swap! Enclosed find a rabbet plane made from ipe sole, poplar core, cherry sides and an alder wedge. I gave it a 45° bedding angle with a 30° skew. It should work reasonably well in most woods. The blade is O-1 steel. I got help from Dave Kelley on the heat treating. I have sharpened the blade, and it should be ready to go unless the post damaged it. Also included is a spokeshave with a Hock Tools O-1 blade. It is also made from ipe. You may want to touch up the blade, but it should also be ready to go. If you want a wider mouth, put a washer under each end of the blade. Hope you enjoy them. Finish on both is linseed oil, followed by wax. A little wax on the sole if they drag should make them good as new again. pages 3 and 4 of the note, which reads: I think that is about it. Hope you get years of use out of them. Oh! One last thing, the rabbet plane is technically a left-handed one. I cut the skew the wrong way and didn't realize it until I went to grind the blade. Oops! I can manage to use it right-handed though. I think you will be able to make it work. -Dave Polaschek p.s. I have not completely tuned up the plane. The blade is not perfectly flat, but it seems to bed well enough. Drop me a message if you find it chattering or otherwise not performing.


Spokeshave showing escapement and date mark

This was a spokeshave I made as a bonus for the 2020 surprise swap. I started with a Hock Tools blade, and these instructions for making a spokeshave. Plus a piece of ipe I had on hand. It went to Brian Johns, and I hope he's happy with it!

Spokeshave showing blade and sole

#project #swap #woodworking #toolmaking

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Originally written Apr 18, 2020

top and bottom views of the spokeshave

Started with a piece of katalox from Savage Woods, a spokeshave blade from Ron Hock and some directions, which I mostly ignored, as I've done this before.

I found that working katalox is pretty challenging. It's a very hard wood, and while attempting to drill a pilot hole before drilling the larger radius hole for the curve in the handle, I snapped off the drill bit in the wood, and then had to work around that until I cut away enough wood to free the bit.

Bottom view of the shave

Shaped the handle with drills, turning saws, rasps, files, a knife, and probably some cursing, too. Not sure which was the most effective, but I got there in the end. I mostly finished with the knife and a file. Hit the shave with a coat of oil, and here we are. It needs a little fine-tuning yet, but I sliced a bit off my finger testing how wide the mouth was, so I'm going to write it up and call it a day.

top view of the shave

Update Jan 26, 2023: This is still one of my most-used spokeshaves. This is my low-angle one, and the small shave from HNT Gordon is my high-angle version. Really glad I made this one, though.

#woodworking #handyTools #toolmaking

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Jun 27, 2021

Built for the 2021 plane swap on that woodworking site I don't participate in any more, this was a fun project for a lot of different reasons. The main disappointment is that it was for a swap, so after it was built, I sent it away. But then someone else got to enjoy it, so there's that.

A low-angle infill plane with yellow-painted metal bits and white oak furniture, viewed from the left side

A low-angle infill plane with yellow-painted metal bits and white oak furniture, viewed from the right side

For the plane swap this year, I wanted to build something a little different. I have a stash of Stanley Global Plane #3s that I bought cheap on eBay from a seller in Canada when the exchange rate between the dollar and the loonie got fairly lopsided, so I decided to infill one.

But just a normal infill plane didn't seem challenging enough. Let's make a low-angle bevel-up plane from it. That should be a good challenge!

So I started out by removing the plane hardware and trying some things. One of my very first discoveries was that I would need to modify both the mouth and the bedding for the blade to achieve what I wanted.

First attempt at infilling the plane, with red eucalyptus knob, and a spruce rear infill while I tested some ideas

But I had a Veritas plane kit on hand, and I was pretty sure it worked with most of the smaller Veritas blades, so I ordered a spare blade for their bevel-up smoother that matched the size of the #3. I also initially planned to do the infill with some eucalyptus I got from AZWoody, but that plan fell by the wayside… Mostly because the eucalyptus from Arizona is brittle and hard to work, but also because I discovered I had a very nice bit of white oak in the shop. I bought a 6 foot long 10 inch wide 12/4 board a while back, and there was a knot near one end. The remaining bit on that end of the board looked like it would make a great infill for the plane.

White oak furniture for the plane - perhaps that will work

I set aside my pieces of oak and went to work with a chunk of spruce from a tubafor as my prototype, and made some templates from MDF so I could try things out as I experimented.

The plane with an MDF template next to it, matching the side profile

First thing I discovered was that the blade would be unsupported without the factory frog in place, so I cut a piece of brass to fill the area immediately behind the mouth with metal, giving me solid support for the blade where it would need it the most. I epoxied this into the plane body and set to work with a file making a smooth transition for the blade or infill to rest upon.

The brass support ramp, epoxied into the plane body behind the mouth

I also decided that I wanted to dress the plane up from the stock purple that Stanley chose. I had some Chromium Yellow (aka CAT Yellow) lettering enamel laying about, and decided that would look pretty good. It's not a sansoo-level paint job, but I think I did okay. I think there were four coats in most places.

Plane with oak furniture and the yellow paint covering up the factory purple paint job

I was also working out the geometry of the plane, and knew that I wanted to use the original bolts to help hold the infill pieces in place. I wouldn't be able to do a tote like I had initially planned, but I got something that felt okay in my hand, which used the original bolts.

The roughed-out oak furniture in the plane

But the nuts that came with the plane wouldn't do, so I found a piece of ⅝” brass rod, and fashioned some new nuts for the plane. Rather than turn them into hex nuts or something that was a lot of work, I decided to make them split-nuts so I could use a driver I already had (and that just requires sawing a slot).

Brass round nut with a slot, similar to the split-nuts used on saws

The bolts in this Stanley plane were 12-32. I don't have a tap and die for that, but I do have a set for 10-32, so I left the bottom ends stock, and reduced the upper ends of the bolts to 10-32 so I could tap the nuts to match. It's pretty easy to reduce the diameter of a bolt a little while not changing the thread.

As I worked, I ended up cutting off the tip of the rear infill and making it a separate piece. This meant that I had better access to it to shape it to match the slope I needed to bed the plane but I had to file down the heads of the factory screws a bit. But things were taking shape!

I drilled the holes for the cross-pin. The stock one from the Veritas plane kit wouldn't work, because it was too short, but I have a bunch of ¼” brass rod on hand. Turns out it's actually 15/64, but drilling a ¼” hole still worked, I just needed to make sure I didn't widen the hole too much.

I also drilled holes for screw the infill into place. I used #8 brass wood screws, countersunk just enough that when I filed off the head of the screw down to the bottom of the slot, I would be down to the side of the plane. My post-drill was getting quite a workout, and I spent quite a bit of time filing the screws, and peening the cross-bar into place and filing the ends of that smooth.

My first attempt at assembling the plane didn't go so well. With the blade not fully bedded, the chatter when trying to plane was horrible. I almost gave up and moved on to plan B, but I figured I'd give it one last try and took things apart and cut deeper grooves for the adjuster to ride in, which also meant making a deeper space for the adjuster knob.

With those changes made the plane suddenly worked well! The chatter was gone, and it would take shavings. Not great shavings, and the blade was now about 1/32” too long, but making things shorter is easy! Off to the grinder to establish a new bevel on the blade.

With that done, everything went together well, and it was just a matter of finishing it up. Well, almost. The metal plane wedge that I had initially planned to ship was no longer thick enough to hold the (now lower) plane blade securely. And making things thicker isn't as easy as making them thinner. So I got out some bubinga and ash veneer I had on hand and laminated up a new wedge for the plane. I alternated the grains, so the bubinga grain, which is visible, runs cross-wise in the plane body. It looks a little strange, but I like it.

Finish was three coats of linseed oil on all the wooden bits. I let each coat cure for a full day, while I worked on the bonus projects for the swap, and then once the oil had dried, I coated all the exposed metal (and the wood) with paste wax. It looks and feels pretty good, I think.

I also included a spokeshave as a bonus. The spokeshave was made from granadillo. I used a Hock Spokeshave Kit, which unfortunately had come without the mounting bolts and thumbscrews. Oh well, the threads in the blade are 10-32, which Ron verified when I emailed to let him know about the missing thumbscrews and bolts, so I just headed to the hardware store. Got a few 3” long 10-32 bolts, and I reused the thumbscrews from one of my own spokeshaves, since I didn't have great luck making my own thumbscrews from brass. I'll fix them up one of these days…

Anyway, I started cutting away some of the waste with the bandsaw, then went to work with rasps, files, hand-saws, gouges and chisels. I also drilled the holes for the mounting with the post drill. Then after setting the blade and making sure it worked correctly, I hacksawed the bolts to length and filed the ends smooth so they won't be an injury risk.

granadillo spokeshave after roughly shaping the handles and making the relief-cuts in the sole, showing the sapwood present in the piece

Having a well-appointed shop made this go a lot quicker than last year's spokeshave which was built before my shop was done.

granadillo spokeshave

The piece of granadillo I was using had a bit of sapwood on it, too. I had meant to place this on the back of the shave, but I got myself turned around, and it ended up on the sole of the spokeshave. Hopefully it won't wear too fast.

granadillo spokeshave

I also built a box to hold everything. It's fairly simple construction. A piece of red oak resawed in half to make the top and bottom, and a piece of walnut that was resawed in half to make the sides of the box. The bottom is simply rabbeted into the dovetailed sides, and the top got some bubinga veneer and oak sides so it would fit over the bottom of the box.

To build it, I cut the rabbets on the edge of the walnut, then dovetailed the walnut together. Then I trimmed the bottom piece of red oak to fit into the rabbets. Glued everything together and took it to the belt sander to clean up the outside edges of everything. I had one gap in the bottom which I filled with sawdust from the sanding and CA glue.

Box of walnut and red oak, open, showing the roughly-finished inside

For the lid, I glued strips of the 1/8” thick bubinga veneer to the edges of the top, then resawed a scrap of white oak to make the sides of the lid and glued those to the bubinga. Headed to the belt-sander again and made everything smooth. Again, there were a few small gaps between the oak and bubinga, so I filled those with the sanding dust and some more CA glue.

Box, closed, showing the top and the bubinga and oak edges on the lid

Wrote on the lid of the box with a pencil, then gave it three coats of shellac. It offered another layer of protection to the plane and the spokeshave in case the post office was less than gentle in the delivery.

Box, closed, showing the top with the note saying "Lumberjocks 2021 Plane Swap, Made by Dave Polaschek for Woodmaster1" in pencil

#woodworking #planemaking #toolmaking #plane #box #spokeshave #swap #project

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This is a smoothing plane I made for the 2019 Spring Surprise Swap. My recipient was Jerry, aka Turns4Wood The plane body is a sandwich of birch, African mahogany, and elm with an ipe sole. The elm was spalted and has been stabilized. The wedge is pear. The blade is at 45°︎ so it's fairly general purpose.

1935 Auburn Speedster

The looks of the plane are roughly based on a 1935 Auburn Speedster. I think that's a pretty good looking car, and kept it in mind while I was shaping the plane body. I think I did ok, and definitely a lot better than my first try, which looks more like a VW Beetle.

The plane uses the Veritas small plane kit with an O-1 blade.

Rough shaping was done with a bandsaw, then a belt-sander, and finally hand-sanding using the sanding blocks I got in one of my first swaps. Thanks again for those, Pooh!

The wedge is a piece of stabilized pear. I got the pear from HokieKen, and it was pretty soggy, so I wasn't sure if it would stabilize well, but I dried it in the oven without it cracking, and after it was stabilized, I carved in my mark. Until now I had burned the mark using a small laser engraver, but that died so I carved it by hand, and then filled the carved lines with black wood filler. I need some more practice carving.

I sanded up to 240 grit. Finish is two coats of linseed oil, followed by three coats of blonde shellac.

Right rear view of the swooshy smoothing plane

Left rear view of the swooshy smoothing plane

Sole of the plane

Front right view of the plane

Left side view of the plane

Front left top view of the plane

I sent the plane to Jerry in a hand-made wooden box. The box is butternut sides, a pine bottom, and an African mahogany top.

side view of the box

I carved the lid based on a pattern from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

top view of the box, showing my interpretation of the carved pattern

I got the details on how to construct the pattern using a compass and straightedge from the book Islamic Geometric Patterns.

The pattern for the lid of the box

The splines in the corners are some eucalyptus from Arizona I got from HokieKen, who got it from AZDave, who got it from AZWoody (part of the fun of swaps is the bonus items included and I try to pass on wood I've received in previous swaps). I thought it would offer a nice contrast to the butternut.

Open box, showing the plane inside it

I realized after I shipped it that I don't even know the dimensions of the box. It's big enough to hold the plane, plus about 1/8 inch on the sides. The sliding lid has a 3/32 inch deep groove carved in it that makes room for the adjuster on the plane when it's as high as it can go, so the plane is very securely cradled within the box.

#woodworking #HandPlane #toolmaking #project

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This is the story of the pair of knives I made to send to MaFe, with the plan that he would pick one of the knives for himself, and then send me a sheath for the other knife in return. As I wasn't sure of the size of his hands, I made the knives similar in size, sized more for my large hands than his, but figuring he could always remove some of the bark to make a smaller handle, which he did.

Knife blanks and brass bolsters

Two knives with partially completed stacks of birch bark

The knives start, as in the pictures above, stacking birch bark on the tang of the knife, plus a brass bolster I set on the tang. The knife blank comes from Morakniv and I like their 106 and 120 blanks. The birch bark comes from Russia, and there are a number of vendors on eBay who sell stacks of birch bark. I've found that the Russian vendors tend to have the best price (even including shipping) for prepared bark. Buying birch bark stacks from the US, I end up with a lot more waste, because the bark hasn't been scraped as well.

SPRAD comes from Mads reading my description, and noticing that the blades came from Sweden, me, from Poland, the birch-bark from Russia, and the knives moved from America to Denmark. Truly international!

Shop-made tool to compress birch bark as it is stacked

Using the shop-made tool to push down a layer of birch-bark

I punch the holes in the bark using a leather punch, making a line of one, two, or three holes, depending on which portion of the tang the piece of bark is going on. I also use a shop made tool to compress the bark as I work, making sure the layers are stacked as tightly as I can. I also thread the tail end of the tang at this point. Due to the square tang, what I usually do is thread it first with a 10-32 die, then thread it again with an 8-32. I want about a quarter inch of threads to work with. I'm sure there are metric sizes that will work well, but having the pair of dies with the same threads means I can do this as a two-step process, rather than having to anneal the last bit of tang so I could thread it in one step.

Shop-made vise to compress the layers of birch-bark

Once I have nearly enough layers on, I compress the handle further using a shop-made vise, and I put the handles into the toaster oven at 225F (105C) for a few hours. This will soften the pitch in the bark, and will somewhat “weld” the handle together. This step isn't absolutely necessary, but I've found that I get a better handle by doing it. I can also tighten the vise down a little more after the handle has been baked, further compressing the bark.

Some will put the handles into boiling water at this point, but I think that's hard on the steel. Others will compress the bark in a stack, boil it, and then drill a hole for the tang of the knife. But as with most woodworking, there's more than one way to do it.

Pommel of knife, showing washers and nut on the tang of the knife blank

After the handles have been baked, I'll add a few more layers of bark, then cap that off with a few washers, then an 8-32 nut. I try not to crank this down too tightly, and if there's room, I'll add more layers of bark to fill the space so the end of the tang barely protrudes from the nut as in the picture above. I've also used a piece of brass for a bolster, but the stack of washers is quick and easy, and looks good to my eye.

Birch bark knife handles, roughly squared

That will leave me with the very rough handle. I will rough that in using the bandsaw (very messy) or a carving knife (less messy, but slower)

Birch bark knife, showing how the bolster serves as a guide for squaring the birch-bark

Knife with handle tapered on the blade end

Then I move to the belt sander. Make sure to wear a dust mask at this point, as the birch bark may contain fungi or other things that will be bad for your lungs. I work to a square first, then add a taper as in the picture above. The rectangular bolster serves as a reference for me at this point.

Birch bark knife handle tapered on both ends

Then I octagonalize the handle, maintaining the taper. This is when I will sand down the nut and washers if I want to make them look less like they came from a hardware store. My “look” is still evolving, and I'm not sure what I like best. Then work to round the handle last. This is a fairly slow process, with lots of pauses to check my work along the way. In the case of these knives, Mads had said he preferred an octagonal handle, so I stopped without making his handle round.

Mostly-completed knives, one round, and one octagonal

And that gets us to picture 1 which is the pair of knives that I sent from America to Denmark to put the AD on the knives. There, Mads shaped the handle on his knife to suit his hands, and then made sheaths for both knives and sent my knife back to me.

Knife with sheath, and packaging material from Mads

I received the knife before we moved to Santa Fe, but after most of out stuff had been taken by the movers, so the knife became part of my “truck kit” of woodworking tools, which I used to make small repairs around the house before selling it.

Truck kit of woodworking tools

The most notable was the back entrance of the house, where the threshold had a spot worn in it from years of people going in and out of the door, which I patched one afternoon with the truck kit of tools and a scrap of wood.

Patch on the threshold of the rear door of my house in Minneapolis, post-repair

Patch on the threshold of the rear door of my house in Minneapolis, after painting

#woodworking #toolmaking #project

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