This is the third installment in a series on making a moulding plane. If you haven’t read them already, you can find parts one and two at the following links:
As I’ve mentioned in the two previous posts. I can’t recommend the DVD Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes with Larry Williams highly enough.
In this week’s post, I’ll walk you through cutting the grip and escapement of the plane.
I left off last week with the blank for the plane body completely laid out using a combination of marking gauge, marking knife, and pencil lines. Now we’re ready to pick up saws, chisels, and floats and start cutting the blank.
We’re going to be cutting the shoulder for the grip and the escapement, both of which need to be crisp clean lines since they are highly visible in the finished plane. Because of this, I started by cutting the shoulder line of the grip in fairly deeply with a marking knife. After the line was cut in, I used a chisel to make a lop-sided V-shaped grove at the line. This was done by placing the edge of the chisel parallel with the shoulder line about 1/8″ away from the line (on the side of the line closest to the top of the plane). I then cut the V-shaped notch by gently pushing the chisel toward the line and allowing it to cut about 1/16″ deep. Make sure to push gently, because you want the chisel to stop when you reach the shoulder line. If a triangular strip of wood doesn’t pop out on it’s own, use a marking knife, razor blade, or chisel to cut straight down along the shoulder line and if necessary, along the notch you made until all the waste has been cut free. This notch should run the full length of the plane blank and should leave a straight, square edge for the shoulder.
This notch establishes the crisp shoulder line we are looking for and provides a guide for sawing. The next step is to pick up a fine toothed backsaw and cut the shoulder down to the layout lines the heel and the toe. Go slowly as you make this cut. It shouldn’t take long and it’s really easy to over cut, which will weaken the plane. After every stroke or two with the saw, stop for a second to check the layout lines on the ends of the plane and make adjustments as necessary. It is common for either the front or the back the be deeper than the other end, so let your progress guide you about where to put pressure as you’re sawing. When the cut is completed, the teeth of the saw should be right on the outside of your layout line on both the front and back. If you stop the saw with teeth exposed at the front and back of the plane blank, it’s easy to check this. This will be an indication that the cut is a uniform depth the whole length of the blank.
The next step is to remove the thickness of the waste from the grip. Here you have a couple of choices. The size of the plane you’re making will play a part in the decision, as will the tools you choose to use. The choices are 1.) saw down the 1 1/2″ layout lines on the ends of the plane and remove the waste in a single block, and 2.) use a chisel, rabbet plane, and floats to remove the material in the form of chips or shavings. For a # 6 plane, we are only removing 5/32″ of material, so I choose option two. If this were a larger plane that had more material to remove, I would go with option one. If you choose to take option one and are using handsaws, you’ll want a fairly course saw and you should stop sawing frequently to clear the chips out of the saw kerf. You’ll be making a 1 1/2″ deep saw cut along an 11″ span, so the saw won’t be able to clear the sawdust by itself. Try to leave around 1/32″ to 1/16″ between the saw kerf and the layout line so that you can clean up the grip with a chisel and floats.
As I said, I chose to remove the waste with a chisel and floats. To do this, take a fairly light cut, maybe 1/16″ to see make sure you know which way the grain is running. If the chisel starts to lever up wood fibers, stop and go the other way. Once you know which direction you want to cut with the chisel, put the edge of the chisel about half-way between the edge and your layout line and cut out a chip in the direction you just identified. Once you’ve made one pass down the entire length of the blank, repeat the process. Place your chisel edge about half-way between the edge and the layout line and remove another layer of waste, this layer will be much thinner, so adjust the force on the chisel so you don’t over do it and ruin the blank. The last part of cleaning up the grip should be done with very light cuts from a chisel, or preferably, with a float. The float is the preferred tool because it will leave a finish ready surface and can be used to take of the waste at a more controllable pace.
This is what the grip should look like when your done.
You can see the quality of the surface left by my crank-neck float in the photo below (there is no polish, liquid, or wax on the surface, only the raw wood surface left by the float – these are really amazingly useful tools).
Now that the grip is done, its time to saw out the escapement. At this point, I do things differently than Larry Williams does in the DVD. Larry uses the layout block I showed in the last post as a saw guide. The block is clamped to the plane body and the saw blade is held tight against it to make sure the angle is correct. This is done for both the bed and the breast (the back and front) of the escapement. I cut the escapement in the same way I cut the shoulder of the grip. I knife the lines in deeply using the layout block and then use a chisel to remove V-shaped notches on the inside of the escapement. I also cut these notches in the mouth of the plane down to layout line for the blind-side edge of the mouth.
Now again, it’s time to pick up a fine-toothed handsaw (a crosscut saw in this case, since we are cutting across the grain). These two saw cuts need to be as precise as you can make them. The goal is to stop sawing right at the layout line for the blind side of the mouth without crossing the line and at the same time, stop cutting on the other side just as you finish cutting through the shoulder of the grip so you don’t cut into the face of the grip. If you have to mess up this cut, cut a little heavier on the toe of your saw so that you cut into the grip slightly. A little bit of a cut hear won’t be to serious because we are going to be forming a ramp from the grip to the escapement later and will get rid of any saw marks that aren’t too deep (if you look closely at the third photo below, you’ll see that I cut into the grip for one stroke myself). If you cut past the blind side of the mouth, the plane may not work properly. Just take this slow and check your progress after every stroke or two with the saw. You’ll be fine.
With the escapement sawn, it’s time to remove the waste for the mouth. this process starts by using a chisel (3/8″ or 1/2″) to cut in a line 3/8″ down from the shoulder of the grip and parallel to the shoulder. This will be the top of the escapement for the moment.
Now place the tip of a 1/10″ chisel about half-way between the escapement side of the plane and the blind-side layout line for the mouth and pop out a chip by pushing the chisel into the escapement and slightly upward. Work your way down until you have about 1/64″ of material left to be removed from the mouth. We’ll take care of this later with floats. Use the chisel to make as smooth a surface on the blind side of the escapement as you can. At the top of the escapement, you want the escapement to be the thickness of your wedge. For a # 6 plane, the wedge is 3/16″ thick, so try to keep the depth of the escapement to 3/16″ or just slightly less. This depth will be fine-tuned as we fit the wedge. The top of the escapement will ultimately be what pushes the wedge tight against the blind side of the escapement so that shavings don’t catch. Unfortunately, this was not something addressed in Larry Williams DVD, but rather something I learned from experience when I made my first plane.
That’s it for cutting the grip and the escapement. In the next post, I’ll explain the process of boring out the wedge mortise, bedding the iron, and fitting the wedge.
Until next time. . .