Monthly Archives: May 2016

Making a moulding plane: Step 5 – Bedding the iron and fitting the wedge

This is the fifth part in a series on making a moulding plane.  You can read the previous posts using these links:  Making a moulding plane: Step 1 – The blankMaking a moulding plane: Step 2 – LayoutMaking a moulding plane: Step 3 – Making the grip and escapement, and Making a moulding plane: Step 4 – Boring (the Wedge Mortise).

We left off in the last post with the wedge mortise cut and squared up.  Now it is time to bed the iron and fit the wedge.

Bedding the iron is fairly straight-forward.  The first step is to put the blank iron (which can be purchased from Lie-Nielson Toolworks) into the mouth of the plane so that the tang (the long skinny part of the iron) is against the blind side of the escapement and runs up through the wedge mortise. The first time you do this, the result should look something like the photo below.  IMG_2969

At this point, the mouth of the plane should be too narrow for the iron to fit against the bed of the escapement.  The next few steps are to use a float to open up the mouth slightly so that the blade will fit against the bed.  Opening up the mouth will create a slight angle on the front of the escapement (the breast angle) that is called the “wear”.

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Go slow when cutting the wear angle.  Only open the mouth a tiny bit at a time and check your progress by inserting the iron after every few cuts with the float.  At this point, you don’t want the wear to look like the photo above, You just want the iron to fit against the bed.

Once the iron will fit against the bed, you want need to start the process of fitting the wedge.  You will have to have the wedge inserted to make sure the iron is properly bedded.  To start, you will need a piece of stock just slightly thicker than the width of your wedge mortise.  For a # 6 plane, we are shooting for 3/16″  The wedge should be cut from this stock so that the grain runs down the length of the wedge.  The angle of the wedge should be 10º.    The wedge doesn’t need to be angled down its full length.IMG_2970

Once you have the wedge blank a little thicker than the mortise, you will start removing a little bit of the thickness at a time until the wedge just fits and takes a little effort to pull out.  To remove this material, you can use a finely set smoothing plane, a float, sand paper, or any other method to remove small amounts of material in a controlled manner.  I prefer to use my crank-neck float.  Remove a little material, test the wedge in the mortise for the proper fit, rinse and repeat.

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Once the wedge is the right thickness to get a good fit in the mortise, you will need to work on fitting the angled edges to the bed and breast angles of the mortise and escapement.  To do this, insert the iron blank into the plane body as you did earlier when opening up the mouth of the plane.  Insert the wedge into the mortise and give it a tap with a wooden, plastic, or rubber mallet.  Metal hammers should only be used on the wedge with VERY light taps.  Otherwise, you may end up disfiguring or breaking the wedge.  Look at where the wedge meets the top of the mortise and check out where it comes out of the mortise into the escapement.  When the wedge is well fitted, there shouldn’t be any gaps at the top of the mortise and its front and back edges should be in contact with both the iron and the breast of the escapement.  Unless you are skilled or lucky, you will probably have to make some adjustments to the wedge to get this kind of fit.  If the wedge fits without gaps at the top of the mortise, but there is a gap in the escapement between the wedge and the iron or the wedge and the breast of the escapement, some material will need to be removed from the top part of the wedge where it seats into the mortise.  If the wedge is tight against the iron and breast of the escapement, but there are gaps at the mortise, some material needs to be removed from the tip of the wedge.  Ultimately, you will want to keep both sides of the wedge straight, so when you’re making these adjustments, you are really trying to make small tweaks to the angle of the wedge.

Once the wedge is fit, you can check the bedding of the iron.  Insert the iron into the plane body and tap in the wedge so that the fit is snug.  Check to make sure that the tang of the iron is contacting both the back of the wedge mortise and the wedge.  Then check to make sure that the iron is contacting the bed of the escapement.  If there are any gaps, which there probably will be, you will have to do some more float work to get the bed good and straight.

One way to do this is to color the side of the iron that rests against the bed with a dry-erase marker.  Insert the iron and wedge as described above and tap on the tang of the iron with a small hammer to push it out of the plane.  If you look at the back of the iron, you will get an idea of where any high spots in the bed are because the dry-erase marker will have been rubbed away.  If you look into the mortise with a light, you should be able to see the high spots because of the color from the marker that rubbed of on them.  Use a float to remove these high spots.

Take your time and repeat the process of coloring the iron and testing for and removing high spots until the nearly all of the dry-erase marker is removed.  This will let you know that the iron is well bedded.

I will have to put the rest of this series on hold for a few weeks until I get a grinder and the equipment I need to heat treat the plane irons.  Once I have those in place, I’ll show how to profile the sole of the plane and the iron.

Until next time. . .

Nothing new this week.

I didn’t have any time for woodworking this week, so there won’t be a post in the series on making a molding plane until next week.
Until next

I didn’t have any time for woodworking this week, so there won’t be a post in the series on making a moulding plane until next week.

Until next time…

Making a moulding plane: Step 4 – Boring (the Wedge Mortise)

This is the fourth part in a series on making a moulding plane.  If you haven’t been following along, check out the previous posts using the following links:  Making a moulding plan: Step 1 – The blankMaking a moulding plane: Step 2 – Layout, and Making a moulding plane: Step 3 – Making the grip and escapement.

In this post, I’ll show you how the wedge mortise is bored and how the mortise and escapement are finished.  At the end of the last post, we had sawed out the escapement and removed the waste material with a chisel.  Now it’s time to complete the wedge mortise and escapement.  We’ll start by securing the plane body upright and getting an 1/8″ drill bit chucked up.  We will need to bore two holes, one about 1/8″ from the front of the mortise and the other about 1/8″ from the back of the mortise.  Choose which one you want to bore first and secure the plane body in a vise so that the when you bore straight down, the hole will be leaning slightly toward the inside of the escapement.  In other words, if you are boring the hole closest to the front, position the blank so that the front of the escapement (the breast) is just off of vertical and leaning back toward the heel of the plane blank.  If your boring the hole on the bed side of the mortise, you want the bed side of the escapement nearly vertical and leaning slightly toward the toe of the blank.  If this doesn’t make sense, leave me a comment and I’ll post something graphical to clarify.  You will also want to lean your boring tool slightly so that the hole runs toward the escapement side of the plane instead of straight up and down.  More on that later. . .

I used a gimlet bit in my brace, but you can use pretty much any set up you have available.

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If you use an electric drill, set it to run as slow as you can.  You want to be able to control the direction and depth of the hole as much as possible. One advantage to using a gimlet bit is that the bit can be steered more easily than a brad-point bit while the hole is getting started.  You might be able to get a similar level of control with an 1/8″ machinist drill bit as well – just make sure to use an awl or punch to make indentations for the start of the hole.

Bore these holes slowly and back the bit out every few turns.  The bits won’t be able to clear chips out of the hole and will tend to get very hot which can ruin the bit.  It’s wise to place the bit on the outside of the plane along the grip so you can use some type of depth indicator or stop on the bit.  You will want the bit to just clear the top of the escapement and then stop.  A piece of blue painter’s tape works well as a depth indicator.  Just tear off a piece and put it around the bit like a little flag.  When the taped off section gets to the top of the mortise, you’re at your depth and can stop drilling.

The two holes will (hopefully) meet somewhere around the top of the escapement.   You want to see the bit pop out at the top of the escapement about 1/16″ into the plane body from the ramp area you left under the shoulder.  I didn’t lean my brace far enough toward the escapement side of the plane when I bored my holes and ended up not being able to even see the tip of the bit.  You can see half of the holes left by my bit in the photo below. This wasn’t ideal, but it doesn’t ruin the plane either.

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Once the holes are bored, use a 1/10″ chisel to start prying out the material between the two holes through the top of the mortise.  This can take a little time, but all you are trying to do at this point is open up the mortise so you can get an edge float into the mortise.

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When the mortise is open enough, start using an edge float to widen the mortise almost to the layout lines (leave a little extra for fine-tuning the mouth).

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It shouldn’t take very much time with the edge float to have the mortise opened up to close to it’s full length.  Next, it’s time to widen the mortise with a side float.  The side float is the tool you’ll use to make sure the side walls of the mortise line up properly with the blind side of the escapement and that the bottom of the mortise at the top of the escapement is exactly the same width as your wedge (3/16″ in the case of a #6 plane).  Use lighter and lighter touches with the float as you get close to your desired size for the opening.  Floats are extremely dynamic tools.  They can take very heavy cuts if the handle is lifted and firm pressure is exerted, or they can make extremely fine controlled cuts if used flat and with a delicate touch.

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At this point, we have opened up the mortise.  In the next post, I’ll show how to bed the iron and fit the wedge.

Until next time. . .