Category Archives: Floats

Plane-makers Floats. . .Again

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of posts about making a set of plane-makers floats.  I’m going to revisit these tools briefly again here because they are one of the most important and useful tools for making moulding planes.  The various floats are all used to refine the wedge mortise of a wooden plane as well as the bed the iron rests on and the front of the mortise.

This week, I made the body of my moulding plane.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to get photos of the process.  There will be some photos of the mostly finished plane body below.  I was surprised at how simple the process really was.  The only challenging part of making the plane was getting the wedge mortise cut cleanly.  First, the mortise has to be drilled and then the waste inside has to be removed with a chisel.  Keeping the mortise straight down the body is a little nerve-wracking (at least the first time around).  Once the bulk of the waste is removed, it’s time to use the plane maker’s floats.  They are used to make the walls of the mortises straight and smooth.  They are also used when working on bedding the iron so that it is held firmly in place when the plane is used.

In my next post, since I didn’t get photos of me making the first plane, I’ll post some photos about how and where each of the floats are used in making a plane.  Below are some photos of the partially finished moulding plane.

Until next time. . .

Planemaker’s Floats Part 5

Its been an extremely busy few weeks and I haven’t had much time for woodworking, much less for blogging.  I was able to finish the planemaker’s floats I have been working on.

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Hardening a float.


A week ago, I was able to get the floats hardened.  My in-laws had a nice hot fire going in their wood stove; just waiting for the float blades.  I did end up with a little warping of the steel.  It wasn’t too bad though, and I don’t think it will affect the tools in use.

The next day, was able to temper the blades in a toaster oven.  2014-02-08 16.16.51 - Copy

After the tempering was finished, I sharpened the floats.  Finally, after a coat or two of boiled linseed oil on the handles, the floats are all finished.

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Finished Planemaker’s Floats


This weekend, I have started working on restoring three vintage handsaws, which I plan on selling.  More about these saws in a future post.

Until next time. . .

Planemaker’s Floats Part 4

Pull Cheek Float

Pull Cheek Float

Last week I made quite a bit of progress on the planemaker’s floats I’ve been working on.  I finished the metal work on the two cheek floats (see the previous posts in this series for the process).  Over the weekend, I also made handles for three of the four floats.

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Unfortunately, I miss-marked the holes for the screws in one of the handles, so I’ll have to remake it.



The process I’m using to make the handlers is really simple.  First, I cut out a rectangular blank for the handle and layout the mortise for the float blade and then saw out the walls.  Next, I use a knife to open the mortise up a little.  Once the mortise is open enough, I use the new side float I made to fine the the fit of the blade in the handle.  Then, I mark the holes for the sawnuts and drill them.

Once I have the l last two handles made, I’ll put a couple of costs of boiled linseed oil on them and then they’ll be ready for the final installation.

This week I plan to heat-treat the blades.  The only positive aspect of the extreme cold this winter is that my father-in-law should have a nice hot fire in his wood burning stove this weekend.  It only takes about 20 minutes or so to get the steel to the critical temperature for hardening.

More on the heat-treating process next time.  Until then. . .

Planemaker’s Floats – Part 2

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Well, I was able to make a lot of progress on one of the planemaker’s floats I’m working on.  This particular float is used to cleaning up the the mortises in moulding planes (the hole in the center of the plane where the iron and the wedge go.  This type of float is called an edge float.  Above is a photo of the float after I sawed out the basic shape using a hacksaw.  If you are thinking about trying to make your own floats, I would HIGHLY recommend you use a fairly coarse hacksaw blade.  The one I had was a 32 tooth per inch (TPI) blade I had used a little too long.  I have one tooth that is broken and the rest of the teeth are getting dull.  This leads to a very irritating screeching noise when using the saw.  Needless to say, my wife and our two pugs weren’t too happy when I was working on the floats in the evening with them sitting 5 feet away.

After sawing out the blank, I used a mill file to smooth out the rough edge that was left by the saw and to dial in the angle I wanted for the float (10º).2014-01-11 19.17.51

With the edge smoothed and the angle of the float where I wanted it, I applied some red layout fluid to the edge and used a scribe to mark out the position of the teeth.  I decided on 8 TPI, which seems to be fairly standard for floats.  After the location of the points of the teeth were laid out, I used my (dull) hacksaw to start grooves for the file that I used to shape the teeth.

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Then I moved the float to my saw vice (I picked it up a week ago at an antique store in Springfield, OH.  More about that later.).  I then used a 6″ slim taper saw file to start shaping the teeth of the float.  When you are cutting teeth in a float, or a saw for that matter, you want to leave just the slightest bit of a flat on the tops of the teeth on your first pass.  The next step is to use a mill file to “joint” the teeth, which simple means that you are getting all the teeth the same height.  At this point, I like to add a little more layout fluid to the teeth before I hit them one more time with the triangular saw file.  The layout fluid helps you to see how much of the flat is left on the top of the teeth; when the color is gone, you know to stop filing that tooth.

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At this point, the float is quite sharp.  Next I marked the locations for two  saw nuts that I will use to secure the float in its handle.

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Finally, I removed the layout fluid from the float.  The next step will be heat treatment and then making the handle for the float.

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Before I start heat treating, I have three more floats to make.  I will be making 1 side float, which has a 10º taper with the point in the center of the float, with teeth cut into one of the wide sides.  Side floats are used to clean up the triangular sides of a wedge mortise.  I am also making 2 check floats, which are much smaller and used for general cleanup and removing excess wood while fitting the wedge.  One of these floats will cut on the push stroke, and the other on the pull stroke.

I got some new hacksaw blades and a new hacksaw frame today, so hopefully I will be able to get the rest of the floats cut out and the profiles smoothed by this weekend.  I may even be able to file the teeth into them.

I don’t get too much feed back from those of you that read the blog.  If you would like more information about any part of this process, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message.

More next time. . .

Planemaker’s Floats – Part 1

Plane Makers Floats

Plane Makers Floats

The next project that I am starting to work on is making a set of planemaker’s floats.  I hope to eventually hope to make a full set of moulding planes.   The photo above shows a set of planemaker’s floats from Lie-Nielson Toolworks.  A float is essentially a cross between a coarse file and a saw.  They are used to fine-tune the wedge mortise and mouth of moulding planes.

For those of you who are not familiar with moulding planes, they are wooden planes used to make mouldings like ovolos, ogees, beads, astrigals, etc. for the tops, middles, and bases of furniture.  The most versatile moulding planes are called hollows and rounds.  These planes cut various sizes of convex and concave moulding elements.  Hollow planes are used to cut convex profiles, round planes cut the concave elements.  When different sizes of hollows and rounds are used together fairly complex mouldings can be produced.

There are a few good resources available on making hollow and round planes, and a number of woodworking bloggers have written about making planes themselves.  The source I’m using is a DVD from Lie-Nielson Toolworks called “Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes” with Larry Williams.

So far on the project of making floats, I have only done layout work on the tool steel I’ll be making the floats from.  The floats I’m making first are 1/8″ thick.  I ordered the O1 steel bar stock from McMaster Carr.  I chose to use 1 1/4″ wide stock even though I only need 1″ of thickness since I don’t have much experience working with steel.  The steel I am using is McMaster Carr item number 9516k48.  The layout process involves coating the steel with layout fluid, which adds a colored surface that can be scratched off with an awl for marking the lines to which you are going to cut.

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The next step is to use an awl along with a square, ruler, and dividers to draw shape of the floats on the bar stock.

The next step will be to use a hacksaw to cut out the blanks for the floats.  I will cover this in a future post.

Until then. . .