Category Archives: Shop projects

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”.


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.


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. . .

Making a moulding plane: Step 3 – Making the grip and escapement

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.IMG_2948

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. . .

Making a moulding plan: Step 1 – The blank

I’ve started work on making my second molding plane – a # 6 hollow to match the # 6 round plane I’ve been working on for the past couple of months.  As promised, I’ve been taking more photos of the process and want to give a step-by-step overview of the process in case any of my readers want to follow along.

First things first – I’m far from an expert plane maker.  As I mentioned above, this is the second plane I’ve made, but I’ve been happy with the results from my first attempt.  I picked up everything I know about making these planes from Larry Williams’ DVD Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes.  If you are interested in making some of these tools, I cannot recommend the DVD highly enough.  With that out of the way, let’s get started. . .

The first step in making a plane is to select the piece of wood that will be used to make the plane body.  First, what species of wood should you use?  The traditional wood was beech, either European or American.  Other woods that I have heard are good are maple, yellow birch, apple, pear, and cherry.  Basically, you want to use a wood that doesn’t vary much in the density and size of the wood fibers between the early and late growth part of its annual growth rings.  Woods that are consistent between the early and late growth are described as being diffuse porous (as contrasted with woods like oak which have notable differences, which are described as ring porous).  Using diffuse porous woods will help the plane to wear better because the grain is more consistent.  I was fortunate to find several 2″ x 4″ of beech that work great for making these planes, so that’s what I’m using.

Once you’ve chosen your wood species, there is one other thing that you should look for in the blank.  That is, it should be quartersawn.   This simply means that the growth rings should run from one face to the the other across the thickness of the blank.  You can see what I mean in the picture below the paragraph after next.

Once you have your stock selected, you need to determine which side and edge will be your reference surfaces.  Using reference surfaces is critical to getting accurate layout, particularly when you are milling lumber by hand.  Basically, you will choose two adjacent surfaces to be your reference surfaces – one face and one edge.  The reference face should be milled up as flat and free of twist as you can make it.  Then, the reference edge should be milled so that it is at a right angle to the reference face and that it is as straight as possible.  Once these two surfaces are prepared, the width and thickness of the blank can be marked based on these surfaces and the other faces milled up to size.  All the layout is then based on the reference surfaces because you can’t assume that the blank is perfectly consistent in thickness or width.  I’ll try to remember to write a post about the process sometime in the near future.

So now that you know what reference surfaces are, how should you choose which surfaces to use as references?  For furniture, it typically doesn’t really matter – you would choose the face that is most visible or that logically has to mate with another piece.  For plane making, however, the choice is largely driven by the blank.  First off, when making moulding planes, you typically want the sole of the plane to be the edge of the blank that was closest to the outside of the tree – the grip edge will be closest to the inside core of the tree.  You want the grip edge to be your reference edge.  Second, based on Larry Williams’ advice in Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes, it is easier to make the plane if the grain runs downhill from the front of the plane (the toe) to the back of the plane (the heel).  See the graphic below.

Moulding Plane Blank

If we look at the plane blank in the image above, the escapement and grip would be cut out of the side facing us.  This is the escapement side.  The other side is called the “blind side” because you can’t see the escapement or the iron from that side.  Since most of the cutting is done on the escapement side, it is more difficult to use as a reference face, so we will use the blind side as the reference.  So, the blind side and grip edge will be our reference surfaces.

Once all this has been worked out, plane the surface that will be the blind side face as flat and free of twist as possible.  Mark that face at the grip edge so you remember which face is your reference.  Then plane the grip edge so that it is square to the blind side and as straight as possible.  With this done, mark the desired thickness of the plane blank all the way around the blank (for a # 6 plane, the target you’re shooting for is 21/32″) and plane down the escapement side to that thickness.  It should be said here that I’m giving instructions for doing this with muscle powered hand tools.  The milling could just as easily be done with a power jointer, planer, tablesaw, and/or bandsaw.

With the blank at target thickness, mark the width of the blank which is 3 1/2″ off of the grip edge (remember, it’s our reference edge).  The finished plane will actually only be 3 3/8″ when we’re all done, but you have an extra 1/8″ on the grip so that the plane can get beat up a little while we’re making it.  Mill the blank to 3 1/2″ in width.  I used my frame saw after starting the kerf with a back-saw.  It could also be done with bandsaw if you’re cutting the blank from a thicker piece.

Once the blank is 3 1/2″ wide by 21/32″ thick, layout the length of the blank at 11″ using only the reference face and reference edges for your square so that the layout lines meet.  Cut the blank to an 11″ length (later, we’ll be cutting the plane down to it’s final length of 10″, but for now we have the extra length to take a little abuse while we’re working.

Now you have a 11″ x 3 1/2″ x 21/32″ blank.  The next phase of making the plane is laying everything out.  More on that in the next blog post.

Until next time. . .

Finally a little more progress

I only got about a half hour of shop time this week, but I was able to make a little progress on the moulding plane.

The most notable work that I got done was shaping the finial at the top of the wedge as you can see in the photo below.  IMG_2878

This was a simple matter once I got it laid out.  Just a few minutes with a coping saw to rough out the shape, then about 5 minutes of work with a float and a chisel and the finial is all done.

I also formed the wear, which is a slightly wider angled section in the front of the iron to allow shavings to enter the mouth of the plane.  This was done with a float in about 5 minutes.


The next step, other than heat-treating the iron is to remove about 1/8″ of wood off the top edge of the grip and remove the excess from the front and rear of the plane.  You can see the knifed in lines in the photo below.


I hope to make some progress on this plane next weekend.  I’ll make sure to post on the progress.  Once this plane is done, I’ll be working on a matching hollow plane.  With that one I plan on getting more photos of process of making a plane and not just the results.

Until next time. . .

Iron Profiled

I only had about an hour to spend in the shop this week, so I didn’t too much done.  That being said, the iron for my first moulding plane is profiled.  The process of profiling the iron starts with putting some machinist layout fluid on the front of the plane iron blank, inserting the blank into the plane body with the wedge in place, and scribing the profile of the plane’s sole onto the blank.

IMG_2868Next comes the grinder.  I used the grinder first to get a square edge as close to the layout line I had scribed as possible.  Then I ground a bevel on the back side of the iron.  Boy did I find out how inadequate  my hand cranked grinder is for this job; or a least the grinding wheel I have on the grinder is inadequate.  The photo above was taken after I redressed the wheel once the iron was roughly profiled.  While I was grinding, there was a U-shaped trough in the middle of the wheel that was around 3/16″ deep.This Norton 3x wheel is great for grinding plane irons and chisels, but for work like this, I really need a harder grinding wheel and I especially need a grinder with rests for holding the iron in the right position while I grind.  I’m looking into a couple of electric high-speed grinders that I can use for this work.  I’ll write a post if (when) I get one.

After the iron in roughly the right profile, I inserted it back into the plane body to check the profile.  I then reapplied the machinist layout fluid and re-scribed the profile.  Once this was done, I used a coarse diamond needle file to refine the profile so that I matches the profile of the plane.


With this done, the iron is now profiled to match the plane and has a flat along the edge that is about 1/64″ wide.  This flat will be taken care of after the iron is heat-treated (hardened and then tempered).  I’m not really sure yet how I want to go about the heat treating process.  If any of you have any experience with heat-treatment and have any suggestions, please let me know.  I would like to make a full set of these planes, so a long-term solution would be preferred.

To close, here is  a photo of the profiled iron in the plane body.IMG_2871

Until next time. . .

More on plane makers floats

I didn’t have much time for woodworking this week.  However, I did take a few minutes to get the wedge for my first moulding plane cut out and to the right thickness for the wedge mortise.

Last week, I mentioned that I would take some photos of the plane makers floats I used and where they are used in the process of making a wooden side-escapement plane such as a moulding plane.

First up is a crank-neck float.  This isn’t a dedicated plane making float, but it is a handy tool.  The toothed portion of the blade is around 3 inches long, and reasonably flat.  This makes it a great tool for leveling and cleaning up the grip of the plane.  I also used it cut the rounded profile of the plane.  I had to use a straight-edge to make sure it had a straight profile along the length of the plane, but it worked out well.

Once the mortise roughed in by boring and the removing the waste with a chisel, the float work in the mortise begins with the side float.  As can be seen from the photo above, the angle of the float is just a little smaller than the angle of the escapement.  This float is used to remove material from the sides of the wedge mortise and to refine the fit of the wedge.  Floats can leave a very clean finished surface, so they are also used to refine the mortise once it is close to being the right size.  Both sides of the mortise get cleaned up with the side float.  At the moment, I’ve only made a push style side float (it cuts on the push stroke only) and I’m considering making a pull style side float as well.  The pull floats are good for removing material at the mouth of the plane because the force required to use the float moves from the narrowest part of the mortise at the mouth toward the larger grip end of the mortise.  This keeps the mouth from being damaged.

Next, the bed (back wall, where the iron rests) and breast (the front wall of the mortise where the wedge is puts pressure to hold the iron in place) of the plane are refined with the edge float.  Again, the angle of this float is slightly less than the wedge mortise angle.  This float is used to make the bed and breast straight so that the wedge and iron will make full connection, which will affect how securely the wedge holds the iron in place.

The final floats that are used in making moulding planes are cheek floats.  I use both push and pull style cheek floats.  These floats are used to hollow out the sides of the mortise slightly.  This helps to make the wedge fit a little better.

That pretty much covers the use of these floats in making a moulding plane.  I plan to order the plane iron blanks for this plane and it’s mating hollow (concave) plane from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.  Once I get these irons, I’ll write some posts about profiling the iron for this plane and then I’ll make the hollow plane and get some photos of the process so that I can write a post about it.

Until next time. . .


I’ve been wanting to make a sector for a few years, ever since I read Jim Tolpin’s article “Secrets of the Sector” in the June 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.  What exactly does a sector do for you?  Well, back in 2011, Chris Schwarz posted a great video that answers that question better than I can.

A couple of months ago, I took a few hours to try making a sector again.  I’ve tried a couple of times, but I  had issues with the wood I used warping when I sawed them out because of tension in the boards.  This time, I used a piece of 1 1/2″ square red oak and used my frame saw to cut the two legs from the same piece.  Doing it this way, I had very little movement in the pieces.  To hinge the pieces, I made a rounded bridal joint with a wooden hinge pin.  All in all, it was a good test.  I’m still trying to get the graduated lines set up just right to get consistent results.  I’m not really happy with the red oak for the tool because the grain is so large.  I’d like a more fine grained wood for this purpose.

A couple of weeks later, I was in Dayton, Ohio for work and decided to visit one of my favorite antique stores.  The store had added a restoration and reclaimed building materials section since the last time I had been there, and I thought I would poke around a little.  I found some hardwood 2″ x 4″s around 3′ feet long.  They were quarter-sawn (the growth rings ran from wide face to wide face of the billets) and were only about $2.50 each.  I had been thinking that when I made another sector, I wanted to use quarter-sawn material because it expands and contracts mostly along the thickness of the piece instead of the width.

A couple of days after I brought them home, I decide to start milling up the boards and this is what I found. . .


It ends up that these boards are quarter-sawn beech.  This is the type of wood that is preferred for making wooden hand planes.  This type of lumber usually costs around three times more than I paid for it.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts, that I would like to make a set of moulding planes for creating mouldings and other profiles on furniture.  I now have the material for a few planes.  In fact, the next weekend, I went back to Dayton and bought five or six more of these billets.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been rewatching Larry Williams’ DVD on making moulding planes, Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes and buying and making tools I will need to make a few planes.

In future posts, I’ll show you some of these tools and fixtures.

Until next time . . .