Tag Archives: float

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. . .

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. . .

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. . .

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 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. . .