Handmade Block Plane

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This article is from Issue 75 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Turn a block of wood into a useful, beautiful tool

This block plane project is a great way to get started in plane-making. A few inexpensive items from Woodcraft and some scrap wood are all you need to make an attractive and handy tool in just a few hours. It’s as easy as cutting apart a block and gluing it back together in a different way. A simple template will help you align the parts during glue-up. Using the same techniques shown here, you can create larger handmade planes to add to your hand tool arsenal. You’ll find a new satisfaction in your woodworking when you reach for a wooden plane that you made.

Solid performer. The plane shown here has sides made from walnut, but it’s also possible to build your version from a single block of wood, as shown on the pages ahead.

Inexpensive materials. A block of thermally modified “roasted” maple provides you with strong, stable wood for your plane (see p. 68 for more details). Add a high-quality blade, two dowels and some scrap stock for the wedge, and you’re ready to build.

Find the angle and cut the block. Measure 21⁄4" from one end of your block. From this mark, draw a 65° line toward the front end, and a 45° line toward the back. Cut to these lines on the bandsaw and sand the 45° and 65° surfaces. Save the triangle cutout. Now, cut off the tip of the nose piece, creating a 1⁄4" flat.

Keys to success: Accurate angles, a template, and good boring work

One nifty thing about this project is the transformation that occurs when you cut a solid block of wood apart, and then glue it back together in a different way. It starts with accurate angle layout on a workpiece dimensioned with square corners. I make the angled cuts on a bandsaw, then sand the sawn surfaces smooth. But if you start with a longer block, the angled cuts can be made on a chop saw or tablesaw.

The template is also important because it ensures proper spacing of parts. Give it a good coat of wax so that nose and tail pieces can be clamped to the template without sticking when you glue the parts together. The triangular piece can be glued in place separately, after the initial assembly is complete.

Accuracy isn’t important with the dowels that pin the sides to the nose and tail pieces. But it is for the crosspin dowel that holds the wedge. Lay out the hole location carefully (see photo), and use backer blocks to prevent tearout when drilling through the sides.

Round the corners of your plane for appearance and comfort. Fine blade adjustments are made by using a mallet to tap the front end of the plane (to advance the blade) or rear (to retract). Lock blade position by tapping the wedge.

Tricky transformation: Cut the block apart, glue it back together, then add dowels and wedge

Find the hole location and drill. From the center of the plane side, measure down inside the throat 5⁄8" from the top edge. Place a rule against the 45° ramp and measure out 1⁄2". 

Use calipers as shown at left to transfer your mark to the outside of the plane wall. Center a sharp 1⁄2" brad-point bit on this mark, and drill through both sides of the plane, using backer stock to prevent tearout.


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