A trustworthy new brass fingerplane will cost you some $50-$70. You need a few different sizes, times two, for flat-bottom and round-bottom. That’s a lot of money.
So make your own out of wood! I love wooden fingerplanes – they are lighter, wooden tools feel nicer in your hand, and they sound a little different from the brass ones.
Here’s what I’ve learned from making my 3 wooden planes. This is a general post, and I’ll go into more detail over the next couple posts.
The type of plane we’re making here is based on the sandwiched Krenov style / crosspin + wedge / whatever you want to call it.
Plane making is really not that difficult. If you haphazardly slap some wood together, chisel out an opening, pin it, and stick a wedge and blade in it, you’ll probably have a functional plane. But if you plan ahead, these little points could make the difference between a plane that functions and a plane you loooove.
On any plane, the area right in front of the throat takes the most wear.
You need to find a balance between supporting that area, and having space to relieve wood shavings. On a small plane, the space for chip relief fills up very very fast, especially if you tend to stick your finger in it.
As you redress your plane, the throat will get larger and larger, so consider ways to minimize that. In violin making, finger planes are used for arching, but they do not produce the finished surface, so a tiny throat (which is supposed to reduce tear-out) is not as important as it would be on, say, a smoothing plane. Still, a giant throat on any plane disturbs me… For a small finger plane, if you keep your plane sole reasonably thick, this configuration is my happy medium for achieving a roomy chip receptacle and well-supported throat that will stay somewhat small with each redressing. My finger planes are mostly for arching and/or some edge work, so I’m just sticking with the traditional 45° bed angle, blade bevel down. Low angle is supposedly better for cutting endgrain, high angle is supposedly better for figure.
Cross pin placement should not be mindlessly done. Factoring in blade thickness and wedge shape, you’ll end up a line of acceptable cross pin placement. Again, you’ll have to strike a balance. The lower you place the pin, the better the support near the cutting edge, which should help reduce blade chatter. Don’t go too close though, or your wedge will have less room to do its job without getting in the way of chip flushing.
The wedge pushes up on the pin pretty forcefully, so consider your final shape and make sure you have enough meat above the pin.
Consider how you tend to grip your finger plane. I hold really really tiny tiny planes a little differently from just kinda tiny planes. Consider how the final shape of your plane and your grip on it could affect some of the other design points.
Next post will be on actual construction.
I’d like to give a little shout out to my friend David Finck, who I met at Oberlin. He is the author of Making & Mastering Wood Planes, which would make an excellent gift for any of your woodworking or luthier plane nerd friends.
I’m shaping the arch on my cello. As with drawing, I have a little problem where I have my face is right up against the workpiece. It’s always good to step back and get a macro reading of the shadows to judge where to scrape next. On cello this is harder to do at your desk unless you have extendable arms (which I unfortunately do not).
Fortunately there is a very bright light (the sun) and a mirror (our front door) outside. Everyone passing by on Oakton at 5:30pm today would have seen me holding my cello plate up to the school, Simba-style.
I love the hard shadows from the sun.
Keep the centerline of the plate at the same angle of the sun for a very unforgiving reading of arch symmetry (looks like I still have a little work to do):
I love watching everyone join their plates.
For first timers, jointing can be nerve wracking and stressful, and Becky stands by to advise and calm the student down.
So last Friday’s episode of jointing TV was a little unusual: