Projects in progress or in planning...

My A7 Shoulder Planes from scratch

December 29, 2017
The A7 works well, but I'm not real satisfied with the way it came out. I've been thinking about building some more, more or less from scratch. I was thinking about building a set of four, four different sizes. The more I thought about it I realized the pattern would get uglier as it got wider. The shape of the wedge, exposed blade ramp, and the protrusion where the wedge hold down screw goes won't look as nice as the plane gets wider. At this point I think I'll just make two more A7 style planes, one steel sides and one brass sides. The brass I bought to make the new bridge is 3/16 thick, I can use that. Too thick for a 1-inch plane if I want to squeeze an adjuster in there. I think the planes need to be 1 1/4 inches wide. With 3/16-inch sides that will leave enough room for a 3/4-inch wide adjuster inside the 7/8-inch wide infill. Anyway, still thinking.

So I've been thinking about the parts I need to make or buy. I need an adjuster and I need a screw for the wedge hold-down. Lee Valley makes some fine adjusters they use on some of the planes they sell. They sell the adjusters by themselves. They are a little shorter than what Gerd put in his kit but they will work, I think. The adjusting knob on the LV adjuster was domed so I ground it down flat; looks good now. I fooled around press fitting a brass head on a piece of 5/16th threaded stainless steel rod. I put some knurling on the brass and came up with a nice enough screw for the wedge hold-down. So now I have two screws and two adjusters that match, look like they go together.

I don't like the dovetail approach Gerd uses, where he tapers the sides of the tail. His approach, he calls it the Norris design, makes it too easy to close the outside edge but leave a space down inside the joint. This can result in a space in the dovetail when the sides are ground down. It can be done correctly, but I think it is more risky than the Spiers way. Also, he recommends an angle of less than 10 degrees, whereas I think all the dovetil angles should be 15 degrees. Anyway, the Spiers way cuts a little divot in the edge of the pins on the sole and doesn't need quite as much metal movement to fill it... I think... maybe. I should probably do some experimentation but I hate to waste expensive metal. Anyway, more thought is needed. Spiers way, Norris way, may be arbitrary designations. I really don't know the history of those gentlemen's fabrication details. I bought some metal rods at the local hardware store. I thought I might try making something akin to a Norris adjuster. I also ordered some brass tubing, a 1/4 inch size to make the spacers that go in the infills and a 5/16 inch piece for the insert that goes around the wedge hold-down screw. Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten.

December 31, 2017
Happy New Years, Ya'll. I found some parts from previous efforts and I've been experimenting with my approach to dovetails. I've gone back to my divot-in-the-sole method. I moved the divot back into the plane body from the dimension I was using before. To summarize here: I'm starting with a completed sole that properly fits a dovetailed side. I fit the two pieces together and scratch-mark the position of the tails on the sole with a scratch awl. I position the dovetail cutter in the space between two pins. I lower the bit untill I get full contact with the sole and then back off .005 inches. I align the edge of the bit with the edge of the sole and then advance the cutter .100 inch. I then cut the divots in the sole until the height matches the marked thickness of the tail material. I made a couple experiments with only a sole and a side. Pretty flaky set-up but I got pretty fair results. Here's a pic. The joints look pretty good. If my real planes came out like that I'll be pretty pleased! Of course the new planes will have enough differences in the metal to cause other problems. The metal will be thicker, the tails narrower.

January 15, 2018
I've started. Well, I've already messed up quite a bit of metal, so I'll start where I think I'll have some success of finishing. I've started with the sole. I made the sole wide enough so that I could cut the mouth and leave enough metal on the side so that I can keep the mouth together while peining and still have the mouth full cut when I've finished the peining. I set a sole blank in the vice using angle blocks. A pair of angle blocks on one side; 10 degree plus 5-degree. A 15-degree on the other side. This arrangement lets me cut a 15-degree mouth in the sole with plenty of metal on the side to allow for maintaining the mouth while peining. The mouth looks usable so far.

I used a straight bit to rough out the pins in the sole. Next I marked the sole as to where to cut the angle in the pins. I marked the angle on the edge and I marked the inside edge also. When I cut the tails by swinging the vise 15-degrees left and 15-degress right, I'll move the cut until the marking on the inside edge has been removed. Like this. So far so good, here's the sole pieces so far. These are done except for cutting back the bridging over the mouth to facilitate the peining.

I started hacking out the side pieces. I used my metal cutting band sand. This is a perhaps somewhat unorthodox use for the saw but it worked... for a while. I ganged up the four sides, two brass and two steel, and level off the sides. After careful marking, I used a straight cutter to rough out the tails in the sides, gang cutting them all at once. Since the pins were cut in the soles individually, the tails for the sides had to be cut individually also. The tails are carefully cut so they precisely fit the side they are intended for. Properly done they fit tight and square. Here's the two pair of sides, one brass and one steel. So, what next, eh?

January 18, 2018
I think I'm avoiding the risky task of cutting in the slots for the bridge. That is, I think, the last critical step in getting the assembly ready for peining. There are, of course, other steps, but they cannot wipe out a bunch of work like screwing up the bridge slot placement.

So, I bought some cocobolo a while back. I bought two big chunks. One is 57 x 4 x 6, and the other 34 x 3 x 6, so somewhere better than 13 bf. It was pretty pricey but I figure I can make any plane parts I want from these pieces. The alternative was to try to find something 3 x 3 by something long for buns and what not and then another 6 x 1 1/2 by something long for totes and other pieces. I didn't find any of those, so I bought the big pieces. I figure now was as good a time as any to rough out some pieces for the shoulder planes and let them acclimate in dimensions closer to the finished product. The biggest piece had a big crack in the end, appropriately discounted in the price. No telling how the crack would run off in the wood, and I didn't like the look of it, so I decided to cut it and see if I could get the shoulder plane pieces from that end. I hoisted the billet up on my skinny band saw and made a cut off long enough for my needs. The crack run out worked in my favor and is nonexistent in the end of my cut off piece. I cut the chunk up into three pieces about 1.125 inches thick and I'll let them sit for a while to dry some more. I was a little surprised my moisture meter shows 10% MC. I thought it would be less having been sitting around in the shop for a couple months. The relative humidity in the shop has been 40% RH or less for quite awhile. The pieces are about 11 x 5, more or less, and the needed parts are shown behind the slabs.

I bought a piece of brass tubing to make the sleeve that goes around the hold down screw. The brass is .375 in OD. I drilled and tapped it for the 5/16-24 rod I used to make the screws. Making a clamp to hold the tubing was easy enough, but it didn't hold too well. Got my two tiny sleeves made in spite of the poorly designed clamp.

I bought brass rod to make the sleeves for inside the infills. I bought 1/4-inch rod with an ID of .152. I had to drill it out and then tap it for 10-32 screws. I made a slightly better clamping jig than for the sleeves previously mentioned. I needed 10 sleeves for the two planes in progress, so those are done. I managed to booger up a couple drill bits in fooling with these sleeves, but my handy-dandy sharpener fixed them up pretty quickly... after I figured out how to use it again!

January 28, 2018
I started on making the bridges, one brass and one steel. I started by making the slots in the side plates. I used my full size template to make an angles top at 25-degrees, marked the plate, and then drilled holes at the end of the required slots. I then used a milling cutter to widen the slots. The drilling speeds up the effort and gives me a space to lower the milling cutter. A lot of nuisance work with files followed; nuisance I say because I don't have a file that works well in that size hole. I did get them hacked out after a fashion. Making the bridges was mostly uneventful. Here's the pair. The holes in the side plates are pretty ugly, but they don't have contrasting metal so they should be OK. The side plates and bridges assemble properly.

I decided to use the Spiers approach for the dovetail locking device rather than the Norris approach. The Spiers approach uses a dovetail shaped divot in the sole rather than tapering the tail on the side piece. This business of Spiers approach vs Norrise approach is pure conjecture on my part. I mean I know the difference in the two methods but I have no real basis for naming them or assigning credit to those gentlemen. Anyway, I'm making the divot in the sole. I used a marker to cover the tails in the sole, assembled the sides, and scribed a line across the pins at the tail thickness. I then used my dovetail cutter to make the divots in the sole. The objective is to make a divot that is just tall enough to touch the marked line for the side thickness. Here's a bunch of the divots.

The next step was to cut the sides plates to the rough shape required. I marked the sides using my hardboard template. I was going to use my scroll saw to cut out the marked sides, but with the thicker material and the use of steel, progress was way too slow compared to the ones I did years ago. I decided to just hack them out as best I could with the powered hack saw. I was able to gang cut some of the parts. Some of the cutting I did by standing the band saw on end and sitting on one end and using it like you would a regular band saw. A little nerve wracking but it works.

Making the main infill is difficult. Getting the two required angles to fit properly is a little tedious. The infill must properly match the sole and then slide precisely into the assembly and properly match the angle of the bridge. It takes a fair amount of trial and error fitting, and it cannot be done after the peining as the parts would be too tight and not very visible. Here are the two infill pieces. They are significantly different in color brcasue of the wax that was used to slow the drying (and probably a little to darken the wood for selling it easier :-). This is how they fit into the sole and bridge assembly.

Next up, peining. The peining assembly is a little simpler using the divot approach for the dovetails. No jig plates are needed since the top edge of the plates are square/flat, and the first hammering is on the tails on the opposite side. The bucking block looks like this. The peining assembly has only side clamps and screws to hold the sole in place. Seems counter intuitive to be so fussy in making the parts for this thing and then hammer the snot out of them. Makes for an ugly assembly!

The next step was to mill off the protruding tabs for the dovetails and for the bridge. Then cut the side opening, clearance, for the blade. Here's the pair of them after all the cutting and some rough belt sanding to get them roughly flat.

I've done a little more work with the various sanders. The outside is pretty well shaped. I've worked the blade opening some. I'm going to approach filing the ramp a little differently this time. I'm going to make a metal 15-degree angle piece to insert above the ramp in the sole so that when I file the ramp in the plane body cut out I'm less likely to take off too much metal. Here is the current state of the steel body. I'm going to set these aside for a few days and take a short break. I had a great time yesterday at the York MWTCA meet and I have some new toys to play with.

February 6, 2018
I had this 15-degree mouth cut-out in my scrap bin. I cut it down to fit the shoulder plane. When I installed it in the plane it gave me a guide for filing. Worked OK, but didn't help with the squared angle at the back.

I used my same router table and 45-degree angle bit to bevel the edges of the plane. I thought the edges on the steel plane would be more difficult than the brass one, but there wasn't much difference. I have a 16-threads-per-inch screw on the router height adjuster. I was doing 1/10 of a turn per pass. I think that works out to about .0004 per pass. Slow but sure! They came out OK. The bearing on the router bit is a little loose and floppy, so there is a little bump where the bearing goes over the bridge and at the sole. Just a little more work to sand and shape it out.

I started working on the blades. I used a rough tilting vise that came with the milling machine. It is pretty junky but it works. I use some simple sticks and blocks in the table grooves to align it parallel to the table. Here's the set up for making the side bevel on the irons. I got the blade and side bevels done and the holes for the curve in the front before I realized I needed the blade adjuster installed in order to drill the holes for the blade adjuster, so I switched to working on the blade ramp and the blade adjuster installation. I got the blade ramps done and the sleeves installed. The blade ramps don't look like Gerd's original, but, hey, this is my plane, right? The Veritas adjuster is quite a bit different than the one Gerd provided so adjustments had to be made to its location on the ramp infill. The ramp infills fit really well, flat, tight, and the sleeves and screws work well. I got really good at making the infill ramps. I made quite a few of them in my pursuit of the ideal design.

After fitting the blade ramp infill I went back to thinking about the blade. With a working ramp and adjuster I was able to lay out the hole position in the blade. I drilled the holes and then laid out the other dimensions on the blade. Here's a slightly better picture of the blade layout. I don't expect the blade to be too much problem to cut out. There are a lot of holes and angles, but the blade is mostly about appearance and only a little about function. I was using Dykun layout fluid for metal marking but it was expensive and dried out pretty quickly. Now I just use a felt marker. It is not as clear and doesn't hold up as well, but it is inexpensive. Here's a close up of the mark up for the blade end.

February 21, 2018
Here are the finished blades. Rough forming the main infill and the blade ramp was uneventful. I did a test fit on the infill, drilled and enlarged the holes for the sleeves and inserted them. I shaped the infill curves with a strip of sandpaper. Here's what they look like so far. I used my router table to put the bevel on the body edges. This is tricky work, taking off about six thousandths of an inch per pass; slow but sure. The infills are inserted and secured with screws.

I used the milling machine to level the screws. At this point the plane is supported on shim blocks and is not precisely level. I place a piece of transparent tape next to each screw. For the final cuts to level the screw, I lower the bit until it just scratches the tape, then make the last cut to level the screw. The tape helps ensure I never go too deep. Note the rough shape of the infills.

After using various sanders to shape the infills, I made the rough blank for the blade wedge. It was a little tricky getting the angles correct and making two identical wedges. It has to fit tightly along the entire length of the bridge plate. I shaped the curves on the wedge using my favorite manual sander.

So, after as much hand sanding buffing and futzing as my patience would allow, the planes are finished. I tried taking a pass on a scrap board and, predictably, got nothing for my efforts. The blade has not yet been hardened or sharpened. I'm sure they will work just fine when the blade is ready. But, they look OK, eh? More pics, one here, another here.