It was interesting to pull the first plane down from the shelf and look at it again after so many years. Part of me was aghast at how primitive it is - but I was also able to look at it and be a little proud too. For a first plane - it was not bad. Better than ‘not bad’ I suppose - this effort is what encouraged me (and Joe) into plane making, and was good enough ‘right outta the box’ that it was comparable to my first infill - an unhandled Spiers coffin shaped smoother. I can still remember installing the blade at 3am and taking that first terrifying shaving. I don’t think I slept that night out of excitement of actually making my own plane!
The sole and sides are mild steel - a horrible material for planemaking really. The metal deforms like crazy, it is very prone to rusting when compared with 01 tool steel, and does not look so great. There are only 2 benefits - it is really inexpensive, and very malleable... but for anyone interested in making a plane for themselves - please, spend the extra money and use 01 tool steel.
The blade is 2-1/4" wide and at a 45 degree bed angle. I think this is one of only a couple planes I ever made at 45 degrees. I did not make the cap iron, but I cannot recall where it came from.
The plane is infilled with Cocobolo. At the time, that was all Joe and I could find. And we got really, really lucky with this piece of Cocobolo. I bought it from Unicorn Hardwoods in Toronto - I don’t think they are in business any longer. It was a rather large piece that was sitting on their showroom floor. It was dusty and pretty crappy looking. I picked it up not because I knew any better or how to evaluate the age of a piece of wood... it was simply the only piece we could afford.
I say lucky because it was fairly dry. Again - we did not really know any better - but it has shrunk surprisingly little in the 14 years I have had it - other early Cocobolo prototypes have not fared so well.
If you look closely at the above photo, or click on it for a larger view, you can see the shrinkage to the front bun. Not too bad considering we had no idea how important old, dry wood was!
The lever cap was cast at a small foundry in Cambridge Ontario - I am not sure if they are in business either. They did a decent job, but had a tough time being consistent with color over the years, so I eventually switched to using solid bronze stock.
The screw is the most embarrassing part of the plane - not even knurled! The threads are terrible too - a regular V-thread as opposed to the ACME thread I use now.
Overall, the plane is not overly refined, but there are several things about it that I recognize as good early decisions, and are still present in my current work.
The first one is the relationship between the screw and the lever cap. There is roughly 1/3 of visible threads below the lever cap (contacting the cap iron), and 2/3 above. This may not seem like a big deal, but in my mind it is. It just looks nicer. It looks more secure - more tidy. And is way easier to ensure positive contact across the front edge of the lever cap when they are kept close together. Along those lines is the tip of the lever cap screw. It should be rounded over so it does not dig into the cap iron and start to cam out.
The other aspect is the shape of the handle. I can remember spending hours and hours shaping this one - I had never shaped a handle before. This one still feels pretty good. There have been quite a few little changes over the years, but this first handle still feels pretty nice.
The front bun is really uninteresting, and compared to the front bun on a recent plane, this one looks really crude.
The piening went well enough that there were not any gaps between the dovetails. That was a big relief and looking back on it, I think I got fairly lucky right out of the gate.
Oh, one other issue with mild steel - it is fairly soft and scratches much quicker than 01 tool steel.
The fit of the rear infill and shell is still holding up quite well - there is a little shrinkage in the infill, but not too bad.
The fit of the overstuffed infill on the radius is pretty good too. This first one took hours and hours to get just right.
P-02-02 - the second plane. There were several changes to this one. The most obvious being the brass sides. I was very interested to see what was happening during the piening process and using 2 different metals allowed me to see exactly how things were moving around. I also liked the idea of seeing the joints and construction of the plane.
This one also has a 2-1/4" wide blade, but the bed angle is 50 degrees - a ‘York pitch’.
It also has a new cap iron with a soldiered brass nut for the screw.
The Cocobolo infill came from the same block as the first plane and has also had surprisingly little shrinkage.
This plane taught me that piening 360 brass is not fun. It chips and work hardens very quickly... and it does not patina well.
This handle is a little nicer than the first plane - the shape is a little more consistent and fluid and overall nicer in the hand.
The lever cap screw is now knurled (not very well mind you) and the screw has ACME threads.
Both planes have nice tight mouths on them - something I still firmly believe in.
There were several other early planes that Joe and I made that did not make it out of the shop - a few more steel sided smoothers, a couple panel planes and a jointing plane. There were constant improvements at an exponential rate.
There was one early plane that really stands out for me - a plane for a customer in California. After we finished it, we just sat on my bench and stared at it - almost surprised at what we had done. With that plane, we knew we could do this. I will post photos of that planes identical twin a little later on.