Once the plane bodies were out of the clamps and trimmed up nice and neat, it was time to turn them into planes. As constructed, they wouldn’t cut, because the shavings had no place to go. Most planes eject their shavings through the top opening parallel to the blade. However, this space was closed by body and wedge, so another path had to be created – a side escapement.
To make this opening, I drilled a ⅞” hole all the way through the body of the plane. The trick here was the placement. The hole needed to just above the bottom edge of the plane body, and right next to the blade ramp, but not touching it. You can see in some of the following photos where I marked a pencil line on the body corresponding to the internal location of the ramp. This allowed me to just miss it with the forstner bit.
I sawed through the little tag at the bottom of the hole on the short side of the body, then trimmed it with a chisel until it matched the opening in the ebony skate. The plane was now physically complete. However, it still needed a bit of work to cut well. The following tuning steps are listed separately, but there was actually some overlap as I tweaked first one, then the other until the action suited me.
The skate components had been located to give very little clearance between the front edge of the iron and the skate. I used a file to gradually open this mouth until I got a good shaving to clear. Since this plane cut a groove instead of finishing a board, the cut was to be more aggressive. Setting the plane up to produce thin wispy shavings would cause me to take all day to fit a drawer bottom, so I went with a wider mouth for a larger shaving.
I found out during this process that my wedge needed to be adjusted. If you look back at the pictures from the last post, you will see that the wedge extends almost to the bottom of the skate. This restricted shaving flow and rapidly caused the mouth to fill. To solve this, I cut an angle to shorten the end of the wedge and allow the shavings to curl around in the escapement. I later determined that the angle shown above was too steep, and caused shavings to quickly jam the escapement. I flattened this end-angle somewhat, and things worked much better.
The skate was made ¼” wide, exactly the same width as the iron, which resulted in binding and a difficult cut. I narrowed the skate, being careful to keep it centered behind the blade. To do this, I started by using a file on the side next to the fence, working by feel until the blade projected slightly. It’s amazing how well the sense of touch will work for this. The difficult thing is ensuring that the file stays vertical, and you don’t end up with a tapered skate.
The shoulder plane works well for the open side of the skate. Only about 4 passes were needed. I ended up with a skate thickness of 0.22”, which allowed for a fast, clean cut.
The original plans called for rounding the corners with a large roundover bit in a router table. I found it simpler to take a rasp and file and give a generous rounding to the back area where my hand would rest, and then used a block plane and file to ease the rest of the edges. This was followed with a little 120 and 180 grit sandpaper and some boiled linseed oil, and I called the job done.
And here we are, a matched pair of grooving planes! The tails of the irons were cut to extend slightly farther than the wide blade section. This way, the entire length of the iron can be used prior to replacement. If the tails were cut shorter, they would wind up below the level of the wedges as the blades got sharpened down.
All in all, the planes work very well. However, if I were to do it again, I would make the bodies a little longer and taller, something more in line with a traditional molding plane. The original, designed for 1/8″ grooves, would require less force to push, and would generally be used on shorter stock. This would work very well with these small bodies. However, my hand feels just a bit “underfilled” by these when planing. If you decide to make these 1/4″ planes, I highly recommend scaling the bodies up somewhat.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. My next project will be a Krenov-style smoothing plane – my first! Come back to see how I do on a “real” plane. This may open a whole new world for me.