Making your own wood-bodied planes teaches critical woodworking skills and leaves you with a tool you’ll love to use. Since we've already discussed the first steps to making a Krenov-style plane, let’s get going with milling the wood, drawing the plane and cutting the parts for this wooden smoother.
Sneak peek of the finished smoother plane.
Before we move on, here are some plane anatomy basics:
Anatomy of a plane
Wood-bodied planes are extremely simple tools that offer performance as good as any high-end metal plane. The bottom of the plane is called the sole. The opening through which the blade protrudes is the mouth. The bulk of the plane is called the body. The ramp is the angled part ahead of the blade where the shavings exit. The bed is the angled portion against which the blade is secured. Finally, a wooden wedge between the blade and the cross pin keeps the blade locked in place. The plane is adjusted with a small hammer. I will detail the process of setting the blade in a future post.
Mill the wood
I wanted my plane to be about 7"-8” long, which is in the standard range for smoothers. It’s important to take time and be as accurate as possible with milling the wood so that it is perfectly flat with perfect right angles all around. I measured the blade I have and milled the plane body to about 1/8” wider to give room for adjusting the blade. I decided to use contrasting wood for the cheeks of my plane, so I milled them separately. They are 5/16” thick. Leave the plane block and the cheeks longer and taller than the final dimensions. They will be shaped later. If you have quarter sawn wood for the plane body, that’s great. But if you don’t, don’t sweat it. If you’re using well-seasoned wood, movement will be negligible. Go ahead and cut all three pieces to the same length, which will help keep things lined up.
Body of plane milled with perfect right angles.
Body and cheeks of our wooden smoother.
Cutting the body and cheeks to the same length helps line everything up.
Decide on angles
The bed angle of a plane makes all the difference in what the plane will do. Low angles are great for end grain, and higher angles work well on edge grain. The most standard angle, 45 degrees, is used for most bevel down planes, but higher angles such as 50 degrees and 55 degrees, have their benefits, too. Since I already have a standard metal smoothing plane bedded at 45 degrees, I decided to go with 50 degrees so I can use the plane on more difficult grain. An angle of 65 degrees works well for the ramp.
Using a digital protractor to draw a 50-degree angle.
Make a detailed drawing
With the three pieces of wood milled and planed to their final thickness, it’s time to make a design drawing, which is best done on the actual wood. First, arrange the wood and set it on a flat surface, such as a table saw table. Clamp all three pieces together so they are flush at the back and on the bottom. Make some reference lines across the bottom of all pieces with an engineer’s square and then unclamp them. Next, on the main block, make a small mark at the midpoint of the piece. Now move toward the front of the plane ½” or so and make a perpendicular line. Move forward another ¼”-⅜” and make another perpendicular line. The line toward the front of the plane marks where the ramp starts. The line toward the back of the plane marks where the bed angle starts. Using a protractor or bevel gauge, draw the 50-degree bed angle and 65-degree ramp angle from their respective starting points.
Cut the angles for the bed and ramp
I find this operation is best done on a chop saw. Do a couple things first for accuracy and safety. Put a piece of plywood directly on the bed of the chop saw. This will prevent tearout on the bottom edge of the wood as you cut it. Next, use a clamp to hold the wood in place during the cut because the angle and small size of the piece make it unsafe to hold with your fingers. Set the chop saw to make the 65-degree ramp cut, then make the 50-degree ramp cut. You will be left with two angled blocks and a triangle of wood.
The next steps will be routing a groove to accommodate the blade screw, determining the position of the blocks in relation to each other and drilling holes for screws that will temporarily hold everything together. These steps are important for the accuracy of the plane. Stay tuned.