Sunday, April 26, 2015

Plate 19 Moulding Planes

Recently I bought a French moulding plane, and during the discussion of it, someone pointed me to Plate 18 of Roubo:
Plate 18.
This plate shows a grooving plane with an open mortise, in the traditional French style.  Plate 19 goes on to show how these planes would be configured as hollows and rounds.

In a discussion with Jeremy at JMAW Works, we chatted about the fact that you basically only have two choices with moulding planes today:  New premium priced planes, and vintage junkers.

This French style with the open mortice looks like it would be easier for regular woodworkers to make, and if they were mass produced, would take far less labor resulting in a cheaper product.

I decided I had to make at least one pair to try them out.

First, I bought some steel blanks from McMaster Carr.  I was pleasantly surprised when I ordered "Tight Tolerance Flat Stock-Precision Ground," and this showed up:
Starret O1 tool steel, future plane blanks.
If you can see, these blanks were made by Starrett, which makes me feel a whole lot better about the steel quality.  There is even instructions on the label for heat-treating.

I will most likely cut the 18" bars in half or so, grind the profile on the end, and heat treat them.  That is all the metal work that is required.  No messing with a tang, full width the whole way back.

Looking at Plate 19, It looks like hollows and rounds generally are have a wooden stock that is roughly twice as wide as the intended profile.  I dug around in my scrap bin, and found some nice, quarter sawn cherry that planed out to a good 1 1/2", perfect for a set of #12s, a 3/4" profile.
1 1/2" plane blanks in cherry.
 I happened to have an unfinished pair of English style moulding planes that were handy to assist in the layout of these.  I will finish these ones one of these days, but I think it might be fun to do the French ones first.
Layout aid.
 I used a saw guide I made for the previous pair of H&Rs.  I did this guide wrong.  The 65 1/2 degree angle is on the front, and the 54 3/4 degree angle is on the back.  I suppose it really doesn't matter, but I would feel better if it was the other way around.  That way the guide would line up with the outside of the lines rather than the inside.  With a small adjustment, it worked fine.
Lining up my saw guide.
 Sawing all the way through the plane blank was surprisingly easy.  However, chipping out the waste was easier yet.  One good whack, and practically the whole thing came out in one piece. 
A little too tight for the mouth - this 1/10" chisel doesn't quite fit through the mouth.
 I used a router plane to smooth the bottom of the mortice.  It only goes about half way in, but it made this job a lot easier.
Flattening the bottom (or is it the side?)  of the mortice.
 Cleaning the inside with the 1/10" chisel was then pretty easy.
Open mortice.
 I did have to open up the back of the mouth a little so the chisel would fit.  Now that I am writing this and looking at the photo, I probably should have opened it up by trimming the front of the plane rather than the back.  Depending on how big that is, it might affect how the blade seats.  Hmmm.
Did I make a mistake?
 Let's make some wedges.
Ready for wedges.
 Looking at how the wedge fits from my template, it looks like this was intended for a tapered blade.  I could taper the blades I got, but I want to try it without, as I am guessing tapering the blades is messy and no fun.  I want this to be cheap and easy.  I think I will just tweak the wedges to fit.
One wedge done.
All in all, I got this far in about four hours.  That includes digging through my scrap pile until I found something appropriate and squaring up the stock for the planes and the wedges by hand.  Preparing everything four square definitely took up most of the time.
A pair of #12s about half done.
 I didn't have more time to work on them today, and unfortunately probably won't get more time with this project until after Handworks.
Another view.
 If you'll be at Handworks, say "Hi."  I am looking forward to meeting fellow like-minded woodworkers there.
Here is a view with one of them and my 12" steel rule.
I think this might be a realistic alternative to the kinds of planes we all know.  This one seems like there is PLENTY of wood on the blind side to keep everything where it is supposed to be.  Only time will tell.  My plan is to finish these using as many elements from English planes as possible.  I even considered using the "leaning wedge," but decided that might complicate things a bit and prevent the use of the router plane.  Perhaps I'll do that on the next one.

One of the downsides to this plane that I can already see, is that it is awfully wide.  This #12 is 1 1/2" at the grip.  Larry Williams says an English #12 should be 1 3/32", with the grip being 3/4".  That might be a lot more comfortable.  What happens when these start getting really wide?  Do I really want a 2" wide plane to cut a 1" wide profile?  We'll see.

I suspect that this will probably be one of the largest profiles I use on the kinds of mouldings I plan on making.  Perhaps these will turn out to be handy, as they sure are simple to make so far.


  1. We generally all want the best we can get but...
    "Tight Tolerance Flat Stock-Precision Ground" ?

    I suppose in those old wooden planes, the blades where hand forged and maybe, filed afterwards. Some roughness would help keep the depth setting and if not sufficient, tapering of the tang is added.
    Isn't "Tight Tolerance Flat Stock-Precision Ground," overkill if it needs to be tapered?

    On the other side, this is useful in a metal plane where the depth adjustment is made (and secured) by the turn of a knob as it makes adjustment easier. IMHO, I would consider saving those blanks for such a use.

    1. Hi Sylvain, I agree the name of the product is a bit over the top. I chose that one because it was O1 tool steel that came in the thicknesses and widths I needed without having to do a bunch of crazy metal work. The price was quite reasonable. If you think these are expensive then you don't want to know what Lie Nielsen charges for their tapered iron blanks. The company I bought these from had many other steels available in bar stock, but either they were inappropriate for home heat treating or didn't have the sizes I needed without doing a bunch of extra work.

      I am leaning towards just using these iron blanks pretty much as they are without tapering to see if it works. It would be a big labor and saver of skills I don't have to just use them mostly the way they are. If not, some experimentation with the belt sander is in order.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. There is always something to learn. I didn't know the Lie Nielsen blanks were so expensive. Thank you for your answer.
    Good luck with the experiment.

    1. Thanks for the well-wishes. LN blanks this size are over twenty dollars each, but this bar was about 12 bucks and is 18 inches long. I should be able to get two irons from that and a little left over. Of course, they aren't shaped or tapered, which lowers the labor to produce them.

  3. I'm still talking about it and you've already jumped in and done something. I can tell I'm going to have to get hopping.
    Based on my research, tapering is good but not essential, especially for preventing the iron from getting lodged. The side sneck in the roubo plane wedge and the "user" level of these planes shouldn't require it. Philly Planes doesn't use tapered irons and seem to have positive reviews from users.

    1. I'm pretty sure that they should work fine without tapering. Since the blades are full width all the way, there is more contact area on the wedge than on a tanged blade. Maybe that's enough.