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Making and Using Tools - Planes, Scrapers, and Shaves

  Building an English Steel Miter Plane – Part I by Adrian Britt 1 of 13  



I have been fascinated and enamored by the metal English miter
plane for a long time.



However, due to their relative scarcity and significant purchase cost in the U.S., having one or two to use and reflect upon has always eluded me.

After perusing the website of Bill and Sarah Carter and watching his many build blogs and instructional documents, I decided to build one myself. Additionally, I reached out to English tool guru, Jim Hendricks, for technical support. He graciously provided me the intricate and detailed dimensions of his 10” Robert Towell miter plane. I was able to layout my plane based upon these dimensions.

For the miter plane build, I used traditional materials that would have been similarly used during the original tools production.

I will use 1-1/2” x 1/8” 01 tool steel for the body. For the sole, I will use 2” x 1/8” 01 tool steel. I will make a new iron from 1-1/2” x 1/8” 01 tool steel. I have selected 3/16” thick 01 tool steel for the bridge and front. English Boxwood will complete the necessary materials as the infill and wedge.

I will use 2” steel for the sole and allow at least 1/16” of proud material on either side for proper peening. Allowing for the 1/8” width of the body steel, I will have an internal body width of approximately 1-5/8”. There will be some “wiggle” room for the 1-1/2” iron. While a 1/16” of lateral room on either side of the iron is unnecessary, it is good to plan for it. The extra room will “shrink” with filing the dovetails and peening. Better to allow for that on the front end.

I locate the center of a piece of 1-1/2” x 1/8” x 18” 01 tool steel. I drill a centered hole with a 5/16” bit. I will use this hole for the cheese head screw used to capture the rear infill.

After I drill the locating hole, I drill a series of partial holes around the heel of the plane as shown. These holes reduce the thickness and resistance to bending in this area. I use the 5/16” drill bit here as well. The depth of the hole should not exceed 1/16” otherwise an unintended fracture or “kink” could form.

These holes will be hidden from sight once the plane is assembled. The pattern, the number of holes, or the exact drill bit I use is really not that critical. The drilled holes must be equal per side and the distance from the center hole must be equal. Also, it is important that the drilled holes go just beyond the area to be bent. This will create a nice radius and bend proportion, rather than a buckle, skew, or other deformation.

For this plane, I will use 1-1/2” bronze bearing tube as the mandrel. A hole through the center of one end allows me to bend the steel evenly. I bolt the body steel to the tube at exactly a right angle. At alternating intervals, I bend each side towards the middle. An adjustable wrench allows me to apply the tension and I use a ball-peen hammer to work the steel around the mandrel.


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