Last night I finished up my 18th century style jack plane. This plane actually got its start almost two years ago when a friend offered up some quarter sawn beech planks to those of us volunteering at the museum that particular Sunday. The planks were nice. Not perfect, but I thought they’d possibly make some nice planes. They were almost 20/4 square and about 5′ or so long. So I cut the plank into a few shorter sections that would be a good size for plane blanks and set them aside to dry for awhile. They warped and checked quite badly as they dried (as beech is notorious for doing), but since they were cut significantly over sized and about 5″ square, there was enough extra material to saw away to get a good plane blank.
The second push to make this plane came a couple of months ago. I had mentioned to a friend at a CJWA meeting that I was thinking about making a new single iron smooth plane and trying to find a laminated 1-3/4″ single iron to make it with. As we were talking he told me not to go buying anything just yet because he just happened to have a few extra irons that he’d be willing to give me the pick of at our next meeting. As promised, he brought in about 4 orphaned laminated single irons for me to look through at the next meeting, and in addition to the one single iron that I chose, he also graciously gave me the Sandusky Tool Co. plane pictured above.
The plane has two main issues rendering it unusable. It has a pretty significant crack in the right cheek & abutment (hidden by the wedge above), and the bottom of the wedge is broken off. He wasn’t overly concerned about the plane and told me to do whatever I wanted with it (I think his words were “…burn it if you want, I don’t really care about it”). When I took the plane home, I looked it over and determined that it could be repaired and made into a decent user with a bit of work. However, when I looked at the iron, I decided otherwise.
The 1-3/4″ double iron that came with the plane was in need of a light cleaning, grinding and sharpening. But after cleaning it up a bit, it was in practically new condition. The iron showed very little sign of use and was more or less full length. The chipbreaker was pristine, as was the chipbreaker screw, having narry a scratch and a perfectly unmangled slot. But most importantly, the iron was laminated clear up to the chipbreaker slot. This iron was just too perfect to be put back into a mediocre plane. So instead, I decided to make a new one.
Made of the quarter sawn beech noted above, the plane is 15″ long, about 2-5/16″ wide and about 2-5/8″ tall. The grain is oriented so the bark side is on the sole and the heart side is on the top. The blank is so perfectly quartered it almost appears riven except for the radial grain on the sides that slopes down from the toe to the heel. The double iron is 1-3/4″ wide, ground with about an 8″ radius on its edge, and as noted above, it is of laminated construction.
As described in my previous post, the grain of the handle is aligned vertically in the typical 18th century style. It is tenoned about 1-1/2″ into the body and drawbored with two oak pegs. Also, typical of 18th century planes, the handle is offset to the right side of the body rather than centered. This configuration provides for better balance in use but also favors right handed use (it can be used by southpaws, just not as ergonomically).
The corner chamfers are big and wide. This is one of the features that was minimized or eliminated in 19th century planes to reduce the cost of manufacture. However, the wide chamfers with their small carved termination really give the plane the “right” look, in my opinion. They also make the plane much more comfortable to use than later planes lacking this detail.
The strike button is ebony, because I had it. It’s oriented so that it’s end grain is on top to give it the most strength. It is set into the body about 3/4″ to 1″ (I don’t really remember to be honest). The chamfered corners on the strike button just prevent the corners from splitting off. The final detail is a small carved ornamental detail on the front of the throat. I’ve seen this referred to as a “bowtie” somewhere before, but I can’t remember where. It’s a nice little detail that is on the jack plane that I’ve been using for years, and I really like the look it gives the plane, so I added it here. It’s not a typical feature of English planes, but I think it’s a nice touch, so I will make it a feature of my planes.
Overall, I’m quite happy with how the plane turned out. It’s not perfect, and I will tweak some of the features on planes that I make in the future. But for now, it’s a vast improvement over what I have been using, and it’s another tool in my arsenal that I can say I made myself.