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The saga of York-Pitched Jack Plane can be found in these posts as I was working on it, or it’s also quick-pasted below:

I don’t know why I caught the bug, but I did.  I think the flame had kindled when I started wanting a set of molding planes.  The big name that I’ve seen is Matt Bickford – a set of his planes is in the ballpark of $3000.  I honestly don’t have that kind of money laying around… yet.  So I put the idea on the back burner for a bit.  Then, while I was daydreaming (which consists of Google searches on the subject) about molding planes, I came across a guy (over at Toolerable) that is attempting to build a set himself.  Then I started researching that Matt Bickford had started the same way – he didn’t have the money to get a ton of molding planes, so he researched and built himself a set.  Perhaps this is the path I should take?

One post back on Toolerable, and Brian created this beautiful maple jointer plane.  At this point, I’m inspired.  So I went on over to David Finck’s site (who explains how to make these Krenovian-style wooden planes) and bought the book and DVD.  I figured a standard hand plane is a good way to start learning how to build one before I venture into specialty planes, like ones for moldings.

I had bought some smaller figured Bubinga boards for use on small projects… perhaps for making one of those Roubo iPad stands or a dry erase pen holder.  I did both of those with one of the two boards I bought.  And then it dawned on me: I think the other board, once cut and laminated up, would make a beautiful plane!

Figured Bubinga board

Since I already have a large, heavy jointer plane, I think I’m gonna shoot for the jack of all trades: a Jack Plane.  Now, I already have one (from the beginner’s package I had bought from Lie-Nielsen), but it’s a low-angle Jack Plane; the one I want to build will be at a York pitch of 50°.  Why the York?  Because so far, all of the work I’ve done and want to continue to do, has been on hardwoods: Beech, Elm, Walnut and Mahogany.

A brief explanation of what certain angles of blade (ie, the pitch) buy you:

  • Low Angle – 40° or less: low angle pitchthis acts more as a knife slicing through the fibers of the wood.  Therefore, this is particularly good for trimming and slicing through the finicky end-grain.  Most planes with a low-angle pitch have a bevel-up setup, so if you add the bed angle (usually 10-15°) and the blade hone/bevel angle (usually ~25°), you get about a ~40° total pitch.  The advantage is the razor-sharp knife slice that allows the trimming of the end-grain; the downfall is that the blade is much more prone to lose it’s razor-sharp edge quicker (or even chip in some cases)
  • Common Pitch – 45°: 45 degree pitchapparently, most planes are set to this because it’s the best trade-off of slicing the wood and maintaining your sharp edge.  Hundreds of years of plane use have shown that this is the most optimum angle for softwoods and straight-grained hardwoods.  Consider this giving the most versatile options in planing.  The bevel is down from here on as the angles increase, so the bed angle is the pitch angle.
  • York Pitch – 50°: 50 deg pitchOptimum for hardwoods and especially figured hardwoods.
  • Middle Pitch – 55°: Mostly found in molding planes designed for softwoods.
  • Half Pitch – 60°: Mostly found in molding planes designed for hardwoods.
  • 70°+: Used mainly in more specialized planes such as snipes and some rabbet planes.

So, from the book and everything I’ve researched, it seems like it’s ok to laminate up a blank or  use a whole log… hell, I’ve even read to where the direction of the grain (where it will expand or contract perpendicular to the growth rings) isn’t that big of deal… but the one thing that I’ve seen that you must absolutely follow is to ensure the slope of the grain runs down toward the back of the blank (or eventually, the plane).  Here’s my 15″-long blank, with the super-imposed grain run.  Really though, in my case the majority of the grain runs this way, but the grain in this wavy Bubinga is all over the place…

Bubinga Plane Blank with Grain runNext is to get this block exactly square… and then truthfully, it will probably sit until after I move (T minus 5 weeks) and get to it – I still have to order a blade.  I’m going to get a 1¾” blade with a chip breaker – but now I’m trying to decide if I should order a blade from David Finck or get one from Lie-Nielsen… To be continued.

I realized, in the process of packing up my hand tool shop to move, that I still have 3 projects in various stages of completion (except, of course, the last stage… which is complete).  To maximize my efficiency, I have to make the decisions of an overbooked hospital: what can I actually accomplish with my time and tools available?  In other words: Triage.

So.  The Anarchist’s Tool Chest?  Packed and enroute to England.  The Table that I was so close to finishing?  Packed and enroute to England.  But the Bubinga block I set aside to mold into a York Pitched Hand Plane?  Saved and still with me!

There’s an upside and downside to doing this project during these stressed times.  The bad: I’m a complete hypocrite… I used 100% power tools to complete the project, because that’s all I had at my disposal.  The good: I knocked off a project that could have joined the others in a 6-month hiatus.

I measured and cut a 50° blade angle (and 62° front angle) using a table saw… I would’ve used a band saw (in accordance with David Finck), but the woodshop already had a jig that measured out and cut accurate angles via a table saw.  The jig (believe it or not) brought it flat and true.

Hand Plane sides

HandPlane-Blade-and-BevelI jumped a step and, rather than set the pegs to keep the sides (and mouth of the plane) set at a certain distance, I routed out the slot for the chip breaker screw.  After I routed the slot, I checked it and started closing the mouth until the blade was about two millimeters shy of the opening.  So far it looks good…

Now to jump tracks.  So far I’ve been using this awesome figured Bubinga… but I wanted a little bit of contrast, so I used Italy’s common weed-wood: Beech.  Cross Pin - cutting the shouldersI cut a square strip of it and, with a hollow bit used to make plugs, I drilled the pegs for the cross pin.  Then it’s just a matter of carefully using a bandsaw to take down the shoulders (at left).  I stress carefully (that’s pretty close for fingers with a bandsaw – I would’ve much preferred my back saw).

Now it’s just a matter of putting the blade in place (above right) and measuring out where you will center the cross pin.  I did this per David Finck’s guidance.

With the cross-pin set, now it’s just a matter of glueing it up.  I honestly used about 10 clamps to make this happen.  It was semi-tedious to ensure the temporary pins and the cross pin line up as you tighten… and you don’t want to get glue on the blade bed/throat of the plane!  Consider yourself forewarned.

After 24 hours of setting and flattening the soul of the plane (again, I cheated and used the base shop’s big drum sander for this), it’s time for the fun part: shaping the plane.  Ok, really I would’ve preferred to make some test cuts with a sharp blade, but I didn’t have a way to sharpen the blade and I had accidentally dropped it, putting a nick in it on one edge, as I was building the plane.

HandPlane Shaping

I found the best way to shape it was by drawing on the side of the plane and cutting to the line with a bandsaw.  Of course, that keeps everything very square and not too comfortable to hold.

Wedge-test-FitSo to get to a more organic, comfortable shape, I fine tuned the basic shape with a Disc Sander.  Of course, I started with a Random Orbital Sander you see above (using 60-grit paper), but that was taking me forever!  Once Stefano showed me the disc sander, it made quick work of the final shaping: about 30 minutes to get the final shaping.  For the wedge, I used the scrap triangular piece of Bubinga (cut from making the throat of the plane) and added in a Beech stripe.  This was shaped the same way: cut on the band saw, sanded to final shape on the disc/belt sander, then fine tuned with an orbital sander.

Then back to the Random Orbital Sander with a fine grain for final sanding.  A little bit of Boiled Linseed Oil, and viola.

The finished Bubinga York Pitched Jack Plane

One project finished via triage; two more to go once I get my feet under me in England.  Of note, I got to hang out with the guy that originally inspired me to do this project while in transit to England, but that’s for the next post… gimme a little bit to get back on my feet!

  • Brian Eve

    Beautiful! What kind of wood did you use? You’ll have to let us know how it works!

    • Figured Bubinga I bought from Woodcraft.com. The light-colored wood is your one-each Beech.