Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly

(The Beatles, Come Together)

A while back I bought an old plow plane (fence on the bottom, no depth stop) and it came with three irons. Really, really crudely made tapered, laminated irons; you could see, and feel, the hammer marks on them, they weren’t flat, etc. But the steel and temper are good and they worked. Or, one did anyway. As you can see in the second photo, the taper on one of the irons is quite a bit different than the other two (actually, all three were different but I’ve reworked two of them to match). And one was too wide for the slot in the plane body. So I stuck the two irons that didn’t fit into the “spare iron” drawer.

Now I have a project where the wide iron is the one I want to use. What to do? I could make a new iron (I actually have a cutter to make the groove on the bottom, a triangular file would also work) or clean up the irons and make a wedge. I choose door #2.irons2       irons

I took the two “misfits” and flattened (bench grinder and sand paper glued on a flat surface) the first 3/4 of the tops and bottoms (the taper changes towards the back), and matched the tapers (so that they will work with the same wedge). The sides are pretty much a no care (the irons are centered by the groove in the back so the sides don’t do anything). To match the taper of the original iron would have required re-grooving so that wasn’t going to happen. These narrow irons are a real pain to push around on sand paper, I was too lazy to figure out a jig, but wish I had as my fingers are really chewed up.

For the wedge, I found a wedge of mystery oak in the scrap box, sawed off the side and planed to width. I traced old wedge, cut and went to town with files. To get the angle right, I used my “secret” weapon: a plane clamped upside down in the vise. I plane the end that is too “high” until it looks right and fair it out until the ramp is straight. Stick it in the plane, eyeball it (by holding it up to the light and looking for gaps; don’t let the iron slip and poke out your eye!), repeat. With these narrow wedges, this is a fast process and there is no need for marking.
A good soak in BLO darkens the wedge.
I used chisels to widen the slot so that the iron fit.


You might be wondering what up with the bevels on the irons. Well, they were all over the place when I got them, from 15º to 30º. I like 30º but didn’t want to remove a lot a of “precious” laminated steel so I now have a 15º with a huge 30º “secondary” bevel, 25º and 30º irons (modulo all the tapers).

Pushing these un-toted square ended planes really hurts my hand after a bit, glove required. Either I have girlie man hands, haven’t learned the secret hand grip or this design sucks ergonomically.

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2 Responses to Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly

  1. Jay says:

    Cool that you’ve made a move to a blog space where you can comment. I’ve often wanted to comment but the MS thing was kind of coercive. I check in but nothing since July? Come on man!?! You’ve got to give me some more tool bloggy goodness!

  2. Zander K says:

    MS forced the issue by realizing LiveSpaces wasn’t cutting it so everybody is being given the “opportunity” to move to WordPress. Which is nice, now that I’ve made the switch but wasn’t my idea of good time.
    I’ve got a couple of things in process but didn’t want to show anything in case it turns out to be a dud. And right now, I’m putting a skylight right smack in the middle of the shop so it will be a while until I can get back at it.

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