Metal block planes do a good job of holding the blade in place and have pretty sweet ergonomics. The models that have a bulbous cap fit nicely in the palm of the hand. The real beauty (from my “how did they build that?” perspective) is it works pretty well even with sloppy quality control. Wedged mitre planes, on the other hand, can be pretty finicky: the bed and iron have to be quite flat and the wedge must fit very well in order to apply even pressure and force the blade onto the bed, especially at the cutting edge. And then the wood moves. Why don’t I just use a lever cap? Because the ergonomics suck and I like the look of a wedge (another way to address this is shown here).
And therein lies the crux – it can take a lot of [tedious] work to get the fit right while a Stanley like block is a real “slam bam thank you Ma’am” marvel of mass production (pinch the cutting edge against the bed and you’re golden). The event that lead me to the above rumination was a blade with a hump under the bridge so no mater how hard the wedge pressed, the cutting edge was free to flap in the breeze (I’m talking a few thou but enough to cause chatter and make it impossible to set for a fine shaving). And the steel is quite good so it is a real slog to get it flat, even with diamonds (my current fav is an India stone with 600 mesh diamond added). I got fed up, figured there had to be a better way and put the blade aside while I tried to figure out that better way.
Brain cells fired, light bulbs started to glow and a few days later I had a testable idea:
Put a level cap inside/under the wedge, just like Stanley. And it is tool-less, no more hammers. Push the wedge in (which locks it), adjust the blade, finger tighten the screw to force the cutting edge onto the bed and away you go. What’s more, by varying the tightness of the screw, the depth of cut can be tweaked (about a thou difference in shaving thickness). The wedge does not want to back out. And no, the screw doesn’t mess with your hand in use (and I’ll chop it to length).
I’m still working on lever ratios and other assorted details but so far I’m really pleased, the two I’m made really flatten out the twist in the blade and getting rid of the hammer is a real bonus. Still not as easy as the Stanley like blocks but close enough that someone with equal training could use either with equal effectiveness.