For these planes, I’m using cheap hot rolled (black) mild steel that you can get at the hardware store. Only two thicknesses here: 1/4″ and 1/8″. The thin stuff was pulled from the scrap heap and is majorly pitted/cratered but that is, at most, an aesthetic concern.
After cutting to size, I pickle it to remove the scale by soaking it in vinegar for a day or two (pretty messy and the stains are really hard to remove from the counter top (and hands) but the juice is good for making oak black). After pickling, I use a knotted wire wheel in the grinder to remove the last of the scale.
Note: The sizes are for the finished parts, cut oversize (especially the shell piece, which gets bent).
You can make, buy or both.
- Make. I’ve made them out of 1/8″ O-1 steel (top in photo below), which is easy to do and cheap. For these planes, I’d use 3/32″. You do need a way to get the steel red hot for heat treating, I use a oxy/acetylene cutting torch (basically a smallish rosebud). You can also stamp your name on the blade (before heat treating!).
- Buy/make. I take old Sargent, Fulton or really old Stanley bench plane blades/irons (#6-#8) and cut them in half to yield two 7/8″+ irons. Or any blade that has the hole at the top (to maximize width). I don’t like to mess with tapered irons (not a fan of how they adjust) but they would work. I find these irons for about $1-$2 per. In the middle are two irons cut from from one like the bottom. Notice the line about 2″ from the cutting end (second from top), that is the heat treat line – the steel is soft above that. So an iron that is used almost to the slot still has a lot of use left in it. I cut the top with a hacksaw (unless the entire blade is hard) and use an abrasive cut off wheel in a die grinder to cut the hardened end. Be careful not to draw the temper! You have some room on either side of the center line but cool every now and them (dunk or lie flat on a chunk of cast iron). I then use a bench grinder to grind back to the slot edge and sand paper on a flat surface to make the sides straight. You want the sides parallel as that makes it easier to sharpen square.
If, after flattening, your blade looks like or you’ll have endless trouble adjusting a wedged only plane. Use a wedge with a lever cap (see part 12b).
Not really important, use something you like. For these planes, I’m using a not very hard mystery wood and ebonized White Oak. Both will be infused (with varnish or boiled linseed oil) to add strength, density, stability and color.
A good source of wood is cut offs somebody might otherwise throw out or turning blanks. This piece of Apple could be used to make a wedge and bun but it would be nice if it was taller in the thin part.