How I make small mitre planes, part 4: Shell

Parts: The long strip and the front plate.

The goal for this step is a bent piece of metal with parallel sides that are 1″ apart (on the inside). I’m using 1/8″1 1/8″ x 9 1/4″ steel. I should have used 9 1/2″ or a bit longer as I was a bit short on one of the shells. The shell can be up to 1/4″ taller (look at the differences in height between the two planes). The shell can be 0.10″ wider if you want more room for lateral adjustment.

The heel

  • Heel bend: More square is more better (it fits the blade better). Don’t go any more pointy than round, it just doesn’t work. Round, ellipse, square and pointy square work well. You can also make a two piece shell using a welded seam at the back (as I did on the wide plane at the right).
  • I don’t have a metal bender or press so I have to be creative.

I start the bend with a 1″ diameter rod, a vee block and a vise. Then I clamp the rod to the bend to the vee block (ie a sandwich) and bend by hand (as much as I can, like crushing a beer can). When it is bent enough to get it into the vise, that is used to finish the bend. I beat on it with a hammer to do the finish shaping (and to show it who’s da boss). If you over bend and put a little hump next to the heel, you can take that out by leaving a gap between the rod and the heel (ie like the photo shows) and tapping on the heel.
Then file (and sand, sand, sand) the heel. You want a flat side with a smooth transition into the curve. If you can see (siting down the edge) or feel a bump, you ain’t done.

  • The sides must be parallel and square so the front plate and bridge will fit nice and square. They probably won’t be, so bend and pound as needed. Then file or mill one of the bottoms as a reference; the sides need to be perpendicular to that reference.

The front plate

  • If you know top from bottom, now is your chance to stamp your mark on the front plate. Leave 3/8″ on the bottom as 1/4″+ will be milled away.
  • Weld or braze on the front plane. I like welding as there is no chance of a visible join. The plate needs to be the exact width as it is a spacer (ie the plate is welded between the sides, not across the front). Chamher the plate to get a deep weld. Use something like a 1-2-3 block to align and clamp. Don’t clamp too tight or it will dent sides when metal is hot and soft. Remove the spacer, tack, check and go to town.
  • Clean up with a grinder or file or whatever. Not critical, just remove most of the bead.
  • File flat and square or pop it in the mill and square it up.
  • Sand out the file/mill marks. 

Look at the lead in photo and notice I’ve welded the plate 1/8″ short. Not a big deal, I mark the sole from the shell.

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