by Caleb James
Hollows and rounds are making a strong comeback in the hand tool woodworking world. However, many woodworkers are scared off from jumping in by either a limited tool budget or the limited availability of antique ones in good condition. Don’t let that hold you back any longer. You don’t need a whole set to get started anyway. The three sizes in this article – Nos. 4, 6 and 8 – are the ones I most often reach for. (A No. 4 cuts a 1⁄4″ profile, a No. 6 cuts 3⁄8″ and a No. 8 cuts 1⁄2″.) After you make a pair or two, you may find you never need another size to suit your working needs.
I’ll teach you how to make your own planes – just like early craftsmen did. They were woodworkers, not professional planemakers, so they made planes with tools that were readily available in their tool chests. In other words, tools you likely already have.
André-Jacob Roubo shows and describe these planes in his 18th-century masterwork “l’Art du menuisier.” What I’ll show you reflects Roubo’s plane construction coupled with British/American styling and proportions. That way, your new planes will fit nicely in your British-style tool chest, and likely match many of the planes you already have.
While you can make a plane out of just about any hardwood, some woods are clearly the better choice. Traditionally, Western planes were made mostly in beech. Other historically choices include yellow birch, and fruitwoods such as apple and even pear. If you plan to work hardwoods with your planes, choose a diffuse-porous wood such as the ones mentioned.
A non-traditional wood that is worth considering is hard maple.
Avoid ring-porous hardwoods such as oak because the soft early growth ring layers can suffer undesirable effects once they begin to wear with use.
No matter what you choose, select quartersawn stock for seasonal stability.
Video: Ovolo moulding in real time, by hand.
Blog: Read the author’s (mostly toolmaking) blog at his web site.
Instagram: Follow Caleb James on Instagram at instagram.com/calebjamesmaker.
In Our Store: “Choosing, Refurbishing & Using Moulding Planes,” a video by Bill Anderson.
to Buy: “Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes,” by Larry Williams (Lie-Nielsen).