Hand Tools Archive

Re: Birthday gift to myself *LINK*

Steve Elliott
That’s a nice-looking plane, Chuck. I prefer older tools with some dings and signs of use to brand-new shiny ones.

I’d guess that your plane is dovetailed. On Peter McBride’s website he has a number of pictures of planes stamped “STEEL” that are clearly dovetailed. You can see a line on the side of the plane that is aligned with the top of the sole, except where the dovetails are. The link is below.

My experience with infill planes has been with older ones that typically have mouths wide enough that use of the cap iron is more effective for controlling tearout. I’ve made replacement blades that are thick enough to reduce the mouth to about .008” and haven’t had problems with shaving clearance or clogging even with a very tightly-set cap iron.

Like yours, my planes don’t have adjusters so I use the “tap and try” method for setting the blade. Sometimes as I tap the blade the cap iron shifts position, usually ending up further from the edge than I’d set it. I tighten the cap iron screw as much as possible to help avoid this.

A hollow grind works fine, especially one with the 10” radius you get from a Tormek. A very tight radius could leave the cutting edge less well supported but any wheel 6” or more in diameter is big enough. I’ve used a Tormek for about twenty years and like it for sharpening blades in my kitchen where dust from grinding would be a problem. I bought a CBN wheel for sharpening at the shop where I work and prefer it for its greater speed but either grinding method will give a good edge when the honing is done well. I don’t like grinding clear to the edge because coarse scratches can degrade the steel below the surface even if the scratches have disappeared. Grinding is especially beneficial on thick blades like the ones in traditional infill planes. There’s a lot of metal that needs to be removed compared to thinner blades.

There are a few ways an infill plane is different from a Bailey plane that may not be obvious. One is the reduced length of the sole in front of the blade (on smoothing planes, at least). This allows the plane to follow the contour of a slightly out-of-flat surface instead of removing only the high spots. I LIKE this feature in a smoothing plane. It gives me more control of where I remove wood. Another difference is the increased clamping power of the lever cap. Compared to the Bailey design an infill can really hold the blade tightly against the bed. I’ve found that as a blade loses sharpness it will continue to cut acceptably well (without chatter) in an infill plane when a similarly dull blade would cause chatter in a Bailey plane. Increased useful blade life is always a plus in my book.

Like any new tool your infill will have a different feel from the planes you’re used to. This may make it feel “wrong” at first but with more experience you may end up liking it better. After almost 40 years of using Bailey planes, wood-bodied planes and infill planes I can’t say which design is best. They can all be great tools when you get to know them.

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