stevenbunn Fri, 01/13/2017 - 17:04

Finally, After a lot of Trial and Error, a chair-maker plane with a tote


The final design of my chairmakers plane with tote.
Visitors to this site may know that I have been working off and on over the last few years to see if I could successfully design and build a chairmakers plane that had a real handle (tote).
I have used a small chairmakers plane in my shop for over twenty-two years. The small chairmakers plane has a 1-1/4" dia. wooden ball mounted behind the iron. The little plane fits comfortably in my hand  Easy to hold and work with, but after a day carving out saddles on three or four seat blanks, a bit of a strain on the heal of my palm and wrist. For a number of years I considered whether adding a traditional tote was possible, or even desirable, as doing so would necessitate increasing the length of the plane. Would a longer plane body fit the variety of curves found in a typical seat saddle as well as the smaller version I've used for so long? Without making a protype to try out, my concerns about a larger plane's performance couldn't be tested. There was nothing else to do but make one and see how it performed. My first effort was a razee pattern round bottomed compass plane. This plane ultimately proved to be too heavy and ungainly. Prototype Mark I didn't feel right in my hands. I never bothered to grind a blade for the first prototype as the plane body didn't meet my expectations. In addition to technical performance I wanted a design that was pleasing to my eye. I wanted a handle both visually attractive and physically comfortable. My collection of 19th Century hand-saws with their variety of handle patterns led me down another rabbit hole. I found patterns on-line for many different handle profiles. These can be printed off full-sized so that you may use one as a template for making a new handle appropriate for repairing an antique saw with a damaged handle. I used these profiles as patterns for possible plane handles.
After the razee fiasco, I experimented with mounting my handles to a plane body with a sliding dove-tail joint. This worked really well so this technique is used to fit the tote on the plane pictured above.  And, dispite my inital hopes most of the more attractive traditionalsaw handles proved less comfortable than I hoped. The long horns on some profiles are meant to help you grip the saw in regular usage, but limit the range of hand motion needed in a plane that cuts in an arc. I haven't quite given up on several of the hand-saw handle profiles. Time being what it is, this may have to wait until my second life-time.
After all  this I was back at the point of using a standard pattern tote a'la your basic Stanley bench plane handle profile.
My prototype Mark III was designed to match the length of a Stanley #2 bench plane. I wanted the plane to as short as possible. The original #1 bench plane is admittedly smaller still, but I thought the handle of the #1 to be to small for continuous use over the course of a day. I used a template of the #2's tote, but beefed up the bottom to allow for a dove-tail profiled pin to be cut on the tote's bottom edge. This prototype worked really well and I thought I had come up with a design that was a keeper. I demonstrated its use when carving saddles in several seat blanks at the Common Ground Country Fair last September. I had designed the third prototype to be used without a handle or knob on the front of the plane. Two days of grasping the front of the plane's stock with my left hand convinced me that a front knob would be a very good idea, The other thing I realized was that the 7-9/16 inch long plane body could still be shortened by 3/8" to a 1/2", and still allow me to add a front knob. The resulting plane is pictured above.
The new plane is 7-1/16 inches in length, 2-1/8 inches in width and 1-3/4 inches in thickness at the widest point of the bottom's arc. The 1-1/2 inch wide blade is ground from O-1 tool steel which is 1/8 inches thick. After roughing out the profile of the bottom curve on the band-saw, I shape the rounded sole with a spokeshave. I like the spokeshave's tool marks on the sole of the plane. I find the look very attractive and the plane is after all handcrafted, so why not leave evidence of its construction. I will have to see if potential buyers feel the same way as I do.
This batch of planes uses a laminated stock with quartersawn cherry as the infill and hard maple as the cheeks. I used hard maple for the wedge because I want something that can take a lot of wear over time. I have a number of boards of 8/4 quartersawn beech, which gives me the option of using that species of wood when I make the next batch of handled chairmakers planes. I am also open to suggestions from anyone interested in one of these planes.
I will be listing these planes for sale on the PLANES page of this website and on ebay in the near future. Pricing for the moment is up in the air.
Thanks for dropping by. STB