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Shoulder Plane

Some time ago I had seen some articles in Shop Notes magazine on making dovetail planes.  At the time I put them on my list of things to do.  This summer I made time to give one of them a try.  It seemed like it would be best to make my first attempt on something small.  So I decided to do a shoulder plane.  The one in the magazine article was okay but didn't have much character so I went online in search of shoulder planes.  I found a design I liked at Buckner Planes.  It turns out that Buckner's design was inspired by an antique pictured in The Art of Fine Tools by Sandor Nagyszalanczy.  That very book was sitting on my coffee table and sure enough there is was on page 56.

With the basic design in hand, I did a CAD drawing based on the measurements from Shop Notes then overlayed the curves from the other.  Before attempting to build in metal, I made an MDF mock-up to see if everything fit the way I wanted.  It turns out that it didn't.  Back to the computer to re-space the dovetails and I was ready to go.

The mock-up sitting on one of the dovetailed brass sides.

The initial layout on the brass.


I used double faced tape to hold the two sides together while I filed the dovetails.  This kept them aligned when I would take them out of the vise to turn and work from the other side.

After much filing, the tails were completed.

I laid out the holes for the blade opening and the rivets.

Holes drilled and the sides separated.

The sides and the two piece sole.

Clamped up and ready for marking the pins on the sole.

I failed to get any pictures of the sole being filed.  I was surprised that the 1018 steel wasn't much harder to file that the 360 brass.  It did take a lot longer but I had to fit the sides as I went, so there was a lot of back and forth between filing and checking for fit.  One side ended up fitting a little tighter than the other but both were acceptable.

Checking the thickness of the infill before peening.

Peening the dovetails.  After this one I moved to my bench vise which worked out much better than a c-clamp on my tablesaw. 

The only good way to know if you have peened well enough to fill all the voids is to file it down and see.  I was a bit apprehensive about this so after peening the brass I left it in the vise so I could come back and peen two more times for good measure.

Although the dovetails look very good, they are not quite perfect.  But still not bad for my first attempt at something like this.

I used a hacksaw blade holder to cut between the two holes to create the opening for the blade. 

After some filing it looks pretty good.  It still needs more sanding and finishing but I will do that after the infill is installed.


The infill cut and peened into place.  The shape of the blade opening will need a bit more refining to match.

The rivets were carefully filed off and the blade opening was trued up to match the wood.  The next step would be shaping the outside of the plane. 

On the original, the wood stands proud of the brass and has an arched profile and the bevel on the brass appears to follow that same profile.  This took a lot of time but it turned out nicely.  The profile is not a perfect arc but it seems to be close enough that the eye can't pick it up.

You can still see file marks in this photo.  Those will come out later.

I made a temporary wedge out of poplar so I could check the feel of it in my hand and refine the shape as necessary. 

This image shows the blade I bought that actually fits a Clifton plane.  This is the same blade used in the Shop Notes article.  Their plane used a screw adjuster where mine is more traditional.  I hope to make a new blade that is longer and will fit better with this style of plane.

After much filing and tweaking of the shape, I used the temporary wedge as a pattern for the final part.

Assembled  and ready to use.  I think it turned out okay.

Here it is again after some handling and starting to get some patina on the brass.  The wood is still unfinished at this stage.

After an email conversation with Bill Carter, I decided to try his preferred finishing method which is soaking in raw linseed oil.  I left it overnight then wiped it off and buried it in a pan of sawdust for a few minutes to draw off excess oil.  After that, I brushed off the dust and wiped it again then let it sit to cure.

This is the final product.