Repairing A Block Plane Homemade Woodworking Tools
While returning my Stanley low angle block plane to my tool board after using it, I dropped it nose first onto the concrete floor of my shop. The plane has a moving nose piece to open and close the throat where the blade comes through (a useless feature, in my opinion), and that nose piece got jammed back against the blade and broke a section of the sole directly behind the blade.
I made a fairly quick repair in this video using epoxy, but I don’t have much confidence in the durability – I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before the epoxy bond fails and that piece breaks out again.
Also In the video mentioned above I talked about building a new plane, one with a wooden body and stainless steel sole. And that had me asking myself: “why not try that with this one? Just cut out a sheet of thin steel and glue it onto the base!”. And from that thought the plan was put in motion.
I went out to my shed where I keep the metal stuff and selected a kick plate from the dozen or so that I have. The grade of the steel in these varies from fairly soft to unbelievably hard to drill hard, so the first test to pass was whether I could cut the throat hole cleanly without distorting the metal.
I drew out the sole on the plate, centering it to avoid the edges. These plates are shear cut and the screw holes are punched, and that action cause a small amount of distortion in the metal near the edge:
A small amount of distortion is fine for a kick plate, but not something you want in the sole of a plane. It needs to be as flat as possible.
Drilling on the ends went well, I opened the holes to the right size using a step drill:
If you don’t have step drills and work with metal (especially thin metal), you really need to get some. Unlike twist drills, they will not grab and bend the metal as they are cutting.
I cut between the holes with a thin cutting blade on my grinder, but doing it slowly to keep from heating the metal too much. This is shown in the video at the bottom of this page – pecking, almost. Making some of the cut and then letting the steel cool:
From there I clamped the plate in my gear connected vise and filed the hole until it was perfect:
I could then cut out the rest of the sole very carefully (to keep the metal from overheating) and here it is set on the bottom of the plane:
Looks ready, already, right? Well, I could just glue it directly to the base, but that would cause problems with how the blade comes through. The steel is 1/16″ thick and that would push the blade ahead nearly 1/4″ from it’s original position. That would also mean the neat hole I cut would be in the wrong place.
” I devised a simple holding method to use my router with a carbide bit to do the milling “
The solution is to trim a bit off of the bottom of the plane body to make up for the extra thickness. I devised a simple holding method to use my router with a carbide bit to do the milling:
Not the ideal way to machine the bottom of a plane, but the best I can do with what I have. The cast iron cutting went surprisingly smooth, but it wasn’t long before the bit started to get dull:
However it was a bit that I really didn’t need, so not much of a loss. Same goes for the plane itself – if this failed I wouldn’t be out anything extra (other than my time), since the plane was already broken.
When I got to the moving nose piece that I epoxied in, the sparts started to fly. That part is made from steel, not cast iron:
I had to change bits at this point to another one that I really didn’t need to finish the cutting. And while it doesn’t look pretty, it was flat. I cleaned it up a bit on a grinding belt over a piece of glass and here’s how that looks:
To fasten the new steel base to the plane I once again used epoxy. But this time, because the surface area is so big, I have absolute faith in the holding power:
I put clear packing tape on the glass to keep the epoxy from sticking to that, but it was still difficult to remove. Should have used paper, then the packing tape. Next time!
One finall machine operation was to file the area where the blade sits to the right thickness and angle:
This was tedious and took the better part of 20 minutes to do. You can only use the very tip of the file, and only about 1’4″ of that.
The last step is to grind the edges to blend in and I also ran the new sole over the grinding belt / plate glass combo to check for flatness. Nearly perfect and that puts it miles ahead of the way it was originally:
Only thing left was to put the blade in, try it out and take some pretty pictures:
This took the best part of a full day to do, so probably not worth it for a $60 plane. But if you do this kind of thing for fun (as I do), it’s an interesting challenge and I end up with a tool that is truly worth using. I’ll just have to remember to not drop it on the floor again.
I covered the repair in this video: