Making a Lignum Vitae Smoother (Plane), Part III

Well, I spent another few hours in the shop yesterday on the smoother and got a lot done. I am very happy with how it is coming.I started by fitting the blade. I wanted a good fit between the blade and sidewalls – not so tight that I’d have to strike the blade to get it in place, but not so loose that there would be any significant lateral play. Using the float, I slowly shaved away material from the sides, test fitting often to check my progress.

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I was patient and was rewarded with a great fit. This was a great practice for the more critical fitting of the mouth.

Next, I turned my attention to flattening the bed of the plane. From my rapid stock removal to form the bed, I’d inadvertently made a slightly convex bed, which is unacceptable. To get a truly flat bed, I used the float to hollow out the bed in a similar manner to creating a sprung glue joint. Then I coloured the bed with marker and began flattening the bed with a single-cut file with safe-cut (non-cutting) edges to prevent marring the side walls.

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Because I had hollowed out the bed, the file registered off of the two high points at either end. Gradually those two points became wider and wider.

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Once the marker was completely removed, I was done the bed.

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I checked that I hadn’t rounded over the bed side to side with a straight edge.

Now comes the exciting (and most critical part). I slid the blade into the plane and saw that the blade would not make it through the mouth.

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This is exactly what I wanted because now I have the opportunity to fine-tune the mouth for the perfect fit. If the blade made it through, there is a good chance that it was because the mouth was too wide. I set the plane vertically in my vise with the toe down and carefully filed the mouth a little wider, then test fitted, then filed some more, then test fitted again. This is not the time to get impatient and make big adjustments. Here’s my end result – ain’t it pretty?

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At this point, the only thing left to do to make the plane work is to make a wedge and install a pin for the wedge to wedge against (wonder how many times I can use “wedge” in a sentence?). Everything else is aesthetics. For example, I could use the file to further refine the escapement ramp (which was shaped with the float) to the same level as the bed.

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I do not like the feel of a block of wood with square edges, so I decided to round the top.

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I found the quickest way to shape the body was to use a 1″ chisel, bevel up, held at approximately a 25 degree angle.

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In most woods, if you tried this, the chisel would dive right into the wood, but not with lignum vitae. I refined the surface with a card scraper.

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