Live-Edge Birch Smoothing Plane

When I was breaking down yellow birch for the last production of moulding planes for Time Warp Tool Works, I ended up with one block about 3 inches square and 10 inches long, with a partial live edge along one surface.  It was too small to use as a moulding plane and it seemed to fit nicely in my hand, so I set it aside with the idea of making it into a hand plane.

This was the result.

Live-Edge Smoother, Right

Some experimentation was required to make the back of the plane comfortable to hold.  I swept the sidewalls in behind the blade on both sides and rounded over the top of the heel.  I wasn’t concerned with the checking seen in the heel.

Live-Edge Smoother, Left Low

I carved the bed and escapement from the solid blank and fit the wedge and a Veritas PM-V11 blade.  Although I have worked a little with this new powdered steel, this is the first piece of it that I have owned.

Live-Edge Smoother, HighI used West Systems epoxy to attach a lignum vitae sole for smooth planing and a hard-wearing surface.  (I first tried a PVA glue after wiping the Lignum vitae with mineral spirits, but the bond wasn’t very strong and I was able to peel the sole off the body.)

Live-Edge Smoother, Right Low

I’m interested to know what you think of this plane.  Do you like the look?  Let me know in the comments section.

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17 thoughts on “Live-Edge Birch Smoothing Plane

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the comment. I wanted to leave more of a live edge, but I found that it negatively affected the comfort of the body. To be specific, I rounded over the top of the heel of the plane.

      Chris

  1. Chris, totally fun and warm to the touch at least by the photos. Give us an update after you have used it for a while. Very cool to make something special with that “extra” birch.

    • Hi Vic,

      I was really surprised that the PVA didn’t hold. I wouldn’t necessarily not try it again because I think that it should work. However, if failure is not an option, I’ll go with the trusted epoxy.

      Chris

    • Like any design element, live-edges can be overused and lose their impact. I try not to abuse the effect.

      The wedge is also birch, but may have come from another piece so the colour is slightly different. It’s not figured, either, so that may account for some of the colour variation.

      Chris

  2. OK, I will be the outsider… I usually love live edge wood, but maybe not this time. Probable because it’s a tool.
    I have always appreciated the smooth rounded edges of a wooden plane because it looks so comfortable and “sensuous” in the curves and smooth edges.
    But it is a beautifully made piece. I especially like the iridescent grain in the Birch.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Thanks or your comment. I appreciate your opinion and I hope that my reply doesn’t come across as being defensive.

      One thing that I like to do is incorporate live edges in unexpected places. I noticed yesterday that I used a live edge on the non-reference side of a jig fence. In this example, it made use of a scrap, signalled which side should be used as the reference face, and added a bit of flair.

      To me, it sounds like you’re saying that this plane doesn’t have “smooth, rounded edges” that look “so comfortable and ‘sensuous’ in the curves and smooth edges”. Am I reading that right? I think that this plane checks all those boxes, where it matters. Of course, the area just ahead of the blade is jagged and would not make for a good grip.

      Will it ultimately be as nice to use as a more ordinary plane? I’ll report back later…

      Chris

    • Hi Wren,

      I made the plane over a few days. I didn’t track my hours, but would guess that there are approximately six to 10 hours here. I spent a long time playing with the shape of the back of the plane trying to get it to feel and look right.

      Chris

  3. I love it, although for me any plane I make has to be a useful tool. Here it appears you’re blending art & practical, and I’m not sure the live edge would stand up under use. I’d be afraid of pieces breaking off over time and so would always hesitate to grab this plane to do some work. But I still love it.

    • Grant,

      Blending art and practical is usually a goal of mine!

      I’ll do a follow-up post about the plane a ways down the road. Since it is a tool for use, I won’t be bothered if part of the life edge breaks off, even though I think the risk of that is very low.

      I don’t want this to be a cherished tool that is only used on special occasions. Likely, this plane will remain set for a moderately-fine cut and used whenever that type of cut is required. My other planes are set for other types of cuts.

      Chris

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