Much has happened since my last entry; I've travelled across the country, worked over the summer building a house, and begun my year of study at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, along with a lot of woodworking. In this entry, however, I'll focus on my new jack plane!
When I first acquired the chunk of walnut in Virginia, I thought it seemed perfect for a plane body. I got some Lignum Vitae for the sole, and set them aside, ultimately bringing them across the country. I bought a 2" wide Hock iron and chip breaker, and I decided on a bed angle of 50 degrees. I also decided on a front handle rather than a rear tote, evoking the form of European wood-bodied planes, along with a dovetail-shaped shoulder holding the wedge against the chip breaker, rather than a Krenov-style pin. A few months ago I prepared a face on each timber, and epoxied them together, walnut body to Lignum sole. With the epoxy cured, I jointed and squared all four sides, and split the body longitudinally on its center into two identical halves.
Splitting the body of the plane like this allowed me to saw out a lot of the material to be removed, rather than by purely chopping with chisel and mallet. This also allowed me to be much more accurate when laying out the relatively complex opening in the plane body. Perhaps an expert wouldn't need to split the plane body like this, but this is my first plane-making experience.
Here you can see the saw cuts I was able to make with the body split open, seen from the top of the plane at left above, and with each half laying on its outside face on the right above.
I chopped out everything up to my saw kerfs, then carefully pared down to my scribe lines. This was so much easier with the plane body split open! Once I was satisfied, I clamped the body halves togethether, inserted the iron and a test wedge, and tested the plane out - it worked! I then epoxied the halves together, taking care to clean up the squeeze out, especially inside the mouth and bed. With the epoxy cured, I flattened the sole and trued the sides and top, and set about laying out the handle.
In the above clip you can see what's going on in the front of the plane. I removed a section at the front to allow for the handle, and fit it in a sliding dovetail. The handle ultimately received glue, but I wanted a mechanical component to the joint as well. I cut out a shape for my thumb and palm that looked pleasing, and rounded it into (mostly) fair lines. The corners towards the back are still fairly sharp, but they allow for some continuous grain in the sliding dovetail. With the handle finished, I put some stopped chamfers all around the top edges, and tested the plane again.
The test, as you can see, went great. Only two things remained at this point - a proper wedge, and a striking button on the back. The mahogany wedge in there now looks great, but is pretty soft compared to the mallet that will be hitting it habitually over its life. The striking button has to be hard too for the same reason. People put them on wood planes either on top in front of the iron opening, or in the back. A strike on either spot will serve to very slightly back out the iron, giving the user some control over how much material is removed in one swipe. Because I've got that handle up front, I put the striking button in the back to protect the pretty walnut endgrain. Both wedge and button came from a chunk of Black Locust acquired out here in Washington. Locust is a pretty incredible wood species. It's exceptionally hard, durable, and resistant to rot. Its grain resembles Ash or Oak, but unlike either its end grain is very tight with no visible pore openings, and it is much harder to work with hand tools. Because of these qualities it's perfect for plane making.
I usually finish things like this with Boiled Linseed Oil, but because BLO tends to darken its substrate, I used instead mineral oil, followed by steel wool and paste wax.
If I were to critique it, I might say that it'd be nicer to have the iron and wedge closer together in length, but it's not such a big deal. I'd also like for the mouth to be smaller, but with such a high bed angle and sharp iron, tear out is not an issue.
As for that iron - it's quite thick, does not chatter, and arrived lapped flat and ready to sharpen with a hollow-ground bevel already on it. I'll definitely stick with Hock for future planes.