Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Philly Plane Update

Hollows, Rounds and Non-Tapered Irons...

Last week I blogged about some new hollows and rounds I ordered from Phil Edwards in England. He makes beautiful wooden bodied hand planes in Broadstone, Dorset and is sending me pics as they're coming along, a nice touch when ordering custom tools.
After posting the article one reader commented that he had heard Phil didn't use 'tapered irons' in his planes and that this could be a difficulty while adjusting/removing the blade. I didn't want to speculate so I asked the plane maker himself...here is what he said:
I know that some Folks say that only tapered irons will do, but from experience I have found this to be incorrect...The secret to a wooden plane that is easy to adjust and keeps it setting is a well fitting wedge - if the wedge beds correctly then you don't need to use excessive force to lock it in place. This also means it is easy to adjust and easy to release the wedge...Traditionally, irons were made by forge welding a small piece of high carbon steel (the cutting edge) to a piece of iron. This section of iron was then hammered and teased out to make the iron longer - this gave the tapered effect. As time went by tool steel became less expensive and the whole blade was made from it, not just the first inch or two, But they still taper ground the irons. I believe they did this because plane makers were used to making planes with the tapered irons, and changing to a parallel iron meant making new jigs at slightly different angles for the layout and making of their planes...Sometimes you have try things out - just because everyone does it this way doesn't mean its correct!

It sounds to me like Phil has done his homework and considering he's made over 200 wooden planes I won't question him. I should have the planes in the next few weeks so I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. Tom - As Phil has stated, a wedge will indeed hold a non-tapered iron just as well as it will a tapered one. And so long as the iron's clean (no ridges, rust, etc...), releasing it by whacking the back of the plane with a dead-blow mallet will work.

    But tradition and materials cost was not the reason for tapered irons. Most wooden tools were produced for carpenters, not cabinetmakers. Rust on the irons was par for the course, even by careful craftsmen, and they didn't have the nifty pertoleum-based oils and greases that we do today until very late in the 19th century.

    The purpose for a tapered iron is that it allows a no-fail way to remove the iron and loosen the wedge without trashing the plane - one simply drives it out through the mouth of the plane.

    Were it not for tapered irons, several of my antiques would be shelf-jewelry only. The iron was that stuck.