Phil Edwards recently sent me a gorgeous ( can you say that about a plane?)
little wooden block plane as a gift and for comments. He has been busy setting
up a part time business making bespoke wooden planes for discerning customers.
Visit his site www.phillyplanes.co.uk
to see some remarkable creations.
" Who wants to pay good money for a wooden plane when you can buy a quality metal one?" shouts the man at the back!
It seems many people do and I include myself as I often resort to some of my old woodies for certain jobs. Yes, they do take a little practise to adjust but nothing beats that comfortable warm feel and solid thick blade of a craftsman made wooden plane. I am informed that boat builders still prefer a wide mouth woody for working on wet timber. When a plane is skilfully hand crafted from beautiful exotic timber then pride of ownership will no doubt influence some but combine that with excellent performance then who can resist ?
|Well here it is.
Made to my request for something small, functional and pretty Phil produced this from Pao Rosa which is a dense tropical hardwood and very hard wearing. It is a vibrant rich red and would look good just sitting in a cabinet. That won't happen in my workshop as I insist my tools are for working. This timber does not absorb oil well and tends to turn the wood a muddy brown colour so it is finished in shellac and wax.
|Here is a side view showing the simple curvaceous lines of a coffin
smoother but this handsome "block" plane only measures 5 and 1/2 inches
The blade has a bedding angle of 55 degrees as opposed to the more standard 45 degrees. It also has a tight mouth making it ideal for tackling those little areas of difficult grain.
|Just three components; the body, blade and wedge.
Phil has laminated the body but you will have difficulty seeing the joins! Possibly cheating a little but it makes construction easier and I suspect it improves stability over time. The wedge is simply cut with a single taper which ensures that it is strong and sturdy.
I am sure there must be some magic taper/grip ratio rather like Morse tapers in engineering but I found this one to to have good grip/release with no blade slip.
In this photo you can just see the serial number stamped into the blade bed.
|Here is Phil's maker mark stamped into the front. Plenty of
room to traditionally stamp your own owners initials. I forgot to ask
Phil to do this. Perhaps that is something he could ask his customers as
a matter of course as personalisation adds to pride of ownership.
Who knows........ maybe a future collectable!!
|This little plane was purpose made to deal with difficult grain and
to take small light finishing cuts which, I suppose, is different to the
traditional way woodies are used.
You can see that it has a very tight mouth but I had no difficulty in taking a very fine shaving from some wild grained Oak
|Now we come to the important bit, namely the blade. It is made from
*o1 high carbon steel and 4 inches long. It is 3mm thick, hollow ground
and parallel sided. Unlike traditional wooden plane blades there is no
taper on the faces or sides. This is wonderful for sharpening as it
simplifies the use of sharpening jigs and wet grindstones if you wish.
Phil has made his own forge and hardens and tempers the blades himself.
You can see the tempering colours remain this blade. I don't know the
blade hardness but I believe he has skilfully got the correct balance as the blade seems
to hold its edge well and is not hard to sharpen.
Now I am going to be a little critical here as I believe the finish on the blade is not commensurate with the quality body and the target market. You may have noticed some dimples on the blade in the other photos. Phil has tried to emulate the finish on old cast blades. Not a good idea in my opinion as it detracts from the overall look.
The blade came razor sharp but I would prefer to see a much finer finish on the steel to set it apart from the run of the mill standard wooden planes.
|Here is a top view. Can you see the side joins?
The curved back fits my hand perfectly and I find the overall shape very pleasing.
|The plane sits very comfortably in my hand and I generally give
extra support with my left hand on the front. Note how the curved top of
the blade is well tailored to match the hand.
I have just smoothed some wild and curly grain from a knot on this hard Oak. I set the blade to take very fine shavings and it simply left a glossy finish with no tear-out. This would be a challenge for any metal block plane so the blade pitch is well suited to the task.
|Hard oak end grain to tackle here.|
|Shiny and smooth in no time. There was no blade judder at all plus the blade did not slip in the body. To set the blade I placed the plane on the bench, sole down and slipped the blade in with the cutting edge resting on the bench. Gently tapped home the wedge to secure the blade and tested it. A couple of very light taps on the rear end retracts the blade a "gnats eyeball" to give a very light cut. Providing you take very light adjustment taps it is a blade setting technique that is quick to acquire. Phil does sell a very pretty 'adjusting' mallet for a reasonable price here.|
|A final shot to show off the finish on the Oak.|
*o1 steel is favoured by high quality knife makers for its sharp edge retention properties and relative ease of hardening and tempering. It is very stable and resists cracking under load and is often chosen for die making. It is not very corrosion resistant however so watch out for any rust. It is best hardened by quenching in oil.
To say that I am pleased with this little plane would be an understatement.
(It arrived on my 60th. birthday!) It looks glorious and works well---- what
more could you ask? This little plane has been made by a man who not only knows
what he is doing but also has a keen sense of design and form. Do not confuse
his planes with the standard wooden workhorses of old as they are very desirable
fully functioning works of art.
I will enjoy fettling the blade a little just to add the final touch of gloss and it will take pride of place in my wooden plane stable.
Well done Phil and thanks.
Be sure to visit Phil's plane gallery here
Update:- Phil will now be supplying planes with a higher final finish on the blades. Ask him to stamp your name on the body!