Making a Blade

Dec 06 2014

Last week I went out the the Grafton Flea Market and in a box of wooden planes, I found this beauty.


It’s an H. Wells wooden moving fillister plane, designed for making rebates in the edges of boards. The bottom is adjustable to change the width of the rebate. There’s a brass depth stop there to set the depth of the rebate. This works fine when going along the grain, but when going across the grain, you’ll get a lot of tearout along the edge. The solution is a small blade that goes into the empty slot there right behind the depth stop. It’s called a nicker. It sticks out just a bit deeper than the main blade and scores the wood before the blade scrapes out the rebate, so you get a nice clean edge. Unfortunately, the nicker on this plane is missing.


I saw that it was missing when I bought it and dug through the box the plane was in, to no avail. Still, for $10, I couldn’t pass up the plane and figured I’d have a go of making a nicker myself. The first thing I did was to go on line and purchase a piece of O1 tool steel. Based on the measurement of the slot, I bought a piece that was 1/8″ x 5/16″ and 18″ long. Since the nicker itself only needs to be about 3″ long, I have plenty of material and can afford to make a few mistakes and learn.


The slot itself is basically a tapered sliding dovetail. About 5/16″ wide on the top and 3/16″ on the bottom. I blackened the steel with a sharpie and used an awl to scribe the shape 3″ from one of the ends.



Then I got to work making that shape. I started with a grinder, which got me the general taper, then turned to a metal file to refine it and slant the edges to make the dovetail shape as well.


A test fit. It’s going about 3/4 of the way down.


After about an hour of grinding and filing, testing and filing some more, bingo! Just right! Actually it’s sticking out a bit far, but that’s fine as the tip will be undergoing some more shaping and sharpening later and will lose some length. I can also shim the slot with some paper to make it a tighter fit, which will reduce how far the edge sticks out. At this point, better to be too far out than not far enough.


I filed a notch near the top of the nicker as well. This will allow me to fit a screwdriver or one of my good chisels (joking) in there to knock it loose and remove it.


Then I roughed out a point on the tip. I’ll be coming back to refine this later.


The finished shape as seen from above and the side.



When I was happy with the shape, I used a hacksaw to cut it to length and filed the end smooth.


I’m pretty proud of how this came out.


The next step will be to harden the steel. Tomorrow I’ll heat it up to around 1400F with a torch, and quench it in some oil, then anneal it in a toaster oven I plan on stealing from my wife. After that I’ll be able to do the final sharpening and honing on the cutting tip.

Then, of course, I’ll need to make a second one so I can talk about making a pair of nickers.

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