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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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The finished shape as seen from above and the side.

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

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I’m pretty proud of how this came out.

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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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