Its been said that US Military servicemen bring one of two things back from a tour of duty in Germany: a clock or a wife. When I returned from my tour 20 years ago, I brought something else, a couple of wooden hand planes. When they were given to me, I thought that they were only a bit better than the toys that were given to me for Christmas when I was a child. After learning how to use these things, however, I had to kick myself for ever comparing them to a toy. First of all, wooden hand planes, although not used exclusively in German wood shops, are still very popular and can cost you about as much as an above average American made steel plane. Second, my Ulmia jack plane smooths as well as my Wood River #4. Third, and most important to me, wooden hand planes are fairly easy to make. Let me explain.
About a month or so ago I decided to build a workbench. This was before TWW announced the Roubo Guild build, so I had already chosen a different design. Flattening a 26 X 7 bench top required a good jointer plane that could possibly run me $400 or more, and I?d end up using it only once in a while. I started looking around online and ran across some German wooden jointers and thought about how well my jack and shoulder worked. Unfortunately, I couldn?t find one of those for less than $200. Not being one to give up easily, I decided to make one for myself. I am so happy with the results that I decided to write this article to encourage my fellow woodworkers to investigate making their own planes.
This 22 1/2″ long beauty is comprised of an Oak body, Walnut sole, tote and wedge, Maple cross pin, and a bit of Cherry. All of the wood came from my scrap bin, and I pulled the blade out of an antique plane I bought a couple of years ago (not recommended due to the work involved in making the blade usable). The whole project took roughly 3 days, and I was able to flatten the bottom side of my new bench-top before I even applied the oil finish. Although I made this plane using my other two German planes as examples, the Popular Mechanics? article ?How To Build 3 Basic Hand Planes? was a good jumping off point for techniques and dimensions.
While sourcing blades to be referenced in this write-up, I was able to speak directly to Mr. Hock of Hock Tools. Since they sell some pretty nice wooden plane kits, he knew exactly what would be needed for this particular project. If you plan to make one of these for yourself, my suggestion is that you visit the Hock Tools website before you start making any cuts.