I am occasionally asked how to dovetail. It is a bit of a cheeky question and it would take me several months or more full time to teach this properly. Sometimes people seem to forget I am running a business.
I have been making dovetailed planes for over 25 years now and I still keep trying to improve my system. Another plane maker described my dovetails as made on the CNC and are very cold and clinical – is this how one would describe a precision job? Then guilty as charged.
Here are some photos of part of the dovetailing process.
Sometimes it is frustrating that I have to do this much work before closing a plane up. The pictures above show a Boxwood spacer which supports the sides whilst peining the dovetails. Sometimes I use aluminium for this process but as I am only making 6 planes it doesn’t have to do much work. Also the sides of the plane will not be scratched when removing the spacer. A lot of work for a piece of tooling which will be discarded after six uses.
Showing everything in place ready for clamping in the vice. Note that the clamping plates support the dovetails as well. There is no movement and everything stays true to size.
This is the first stage of peining. You will see that the peining looks quite messy and untidy as I am stuffing the extra brass into the voids.
The last stage of peining the dovetails is the sides. Again the assembly is clamped in a precision vice with a spacer plate between the uneven peining on the underside so true reference is maintained.
The use of bimetals will show up any untidiness.
Easy isn’t it
Final tweaking and polishing before assembly
Once assembled there is no access
Progress on my A28 Chariot Plane
This picture shows some idea of all the work that goes into this plane. Unless you have done it yourself you can never imagine the effort and thought that goes into making this Chariot. This plane is made to a standard light years beyond its original counterpart made by Norris.
This Chariot is the last item in the series of low angle planes I have been making recently. I have only made a few of these planes and that was a long time ago in my early days of plane making. Then my side profiles were cut by hand and I made up a template which I would scribe round. Now that I CNC these the machine can’t see my template so I have had to re-draw it showing co-ordinates to write a programme from.
This line drawing by today’s standards might look a bit primitive but I have never had the leisure to learn to use a CAD. With a drawing showing contours I can write this in to my control unit. Drawing contours is more instinct than anything and I just know when it is right however long it takes (I would be ashamed to tell you how long these ones took).
The bullnose and shoulder plane blades must be the most work intensive. Once finished I celebrate with a photo!
Infill/adjuster housing/plane bed – whatever
Always a good feeling when nearing completion, although there is still a lot of fitting and finishing after they are separated.
Blades back from heat treatment. They have been vacuum hardened and triple tempered, followed by a two hour nitrogen soak. Note that there is no colouration to the blades, which means there were perfect conditions with no leakage.
Now they ‘just’ need polishing and surface grinding.
Blades for the Bullnose plane
Cutting the blade bevel
The blade is secured by its adjusting holes etc, in a purpose made holding block, for profile milling.
The milling is coming to an end of the first cut.
The finishing cut.
Profiling complete, with just the side bevels to be done. This is a quick summary of some of the blade work.
A picture of the main components ready for assembly. It has been a long time getting here. It is just like climbing a mountain – you keep seeing false summits.
Back working on the Bullnose after so much downtime with the grinding machine maintenance:
Pictures 1 – 4
This is the cast iron infill for the Bullnose. As you can see this is a complex shape so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. As with most things I design and make I go places that have never been visited, making these planes very unique.
This shows the pin side of the dovetails being milled.
Rebating the tops of the dovetail area, which provides a light stop and gives the dovetails a better form. Again this system is unique to my planes.
One of the problems of making precision planes is needing your own tool room. This means that on occasions maintenance is necessary.
A simple task like cleaning my coolant tank got so complicated that two weeks went passed before I could get the grinding machine back in service again.
My schedule is now running late and I am looking forward to getting back to working on planes again.