Crown Plane Leon Robbins Panel Raising Plane Planes Travishers

Leon Robbins – Planemaker

Should have bid on them…should have bid on them…

A wonderful pair of panel raising planes from Leon Robbins recently surfaced on eBay. I got scared off when they went north of my own set figure, but in retrospect they were still a fantastic acquisition at the final sale price of $610.

Leon Robbins was one of those ‘one-of-a-kind’ planemakers who did things his own way. He was most well-known by his association with Michael Dunbar and his windsor chair making class at The Windsor Institute. Leon passed away in November 2007, but a lot of his planes are still in circulation and can be purchased from Crown Planes, the company Leon set up when he started making planes. (His own planes carry a crown stamp, but the ‘N.E Toolworks’ stamp on these planes was the retailer I believe. Leon supplied planes for N.E. Toolworks who added their own stamp).

When Leon died, Michael Dunbar penned a fitting tribute to the man on his blog, which is well worth a read, as it gives an insight into the craftsman and the way he worked.

John Moseley & Sons Moulding planes Planes

That’s a big one!

Hollows & Rounds John Moseley & Sons Moulding planes Practical techniques Snipe bill

Making your own moulding planes

Jeff Murray, a reader of the blog from Greenwood, Indiana got in touch about John Moseley moulding planes. Moseley planes are also a favourite of mine. They are very well-made 19thc planes with sharp boxing and a nice wedges. Jeff talked about using the Moseley design when he made his own half-set. The pic below shows Jeff’s plane (top) with one of his vintage Moseley’s below.
moulding plane comparison
I’ve read quite a bit about the techniques involved in making your own hollows and rounds, but Jeff makes it sound very easy. I’m sure it’s not quite easy as this, but here are some notes he sent to me. Jeff reckons on around $8 apiece for making a moulding plane and about 5 hours to make them himself, instead of $200+ to buy them new.

moulding planes
I started out to make maybe 3 sets of hollows and rounds, but ended up making a half set minus the #4 hollow of John Moseley and 2 snipes bill boxed with osage orange. I don’t recommend anyone use osage for boxing because it is really gnarly, but it did succumb to sandpaper. I am planning on making a few side beads and a set of side rounds. I have a number of irons that I got off of eBay, but I’m not reluctant to make my own irons, which I did during the construction of the half set of moulding planes.
It isn’t as difficult as one might imagine to make a moulding plane. I bought a DVD by Tod Herrli on making moulding planes, however he does a few things that require extra work. For instance, he marks all of his layout lines on the beech blank and cuts half of them off only to redraw them. There are a few other things that he does that are a bit unusual also. I got a few pointers from his DVDS, but ended up with using my own methods when they made more sense.

The moulding planes were really neat to make especially since I made 11 of the irons from scratch using an angle grinder. Believe me, my angle grinding skills greatly improvided by doing this. I cut out the blanks and tapered them with the angle grinder and then used files to finish them. The total cost of materials was $144 to make 17 moulding planes and 2 snipes bills. The hardest thing to make on the moulding plane is the tapered mortise and that isn’t all that difficult. In fact that is probably 75% of the work. The “blacksmithing” isn’t that difficult either because you are working with relatively small parts. My blacksmithing consists of a propane torch, a metal container of motor oil to harden the irons and finally a toaster oven or regular oven to temper.

(The pics below show the progress of a pair of side snipes.)
rebate plane for boxing
inserting boxing
trimming boxing
shaping snipe bills
You might notice that the boxing is protruding out both ends of the plane. This feature allows me to do a final trimming to make the plane a “perfect length”. The boxing that I used was Osage Orange, native to North America, a very hard, bright orange wood and capable of receiving a fine polish and with a speciic gravity of 773,6 kg/m3. I used this because I just happened some and thought that it would make a good boxing material. However, I don’t recommend it because the grain twisted and turns and is hard to machine. It does however behave when sanded.  The final edge was 0.015 inches (0.38 mm) and using 1000 grit sandpaper, wrapped around a dowel, I was able to produce a mirror like surface.

In the video by Todd Herrli, he advocates using laminated stock for the body of the planes and if you do some research, you will find that this isn’t recommended. The theory is that the wood won’t properly breathe because the glue layer impedes the moisture and this can cause cracking or splitting.  So I stayed with the quarter sawn solid beech that has been the tried and true method for a couple of centuries or so.  As I said before, he also marks his layout lines on his stock and then planes half of them off just to then redo them, which seems like a waste of time in my opinion. Todd’s video does have some good information about making the irons, from shaping to the hardening and tempering process.

grinding blade
I thought that might like to see the picture is my high precision jig for tapering the iron. You can see that this scrap piece of lumber was previously used as a backer board for drilling through holes and probably a couple of other things. This is one of the irons that I cut out of a piece of tool steel with a cut off wheel on my angle grinder and then changed to a grinding wheel to taper the tang. I used water to occasionally cool the steel when it started to discolor.  “Bluing” of the iron is of no consequence at this point in the process, that can all be taken out when it is hand filed to the final shape.

(Note from Admin.Caleb james is also giving away some very nice wooden plane plans for free. Click here.)

Planes Practical techniques

The Skottbenk

I found this wonderful post about the ‘skottbenk’ over on Roald Renmaelmo’s website the other day. The skottbenk is an almost forgotten type
of Norwegian bench, (actually, it’s more a massive ‘sticking board‘ with two large ‘Moxon-vice’ type boards that clamp the long stuff and hold it vertically. It’s essentially a standalone version of having your long board clamped against the apron of your Nicholson bench.
The difference is, that with a custom bench plane called a ‘skottokse’, you can raise the board to a depth you know will be shot once the plane reaches its set depth. The plane has a rebated iron, with deeper sides which work as depth stops, just the same as your moulding plane bottoms out when finishing those ovolo’s.
It all makes a lot of sense in the video, and for those struggling with perfecting their form with a Stanley No.7, or unable to afford (or want) a machine jointer, it’s food for thought!

Addition: I asked Roald about where I could buy the ‘skottokse’, the planes with a rebated central slot and he kindly pointed me to a very nice tutorial on making one yourself.

Block planes Stanley

Another weird one

There’s another very interesting plane on eBay right now. The majority of the pics are below. It’s a 10″ (!) Stanley block plane. At least, it has some likeness to a Stanley, with a Stanley cutter, but it teamed up with a cast bronze ‘long wheelbase’ sole. I have to say, I love the look, this one is pimped!
When I first saw it, I thought it might be a very early Leonard Bailey experimental design, but cast bronze?? Anyone know more?

I’m struggling to imagine what positives the longer sole might give, because the plane has the conventional holding points, so with the small finger knob and rounded lever cap, it wouldn’t be a particularly easy drive. One might find oneself wishing for dunno, something like a larger rosewood tote and front knob. Just an idea.

Stanley 10-inch Block Plane_1
Stanley 10-inch Block Plane_2
Stanley 10-inch Block Plane_3
Stanley 10-inch Block Plane_4

Please do comment if you know more about the plane, perhaps it is an actual early model?