Planemaker's edge float angle

Scott H

Scott
User
I am in the middle of working on an edge float similar in design to the Lie-Nielsen one. I don't have one on hand to reference though, and I had a couple questions:
  • Is the angle formed by the blade critical? (The actual angle of the overall triangle shape, not the rake angle of the teeth.) Mine is currently something like 9.5 degrees. I am planning on using ~10 degree plane wedges mostly.
  • Is it really important that it taper to a super fine point? I feel like almost every tool will have 1/8" of blade so it does not seem super critical for the tip to be much narrower than 1/8".
If I gotta regrind it I want to do it now before I file forty something teeth into it.

Thanks!
 

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creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
I'm also in the process of making a set of floats. I have the edge floats finished. One cuts on push stroke and the other on the pull. This allows you to work with the grain on either side of the wedge cut. I've scoured the web and managed to find a few resources, though not many. Here are the sites I've used:
That last one gives you some dimensions. As to you specific questions:
  • Is the angle important? I don't believe it's critical. One of the articles mention 12 degrees, but that seemed too much to me given the wedge slot is 10 degrees. Mine are less than 10 degrees (not sure of the exact angle).
  • Do you need a super fine point? You need to be able to float all the way through the wedge slot. However, this can be achieved by removing a bit from the back of the float right at the point. You see this in a lot of the designs. This allows the first tooth to cut all the way. I purchased Larry Williams' video from Lie-Nielsen on plane making. I highly recommend it for a resource. In it he begins the wedge slot at 1/10" at the sole and uses floats to get to the final fit.
On the subject of the edge float that will cut on the push stroke. Make sure to file the first tooth so that it also cuts.

I'm starting work on the flat-side floats now. Both sets are made from 3/16" x 1" flat stock O1 tool steel. I'll post some pictures once these are done. I've decided not to temper mine since I want to be able to sharpen them with a normal file. Somewhere I read that the expectation is to sharpen them every couple of planes that you make. I guess I'll see how this works out in practice.

Post pictures!
Jim
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
I'm starting work on the flat-side floats now. Both sets are made from 3/16" x 1" flat stock O1 tool steel. I'll post some pictures once these are done. I've decided not to temper mine since I want to be able to sharpen them with a normal file. Somewhere I read that the expectation is to sharpen them every couple of planes that you make. I guess I'll see how this works out in practice.

Post pictures!
Jim
Jim and Scott,
Where did you get your tool steel for the floats?
I was checking and it seems like O1 has become as expensive as wood these days!?
 

David Turner

David
Corporate Member
I have built about 30 side escapement planes and have only had to sharpen the floats about twice. Mine are 01 tool steel from McMaster Carr and I made them using Tod Herrli's instructions that come with his side escapement plane DVD. Tod doesn't really give an angle for the teeth. He suggest some 8-10 teeth per inch. I would guess the angle on the tooth is about 10-15 degrees.
 

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creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
Where did you get your tool steel for the floats?

I generally order tool steel from McMaster-Carr. They have a good selection, good quality stock and reasonable prices. I ordered 3' of the 3/16" x 1" O1 bar stock (McMaster-Carr) for about $35 + S&H. With this I am able to make all four floats and still have a bit left over. Total cost of buying similar floats from Lie-Nielsen (even if they were in stock) would be around $250.
 

creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
I have built about 30 side escapement planes and have only had to sharpen the floats about twice. Mine are 01 tool steel

That's good to know about the sharpening. Did you do anything to temper/harden the steel or just leave it as is?
 

Scott H

Scott
User
Thank you @creasman. I might have to put a finer tip on mine for it to be immediately useful. I didn't get close enough with the angle grinder.

@Hmerkle I also got the stock from McMaster-Carr. This one is just low carbon steel, but it is "tight tolerance." The reference I am going by says they can be made from "dead soft steel" and "they will serve for a number of planes before they need resharpening" so I guess this one will test that. I made a test one out of cheap bar stock from home depot and it cut hard maple pretty well, the only problem was the steel was so out of flat I would have spent forever sanding it and probably wouldn't have ended up with parallel faces.

Does O1 have noticeable wear resistance even when annealed compared to other steels? If so I might make the other ones from O1. It doesn't cost much different than the tight tolerance low carbon steel on McMaster.

I am also tempted to just do a tang style blade and use file handles because if I really ever got into heat treating I could harden them up a little. The knife style scales kind of make that impossible without burning up the scales.
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
@Hmerkle

I am also tempted to just do a tang style blade and use file handles because if I really ever got into heat treating I could harden them up a little. The knife style scales kind of make that impossible without burning up the scales.
[/QUOTE]
I was thinking about that - what about using sex bolts (Barrel bolt or post and screw) so you could remove the scales to heat treat if you choose, but I am thinking some 1018 (soft cold rolled steel) would work, might just have to throw it on the mill to somewhat "flatten" or make the sides parallel for the face or flat floats.... guessing it doesn't matter for the edge float...???
 

creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
I have an antique float that was hardened. It was dull and I couldn't sharpen it -- file would not cut. I took the float out of the handled and heated it to remove the temper. Was then able to resharpen the float. Only issue was the process of removing the temper warped the blade a bit. I had to straighten before I re-sharpened.
 

Scott H

Scott
User
Yeah I wouldn't go to full hardness if I did it. I would probably aim for like HRC 40-50, or whatever point a file bites. Unfortunately while you can temper a chisel or plane iron in an oven (~450 F) I think you would need to use a torch, kiln or a special heat treating oven to draw back the temper far enough to file a float comfortably. I only have access to the torch method and I am not super confident I could avoid warping it a ton, though.
 

Scott H

Scott
User
I was thinking about that - what about using sex bolts (Barrel bolt or post and screw) so you could remove the scales to heat treat if you choose, but I am thinking some 1018 (soft cold rolled steel) would work, might just have to throw it on the mill to somewhat "flatten" or make the sides parallel for the face or flat floats.... guessing it doesn't matter for the edge float...???

It's not a bad idea, I think I'm a little too far down the road on this one to switch to that method, but I will have to look and see if there are any that work with the steel thickness and handle scale size I have.
 

Scott H

Scott
User
Got it ground further so the tip is a little finer, and got the teeth all shaped. Now I just have to attach the handle scales permanently and do a final sharpening before use.
 

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Scott H

Scott
User
Epoxied on handle scales, filed down the pins, shaped and oiled handle. Once the danish oil is finished drying I will put the final sharpening on. I tried it even while blunt and I was surprised at what a nice surface it made, even cross grain.
 

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Scott H

Scott
User
Finally sharpened!

It seems like it definitely works, I have never used a real float before so I can't judge how well. I am still on the learning curve. It leaves a nice surface, that is for sure. I tried it on an offcut of hard maple. Cross-grain, on a short cut, it is easy to get a wavy bottom to your cut matching the saw tooth pitch, unless you go really lightly. With the grain it cuts very smoothly. I don't think it's super aggressive, especially on hard maple, unless you tilt it up and use the first tooth as a scraper, in which case you can rapidly raise little curls with it (last picture.)

I am kind of wishing I left more space between the heel of the teeth and the handle so I would be less concerned about accidentally getting layout fluid or solvent onto the handle, which is only oiled. Next one will have at least a half inch of extra space if not more. That will also help it keep its length as it is sharpened down.

But in any case, this thing is complete and functional and I can plan which one I am going to make next!
 

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