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Infills and dimensioning

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D_W

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It was mentioned in another thread that infills often don't make very good tools for rough work. That can be true - I think they probably excelled not in a world of rosewood and ebony, but one of mahogany or other woods that allowed a fairly hefty cut with a wide blade (whereas you literally wouldn't be able to push a plane if the wood was something like purpleheart, rosewood, ebony, etc).

I fished this plane out of your pond over there in the UK. It is wonderfully made, and though I've had a lot of infills, it's my favorite. It was owned by a luthier over there, and very obviously still in current use - the dealer didn't tell me whether retirement or death or whatever caused it to be let go.



As it's not a "brand name" plane, it was spectacularly inexpensive. 165 pounds. Shipped to the US. Since it was in current use, it took very little to make it right. This isn't mahogany, but it's limba, and works much the same. You can work it quickly if you're willing to use a cap iron, and take heavy shavings. If you refuse to use the cap iron, it will punish you.



If you couple the cap iron use and the softness of the wood with a plane like this, the weight isn't as punishing. To surface both sides of this joined blank (we join rough wood first and then flatten it) and then even it out for thickness is about a 15 minute task.

The shavings are bright and have nice chatoyance (something I couldn't capture), but the wood itself contains a lot of silica. The oft-pushed policy of sharpen often and take a thin shaving wouldn't work well. A click through of the following link (look at the darker spots of the wood to see the silica bits in the pores) to larger size will show you why - you would have serious dullness very quickly. In order to cope with the dulling iron, you have to try to get under as much of this as possible rather than trying to cut through it.

https://i.imgur.com/SSoXNqi.jpg

jack plane through this without taking much off is also out of the question due to tearout. It may be the case that this is actually an ideal plane (a wood try plane being another good option, but this infill can do both thicknessing and smoothing) for this type of work, as well as for other well sawn mahogany - the key being that these woods are stable and they don't have big undulations from movement that need to be lopped off by a jack plane.

For anyone who manages to run across a decent infill panel plane, don't be afraid to let it take a big bite of pleasant wood - that's where they really shine.
 

AndyT

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Thanks for that, Dave. I need to find time to properly put my new infill panel plane through its paces.
 

ED65

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Thanks for that. I'm very unlikely to ever have an infill, even at a "spectacularly inexpensive" price, but good food for thought nonetheless.
 

D_W

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I think this one was a kit. The lever cap is a little bit asymmetrical, but the casting is wonderful. I'm not sure what the wood is, but it's similar density to brazilian and it's smooth, hard and musical. It's really unusual for kit planes to have an infill this correct and really nail the important aspects with the handle - the shape of the lower handle, the location, the 65 degree or so forward angle and a good top loop. The front bun is cleanly done.

This one has the same aspect as all of the better earlier infills - the front of the mouth is filed angling away from the cap iron so that it has room to work no matter how close the cap is set. The early norris planes can have very tight mouths and still have this relief - they knew exactly what they were doing making those planes and catered to very experienced users while making a plane that was favorable to use for everyone else, too.

I haven't matched the pattern on the sides to anything, but it's either a spiers or norris copy or heavily borrowed lines. I have made steel, and steel and brass planes. Since I work almost entirely by hand, those are cut and filed - thus dovetail. I have to admit, I like good casted planes for use better.
 

D_W

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one other follow-on point. There are a few tools in the US that were overpriced, but common in the UK.

* 4 1/2 planes
* infill planes
* nice english paring planes

each of those is about three times the cost in the US as it was from a dealer in the UK. that's subsided now, but our older dealers with a customer list still will sell unmarked spiers planes and others of the like for near $1000.

It's offputting, but it is what it is - it makes a wonderful plane like this one seem cheap at about $220 US shipped. I was also pleased to see that it was in current use, but the owner did make his life a little bit more difficult the way he was using it. No guarantee it wasn't used by a ham-and-egger for a little while between his last use and my first one, though.
 

ED65

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D_W":3mp29uli said:
...but the owner did make his life a little bit more difficult the way he was using it. No guarantee it wasn't used by a ham-and-egger for a little while between his last use and my first one, though.
I am actually on the last steps of restoring a plane where I'm pondering that exact same thing. It's a 6 which isn't generally a plane amateurs go for, and it seems clear that someone who knew their stuff had set it up initially (as a shorter jointer) going by the fettling of the cap iron which was dead on.

But it had subsequently been used long enough on board edges to wear the front of the cap iron concave, enough that it was easily noticeable to the naked eye. As it's a type 15 there has been plenty of time for a second or third user to be responsible for the wear though, and not care or not know how to rectify it.
 

AndyT

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D_W":3uhz7n1k said:
I haven't matched the pattern on the sides to anything, but it's either a spiers or norris copy or heavily borrowed lines. I have made steel, and steel and brass planes. Since I work almost entirely by hand, those are cut and filed - thus dovetail. I have to admit, I like good casted planes for use better.
Have you looked at Mathieson for this one? I'm no expert on infills but the profile looks similar to me. You'd need to find pictures of a named one of the same size to be sure.

The concave shape behind the front bun looks similar, but this might not be unique to Mathieson.
 

D_W

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I may have an older mathieson in my infills. This one has an "A" or something on the lever cap. Andersen or Anderson, and years ago, someone on here mentioned that at least parts of it matched mail order bits. But there's no guarantee the lever cap isn't a replacement.

The iron is actually a mathieson on this one and I wouldn't be surprised if the bulk of it was actually a factory made plane.

The lines of the casting below the bun are a little strange, though - for the casting to be curved steeply and then flat is considered bad design in general and doesn't show up on most of the scottish and english planes. That's actually a no-no when cutting eyes on a wooden plane, too - the lines need to be a varying curve and never fully straighten like the metal on the front of this plane does.

I'll have a look at different eras of mathiesons - IIRC, some of them are rebadged norris planes. Is that correct? Or spiers, or both?
 
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