Making a brass infill plane (Hattori Hanzo, DP)

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Established Member
26 Oct 2019
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West Sussex
Hi all, I know a lot of you are interested in build projects so I thought I'd start a thread on something I've been wanting to make for a long time.

It's nice to document the progress and have an on-line diary of how things are going. I've actually started the same thread on another forum and a member there recommenced this forum to me and I'm glad he did as I've already seen a lot of excellent threads here.

I use hand planes every day and I've always lusted after a high quality bespoke plane, like a Lazarus, Holtey, Bill Carter etc but the price of these planes can go into the thousands and my pockets just aren't deep enough.

So making one is the next best thing. The only trouble is I've never done a day of metal work in my life.
Woodwork yes but metal work is a whole other ball game.
So how well this project will turn out is any ones guess.

I've done a fair few hours research into making infill planes and am confident in the process...mostly.
I've taken a lot of inspiration from Carter's and Lazurus planes, the planes they produce are amazing.

So i think the best thing to do is get stuck in!

First things first I ordered some 4mm CZ108 brass 300mm long by 100mm wide.


I then cut it in half on the band saw.


I made a paper template of the sides of the plane working out the dovetail spacing.


And again cut them roughly on the band saw.


After cutting the dovetails roughly on the band saw I spent the next 3 hours filing them.
This was tedious work as the tails had to be square bottomed and as straight as possible, getting into the corners was difficult.
Any miss shaped tails would result in gaps later on.

I later found out that grinding the teeth off one side of a triangular file greatly helps in getting sharp clean corners. It did indeed make the job a lot easier and the results where far better than using a half round file.


After 3 hours they are still not quite finished but the majority is done.

After that I marked out and started cutting the sole of the plane from a piece of 6mm mild steel.


I've since learnt that 01 tool steel is a far better choice for the sole as it is accurately machined and harder.

The mild steel was freely available at the time so I went with it. It should be a little easier to cut and file over tool steel.

That little lot was enough for one evening.

As I'll only be working on the plane in the evenings its going to be a lengthy project but I'll keep this thread updated as and when more is done.
Welcome to the forum.
I think you've made the right decision - to get stuck in with the knowledge you have already. I shall follow your project with interest.
Can't help with advice but always love anything related to plane building. Watching with interest. Welcome to ukw.
Thanks for the welcome Chris and Mark.
I'm taking lots of pictures so hopefully they should keep things interesting.
I've made all steel and brass and steel infills. Not tons of them, but 5?

I have limited tooling, also, and no real experience with metalwork outside the confines of making planes. I have some suggestions for the boring part of the work if you're interested in them, but a lot of it depends on how your brain works. Mine is constantly looking for the easy road, so even while I'm doing something routine (which I still try to do well, no matter what), it's always looking for an improvement.

As for the two types of steel - high carbon vs. low carbon, it's probably a wash. O1 works nicely and you can comb cut it and break it off, and then it files cleanly, but it's definitely harder. It'll pin files a little less, but neither type is fast on a lap.

if you are cleaning up the metal by yourself (especially in regard to squaring metal parts or flattening things that) and not with machine tools, you'd probably enjoy getting a body file (like a vixen) that's intended to be flexible - use that for the bulk work, finish with a file and then lap to visual perfection.

Keep the wax handy when you finish the plane and work with it - bronze and steel planes both have a lot more friction than cast iron. I see you have an A13 type design, which is a good basis and makes a pleasant plane to use.

I found the first plane hard to make well (but mine works fine, it's just a little ugly), and the second plane will eliminate 90% of the issues you had with the first. refurbishment of stray wild vintage infill planes will become extremely easy after you've made one, too.
Thank you for the warm welcome every one and thank you D_W for the advice I'm looking into vixen files as I type :)

I finished cutting out the sole and rounded the ends with a file.


Next was to mark out the pins onto the sole. I used blue marker and a scribe to make the lines easier to see.
I also screwed the brass sides to a block of wood to keep them from moving when marking the pins.


Then I carefully cut to my scribe lines using a hacksaw and 24tpi blade. The mild steel wasn't too bad to cut, not easy going but easier than I had anticipated.

After that I took the sole over to the pillar drill and drilled a series of holes along the waste line. Had to be careful not to drill past the waste line as this would have resulted in cutting all of them to the lowest point which would have been a lot of work.
Thankfully it all went well.


With the holes drilled along the waste line I then used a junior hacksaw to cut out the remaining waste


Then was the slow task of carefully filing to the scribe lines. I picked up a tip of rubbing chalk onto the file to stop it from clogging, this neat trick really helps.


I'm finding much like wood it takes a lot of patience to hand work steel, just one stroke to many with the file can easily put you under the scribe line.
It took another two and a half to three hours to file all of the dovetails.

With all of the dovetails filed I could try a first test fit.


I'm pleased with how they have gone together so far but there is a little more refinement to do.
Swapping over to needle files to get the corners nice and sharp should do the trick.


But I'm tired for one evening :)
Can't recall if I said, but don't buy the vixens new. They're expensive, and wherever you may be, if you have ebay, they will show up used at some point for almost nothing.

You want the flexible kind with a screw hole at each end, no handle. You can just affix them to a piece of scrap wood with screws so that you can make the grinding a two hand operation. The times I've found them unused here in the states (with a little bit of patience) and not from retail sellers they are about $5-$8 each. One of them will do all of the grinding work on several planes, saving your files and paper for finish work.

They're aggressive and take off small pigtails of metal instead of dust or tiny filings, and they don't pin like a file.
Hi Thetyreman thanks for the welcome.

I've had this file for a while which I picked up from a boot sale.
I have no idea what kind of file it's called but looks similar to some of the vixen files I've seen on E-bay, though mine has a fixed handle and isn't flexible.
The Vixen files I've seen on e-bay are quite expensive even second hand so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for one on the cheap. thanks for the advice.


With the dovetails nearly finished I started work on the mouth of the plane.
Because I'm planning to make a single blade plane (no chip breaker) the mouth opening is critical, too small and the shavings will jam causing the plane not to work.
To large will increase the risk of chatter and the inability to create fine shavings.
I'm being cautious and cutting the mouth small as I'm not quite sure yet how the blade will seat. This wont be apparent until the body is made and the wooden infill is fitted.

I marked out the mouth and centre punched a series of holes.


took it over to the pillar drill and drilled out the holes.


With a hand drill I elongated one of the holes enough to fit a hacksaw blade in.


I cut away as much of the waste as possible to my scribe lines.

Then came the task of filing the mouth, as you can guess this took a while!

I know I'm going to bed the blade at 55 degrees so had to file a bevel on the mouth to match it.


With the mouth opening only being 4mm wide it was difficult to fit a file in straight let alone angled over at 55 degrees.
Luckily I managed to find a very thin file which I started with then once the majority of the bevel was done I could get a larger file in.

Needle files came in handy to finish the corners and I was always being cautious not to open the mouth any bigger than the scribe lines.


Thankfully after a good few hours it was done....for now.
I know I will have to adjuster it later down the line but that's enough for one evening.
That looks like a vixen except the teeth are oriented oppositely.
With the majority of the mouth done I turned my attention back to the dovetails.

I spent a while making sure the corners where clean and sharp and that the bottoms where filed to my scribe lines. Getting them as accurate as possible will help later when I come to peen them shut.

Then I had a big decision to make.

Early English mitre planes had a decorative feature called a Cupids bow. Often shown on the wooden wedge or on the infill and sometimes carried over above the dovetails on rare planes.

Bill Carter likes to add them to his planes and if done well look beautiful.

To say a novice trying them is ambitious is an understatement. Even a competent metal worker can find them challenging.
Cutting them accurately is one thing but the hard part is peening the metal into the cuts. Something I've never done before and have zero experience in...... but as the saying goes nothing ventured nothing gained.

I had a practice on some scrap metal to start with. The first attempt on the left didn't go well but the second attempt on the right worked out better.


You can see why it's called a Cupids bow now.

With a few more practice tries done I went for it and started to cut one on the brass.


I used a triangular file for the centre point and a round file for the curves. I first cut the point in the middle of the dovetail. Then i start to create the curves equally on each side.


Once I'm happy with the placement and depth of the point and curves I round over the flats to finish the bow.


After a little more refinement with needle files to the bow and dovetail its finished.

Then rinse and repeat for the rest of the dovetails on both sides and sole of the plane.


I understand why this is a challenging task now. It takes huge amounts of patience and concentration to get them looking accurate and uniform.


This took over 2 evenings to finish and I'm only half way through.
Make sure you make some sort of rough infill before peining those dovetails as the material is softer, thinner and the fact you have made cupids bows doesn't make it easier.
It might even be advisable to have a length of stock for when or if a section gets damaged.
Good luck with the build
Thanks for the advice trees.
I've made a former that sits inside the body and I'll secure it to that while peining, hopefully it will support the metal and keep the sides square.

That's the idea any way :)
WOW you just upped the bar with those cupids dovetails in steel / brass! I am in awe if that turns out as beautiful as the 'female' component of it looks. I wish you all the best...however one thing which I would be concerned about is that brass is surely more malleable than steel? I might have to google that. But the way you have done it it surely means you have to 'persuade' the steel to fill the holes in the brass sides? My moderately scientific, moderately experienced in planemaking, brain, is immediately concerned about how that will turn out. For me this is the most interesting thread I have followed for a good while and I wish you all the very best.
Thank you for your comment Gasman and the words of encouragement I really appreciate it.

This was exactly my concern too.

I've cut the bows into the steel on the sole also. My plan is to peen the brass into the steel bows on the sole but leave the brass bows on the sides of the plane exposed (unfilled).
Some of the older planes are like this and it's also something Carter does.

I'm quickly learning nothing about this project is easy!

Now the Cupid bows are cut I can start to shape the plane sides.

I used double sided tape to fix the two halves together then stuck my paper template onto that.

I then cut the shape out on the band saw


I then went over the shape with files to clean it up. I won't bother getting it exactly right at this point as I'll be sanding it later once the wooden infill is made and fitted.


Finally the plane is taking on some sort of shape!


That's all for this evening as time got away from me.

Next up is the part I'm most dreading, peining.
It looks great Hattori
What are you using as a former?
Is it a precisely stacked or solid machined steel, or some lump of tightly fitting boxwood?

Are you going to make a bridge?