No 62 Low Angle Jack Plane five years on…

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Our patternmaker at the time, David Weston, made our first plane pattern in 2018, the No 62 based on the early century Stanley plane. The pattern was shaped out of wood and was accompanied by patterns for the adjustable mouth shoe & the bronze cap iron, it was a big day! The bronze cap iron was designed by Melbourne designer & woodworker, Tim McQuiston.

Of course the design of our first plane had to be determined prior to pattern making. We had some criteria that we wanted to achieve. Prior to Henry Eckert Hand Tools we imported tools from Lie-Nielsen which included a wide range of demo tools that we used regularly. My go to tool was nearly always the No 62, I liked the simplicity and the flexibility. Occasionally I would pick up a No 5 bench plane and it always felt different in the planing action, better I thought. It wasn’t due to bevel down / bevel up difference, or the height, it was the weight, the heft. The No 5 seemed to stay on track more, more grounded, more powerful. It was an intriguing discovery.

Our first design change was to add more weight to the sole of the plane, lower the centre of gravity, to get the advantage we had enjoyed with the No 5. We looked at lateral adjustment of the blade but decided we would keep the plane simple, a snug fit for the blade with some lateral adjustment room. A Norris adjuster would give lateral movement but the design of a low angle plane blade height from the base and the positioning of the handle would have required a very short Norris adjuster which would be far too sensitive due to the lever physics when lateral adjustment was attempted.

All planes rely on the blade to perform, it is the most important and most neglected part of the tool. Any planing ‘problems’ nearly always come back to the blade. We decided to find and use the best tool steel we could, which was PM- 10V tool steel. Powdered metallurgy technology gives easy sharpening and long term sharpness along with durability.

Keeping the blade straight when adjusting was achieved by Queensland woodwork teacher & artisan, Bob Howard. Bob invented the Howard Adjuster which included a bearing to stop the adjuster catching on the blade causing lateral movement and removed the friction component making silky smooth adjustments.

We also wanted to use native Australian timbers for the handles. Australia’s most popular tree, the River Redgum, was our choice in fiddleback form along with the legendary Tasmanian timber Huon Pine.

The casting in virtually unbreakable Ductile Iron and the machining was our next hurdle. The casting quality was reasonably quickly achieved but the the machining was a journey. After many attempts we finally achieved our goals of flatness, 90° sides, accuracy, stability and aesthetics.

The performance of the plane was what we wanted to exploit. We were aware of the flexility a Low Angle Bevel Up plane provided. A range of blades including higher micro bevels, 90° scraper blades and a toothed blade exploited the flexibility of this tool. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, pandemic tool steel issues have made us reduce our plane blade range but they will be back.

Using a low angle plane on a shooting board is wise. The blade cutting angle planes end grain well which is often found in the shooting board environment. We made our own hot dog handle to make the shooting process more comfortable.

Whilst we are talking about low angle planes without a chipbreaker that a bevel down bench planes brings, we are not anti-chipbreaker. The Low Angle Jack allows the woodworker to conquer tear out timber with a quick change to a higher angled plane blade. This can be achieved with a bevel down bench plane but the set up is not always correct, and sometimes hard to achieve with some tools.

This feature of changing blades rather than changing tools for tear out, scraping, hogging out rough timber, smoothing, end grain planing etc is the Low Angle jack Plane’s major advantage. I guess, if you could only have one woodwork hand plane this would be the one! See them here…

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