For the majority of the knives I’ve made, I split the handle down the middle (lengthwise) and fit it around the tang of my knife’s blade. On many of my smaller knives I have a hidden tang, so the tang doesn’t show at any point around the handle, except where it extends out the front.
For some of the knives, the tang is fairly narrow, but still strong for the intended type of work. With this size though, it can be a bit limiting as to the tools I can use when evacuating the wood where the tang will fit.
The width of the handle scales (when laid on there side) is also an issue, as one of the tools I’d normally choose would be my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 or my old Stanley No. 71. Even with the closed mouth version that I have, it is very difficult, if not impossible to stay registered on the outer wood, so the small square blade for the No. 271 is of no real use. As for shifting to the No. 271, I really prefer to have a fine screw-adjust, when sneaking up on a final depth.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine showed me a gift he received from his kids, and it was one of the Lee Valley mini planes, which got some chuckles from everyone around. He went on to share that it was truly completely functional, which I know it says on the website, but it was still hard for me to wrap my head around. Ok, shift back to present time, and I decided to take a chance and ordered one of the Lee Valley Mini Router Planes (shown above in the lower portion of the photo), hoping my results might surprise me.
I opened the packaging and my heart sort of sunk. The presentation box this little router plane comes in is so tiny, almost to the point where I was afraid I’d made a mistake. I opened the box and the plane was so amazingly small, but all of the parts worked super smooth. I took the blade out of the plane and took it to my Shapton 1000-grit Glass Stone (as this blade is quite narrow, the Glass series stone is one of the few stones I trust will not create a long dado in the stone in rapid order) and worked the bottom of the blade. This blade is made from A2 steel, and it took a fair amount of time to work so it showed a consistent scratch pattern.
This wasn’t because the blade was out of square or warped, just because the steel was so hard! It felt like I was working a super high Rc valued Japanese iron, or something on that magnitude. I followed doing the same on the bevel side of the blade, but since this is such a small blade, I could only make short back and forth movements. All of the sharpening was freehand, as no guides that I have would work with this blade. After both mating surfaces were complete on the 1000-grit, and I had a small burr, I very lightly worked both surfaces on my Norton 8000-grit water stone. This stone is much softer and I was very cautious not to stay in one spot for too long. I brought in my Glass Stone 16000-grit to finish up the blade, and brought both edges to a razor sharpness.
While I had the mini Router Plane apart, I noticed it’s sole still had mill marks from manufacturing, so I put some sandpaper down on my flat granite plate and worked it until all of the milling marks were gone. I applied some wax to the sole, which is what I do to the sole on all of my hand planes, so the friction between the wood and plane is almost nil. There is no good reason to leave the sole unworked, and basically fight against the wood.
After re-assembling the mini router plane, I took it to a knife handle where I’d already cut along the shape of the tang, with an Exacto knife, and removed a fair amount with a very sharp chisel. When I set the mini router plane onto the handle blank, it looked like this might actually work. The size of the little router plane just looked like it was the proper scale for the work needed. I was so pleasantly amazed when I started removing wood, as the blade in the router plane was cutting through the wood like it was butter. And this feeling didn’t stop anytime soon. I finished both inside areas of the handle for this knife blade, and it was still going strong. Part of this is the small cross-section of area it is cutting, but still, the A2 in this blade is really holding its edge like a champ!
I hope you enjoyed the read and perhaps will test the same for yourself. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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Ok, sorry again for the lack of recent posts, but my last post hopefully informed everyone as to why I’ve been away from the site.
I bought some more material for knife blades, even though it wasn’t quite as thick, and had a different “feature”. The blanks I bought had some holes in them, and the location of the holes presented an issue, where I would need to either make the tang much more narrow or include a section of a hole. I decided on the latter, which had some positive aspect (stronger), and not quite negative, but I suppose challenging (tang shape other than rectangular adds some extra work) aspect to it.
As I do regularly now, I placed the tang of a blade on the inside of one half of the handle, and trace around the tang with a pencil. As this batch of knives is a little bit smaller than the most recent knife I wrote about (here, in case you haven’t yet read about it), the tang isn’t as wide. Both the width of the tang, as well as the shape (with the small portion of a circle), changed my work strategy a bit. On the last knife, the tang was wide enough to comfortably use the standard iron in my Lie-Nielsen No. 71 (Large Router Plane) to excavate the waste wood, and providing a flat and level “floor” which the tang rests upon.
The smaller tang on the current knives is too narrow to effectively use the No. 71, unless I was to shift to one of the small blades made for the Lie-Nielsen No. 271 (Small Router Plane), but I currently only have the 3/32″ Pointed Tip blade which wouldn’t really be very efficient. They do offer a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, and with the area nearest the hole/circle pinching in to even more narrow width, it would still fit nicely.
I don’t presently have a 1/4″ Square Tip blade, for my No. 71, so it was time to improvise. I recall seeing an old home-made tool, that used a small block of wood for its body, and a narrow chisel as the blade, to create a router plane. I quickly went through my off-cuts and found a small piece of white oak (this could have been a section of 2 x 4, or other softwood, as well), and an old Stanley chisel. I made sure the chosen chisel would fit into the tang recess areas, and then compared the chisel’s dimensions with my drill bits, and made sure the bit was just slightly smaller than the chisel. On a regular router plane, the blade is made from an “L” shaped piece of steel, and the cutting portion of the blade is held so there is a clearance angle between the heal of the blade and the work surface. Knowing this, I held the chisel I planned to use as my router plane’s blade, and when I saw a similar clearance, I set my adjustable angle gauge so it mimicked the angle of the chisel’s shaft. I held the angle gauge up against the side of the oak body, making sure to pay attention to where the blade would come through, which I wanted to have just behind the leading edge of the body. After determining where the blade would exit, I again used the angle gauge to locate the entry point for the blade, and the drill bit. Before I started drilling, I placed the angle gauge off to the side of the entry point, so I could use it as a visual guide to make sure I drilled the hole at the correct angle, similar to what Peter Galbert does when drilling into his Windsor seat blanks.
With the hole drilled (which is the basic path the chisel will follow), I used the same chisel planned as the blade, to remove some of the excess wood, but also used some narrow Japanese chisels to speed up the process. I worked mostly from the top side of the body, but as it got closer to coming through the bottom of the body, I sighted in a few well placed strikes with my most narrow Japanese chisel, to create an opening much closer to the size of the chisel. This helped prevent the wood breaking out, when the main chisel first came through the sole, and the location of the smaller chisel cuts made sure I didn’t create a loose fit. The chisel/blade will only advance with a firm strike, which gives me confidence the “blade” won’t shift either in or out, during use.
After I had the blade all the way through, I traced out an area surrounding the blade, which I removed so it wouldn’t jam up as quickly.
Using the new tool
After I chiseled away bulk wood in the tang-waste area of the knife handle, I used this new tool to make sure all of the tang area was the same depth. When I shifted to the second half of the knife handle, I decided to see if I could get the tool to behave decently, with it already set to full depth. I simply rotated the whole tool up on it’s leading edge, which raised the cutter away from the wood. I slowly pivoted the tool down until it was lightly cutting, and went over the whole tang area. I pivoted the tool’s sole down closer to the work, removing material until even again, and repeated until I was at final depth. This made for a fairly rapid process, without the need to stop and change the projection of the blade.
While this purpose-made tool worked decently, I still prefer the blade presentation the adjustable metal router planes provide, as I noticed more chattering on my new tool. One thing I did, after I was finishing up, was to take another similarly small chisel and use it as a scraper. I held it almost vertical, then tilt it slightly towards myself (around 15 degrees), making sure the flat back of the chisel was facing me, and pull this “scraper” towards me, to take super-controlled “cuts”. You really don’t need to create a hook on a chisel’s cutting edge that you put into use as a scraper, and I think you’ll find it amazing just how much control you have, and how fine the resulting surface is. One must, and this is for both the router plane build as well as when using it for scraping: make sure your chisel is sharp! It truly makes all the difference.
Thank you for stopping by to check out the article, and I hope you will find the information useful. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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