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Building a Bridle Plough Plane

I have wanted to build this plane since first seeing one in the Wood Central tool making competition in 2007. I received a honourable mention for my brace, but the winning plane by Kyle Barrett was a stunner, and deservedly took first place. Below is the plough he built for Chris Schwarz.

The plough is based on the Mathieson Bridle Plough. The “bridle” is the method in which the fence is attached to the arms. For centuries many methods have been offered to ensure that the fence runs parallel to the skate. The bridle appears to have been one of the best, but it is difficult to build, and so few were produced.

Below is a Mathieson with bridle fence …

A plough plane is built around a set of 8 irons, which run from 1/8” through 5/8”. These are tapered, substantial in thickness, and grooved at the back. The groove rests on the rigid leading edge of the rear skate, which creates a stable base.

At a recent David Stanley auction I won a set of unused (unnamed) vintage irons. It is not unusual for irons to be unnamed. One or two companies often made them for plane makers, who then stamped them with their own names.

And so on to the build.

There are many images and I plan to offer just a comment here-and-there. The aim is to provide a guideline for anyone who wants to build a plough plane. Please note that this is the first I built, and most of the time I was flying by the seat of my pants.

The wood used here is West Australian She-oak for the body and fence, with West Australian Jarrah for the arm, wedge and fence insert. Both these woods are extremely hard, and provides many anxious moments all the way through.

Below is the template I built to mark out the body ..

The bed is set at 50 degrees (in reality I achieved 51 degrees), and an extra 10 degrees is added on for the wedge.

The bed was drilled out in a double row as I lacked a 5/8” drill bit, not to mention one long enough for this task. In the end I used a ¼” bit.

Removing the waste was a tough task. I had a borrowed set of floats (thanks Bob), but they were not suited for a long, narrow bed. Consequently I used files and rasps more. One tool that worked well was a chisel I converted to a scraper by adding a perpendicular microbevel at the end.

Sawing the rebate to the skate …

Progress picture ..

With temporary wedge. This is necessary to hold an iron in order to position the skates.

The front skate comes from a delapidated Mathieson wedged plough. The rear skate I built from a piece of steel (used for a short straight edge) I found at a boot sale. Below you can see the leading edge that was shaped for the groove at the rear of the iron.

The handle begins its journey ..

When I made the rear skate I had ideas of creating a curved heel. This was later discarded.

Drilling for the tapered wood screws ..

This important that the skates are coplanar ..

Throughout this build I was confronted with tasks that threated to destroy everything in that instance. This was one … shortening the front of the body to enable the lower section to curve with the skate.

Progress picture …

Fitting the depth stop. This came off the Mathieson parts plane.

First drill …

Then chisel …

The upper side of the depth stop houses the adjuster …

Progress picture …

Turning Jarrah for the fence arms. These are 25mm (1”) in diameter. A 19mm (3/4”) tenon was added.

This jig was useful to ensure that then diameter was even along the length.

To shape the arms, begin by marking a triangle at the lower end. Note that this creates a 90 degree angle.

Extend the lines ..

You will obtain a perfect 90 degrees if you shoot the complementary angle on a shooting board ..

Marking off ¾” diameter ..

Marking the parallel sides prior to planing them ..

The tenon was reduced to 5/8” (planing the parallel sides to ¾” meant that there would be no shoulder for the tenon).

Filing brass for the depth stop lock ..

Adding brass to the ends of the arms ..

Removing waste for the depth stop lock …

Positioning the brass inserts for the bridle. This brass comes from angle brass. The sections are spaced 4” apart.

Chiseling the runner with a guide ..

The cut out for the hold down screw is created with a forstner bit and a rasp.

The completed depth stop lock. Also note that the positions for the arms have been marked.

The arms and the base (the one side has been left long for now) …

To make the upper clamp for the bridle, begin by drilling a set of 1” holes 4” apart (1” because that was the original diameter of the arms before the sides were reduced to ¾”). Mark the centre point for the bolt.

The side guides are 1/8” drill bits. Drill the lower section first using a drill press. Then attach the clamp and drill the clamp from underneath. I later trimmed the drill bits and set them with epoxy.

The thread for the bolt is fitted from below. I filed a V into the side and then inserted a screw to prevent any twisting. The fitting is epoxied in, but it will not come out since there will also be a base below it.

Take a deep breath and drill the mortices for the arm tenons. These are 1 ¼” deep.

Gluing up. Ensure that the arms are square. Also not that the bases align.

Trial fitting …

Into the final straight. Time to make the fence. The wood below is to be used. Note that I searched for a piece of quarter sawn Jarrah, which will be an insert.

Using a plough to build a plough: creating grooves for the insert.

Testing the fit ..

Glued and planed flush. Good fit!

Drilling out the rebate for the depth stop (it needs space in which to drop down).

Saw and rasp the front end of the fence …

Marking out waste ..

Sawing away ..

I used a combination of hollow planes and scrapers to achieve the curve ..

The bead was added with a Stanley #66 ..

The sides were trimmed with a plough and shoulder plane ..

The bridle was trimmed to final length, and screwed to the fence ..

Here is some detail of the underside bead …

FINALLY … the plough is complete!!!

It works well too! A trial on a length of Tasmanian Oak.

Clean, square groove …

Regards from Perth


July 2012