Plane Floats

No, not pontoons for an air plane! Tools to help make side escapement planes.

I have done my share of Google searches over the past year plus for them and have found a couple of options. Lie Nielsen has the nicest product I’ve found and they are at least made on the same continent as I live. A little bit of math produced a dollar figure larger than I am willing to spend at this point, but I can certainly see the benefits of the tools. More Google searches produce videos on how to sharpen them and conversations with a home machinist friend about milling options led me to lots of thinking, pondering and even restless nights that lead me to say screw it – I will just try to make some and see how it goes. Of course I started with the largest one that I thought would be the most useful. It turns out that was probably a bad idea since it took two files later, way to much time and I’m only about half way done with it . Frustrated I put it aside for a better part of a year.

So now it’s a year later, I’m still discouraged and don’t have the cash to dump into purchasing all the ones I want. And I already have the O-1 steel purchased. So I am back to the idea of making them as I could really use them. I’m trying a slightly different approach this time around – let’s start with the easier ones! So its off to the shop to cut some steel and start the process again.

I used a file to slightly notch the steel before using the hack saw, this really helped make the start cleaner and it didn’t jump around as much.

I used a cut wheel on my die grinder to get a jump start on the longer angle cuts and to save some serious time on those long ones. But I took it slow to minimize overheating the steel. Unfortunately I wasn’t slow enough on a few of the cuts. I finished them off with the hacksaw. Note, this is not a good way to saw, I ended up doing nearly all of the cuts with my cut at 90 degrees to the vice not parallel as in this photo. Also note that a curved hack saw is a bad idea if you are making deep cuts, sucks to hit the saw or to use short strokes and have it take longer than needed.


Here is most of the rough cut shapes, typically one for push and one for pull.

  • Bed Float 1 x 3/16″ (this was the original, teeth are face down)
  • Bed Float 1 x 1/8″
  • Edge Float 1 x 3/16″
  • Edge Float 1 x 1/8″
  • Side Float 1 x 1/8″
  • Small Cheek Float 3/4 x 1/8″
  • Large Cheek Float 1 x 1/8″

Here I have an 1/8th and a 3/16th edge float clamped in the vice. I have used a black marker to darken the edge and used a scribe to mark every 1/8th inch. This will give me a good starting point for cutting the teeth.

Other than a mess on the bench, you can see a small cheek float in the lower left and the original float with teeth in it on the far left. When cutting teeth, don’t forget to clean your file frequently.

So far it feels like I have made much more progress than I did a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, its still quite time consuming but at least I feel like I am making progress. Next week I will get some brass rivets ordered and rummage for some wood to use on the handles. More on this as the process continues and time allows.