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Making and Using Tools - Planes, Scrapers, and Shaves

  Making Floats by Chuck Myers 1 of 4  

Chuck Myers


I had a couple of requests to do a how-to write-up on float making after posting a picture of one I had made to GIC.

I was a little hesitant to do so at the time, as my total experience amounted to a few hours, which effort resulted in a grand total of exactly one edge float. Now that I’ve doubled my qualifications, I suppose I can go ahead.

The first and most important bit of information I can offer is that I learned everything I know (not much) from watching Todd Herrli’s informative video on making hollows and rounds.

I heartily recommend this video as a much better source of information than whatever I am likely to provide here. You can buy it here.

So, to get started, you’ll need some O1 tool steel in the appropriate dimension. Todd demonstrates making floats from O1 dimensioned 3/16” by 1” in cross section. Lie-Nielsen sells some that are 3/16” thick in their catalog, but more often seems to use 1/8” stock.

The reason for the narrower thickness is evident when watching Larry Williams’s approach to plane making in the video available from L-N. It becomes pretty obvious as Larry works that the thinner floats provide better access in tight places.

So start with whatever thickness you think will work best for you. The first float I made was 3/16”, the second (used for the pictures here) was 1/8”. You’ll need a 1” wide piece of steel about 7 inches long. That length will give you 5 1/2” for the business end with 1 1/2” to attach a handle.

Paint one face of the steel with layout fluid and let it dry. Use a scribe to mark the cut lines. I chose to do all the marking before doing any cutting, as shown in the picture below. My layout uses a tang for attachment to a handle. If you want to use scales, along the lines of the L-N tools, your layout will be different.

Put the steel in a vise and use a hacksaw to cut to the lines. Note in the pictures that follow that either the hacksaw or my hacksawing skills (more likely) leave something to be desired.


I made a couple of mistakes when doing the cutting. You’ll see the original layout mark on the tang, which I overcut on one side. This necessitated cutting the other side deeper. Longer tang, shorter tool.

When cutting the ramp for the business end, the blade drifted through my layout line. I made some adjustments, and though the float isn’t as symmetrical as I would have liked, I think it still turned out to be a good, usable tool.

I draw three lessons from my sawing experience:

  • Leave yourself plenty of room when cutting.

  • Check progress often and make needed corrections early

  • Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world.

There will be some finishing work no matter how accurately you cut. Inaccurate cuts will just require more finishing.

The ramp, where the teeth will be cut, needs to be jointed. The next few pictures show how the ramp was finished.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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