Block planes have been an indispensable part of the woodworker’s arsenal for many decades. However, the original use was to trim a heavy butcher’s block, hence the name ‘block plane’. The Axminster Rider range consists of five principal planes, which can be subdivided into two groups, Standard and Deluxe, but both share common features.
They’re generally used one handed. The cap iron has a smoothed, domed profile so that it sits comfortably in the palm of the hand. For more accurate and precise work block planes can be used two handed. The user’s other hand or thumb is applied to the substantial front brass knob. This locks the sliding shoe and regulates the size of the mouth. The bodies are made from high quality ductile iron, with copper and nickel added to improve their resistance to corrosion.
Soles are ground flat to within +/- 0.04mm or 0.0016”. The sides are also square which is essential if it’s used as a mini shooting board plane.
The most important part of the block plane is the blade. These blades are made from a blank of 3mm thick, O1 (oil quenched) high carbon spring steel. They are then hardened and tempered to RC 63. The blade is honed with a serviceable secondary bevel and is ready to take shavings.
All Rider block planes undergo a detailed inspection at Axminster to ensure consistent quality.
The Standard block planes consist of the No.60½ and 9½. They look very similar but with a significant difference, the angle the blade is mounted. The No.60½ is referred to as a ‘low angle’ block, where the blade is seated at 13½°. The No.9½ has a slightly higher 20° bed. This difference makes the plane cut in different ways.
Blade angles and effective pitch
Block plane blades are always placed bevel up on the bed. To find the ‘effective pitch’ (the angle at which the blade edge meets the timber), the honed angle (usually 30°) must be added to the bed angle.
In a ‘low angle’ block plane the effective pitch is 13½°+30° = 43½°. This is almost the same as a bevel down configuration of a standard bench plane.
Reducing the effective pitch slightly to approximately 40° (by lowering the honed bevel angle to around 27°) means that the blade will slice through end grain fibres more easily, which is the plane’s primary purpose.
Conversely, the effective pitch of a No.9½ block plane, with a 30° honed edge is 50° which makes it very suitable for tackling more awkward areas of difficult grain.
By slightly altering the honed angle on either type of plane, it’s quite easy to increase or decrease the effective cutting pitch of the blade which is one of the reasons why these small planes are so versatile.
Deluxe Block Planes
There’s an Axminster ‘Rider’ block plane to cater for every taste. However, the more discerning user might be drawn to the Deluxe version. The highly polished bronze cap iron does give it that bit of bling!
Apart from its undoubted dazzle, the bronze cap iron does have one or two practical advantages over those sported by its less glamorous cousins.
First and foremost, from an ergonomic viewpoint, there’s more of a pronounced dome to its shape, which means that it tends to sit more comfortably in the palm of the hand.
Second and foremost, it has comparatively more mass, the result of which is that the Deluxe block planes have a little more ‘heft’ when picked up and applied to the timber.
One other difference which is immediately noticeable is that the Deluxe planes have a more desirable method of locking the blade in place. This consists of a large, knurled brass wheel directly under the lever cap, which is turned between finger and thumb to apply just the correct amount of pressure to secure the blade. The correct amount of pressure is when the blade firmly held, but no more.
The Deluxe range comprises the low angle No.60½, the No.9½ and a hybrid, the No.69½, which combines the best attributes of both. It has the low angle bed of the No.60½, together with the increased blade width (41mm) of the No.9½.
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