I've taken four classes taught by Tod Herrli at Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe. With the right instructor, anything is possible.
This particular class was on making side escapement planes, and I came away feeling completely confident that I can make more on my own.
I took a class from Tod six years ago on making hollows and rounds, but this time, I made a thumbnail and an ovolo.
The soles were easy to shape because Tod had made mother planes (the negative image of the plane's profile), but they can be shaped with shoulder planes, hollows and rounds, gouges, sandpaper wrapped around a dowel, and/or router bits.
If you were to shape your own sole, you would need to draw the profile on both ends of your plane blank and then connect the lines across the sole of the plane. From there, it's just a matter of removing the waste material, however you see fit.
The photos show the order in which we made our planes, but here's a quick rundown:
1. Square up your blank.
2. Layout your lines.
3. Saw the handhold.
4. Saw the escapement walls.
5. Remove waste from the escapement with chisels.
6. Bore the mortise with a hollow chisel mortiser or chisels.
7. Use floats and chisels to finish the mortise.
8. Chisel the ramp that leads to the escapement.
9. Make the blade.
10. Heat treat the blade.
11. Finish grinding and polishing the blade.
12. Make the wedge.
13. Add decorative elements to the plane (like chamfers).
14. Slap on some oil and make some shavings!
Sounds simple, and it is. But it can also be time-consuming, because there's lots of tweaking involved. Plus, you need to make sure that your blade matches the profile precisely.
But, Tod had some nifty jigs which sped up the process, and he was on hand to help us trouble shoot.
If you're looking to start making your own planes, I recommend Tod's video on making hollows and rounds. He shows you very clearly how to make them and how to heat treat the blades.
Your first couple planes may take days to make, but with practice, you'll be hanging up your Plane Maker sign in no time.
Here are my planes in action: