Lie-Nielsen Blade Upgrade

Part II: Bailey 5-1/2 type 11

by Cian Perez

This artcle first appeared as a thread on theWoodNet woodworking forum. It was compiled and reproduced here for easier public consumption.

This is another update on my Lie-Nielsen-blade-implants-into-Baileys experiments. The candidate this time around is a Rarebear restored Bailey 5-1/2 Type 11.

The 5-1/2 was actually one of the two first Baileys I've ever owned. When I received the plane from Rarebear, I thought the blade was starting to get a tad short (shows you what I know) so I diligently pursued finding a replacement.

photo by Johnny "Rarebear" Kleso

Anyway, to avoid repeating a story already told, Lie-Nielsen made for me a custom blade that is 2-1/4" wide and 0.125" thick.

Now, to make it work in a plane that expects to only see a blade that is only .080" thick.

With the frog face in alignment with the rear of the throat to make one continuous surface, the thicker blade BARELY passes through the sole. I could see light through the blade opening if I hold it up to a lamp - Man, that's tight!

Unfortunately, my initial attempts to use the plane with the thicker blade would cause clogging at the throat. This was just too tight! Several repeated attempts produced the same results.

Having never placed a file on any Bailey, I had great hesitation in filing the mouth. What if I file too much? What if I can't file straight? What if I end up chipping the throat? Or worse?

So I placed the plane back on the shelf for a later day when maybe my shop gets finished or when I have a table truly deserving the name of "workbench" or maybe sometime after we return to the moon or...

Anyway, after pondering the situation and playing with my other replacement blades in the other planes, one thing became evident over time - these thicker blades had larger bevel surfaces and when looking through the sole to the bottom of the blade, I was able to see that they barely (if at all) touched the back edge of the throat. Hmm.

Now, do know that I had adjusted all the frogs on all my Baileys to create one continuous surface from the frog bed to the rear of the sole's throat as directed by nearly every instructional document on this topic. The only time that this alignment is to not occur is when the frog is in a "forward" state to tighten up the mouth.

But, my Eureka moment was when I figured if there's still yet room underneath the bevel of the blade, why not go against convention and move the frog back just a tad bit more? To allow for the chips to have more room to escape?

But how to test this? How can I tell if the blade bevel is actually making contact with the back of the throat? Through resistance on the blade adjuster knob? Maybe I could see space underneath the blade if it was raised by the back of the sole?

Well, why not by feel? Hmm...

So I removed the lever cap, and also removed the blade adjuster knob so that the free yoke would allow the blade to slide freely in its resting position.

I moved the frog slightly rearward of the "continuous surface alignment" point (as shown above) and then checked the blade for fit...

Through this inspection I found that the the bevel face of the .125" thick blade will indeed make contact with the back of the sole, and the sole will then lift the blade off the frog surface and force the blade back to contact the front of the throat. BUT ONLY after the blade was extended well beyond any realistic cutting depth! HOT DIGGITY DOG!!! No filing necessary baby!!!

And even so, there was still room for me to move the frog back forward to tighten the mouth up a bit. Remember the blade was able to successfully project through before. It's just that the chips weren't escaping all that freely and would clog the throat. If I choose to actually tighten up the throat again to its original position, I can probably just get away with beveling the topside of the front of the throat.

So there you have it gang. We now have an operationally correct Bailey 5-1/2 type 11 with a Lie-Nielsen .125" thick blade.

Robin "Frigator" Friersen contributes:

I would suggest you do this to confirm if in fact the blade is not contacting the back of the throat. Set you blade for a normal cut, then remove your frog without touching the depth adjustment yoke.

With the frog out of the plane reinstall the blade on the frog, not touching the depth yoke, put on the Lever cap, turn the frog over and see if any part of the flat side of the blade extends below the base of the frog. Only then will you be able to tell whether its contacting the throat. Going by feel can sometimes be misleading. And even then you must be concerned about the bevel contacting the sole if the frog is moved back too much. A lot of people think the blade isnt contacting the sole until they remove the frog from the plane. I do know my .115 blades extend below the end of the frog and will contact the sole if the frog is not truly in line. Try it with a .125 and see if the only the bevel shows.

I would not be so hesitant to file the mouth. A lot of mouths arent square anyway, they can be very slightly chipped(view through a hand lens) and working gently on the front of the mouth can improve performance. Many times they need smoothing as its rough in there. Also Beveling the inside of the front edge allows the chip to escape better allowing for a tighter mouth. The front edge of the mouth is where all the action occurs, its needs to be very smooth, square and beveled on the inside so your tight few thous thick shaving can easily slide through.

One more thing. Dont forget that a mouth can be widened from the rear also if one is scared of messing with the front edge....


Taking Robin's input into consideration (Thanks Robin)...

If it is truly functional at this rearward position, I would think that this was only possible due to the relative thinness of the sole material at the rear of the mouth. In other words, there's a good possibility that the sole was thinned out from use and lapping and reuse and relapping over the years. Given the short length of the original blade, it would be easy to presume that this plane did see a lot of wood over the years.

I did the test as prescribed by Frigator above:

  1. Lowered the blade and then took a few shavings to ensure that it was at the proper cutting depth
  2. Removed the frog from the plane and was careful not to move the blade adjuster knob
  3. Replaced the blade and lever cap, all the while insuring the cap iron was well engaged by the yoke in its most rearward position

Then, as you see below, the point where the bevel of the blade begins is ABOVE the bottom surface of the frog, but just barely:

(LARGE version of above pic)

So, in theory, what I had done previously (in my original post above) is in fact very doable. The rear part of the throat on this plane is seemingly very thin. A measurement with a dial caliper indicates a bed thickness of roughly .08" - similar to the thickness of a standard plane blade.

From further inspection of the leading edge of the frog, I have concluded that the above overhead shot that is looking down into the throat cavity is somewhat deceiving. This is because the leading edge of the frog is not razor sharp by any means, and, thus, would never visually cover up the mating part of the sole if the frog bed and the rear of the throat were perfectly in the same geometric plane. And as the blade tip pic may show, it's even quite blunt if not even beveled slightly upward at its bottom edge on this particular frog. This came to light when I remounted the frog after the above exercise and sighted down the frog bed to square it up. I could then see that the rear of the throat is just neglibly forward of the frog, if at all.

So, apparently, this .125" Lie-Nielsen blade retrofits into this 5-1/2 type 11 fairly cleanly with no modifications.


Next: Part III - Lie-Nielsen Blade on Bailey 4-1/2 type 17


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