Introduction: The 'B-52' Handplane

About: Adventures in Creativity and Innovation, Design, Engineering, Making, Fixing, and Tinkering

So far this summer there have been a few days where it isn’t quite surfable with a shortboard but still looking very inviting. Having recently tried out and enjoyed a hand plane i decided to make one…This instructable aims to give you the knowledge to construct a nice looking handplane for minimal costs probably under £5 and includes full size downloadable CAD plans and decals.

Step 1: Materials

After some research there are many types of timber that are suitable for a handplane from the ultimate Paulownia hardwood (very hard to source and ultra light) to 18mm plywood. Whilst passing an old haunt of my carpentry days ‘Woodstock’ in Falmouth i popped in to check what offcuts they had that could work – i picked up a 400x200x30mm piece of tulip and a similar size beech for £2 each.


  • Timber blanks approx 400x200x30mm
  • Old surfboard leash
  • Small can of 'Yacht Varnish' and Danish oil
  • 4 x Small brass screws and cups
  • T shirt transfer paper (optional for decals)


  • Jigsaw
  • Sliding chop saw if cutting rocker
  • Orbital Sander
  • Lots of sandpaper from 120-600 grit
  • Quality 2" paintbrush for applying varnish

Step 2: Design

Some research led me to designing two shapes that i called the ‘B-52′ and ‘Zeppelin’. I designed two the two plan shapes in AutoCAD at 1:1 scale so we can print them out on an A1 sheet of paper and use an old boat building technique called ‘Lofting’ to transfer the shape to a hardboard template.

With the PDF file below you can print it out to an A1 sheet (ask a local architects office to print it out for you they will probably charge you £2-3) Download Handplane A1 PDF Template – Message me if you would like the DWG You can either ‘loft’ out the dimension which involves measuring out from the crosses on the centre line of the board using the given measurements which will give you a series of dots that you join to create the outline for the shape. Or cut out the shape from the paper and paste/glue to the hardboard to cut out. The hand grab cut out is optional – ive used the leash strap system instead.

Step 3: Construction - Template

After you have transferred the plan shape to the hardboard cut it out with a Jigsaw. Cut out the shape leaving the pencil line on the template – its better to hand finish to the line with some sandpaper or a very sharp block plane.

Step 4: Construction - Rocker

This part is optional ive seen many handplanes without the rocker cut or steam bent in and im sure it doesnt make a world of difference if you use a flat piece of ply/timber. The technique to cut the rocker into the timber i used is called ‘kerfing’ where you use a series of saw cuts to remove the bulk of the timber as illustrated below. You need a sliding bench saw ideally to do this or you could use a circular saw. The idea is to make a series of saw cuts very close together using the depth gauge on the blade and then ‘hammer’ out the pieces then you’ll be left with a rough rocker which you can sand good with an orbital sander.

Once this is ready you can cut out the plan shape with a jigsaw.

Step 5: Construction - Rails

With the cut out shape we can now move on to the rails – I used a router to form the shape of the rails until the guide bearing lost contact with the rail – too risky…just use a rolled up piece of 120 grit sandpaper and your eye..

Step 6: Finishing

Depending on what timber you used for your blank check what the best waterproofing solution is. For most hardwoods i would say oiling should should be fine. I used some old Danish oil used to coat worktops. Apply liberally a first coat and wipe it in ideally with a lint free cloth or whatever you can find an old sock will work Allow to dry 24hrs and reapply a second coat. This will also act as a primer for the final coat of varnish.

Decals – I had a sheet of t-shirt transfer paper that i thought might work on the timber before applying a final coat of varnish and it does. Print out your decals as per the paper instructions and apply with a hot iron – obviously make sure you use the protective paper/greaseproof paper.

Varnishing – I used some gloss yacht varnish to achieve a high gloss ‘glass’ finish following the process below

  1. Sand all over with 120 grit.
  2. Apply base coat of varnish using 25% white spirit solution
  3. Sand base coat with 240 grit
  4. Apply 1st coat – wait 24hrs to dry and then sand back using 400 grit
  5. Apply 3rd and final coat

Step 7: Leash/Strap

I used the velcro ankle attachment from an old surfboard leash. Secure the leash around your hand, place the strap on the board and mark the screw holes through the strap. I used brass slotted screws with cups.

Thats it ready to shred!