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I managed to find my record no44 for just £6, you can find them for cheap if you look around on ebay, I bought blades for it later, I found it took me a while to get used to using the plough plane, the blades really do need to be very sharp to get a nice clean groove and it has to be set up correctly worth watching the video on here about it if you get one.
I made the poor mans rebate plane which so far has been adequate it cuts up to 12mm wide rebates which works for 90% of the things I make, I’d recommend having a go at making it, it’s a fun project, if not thankfully the old vintage no 78s are still reasonably priced but I predict they might go up like the router plane did, so I’m thinking of getting one soon.
I use microlapping film thesedays, so much easier than sandpaper and having to stick it down, I’d highly recommend buying some, it’s particularly good for removing pitting, and far more effective in my opinion than sandpaper and it’s self adhesive as well, worth every penny.
one of the most overlooked parts is testing to see how square the female pins are from above, presuming you were thorough with your stock preparation it can sometimes look square but it isn’t, check it with a tri-square, or ruler with a square edge, and avoid undercutting, that might close gaps by a fraction of a millimetre, the difference is noticeable and it’s usually done at the last stage of fitting before glue-up, as always practice practice and practise, the more you do it the less likely there will be errors, it took me a LOT of joints before they were coming out with no gaps.
you’d have to use a record no44 or similar, you could actually do two grooves with a no43 as long as the end result fits, also you’ll find the ply is 12mm not 1/2″ so there might be a gap anyway if you used an imperial 1/2″ cutter, cutting two grooves instead could make a tighter/better fit. I have not made the project but it’s on the ‘to-do’ list.
try and get hold of joinery grade PAR redwood pine, it’s often the best and cheapest option, from my experience I’ve only ever found it at independent timber merchants, you will pay a premium at wickes/B&Q for it and it won’t be the same quality.
Mistakes are going to happen by the way, best way to avoid them is to really step back and take your time, for me they always happen without fail when rushing or under pressure.
If you want a cheap hardwood that’s easy to work I’d highly recommend tulip/poplar or ash, I can easily get hold of american ash and it’s cheap but more expensive than redwood pine.
I’ve found a slightly higher than average angle helps with preventing tearout, and it has to be extremely sharp. I like the ray isles set, superb replacement blades if you have a record no44, I got them because mine came with no blades, highly recommended.