The deformation field associated with chip formation in plane strain (2-D) machining has been simulated using the finite element method (FEM), with the objective of developing 2-D machining as an experimental technique for studying very large strain deformation phenomena. The principal machining parameters are the tool rake angle, cutting velocity and the friction at the toolchip interface while the deformation field parameters are strain, strain rate and temperature. The relation between rake angle and the shear strain in the deformation zone is studied for the low-speed cutting of lead. This correspondence is validated by comparison with measurements of the deformation parameters made by applying a Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) technique to highspeed photographic image sequences of the deformation. It is shown that plastic strains in the range of 1-15 can be realized in a controlled manner by appropriate choice of the rake angle. The unique capabilities offered by 2-D machining for studying micro- and nano- mechanics of large strain deformation, and the creation of ultra-fine grained materials are highlighted in the context of these results.