Knowledge of the plasticity associated with the incipient stage of chip formation is useful toward developing an understanding of the deformation field underlying severe plastic deformation processes. The transition from a transient state of straining to a steady state was investigated in plane strain machining of a model material system—copper. Characterization of the evolution to a steady-state deformation field was made by image correlation, hardness mapping, load analysis, and microstructure characterization. Empirical relationships relating the deformation heterogeneity and the process parameters were found and explained by the corresponding effects on shear plane geometry. The results are potentially useful to facilitate a framework for process design of large strain deformation configurations, wherein transient deformation fields prevail. These implications are considered in the present study to quantify the efficiency of processing methods for bulk ultrafine-grained metals by large strain extrusion machining and equal channel angular pressing.