Monday, 8 February 2016

minding the gap - introducing the K8

There has been a gap in the K-series line-up for some time. A friend and customer pointed it out last May at HandWorks, and with a wry grin, asked where it was. Yup - gauntlet down.

After the shorter and higher bed angle K9, I had new insights into developing a K8, and it seemed like the logical time to do it. The K8 has an 8" sole footprint and a 1-7/8" wide blade. Not a standard width, but this is about as wide as is practical for anyone with small to medium sized hands. The wider the plane gets, the more open your hand is (on the rear infill). When your hand is too open, it can fatigue quite quickly.

There were a few subtle design changes to developing this plane, but the language has already been established, and I am very familiar and comfortable with it now.

This is the K8 prototype, and is one of only two that I have parted with. When Joe and I started Sauer & Steiner toolworks in 2001, one of the founding principals was we were always going to be ‘making our own planes’. We started making planes because these are what we wanted to use - and that is as true for me now as it was then. But I have quite a few planes. Well... (almost) too many planes. I have 40 prototypes -8 of which are unhandled smoothers. It was time to let one of them go. I may live to regret it, but it is going to a good home, and will be well cared for and used more than I will likely be able to use it. And I make these planes to be used. I love seeing photos of them years later when they are full of dust, patina and even the odd ding or dent.

I cleaned up the french polish that inevitably runs over the steel sidewalls, and took a few photos to send to the customer and for my own records. Here they are.


Oh, the infill is Desert Ironwood.


Blogger natejb said...

I love how the sapwood seemed to curl perfectly on the front bun. Beautiful work as always.

8 February 2016 at 11:55  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Nathan.


8 February 2016 at 12:42  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

Now I have to save for a K8 too!! Nice planes as always Konrad.
So tell me… would the third Badger plane be boring : )
Went back and read your first posts to catch up on the Badger. Amazing !!!

8 February 2016 at 17:42  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Chris.

A third badger!? Yikes! I hadn't even considered it. If I were to entertain another badger plane, I might want to re-think the design and make a K-series badger... but that would be a major undertaking. Damn... you planted the seed though:)


8 February 2016 at 21:04  

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

finishing the badger plane

It is a good thing I never throw anything away - especially jigs or fixtures. I do not recall how long it took me to come up with the above fixture the first time, but boy, was I ever grateful I could just grab it off the shelf this time! 

This set-up may strike terror in most machinists. It is a furniture makers approach, using furniture makers tools. Sometimes, it is a real advantage to not have any formal training. I had taken extensive photos of building the first badger plane, and used those images to double check my set-up for the second one. I was pleased that they looked almost identical when I compared them on the laptop.

The cross pin fit perfectly, but I was not out of the woods yet. Just as I was sliding the pin in, I realized I had to pien it. Now normally, piening a cross pin is pretty easy - the pin is perpendicular to the anvil. When you strike the end of the exposed pin, the other end is on the anvil, allowing the struck end to deform and fill the chamfered hole. Not so much with this plane. The pin is at a pretty severe, compound angle, so the force of piening does not transfer the same way. I modified how I piened it and it ‘felt’ and ‘looked’ like it should... but I wouldn’t really find out until the lapping was done.

The cross pin for the lever cap piened.

Needless to say, I lapped this plane as soon as I possibly could. I had to know if the lever cap pin was done correctly. Thankfully, everything came out as expected.

Even positioning the plane to file the mouth felt odd. It looked pretty weird, and I had to be very aware of the tapered shape of the inside of the front bun. I covered it in blue tape just in case. 

The finished mouth.

I am really pleased with how this plane has turned out, but my absolute favourite part is using it. Similar to a spill plane, it creates beautiful tightly coiled shavings. They spill out over the low dip in the sidewall... almost like it was made for it.

(Walnut, Rosewood and Holly)


Blogger jon said...

What exactly is the purpose of a badger plane anyway? I'm thinking it would make a great panel raiser. As always, amazing work Konrad!

4 February 2016 at 12:27  
Blogger nielscosman said...

Best spill plane ever!

4 February 2016 at 13:33  
Blogger Nathan Harold said...

Same question as Jon. What's the best use of a Badger/spill plane? Looks like a skew rebate... but 1 sided. Panel raising, tuning tenons, rebate?

4 February 2016 at 14:30  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Jon.

Good question, and one that I have to admit, I am still not entirely sure how to answer. It reminds me of the difference between a traditional infill shoulder plane and rebate plane. The difference between them is the bed angles (28 for rebate and 20 for shoulder) and a shoulder plane is not a rectangle in profile. That is about it. I suspect a badger plane was a bit of an anomaly in the history of plane evolution, and was around for a fairly short period of time. They are quite rare when compared with most other styles of planes - even highly specialized ones.

A badger is ideally suited for getting into the corner of a rabbet. The severe skew really helps push the plane into the corner of the rabbet. The blade needs to be rotated in order for it to exit one side of the plane. What has always confused me a bit though, is why not just make a rabbet bench plane, like a Stanley No.10? That way you are not limited by handedness or grain orientation? The skew is certainly an advantage, but it would be tough to choose between a skew with only one side being able to get into a rabbet vs a straight blade that could get into a left or right rabbet. There would have been skewed shoulder planes available, but they were not handled and were narrower. If you were doing a lot of work where you needed a wider cut, a handle would be a welcome addition.

The badger would work wonderfully as a panel raiser too, and I suspect that is how it was used along with very large scale frame and panel work. There are very few infill badger planes in existence, and the one I used for a model was by far the most elaborate and well executed I have seen.

hope that helps a bit.


4 February 2016 at 22:22  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Niels. I still have the plane for another week before I ship it, and I can guarantee I will be making piles and piles of shavings with this one before it goes:)


4 February 2016 at 22:23  
Anonymous Dave Beauchesne said...

Wonderful as usual Konrad - -

Your ' ride along ' tutorials are excellent, even at that, few mortals could pull off what you are able to accomplish.

I am an extreme sucker for sapwood ' accents ' well done sir!

Dave B

5 February 2016 at 08:05  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Dave.

Glad you are enjoying the ride alongs. It is a bit of a running joke among a few friends that I have done a 180 when it comes to sapwood... so far limited to Desert Ironwood, but they remind me that my foot is now in the door:)


5 February 2016 at 09:46  
Blogger Owen Crane said...

Hi Konrad,
Great work as always. Not sure how you or your clients might feel about it - but was thinking it would be pretty cool if they were up for sharing some of the work they do. There must be more than a few people doing some amazing work with your tools - often I wonder just who it is who gets to use these tools, and what they make with them!? Actually I've been pretty stoked to see a few sauer&steiners popping up on instagram, which is what got me thinking.

5 February 2016 at 21:12  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Owen.

A good idea, and one I have thought about many times. I have received countless photos from clients over the years sharing their work. It is incredibly rewarding to see something I have made being used to make incredible things. The issue that always trips me up is their privacy. There is a contingent of the woodworking world that looks down on people who commission custom made (read, 'expensive') tools. It has always struck me as odd because many of those same people aspire to also build beautiful things. Not tools but furniture. Two sides of the same coin. Anyway - there are certainly some clients who would be totally cool with it - those who have revealed themselves on IG for example, but there are many others that are not interested in being beaten up due to a lack of understanding. I hope that makes sense, and if you can figure out a way around this, I am all ears.


6 February 2016 at 10:09  
Blogger Charlton Wang said...

Very nice Konrad. I've always been intrigued at how you make your planes and this is a nice insight into the process. I like the picture of the picture in the Macbook. :)

6 February 2016 at 14:07  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Charlton - glad you enjoyed it. Nice that someone recognized the Macbook:)


6 February 2016 at 22:20  
Blogger Owen Crane said...

Ah, I figured it would be a bit of an issue, and there probably isn't really a work around. It's awesome to see them showing up on instagram, but I imagine there are a pile of amazing older guys that are too busy building beautiful stuff to bother with IG.
Really a lame argument for the people who want to find the negative... do you not want the best chisels? planes? sandpaper? whatever floats your boat? Especially if you're hoping to convince clients to shell out for hand cut dovetails, or exotic timbers that we all love working with.
Oh well. Happy to see the planes as they go out.

7 February 2016 at 00:07  

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

an unconventional lever cap

It has been a while since I have made a lever cap from scratch, but given the complex geometry and really odd final shape needed for the badger plane, it was the only option. Besides, sometimes going back to your roots can be a lot of fun.

I had made several test lever caps for the first badger plane, so I was not starting totally from scratch. One of the wooden mock-ups fit the new badger plane quite well - well enough that I could use it as a pretty accurate template.

The reason I am posting these photos, is to show a process and a methodology using very simple workshop tools and woodworking techniques. Starting with a rectangular block of metal and turning it into an accurate, complex shape. I have often joked with people that metal is just a strange wood with strange properties, and this lever cap is a perfect example of that mindset.

I made a set of card stock templates from the wooden model and transferred them to the blank.

 You can see the outline of the lever cap scribed on the blank.

I am often asked why on earth I do so much of this by hand. The reason is fairly simple - I look at all the hand skills as having a cumulative effect. One skill leads to another which impacts another. Taking the time to hand cut all the dovetails for our kitchen drawers was really over the top, but it was another lesson to teach myself how to ‘feel’ when I am sawing level and sawing accurately. It is such a simple thing, but the time taken for all that work has had a tremendously positive impact in many other areas of work - including the shaping of this lever cap. I do not need a reference line on the opposite side - I don't need to stop sawing to check if I am close to the line - I just know where it is, and when it feel right. That sense is transferable to filing as well - and all sorts of other aspects to plane making and woodworking.

The outline of the lever cap, and the waste below.

It also helps to treat yourself to a brand new hacksaw blade.

I cut the outline first to waste out as much material as possible. This greatly reduced the amount of sawing for the profile. I drew the profile with a sharpie and cut some vertical kerfs,

and then started cutting the profile. Just like using a chisel to cut a small notch in a piece of wood to register a saw blade - I saw a small kerf to give me something to register against for such a shallow cut in metal. 

Taking 1/16" off the height here is way easier now that the outline has been defined. 

I only cut part of the profile so I would have more area to clamp while tapping the hole for the screw. The flat surface also gives me a reference face for checking 90 degrees.


Once the screw was fit, it was time to shape the other half of the profile. The two sharpie lines represent the two different shapes on the sides of the lever cap. They are quite different reflecting the dramatic rotation of the lever cap in the plane. 

I cut the angle of the lever cap first - again, to reduce the amount of sawing during profiling. Wasting off this angle was a more efficient way for me to work. If you click on the image, you can see another benefit of hours and hours using a hack saw - being able to saw very close to a line. This greatly reduces the amount of filing later on.

Sawing thin, tapered slices to reflect the two different side profiles and the rotation of the lever cap.

The (rough) profiled lever cap. 

At this point, the top surface of the lever cap has been fully shaped by way of files. I need the profile to be the final shape in order to accurately start fitting it into the plane.

I measured the angle on the wooden test model and transferred it to the lever cap, took a deep breath, and started sawing. With each cut, the risk increases dramatically. I did not cut exactly on the line for this cut - I left about 1/32" so I could further refine the angle during the fitting process.

The fitting process is a lot of back and forth, lots of direct lighting for clarity, and careful file work. I used a wooden hand screw in the blue vise to position the edges of the lever cap level. Positioning things level and/or plumb is always worth the extra few seconds of time, and allows you to take advantage of the muscle memory you have built up.

The screw was a little too long so I cut it down and re-shaped the tip.

A much better screw length.

The next few shots show the odd angles of the sides of the lever cap as well as the overall wedge shape. 

The lever cap fit to the plane. The next step is to drill for the cross pin, and I have to confess.... this is going to require a few antacids.  


Blogger Mike Davidson said...

IG just doesn't do this process justice. It's one thing to register 90 degrees to another surface but quite another to make such a complex shape by hand and have it all fit perfectly. This should confirm why hand work is so important and machines have no sole.

Attempting to draw out the shape in a CAD program then setting up the CNC machine to make the various cuts would have taken far longer and I would suggest the results would not have been as nice.

Every woodworker should experience the thrill of effortlessly pushing a S&S custom hand made plane across a piece of ill behaved exotic wood. The sensation is so intoxicating you just might think it's illegal.

Now my mind is consumed by thoughts of selling as many tools/body parts/etc. as possible just to get my name on the list of lucky owners. BTW, this feeling is still with me from Handworks.

26 January 2016 at 15:14  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Mike,

I was wondering if anyone from IG would wander over here! Nice to see a familiar name, and now I know who the maddog really is:)

Glad you enjoyed the post and that it was worth posting in addition to IG. IG is pretty new to me, and I am still adjusting to the speed of light response times.

Thanks too for the kind words and glad that feeling from HandWorks is still there. It is a tough one to shake... look what happened to me:)

best wishes,

26 January 2016 at 22:45  
Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

Do you get your bronze for the cap in bar form? and if so, where?

29 January 2016 at 09:27  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Kevin,

Yes, it was in bar form - you can see the chunk sitting on the bench beside the plane in the first shot. You can order it from a place like the metalsupermarket, or in my case, call your friend Stan who has all sorts of off-cuts like this:)


29 January 2016 at 09:30  
Blogger Steve Kirincich said...

Hi Konrad,
I feeling like I am looking at some funky modern art. I think this plane belongs next to the MIT Stata Center:

Thanks for blogging!


29 January 2016 at 16:24  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks for reading the blog.

I guess by that description, it would be a 'deconstructed lever cap' :)


29 January 2016 at 16:26  

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Monday, 18 January 2016

an unconventional blade assembly

Last year, I started working on a plane that I honestly did not think I would ever have the chance to make again. I was thrilled when I was asked, and have been psyching myself up for it. It is by far, the most complicated plane I have ever made. Another badger plane.

The photo above shows the ‘revised’ blade. 

The sides of the blade needed to be ground to 15 degrees to allow it to rest properly against the edge of the tapered sidewall. I re-ground the edges on the grinder shown above, and re-ground the bevel on the other wheel of the grinder.

Getting close to establishing the new bevel. 

Once the blade was re-ground, it was time to start working on the cap iron. I decided the easiest way to do this was to install the cap iron and use the blade as a visual guide for cutting the sides off. Having the blade in place was a great visual cue for the correct angle and it also kept me on my toes! 

In order for the blade to ‘fit’ in the plane, the inside of the sidewall needed to be filed to allow the blade to exit to the outside corner of the plane. On the first badger plane, I relived the corner of the cap iron so I did not need to thin out the sidewall any more than I needed to. I did the same thing on this second badger plane. you can see the sliver of steel being cut off in the photo above.

Here are the re-ground blade and re-shaped cap iron. 

 After rounding over the front edge of the cap iron, I draw file it to further refine the surface. There is a noticeable change to the surface texture of this area - from coarse ‘push’ strokes, to very smooth draw filed strokes. A little sandpaper wrapped around a block and it is all polished up.

Here is a shot of the business end of the blade and cap iron assembly. You can see the 15 degree angle on both sides of the blade as well as the relieved corner of the cap iron (on the left side). 


The blade assembly in position. Next step... the lever cap.

I should mention that I have dipped my toe into social media. Instagram to be specific. And it is not really like dipping your toe... more like grabbing onto that large knotted rope tied to the tree at the lake and swinging... without really knowing what you are in for. Things really clicked for me when I started thinking about Instagram as a short form version of a blog.  And a blog, this blog, as the long form version. I am finding myself thinking about both formats quite a bit, and should be able to use one to help the other and visa versa. I have posted a few photos on Instagram about the badger plane, but this is a better format for a step by step process and for more in-depth information. At least, that is how I am approaching it now.


Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

I'm curious how you managed to hack saw the blade. Was it annealed or was it a special blade in the hack saw? I tried to do that once and the blade went dull within a few strokes.

21 January 2016 at 08:19  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Kevin,

Wondered if anyone would ask:) Embrace waterjet my friend - it is a real life saver... and hacksaw blade saver.


21 January 2016 at 08:33  
Anonymous Robert said...


I probably missed it, but I couldn't find your instagram link. Any chance you could post it in the reply?

Best regards,


22 January 2016 at 07:17  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Robert,


The dashes are underscores.


22 January 2016 at 08:08  

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