Thursday, 23 July 2009

Hand work... glorious hand work!

I am finishing off a few A5’s right now, and thought a little “how-to” series might be interesting. My favourite aspect of planemaking (by far) is the shaping of the various infills. There are very few infill pieces that lend themselves to router bits or other mechanical shaping methods. And besides - shaping it by hand is way more fun. The front bun of an A5 is a perfect example.

The A5 in the above photo has just been lapped, the sides are fully shaped and the next step is to shape the bun.

Here are a few quick layout lines. The first radius I work on is the front one - connecting the line on top of the bun and the one of the front face. As I am rounding this over - I am watching the light reflect on the curve to help maintain a consistent curve. Once the front is done, I round over the edges - following the profile of the sidewall.

Here is a shot of the front rounded over as well as the sides. Note how rough the shaping is at this point. It is also fairly parallel to the overall shape of the sidewalls.

This photo shows the transition into more graceful complex curves. The front corners have been rounded over. They also “sag” a bit as is shown by the white layout line across the front - part of it is removed in the corners.

The coarse file marks are removed with a finer file - and the “sagging” corners can be seen a bit better in the bands of light reflecting off the bun.

Now the bun is fully shaped and sanded. From the fine file, I use 220 grit sandpaper, then 320, 400 and end with 600. The above photo shows the finish from 600 grit.

And close up shots to show the finished surface, as well as the organic compound curves to the bun.

And finally - a shot of the plane with the first coat of french polish on the bun and the overstuffed sides.


Blogger Aled said...

You're starting to get it now, a few more planes, and you'll be quite good at this plane making business ;-)

Seriously, these "how to's" really are a testament to your skill and ability. Please keep them coming.



27 July 2009 at 03:51  
Blogger tomausmichigan said...


Thanks so much for the series on shaping the front bun. Fascinating to see the curves evolve and exciting to see whether or not the sapwood will remain!

My question is do you work the different sides by changing the file handle to different hands or do you do everything with the left hand? From the photos it doesn't look as if you turn the vise.

It is glorious hand work.


16 August 2009 at 05:26  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Tom,

I have to admit - I did cut it pretty close with the sapwood. That is about as close as it has ever gotten... a bit nerve racking to be honest.

You are a very keen observer Tom. I am left handed but have spent many years trying to teach myself to use my right hand as well. I do as much file work with my left, but there are several instances where struggling with my right hand is worth it. It is slower, but it is accurate (at least!) There are one or two instances where I do turn the vice but for the most part, I usually just switch hands.

Thanks for your comments.
Best wishes,

19 August 2009 at 21:01  
Blogger Ethan said...


As with anything else, practice makes perfect.

I'm probably pretty bad with both by now, but in college I could shoot pool left-handed almost just as well as I could right-handed. I trained myself to shoot both ways after I got tired of trying to shoot with the cue behind by back on poorly angled shots.

It took quite a few months, but a rarely-used good quality pool table (with hourly rates) in a small hotel bar helped. A few friends of mine would come with me and I'd shoot left-handed the whole time.

The concept isn't any different for learning how to file with your opposite hand (or how to cut dovetails with your proper hand, for that matter). Just takes time and practice.

Beautiful plane, by the way, though I don't see any problem with using sap wood. I think one can artistically take advantage of the contrast when used properly.

20 August 2009 at 12:01  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Aled,

Glad you are finding the how to's useful.


20 August 2009 at 21:05  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Ethan,

I should have also mentioned that moulding planes force us sinister types down the right handed path. I have been using moulding planes for quite a few years and that practice certainly helped.

There have been a few instances where people have wanted some sapwood left on the finished plane. I will see if I can dig out some of the photos and post them. I agree that it can be used to great effect.


20 August 2009 at 22:45  

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