The thing that still keeps me interested in making planes...
(Honduran Rosewood burl in a SNo.4)
... is the wood.
The wood still captivates me and keeps me coming back for more. And it is a good thing too, because if plane making was all metal, I would have lost interest about 6 years ago. Sure, there are some pretty amazing things you can do with metal. Piening two pieces of steel together and watching the dovetails disappear is still pretty wicked. Polished steel chamfers are stunning, and wrapping a plane in bronze is gorgeous. But truth be told, the metal is just a delivery vehicle for the wood.
On those mornings when I wake up knowing I get to cut into a brand new piece of wood I enter the shop giddy with excitement. And an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Most of this material scares me. Scares me because wasting any of it is borderline criminal. Much of it is irreplaceable. Unique pieces that each have a story - and not just my story - the stories from the people who I acquired them from. Wood is not just a commodity for me. Each piece is unique and if I am careless about how I use it - it’s story can never fully be told. I know this is all starting to sound a bit precious. I know... it is just wood. I get that.
There are pieces of wood that I will not use for planes - for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is size. Cutting up a large piece of timber into small plane parts is irresponsible (on my part). Or if there is an unusually large area of figure - cutting it up into small bits would not be the best use of that material. It would be wasteful to cut up an East Indian Rosewood crotch to use for plane parts. A much more noble use would be to re-saw it into veneer and use it for a Federal style sideboard (purely hypothetically speaking of course:)
Over the past few months, I have been reminded of the beauty of fine timbers over and over again. I have been busy working on a number of planes all of which are special. Here are some photos of the last several planes.
These next 2 shots are of the same Honduran Rosewood burl filled SNo.4 as the first photo.
Two shots of the inside of an A5 Bun. This is some stunning East Indian Rosewood that I roughed out in 2004.
The next 5 shots are of a Rosewood filled SNo.4. Enough said.
This A1 panel is one of a set of 3 planes. This one has a few unique features. Not only are all three planes from the same piece of Rosewood, their bed angles are not typical. This panel is 17-1/2" long and bedded at 50 degrees.
It also has a radius across the toe and heel and a polished chamfer. This is a variation I did several years ago on another panel plane and this customer quite liked it. This radius is repeated in the XSNo.4 and the future A5.
Here is the XSNo.4 with the radius across the front. It is subtle and hard to photograph, but it is a really nice touch. This XSN0.4 is bedded at 55 degrees.
The rear infill of the XSNo.4.
The next 2 photos are of an African Blackwood filled SNo.4ss. When I roughed out this set, I was amazed to see some curl and figure. Normally old African Blackwood is so dark you cannot see anything. This was a real treasure to find. I took these photos on the balcony in some pretty bright light to show off the figure.
The next 2 photos are of a Rosewood filled SNo.4.
And last, but certainly not least, a Desert Ironwood filled XSNo.4
I am working on a furniture commission right now and have been taking photos of it as I go. I will post about it when it is done. This is the first piece I have built on the new Shaker bench. I have to say, I love this bench already. I love the fact that the dog holes are 2" apart and there are multiple dogs to choose from. No more running up and down the bench looking for a dog! Thanks for that tip Jameel. The wagon vise rocks. I love how the work is so well supported all around the dog in the vise traveler. And the massive bench surface is nice too - lots of room for both furniture parts and tools.