Re-visiting weight - an A1Ti panel
Well... it sucks to work with at least. It does not like to be cut, filed, bent, piened or lapped. If it was not for a very good friend asking me to make this - I don’t think I would have. This is not my first Ti plane - I made a small XSNo.4Ti a while ago. It was a nightmare too.
There were several reasons for making this plane. My friend is doing some extensive restoration work to a Mahogany sailboat and is working by the ocean. The sea air makes rust free tools mission impossible. He also wanted something lighter in weight. I was curious to see just how much weight could be reduced simply be changing the sole and side materials. That and the fact that the idea of a titanium panel plane sounded pretty cool.
Dovetailing the XSNo.4Ti was a total nightmare so the thought of dovetailing a plane 3 times as long felt insane. So I didn’t.
It is welded.
My friend Hugh Black from True North Cycles makes wicked custom bicycles - often with Titanium frames. He was willing to try welding the shell for me. The welded shell sat around in my shop for a few months and everyone commented on how amazing his welding job was.
As a point of reference - it normally takes me about 3 to 5 minutes to pien a typical 01 tool steel cross pin (the pins that hold the infills in place). It took at least 15 minutes to pien each end of the 3/16" titanium cross pins. I was worried they did not pien properly to be honest. I decided to switch to 303 stainless for the cross pin that holds the lever cap. There was no way I was going to risk trying to pien a 5/16" titanium pin! The 303 pin worked perfectly and while it is tight - you can see it because it is a different material.
Lapping took 4 times longer, required 10 times as much abrasive paper and three-quarters of a water cooler bottle. Half way through the lapping, I became keenly aware of just how good Hugh is at welding... the evidence was completely gone. Thanks again for an amazing job Hugh.
When all was said and done, it felt noticeably lighter than any other panel plane I had made, and I was dying to know just how light it was.
My A1 panel plane is infilled with Ebony, and has bronze sides. It weighs 3.914 Kg’s (8.629 Lbs). This A1Ti filled with Rosewood weighs 3.04Kg’s (6.702Lbs). It is somewhat shocking that this plane is a full 2Lbs lighter!
This got me thinking (again) about the weight of planes. When most people talk about infills, they usually comment on the weight and how much heavier they are than non-infill planes. This perception of weight is usually identified as a benefit, and that it adds to the plane’s function. I am not convinced that weight is a desirable thing, and - I think we are usually confusing weight with what we are actually experiencing - how solid the plane feels.
One of the things that makes an infill ‘feel’ the way it does is that there are no moving parts and the blade is so securely held by the lever cap, that the blade has no choice but to take a shaving. I would describe this feeling as solid - heavy does not necessarily factor into this. The best example of this is how a plane from Old Street Tools feels. If weight were really that important - these planes would feel horrible. But they don’t - they feel amazing to use. This is because they have some similar characteristics to infills. Namely, that there are no moving parts and when the planes bed, the blade and the wedge are precisely mated - the plane feels really solid. This solid feeling also comes from the fact that most handled infill planes have closed totes. A closed tote is not only stronger, but it also means there is no flexing when the plane is being used. This translates into improved feedback and a tactile sense of the wood being cut that is pretty amazing. I am also realizing that I wrote about some of this last year and will end before I start sounding like a broken record.
Another interesting side note to plane weight. Many people have commented that they are pleasantly surprised by how light the K13 is, and I am often asked how much it weighs. Until this morning - I have never been able to answer that questions. My K13 weights 2.704Kg’s (5.961Lbs).
Two pics added for Pete - the welded shell;