New plane number 3
“More wood... less metal”Those were the instructions. And the only instructions. Last December (or there abouts) a good friend of mine called to talk about the design of a plane. He said that he liked the size of and the idea of a panel plane.... but did not really care for it aesthetically. He then threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to re-think it. All of it. With more wood and less metal (and less clunky looking). And that was that - gauntlet thrown!
We talked back and forth for the next 6 months and he periodically asked if I had thought about the new panel plane at all. My answer was always the same “no, not yet - but it is bouncing around in the back of my head somewhere”. He always accepted the response and was in no way pushy (for which I am eternally grateful).
I was filing some dovetails when one of those rare light-bulb moments happened. I put down the file and walked over to the chalkboard and drew. The above photo is what came out. I stood back and looked at it and slowly walked back to my filing. I quickly realized I had better just put the file down before I wrecked something.
I ran into the house, grabbed a stack of tracing paper and was immediately thrown back into my pre-computer college days of design school. Papers flew, pencils wore out - and within 24 hours, I had a set of working drawings.
With drawings in hand, I made a mock-up of the shell. I used 3/16" Baltic birch ply for the sole and 1/8" BB ply for the sidewalls. I wish steel bent this easily!
I was quite happy with the shape and form of the mock-up shell - enough to proceed to the real thing. Oh, there were a few decisions that were made instantly - the first being that this plane had to be steel sided. Scratch that - it could only have steel sides. I know that seeing the dovetails is pretty cool... but on this plane - it would ruin it. This plane has speed and visible dovetails would be like adding 9 anchors to it.
The steel shell went together without a hitch so it was time to address the infills.
Once again - I made mock-ups - this time out of Basswood. Good gravy is this stuff easy to work.
The mock-up allowed me to resolve 2 key areas that I left hanging from the working drawings, and showed me one of the biggest challenges of making this plane. How do you hold infill pieces that do not have any flat or parallel surfaces? And what are the reference surfaces if everything is curved?
The two areas I had to resolve were the chamfer across the inside of the front pad, and how much of a radius to put in the compound curve of the rear infill as it transitioned into the sole of the plane.
The shape of the Basswood front pad came out pretty well - close enough that I was comfortable to proceed. The radius of the rear infill designed itself as soon as I added the chamfer to the end of the sole.
Now... what to infill this with....?
The next two photos are a bit of a sidebar, but I thought I would share a very common issue with old Rosewoods. I roughed out a wonderful section for the handle but was not 100% sure what would happen at the top edge of the piece. There was a great bit of curl that I wanted to keep... but there were also a few checks.
I traced the handle outline twice - once in white pencil crayon and again in blue. I cut out the negative space to see where the checks went.
If I had not done this, I would have wasted a handle blank and that is not something I am ever prepared to do. Not only because this is valuable material, but because it is so tremendously wasteful.
It was also around this time that I started waking up at 5:30 in the morning out of sheer excitement. I fought it for the first few days and tried to get back to sleep. No such luck, and I quickly embraced the moment, giggled quietly down the steps, put on a pot of coffee and skipped out to the shop. This plane was turning my entire process upside down - and I was loving it.
Here is a shot of the piened together shell with the chamfers to the tops of the sidewalls.
The rear infill fit to the shell.
The compound curve of the rear infill (notice that the heel of the sole is not yet chamfered).
Here is one example of creative clamping. This particular set-up allowed me to plane the bed flat and true. Long live the Tucker vise!
I started having “digestive issues” the day before I was going to shape the front pad. In hindsight, it is kinda strange - I love shaping infill parts... but this one was completely new and I was worried I would screw it up. And... if I screwed it up... I was doubly screwed... the pad was already installed in the plane. So I gave myself some white pencil crayon guide lines and started into it. I went slowly, very slowly - taking the plane out of the vise several times to check the feel of it. Marked the areas that needed more work and those that were done. Two hours later I had this;
This is a very unconventional front grip... but I immediately found it to be very comfortable. One of the many considerations was to make this front grip easier to “pinch” for edge jointing. The pad is much more squat than a typical front bun, and your thumb fits quite nicely on top while your finger tips grip from below.
Even something as simple as french polishing required a new approach. Typically I clamp the infill pieces in a vise and french polish away - easy-peasy. These infill parts could not be safely clamped this way, so I screwed a 3/4" maple block to the bottom just so I could hold them securely in the vise.
One of the most painful aspects to this plane, was the fact that I had to wait for the blade to arrive from Ron before I could actually try it. This was not at all Ron’s fault... it was totally mine. I was not 100% sure on the final length of the blade and held off on ordering it. Truth be told - Ron was very generous in getting the blades to me in record time... my deepest thanks Ron.
During those 3 weeks of waiting - I must have “air-planed” (think air-guitar) my bench 30 times a day. I even made an Aluminum mock-up blade just so I could get a sense of how it would look and feel.
The next 10 photos are my typical balcony photos.
The plane has a radius across the front and is angled forward slightly.
My friend Tracey took these next shots.
(all metal, no wood)
The pair of Bayfield rebate planes and the rebate panel planes (No1R) were also coming to life as I was working on this plane. I know for certain that they each contributed to the others success. It was a rather incredible few months as all this was going on.
The last, and somewhat comical challenge to this plane, was naming it. For lack of a better name, I started calling it the “coffin panel plane” (which is ghastly). This is an unconventional plane, and needed a name that matched. Which was fine by me... I did not want to follow the non-sensical Norris, Spiers or Stanley naming/numbering system (this is the subject of a blog entry all on its own). This new plane will be called the K13. K13 because it is 13 long.
The first outing for the K13 will be Lie-Nielsen’s 30th Anniversary Open House on July 15th and 16th. I am thrilled to be attending this event and visiting with fellow toolmakers and woodworkers. If you are in the area, please stop by and say hello and take the K13 for a spin.
I would like to thank my friend Derrick for tossing the gauntlet in the first place. He clearly knew something that I didn’t, planted the seed, and waited patiently. He continues to show incredible patience as I am just getting started on his Blackwood filled K13.
Hmm... I wonder what a K7 will look like?