Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The ‘we can do this’ plane

Joe Steiner stopped by the other night to continue working on a plane he is making for himself. He commented on the previous blog post and the first planes we each made and how magical that experience was. This lead to talking about our early beginnings and all the challenges and excitement we both felt. It was really great to reminisce - there were a few details I had forgotten about. 

One thing I asked Joe was if he remembered the plane that stopped us in our tracks when we had finished it. He answered right away, and it was the same plane I had recalled. That plane was for our third customer and went to California. That plane, an A6, was significant on many levels. 

It was the first plane we made using old, stunning wood (and it was not Cocobolo). This plane marked the beginning of a career long obsession with finding the finest infill materials possible - working with this wood was just that inspiring.

It was a plane we were shipping to someone across the continent, and was commissioned by someone we had not met in person. It felt like a monumental project - it was a monumental project. There was immense pressure of getting it just right along with a deep sense of gratitude towards our customer and the risk he was taking with us. 

That plane has an identical twin - my own A6.  This pair of planes have several important first. These were the first adjusters we used - were made by Ray Iles in England.

They have bronze sides - as opposed to brass. The lever cap screws are also much more refined with much better knurling and overall shape.

The handle shaping had essentially been finalized and has not changed since, although the K-series of planes represents another evolution.

This plane has an 01 tool steel sole - we spent the extra money and started using a more appropriate steel than mild steel.

We continued to try different bed angles - in this case, 47.5 degrees. This is often called a ‘Norris pitch’ because Norris used this bed angle splitting the difference between the common pitch at 45 degrees and the 50 degree ‘York pitch’.

The sidewall profile also changed and the shaping of the front bun started getting better, both ergonomically and aesthetically.

We had always stamped the bed with a serial number and a maple leaf ( a stamp purchased from Lee Valley) and Joe and I started using our own unique serial numbers for our own planes. KP-12-03 stands for ‘Konrad’s Plane, No.12, made in 2003’.

One of the challenges with adding an adjuster was positioning the lever cap so there was enough clearance for the blade and lever cap to be removed from the banjo or cup. The head of the screw in the cap iron is captured in the banjo and is what allows the adjuster to move the blade and cap iron as shown below.

When Joe and I finished this customers plane, we sat on my workbench and just stared at it. Neither of us spoke for several minutes. I am not sure who spoke first, nor what exactly was said, but with this plane, we both knew we could do this - and do it well.


Blogger Bartee said...

What a GREAT story. I always read your blog. It is so personal at some levels.

You are one of a group of tool makers who truly make a difference.


11 November 2014 at 11:55  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Bartee - for the very kind comments and the encouragement.


11 November 2014 at 11:59  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great story-; )
thanks Konrad.

11 November 2014 at 15:02  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

And they keep getting better and better.
Proud to say I own one!
Great post Konrad

Cheers Chris

12 November 2014 at 10:03  
Anonymous Wiley Horne said...

That A6 was my first infill plane. It turned out to be a wonderful adventure, because Konrad (and Joe at that time) customize every tool. I felt--and was-- engaged in the process all the way. He had me scan a palm impression, so he could get the tote just right. Then there was the infill wood, the bedding angle, the side metal to choose, the mouth gap, the choice of steel for the iron--all customer choice. Progress photos every week or two. The excitement builds. You get bonded to the plane while it's still being fabricated. I like that Konrad kept the twin.

Years later, it's a fabulous plane. It always will be. Built for many lifetimes of use.

For me, it was the 'I need another one' plane--a 16-1/2" blackwood panel plane, also at Norris pitch. Magnificent! I'm looking at the two of them right now. Over the years, there were more adventures to come, yet the first planes were never outshone by the later ones. They're all the best.


16 November 2014 at 17:59  

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