Thursday, 27 May 2010

That badger plane

Several months ago, I alluded to a very challenging plane I was working on. A few people guessed at what it was - Kerry even managed to figure it out (still not sure how that happened). Then - I dropped the subject all together. I did this because it was going to show up here - and here. What a tremendous honour to be placed on the Lee Valley catalogue cover and the opportunity to write for their newsletter. My deepest thanks to Rob Lee and the rest of the fine folks at Lee Valley.

I should also say, it was killing me not to post photos of the plane and some of the hoops I had to pass through to make the plane. This post is in chronological order and is meant to supplement the article in the Lee Valley newsletter.

Here is an early shot of the final shell piened together showing the skew of the blade.

This was an early attempt at the front bun (this is the first block of Elm I had fit to the shell). Neither the client or I were happy with it. The large scoop out of the inside of the bun is typical of many Scottish plane buns, but it created havoc for the radius on the sides and there was not a smooth transition into the lower part of the bun. What we did like was the overall panel plane feel to the top and front portion.

This was the second prototype which we both liked. The bead around the perimeter really picked up on the quarter round radius on the rear infill. You can see one of my notes on the photo to undercut the bead on the inside.

This is the bun we were both quite happy with.

Once the shape of the front bun was resolved, it was time to work on the mouth and blade area. It is hard to see from the below photos -but a fair amount of filing was needed along the mouth side sidewall to allow the blade to exit properly. I made a quick maple mock-up blade for testing purposes.

This is also a very clear shot of how the blade rests against the angled sidewall.

In the above photo you can see the maple blade just about touching the outside corner of the sidewall. The black Sharpie marker on the edge was used to help locate high spots on the metal sidewall. You can also see a faint pencil drawing of the final opening on the side - similar to that of a rebate or shoulder plane.

Here are two photos of the final Rosewood front bun.

The above photo shows the triangular section of the sidewall that still needs to be modified. I knew this area was going to need further refinement, but it made more sense to finish the bun first and know exactly where it was going to terminate. This is a fairly common theme to the way I work - allowing the actual parts to define where lines, angles and edges start and stop. I enjoy the organic flow of things as opposed to a mathematical approach.

Here is the final modified sidewall.

The above photo shows the original reference plane and the front bun and rear infill of the new version. Having the original on hand was extremely important.

Another view of the rear infill showing the cheek of the rear infill. Take note of the fact that the top radius is completed, but the ends are left rather rough. I waited until the infill was installed to fully refine the ends as shown in the next three photos. Also note that the infills were fully french polished before they were installed.

The next 3 photos show the infill cross pinned into the shell as well as the recess for the cap iron screw. Locating this was easier said than done, and I had to make several mock-ups to get the location correct. Note that this recess is parallel to the angled sidewall and not the mouth side sidewall. Yet another wonky detail that could have ended in disaster.

And last, but certainly not least - installing the lever cap. In hindsight, it strikes me that all the crazy angles and careful work were just a lead-up exercise for this... drilling the hole for the cross pin that holds the lever cap.

This was the scariest thing I have ever done with a plane and I even asked Jill to be in the shop with me as I was doing it. I was scared senseless. Below is a photo of the jig system right before the hole was drilled. I made as many indexing fixtures as I could so I would be drilling the hole square to the lever cap (which by the way is in the plane). I also decided that there was no way I could drill the hole in the sidewall separately from the hole in the lever cap. A quarter degree in error would spell disaster. So I opted to drill through the sidewall and lever cap all in one go.

In the end I pretty much eyeballed it, took a deep breath, and went for it.

Thankfully - it all worked out.

The cross pin on one side...

... and then the other.

Even piening this pin was odd - I ended up using the very tip of the anvil and had Jill help me position and hold the plane in the right spot.

After all that, lapping and filing the mouth felt like a walk in the park. This was the first time where lapping a plane was a welcome relief - this plane really tested my limits.


Blogger mckenzie said...

A big congrats, what a tricky build. It's great to see Lee Valley supporting your fine work, great company.

27 May 2010 at 13:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a serious technical challenge Konrad, you're a brave man!!

Outstanding as always, thanks for sharing your work, truly gorgeous.


27 May 2010 at 14:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this plane, Konrad. It looks like it's been punched and wrung out. It has an almost abstract appeal. I guess it's just different than every other infill plane I've ever seen. Very, very cool.
-Ryan C.

27 May 2010 at 21:11  
Anonymous JeffB said...

Just reading about the plane in the Lee Valley newsletter hurt my head. I can only imagine what it did to yours during construction. Congrats on completing it. Any additional info on how the 1/2" side of the shell was milled out?

27 May 2010 at 22:38  
Blogger David said...

Again, Congradulation Konrad on an amazing plane! When i saw the picture on the catalog, I told my self:"That has to be a Sauer..." and it was!
Is it the most complicated plane to date?

28 May 2010 at 00:10  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Tyler. It is pretty amazing to see ones own work on the cover of a Lee Valley catalogue. They are a pretty incredible organization. And while everyone thinks manufacturing is dead or dying in North America - Lee Valley not only continues, but flourishes!

28 May 2010 at 06:04  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks. Not sure if brave is exactly the right word... maybe nuts or insane would have worked too:) There were many head scratching moments while making this plane.


28 May 2010 at 06:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Ryan. I agree totally. This is one of those planes that really has to be seen - and not for the materials or anything, but for the all the angles and proportions. I should have taken a quick video of it on a turntable or something. Glad you like it.


28 May 2010 at 06:08  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jeff,

I will take a look and see if I have a better photo of the 1/2" side. It was milled over its length at a 10 degree angle and then 1" at each end was milled to a .125" thickness. The dovetailed edge was also milled to a 1/8" thickness - the full height of the dovetails. This essentially meant I was still only dovetailing a .125" sidewall. Did that make sense? I am typing this in the morning and only 1/2 a cup of coffee is in the system - so I am still a little fuzzy.


28 May 2010 at 06:13  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks David,

Yes - this is by far the most complicated plane to date. And to be honest - I cannot imagine anything more challenging. The Norris rebate mitre from a few years ago was tricky too - but in a different sort of way. Overall - this one was way more complicated. I doubt I would have been able to build this plane 3 or 4 years ago.


28 May 2010 at 06:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It always pleases me to see you challenging yourself and exploring new realms of craftsmanship. I used to fear that you would one day tire of plane making. Somehow, though, I think you will keep doing this for a long while, getting better all the time.

I feel quite privaleged to know you.



28 May 2010 at 08:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply outstanding! Ken would have loved it.
John Wakowiak

30 May 2010 at 07:10  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Dan.

Commissions like this certainly do keep the “tired days” from setting in. Glad you enjoyed it.

Warmest wishes,

30 May 2010 at 22:16  
Blogger Unknown said...


great to finally meet the man behind the infills-;)
had a good time at the hand tool event-
your email address doesn't seem to work from the new blog site...
just posted a new blog you may be interested in reading-

hope you have a great summer-
keep well.


31 May 2010 at 16:02  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks John. I would have loved to have met Ken before he passed. He was surely one of those people who you could sit with for hours and just listen and learn from.


1 June 2010 at 06:31  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Tom,

It was great to meet you as well and visit during the gaps. Have a safe trip home and I look forward to seeing you again in the fall.

Thanks for the tip on the email address... I will look into it.


1 June 2010 at 06:34  
Anonymous Kerry said...

Hmm...I've been away. I was just kidding when I said badger plane. I just like the sound of the word, 'badger'. At the time I'd never seen a real badger, or a badger plane. Very nice.

16 July 2010 at 19:10  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Kerry - well... you must have spider-senses or something - that was a one in a million educated guess!


22 July 2010 at 07:43  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Living room & Dining room final photos

According to the dates on my photos - we started this project on April 18 2009. We (I) am very happy to say, it was started and finished in less than one year. Compared to the 4-year kitchen... this was a blistering pace. One of the reasons it happened so fast was the very generous help from a lot of people. In no particular order - my Dad for helping with all the framing, moral support and being another set of eyes and ears in the critical early planning stages. To Steve for helping with gutting the room and of course the floor. Andy (aka the human T-square) for helping with the drywalling, Riley and his friend Tyko for helping with mudding the drywall screw holes. To Alex for her infinite wisdom with space, proportions, her design skills and keen eye, and willingness to jump in and save our bacon on more than one occasion. To Walter for catching what could have been a disaster (more on this later) and his exceptional Terrazzo and tiling skills, Pete for his masonry work and to the fine folks at Woodburners for always having a smile on their face regardless of how many times I stopped in to pick their brains about the fireplace. To Tracey for taking such great photos and for allowing me to post them on the blog. Thanks to all our family, friends and neighbours for their help and encouragement during the darker moments. And last, but certainly not least - to my wife Jill and our two boys for allowing me to do this and for putting up with it all. Jill was a serious trooper in the last weeks of the job and I would not have been able to do anything without her. She was always there to hold the other end of a 10' piece of trim, jump up on the scaffolding at the drop of a hat (or the drop of a spaghetti sauce filled spoon).

Here are some of the technical details. The rooms are roughly 12' square each. The ceiling is 9'. All the trim is quarter sawn White Oak as is the floor. The border is made up of black dyed Swiss Pear sandwiching curly hard Maple. The fireplace is a high efficiency wood burning fireplace and the surround is natural New England slate. The hearth is Terrazzo. The doors in the cabinet are spalted curly hard Maple.

Ok - on with the show.

We were thrilled that we were able to keep the original stained glass windows in the room.

Believe it or not, this piano window was drywalled over!

When I split the spalted maple board, this frog showed up. What a find.

The bits of Ebony and maple are Morse code. It says “Konrad Jill Riley Lucas” on the top line, and “Sauer 2009” on the second line. At least... I hope that is what it says. If there is someone out there that can read Morse code and if I have a typo... please don’t tell me.

For some reason - loading the firewood drawer for the first time was a real thrill.

We are now keeping an eye out for a piece of original artwork for the space above the mantel.

This is the only outside corner of the crown molding and is one of my favourite spots in the room.

We are also really pleased with the effect of the bulkhead in the room. It divides it up into two spaces, but still allows flow between the two rooms.

The underside of the builkead

Another favourite view of mine.

As is typical of Tracey - she always manages to take a shot that surprises me. This was it - a view into the room from an original part of the house. There is some pretty amazing woodwork in the house - some of which can be seen in the left of this photo. Hopefully the old and the new will blend together in time.

And for that disaster I mentioned earlier. When we were planning the fireplace, the depth of the hearth was not as defined as it should have been. This was a serious oversight on my part. At one point, we were at Jill’s family cottage, and I happened to measure the hearth depth. It was 12". My head was swimming with so many numbers and details that I must have assumed this would be up to code for our fireplace. Just to be safe - I even increased it to 14" thinking we would be free and clear for sure. The fireplace arrived, we installed it according to the supplied instructions paying close attention to all the offsets, minimum height restrictions etc. Somehow one number was overlooked despite being clearly written on one of the diagrams. Walter delivered the hearth and put it in place while I was in San Francisco. The morning I was to fly home, I checked my email in the hotel to find a very frantic note from Walter asking me to double check the depth of the hearth. He was concerned that it was not deep enough. The blood drained from my face as I sat there downloading the installation manual from the fireplace manufacturers website. Flipped through the pdf to the page I knew had the depth.

18" mimimum.

There were not enough 4 letter words I could string together. I called Jill and asked her to double check the depth - but I knew it was too short. So in the last hour of getting ready to leave for home, I was trying to figure out how to salvage the situation. I sat in the airport with my laptop looking up the code specs for fireplaces. 18" was the magic number. It was a somewhat depressing flight home. Up until this point, we had not compromised on anything and the hearth is a pretty focal point of the room.

When I returned home, we quickly realized we would not be able to modify anything to make this work. So we had to make a new hearth. Gulp. The next issue was how to do it so our error was not obvious. Enter Walter and Alex. Within an hour, we had a new plan. We would extend the framing in front of the fireplace by 3" extend it by 3" on the side as well so that the mitered corners of the floor met the corner of the slate underneath. Walter would make a new hearth with a jog in the left side to extend the hearth 18" in front of the fireplace, but keep it to the original 14" above the firewood drawer so we could still access it easily. We also modified the color and texture of the hearth a bit. Anyway - here is a shot of the first hearth;

And a shot of the final 18" deep hearth.

In the end, we are way happier with this new hearth. The extra depth gives it much more presence in the room. I suspect very few people would realize there was a catastrophic error and this was a compromise. So thanks again to Walter and Alex for their creative contribution to make lemonaid from this major lemon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, Konrad. You must be very pleased with it. It's been great following your progress.

Cheers ;-)

Paul Chapman

9 May 2010 at 09:00  
Blogger Unknown said...

Stunning work Konrad. Don't worry about art for the wall, just find a beautiful old mirror so you can see more room :-)

Steve Denvir

9 May 2010 at 15:51  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Paul and Steve. Funny you should mention a mirror... we have a very old gold leafed mirror complete with silver leaf backing - but it is just the wrong thing for the room. We currently have 4 small paintings from our neighbour Shannon that we are considering. Well... considering how to keep all 4 of them to be honest:)


9 May 2010 at 16:08  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Wow, Konrad most impressive. I second the mirror.


9 May 2010 at 17:37  
Blogger Konrad said...

Ok. You guys are starting to get me thinking about this mirror thing. I will give it a try and report back.


9 May 2010 at 18:40  
Blogger Mike Roberts said...

Spectacular craftsmanship, Konrad.
Well worth the effort. Thank you for sharing.


10 May 2010 at 18:04  
Anonymous matthayes said...

Hey Konrad,

Great work. I'm a construction manager who has to routinely chase after folks to get baseline quality for my clients.

It's really inspiring to see that there are still folks like yourself that take pride in the process and the product.

Keep up the great blog.


11 May 2010 at 08:35  
Blogger David said...

Konrad, one more time, this is abbsolutly breath taking!! you have to be realy proud of your work! The Planes are fabulous, the living room is to the same level of perfection and details!

11 May 2010 at 11:09  
Anonymous JeffB said...

Great Job. It has been a lot of fun to watch the room come together over time. Congratulations.

11 May 2010 at 16:33  
Blogger Unknown said...

Beautiful job, Konrad! I've enjoyed following the progress and I look forward to your posting a comment on how great it felt to kick up your feet and enjoy your first celebratory drink in the room.


11 May 2010 at 17:35  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks everyone for the very kind comments.

Joe - it feels pretty great to kick my feet up and pause for a few moments. It has been pretty cool out this last week and normally it would annoy me, but it has allowed us to enjoy the fireplace. Man, does it really heat the place up! It is pretty amazing what a high efficiency wood burning fireplace can do with a handful of white oak kindling!


12 May 2010 at 22:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I echo all the superlatives above. And one more thing...those original leaded/stained glass windows are a treasure that came with the house. The remodel that you have done is as though it was done specifically to brighten and showcase those windows. It is all of a piece--for example, the horizontal line that runs through the windows ties the whole room together in a ribbon.

Wiley Horne

15 May 2010 at 02:23  
Blogger lollmees said...

It just hurts how beautiful it is. my deepest respect.

17 June 2010 at 10:16  
Blogger livewire said...

As a custom cabinet builder, I now what it takes to do a room like your living room. Beautiful craftsmanship & awesome attention to detail.
You have mad skills! Brad

14 August 2011 at 13:14  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home