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  

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