Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The phone rang...

... which led to a magical question;

“what have you always wanted to make, but have not made yet?”

I have to admit - it took me a second for the question to sink in. It is not every day that someone asks that question. I replied; “A version of a Spiers rebate panel plane as featured in Nigel Lampert’s book (Through much Tribulation: Stewart Spiers and the Planemakers of Ayr)”.

The caller was not familiar with the plane, so I described it and offered to send a photo of the page it was featured on. Further discussions followed and we agreed that the plane should be made. In cases like this, I typically make 2 planes - one as a “prototype” to work out any bugs and the other as the customers plane. We decided that they should be a matching pair - steel sides, bronze lever cap and rosewood infill. They would be 15-1/2" long and have a 2-1/2" wide high carbon steel blade.

There were 2 serious issues to resolve. The most significant was to re-think the sidewalls. I cannot imagine that the original was very sturdy as there does not appear to be very much metal connecting the front of the plane to the rear section. The sidewalls look to be about 1/8" thick - which is the standard thickness that I use as well, but in this case I thought it was too thin. I increased the sidewall thickness to 5/32". I also increased the width of the area above the escapement - the original Spiers plane looks to be very thin in this dimension as well.

(tracing paper overlay showing the evolution of the area connecting the front section)

The second issue was the lever cap. Spiers used two metal studs attached to the insides of the sidewalls. He then created a recess on each edge of the lever cap that captured the studs. This was pretty ingenious really as it allowed the lever cap to be removed (which allowed the blade and cap iron to be removed). To my eye though - this is not very aesthetically pleasing on such a large plane. Not to mention that removing the lever cap, then the blade and cap iron is a rather tedious job, and requires some serious acrobatics to get the blade in or out safely without damaging the delicate corners.

I have yet to see an elegant solution that allows a lever cap to be removed - so why remove it at all... eliminate the cap iron! This would mean the blade could be installed into the plane from below. Which in turn means the lever cap could be fixed on a pin... the cleanest and most elegant solution. It would also eliminates the possibility of damaging the blade in the process. Loading the blade from the bottom started looking really appealing and we decided that I would try it on the prototype to see how it worked.

Full steam ahead.

These next 2 images show the cutting of the tab that connects the front sole section to the rear sole section.

Once the tab has been cut, there is a fair amount of clean up to be done - including blending the inside of the front bun to the sidewalls and sole. The below photo shows what it looks like.

Working on the shoulder of the front bun to flush it with the top edge of the sidewall.

The matching pair of rebate panel planes with the infills fully shaped and ready for french polishing.

Between coats of french polish, I started chamfering to the top edges of the sidewalls.

The chamfered shell and the shaped, stamped and polished lever cap ready for installation.

These next 2 photos show the infills installed. At this point I can complete the remaining work to the bed.

With the bed completed, I can fit the lever cap and install it.

This shot shows the fit of the blade to the bed and the installed lever cap.

Next step... lapping.

I was quite pleased with how well the lapping went to be honest. The extra thickness to the sidewalls ensured that there was no deflection between the front section and the rear section. Here are a bunch of photos of the finished prototype.

And the final test - the first shaving.

Loading the blade from the bottom ended up being a perfect solution for this plane. The lever cap is quite snug, and even when the lever cap screw is loosened - the front edge of the lever cap still holds the blade in place. Not that I would ever rely on it - but it was nice to see how well it held.

There are 2 more brand-new planes which I am just finishing up. I will post about each of them shortly.


Blogger Unknown said...

beautiful Konrad, thanks for sharing...so what would you like to make now?

9 June 2011 at 23:13  
Anonymous Pedder said...

Hi Konrad,

what a great story. And a great plane. I allways admire the level of your finish. I allways try to find the difference in finish quality to the maschined high end Infills from England and cannot find any. But the overall look of your planes is so much warmer and gives a hand made feeling. Our goal ist that someone say your saw looks like Konrad has made her. :o)

Thank you for a lot of inspiration!

Best Regards

10 June 2011 at 04:51  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Tom. New plane number 3 will answer your question:)


10 June 2011 at 05:07  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hello Pedder,

Thank-you for the very kind comments. I am glad the hand made feeling comes through in my work - thank-you for noticing it. I have been admiring your saws from afar for some time now. I love the variety of materials you use for your handles - plum and some of the other fruitwoods in particular. While I love working with Rosewood - it is a shame that so many other species are just not suitable for infill planes.

Warmest wishes,

10 June 2011 at 05:13  
Blogger FredW said...

Konrad, truly remarkable and your solutions as always are so elegant.

10 June 2011 at 10:29  
Blogger Chris Knight said...

Beautiful work as always but this is really special.

I do wonder about the longevity of the plane with regards to the co-planarity (is that a word?) of the front and rear sections but I suppose it would need a pretty hard and careless knock to upset it.


10 June 2011 at 11:38  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Fred.

I am deeply indebted to my customers who encourage and gently push to find these solutions.

Warmest wishes,

10 June 2011 at 12:32  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Chris - I appreciate your comment - it is a special plane.

Co-planar is the right word for it - and I guess time will tell. Although I have to say, I was quite pleased with how the lapping went. The lapping process requires a great deal of downward force to the front and rear section of the plane - much more than would happen during planing. The fact that I was able to lap it flat would suggest that there was very minimal to no deflection - otherwise it would have been convex when I placed it on the surface plate.

Warmest wishes,

PS - how is your shoulder doing?

10 June 2011 at 12:36  
Anonymous Doug B. said...

Hello Konrad,

Awesome looking plane. I love the view of the tip of the lever cap and iron. You get a very unique view that you don't get with any other bench planes. Thanks for sharing

10 June 2011 at 20:44  
Blogger F. said...

Very impressive work, once again! I wish my customers would also let me choose what instrument I make for them!

Did you get my email, by the way?

11 June 2011 at 10:56  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Doug.

Having the sides open and being able to see the underside of the lever cap gave me a whole new area of "finish" to worry about. I usually finish the underside of the lever caps - to a point. This one required some more attention to get it par with the rest of the plane. Well worth it though - and glad you noticed.

Best wishes,

12 June 2011 at 10:02  
Blogger pmelchman said...


is all the profiling you do to the sidewalls done with files?


patrick melchior

14 June 2011 at 22:10  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hello Patrick,

yes - all the profiling is done with files. There are about 7 different ones used for the chamfered edge.


15 June 2011 at 05:06  

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