Saturday, 28 September 2013

Introducing the K4

Several years ago, I was given a rare opportunity to live with, and study, a very rare plane. A Spiers thumb plane. To be honest, I did not really appreciate this opportunity until several weeks into my time with it. I knew it was rare and therefore valuable, but I underestimated the design and functionality of it. I thought my first infill was ordinary - an un-handled Spiers coffin shaped smoother... this plane looked even more basic.

Until I used it. 

It was a pretty amazing experience. Everything was exactly where it needed to be. There was an amazing relationship between the sneck of the iron, the top of the lever cap screw and the empty area at the front of the plane. There was a complex and deliberate relationship between these points and they all worked together to provide a very comfortable experience. I was pretty shocked and was once again reminded that simple looking, does not mean that complex design thought did not go into something. I kept this experience tucked away until the time was right.

As I have been exploring the K-series of planes, it made sense to consider a really small plane - a true one handed plane. This was the goal for the K4. 

I outlined the specs I was after. It needed to feel like that Spiers thumb plane - the relationships between the elements was critical. I wanted it to be taller - like the XSNo.4. The extra height allows it to fill out your hand a bit more and provides a place to put your fingers (along the edges of the plane). I have a few traditional block planes and they are great until I want to use them in the middle of a surface - they are so squat that I spend more time figuring out where to put my fingers than actually working. And my fingers are always cramped up anyway.

If possible, I wanted it to have a similar front pad design to the rest of the K-series planes. I also thought the angle to the rear infill would be an advantage for getting the geometry right for a one handed grip. 

 The plane would be 4-1/2" long with a 1-1/4" wide blade. I opted for a 52.5 degree bed angle again.

It was a real challenge to get everything into such a small plane body. The lever cap design needed some serious modification to allow it to fit inside this small space and be functional yet still look like the lever caps in the other K-series planes. The scoop on the front pad is not at all functional from the standpoint that you cannot get your finger in it, but it does serve a very important practical purpose. It allows the top surface of the pad to be wider allowing the plane to be used with 2 hands if you want. It is wide and long enough that you can 'pinch' it for planing an edge.

The sides and sole are 01 tool steel, the lever cap and screw are bronze and the infill is Desert Ironwood.


A few photos of the K4 with a few other planes to give a sense of scale...

(with a Lie Nielsen 'Violin plane')

(with the XSNo.4)

(with the K7)

(with the K9)

Here is the grip that I use with the K4. The palm of my hand fits comfortably against the angled rear infill. The tip of the blade tucks into my hand. I can feel it, but am not putting pressure on it - the top of the lever cap screw is slightly higher and helps facilitate the natural curve of one’s hand. The distance to the front pad is also key - as is it’s height and shape. Typically one handed planes have a depression in the front grip - suggesting your index finger rests inside it. I have often found the geometry of that depression to be too low - tilting your hand a little too far forward and down. The idea behind not having a depression is to allow for a larger variety of finger positions and the height of it should keep your wrist in a more natural position (less stress during use).

I will have the K4 with me at WIA this year, and am looking forward to people trying it out and giving me feedback. It feels great when I use it, but nothing beats getting tools in the hands of other woodworkers to really test it. If you are going to WIA this year, please stop in, say hi to Joe (Steiner) and I and try out the K4 or any of the other planes.


Blogger FJ said...

Stunning! Really nice lines.

28 September 2013 at 23:01  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very nice indeed. The evolution of your planes is a joy to watch.

29 September 2013 at 05:06  
Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

I had thought that maybe you would lower the blade and lever cap to get them put of the way, which would totally change the look of the plane. Using them to create a comfortable grip allows you to stay true to the k-series style.

29 September 2013 at 09:09  
Blogger Richard Wile said...

Nice to see this plane done, I love the "thumb plane" form factor. I use my "violin plane" all the time. I am sure folks will love this at WIA. See you then.


29 September 2013 at 10:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! That is perfect!

I "accidentally" heard about the K4 yesterday at the LN event here in town. You didn't disappoint.

By the way, I now understand how you manage to score so much sweet old growth wood.

You suck!

29 September 2013 at 14:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a great way to use all the extraordinary bits of wood that are too small for the bigger planes! I'm sure you've got quite a stash by now.

Keep up the great work and the posts.


30 September 2013 at 12:22  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks FJ - glad you like it.


2 October 2013 at 17:04  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi David,

Glad you are enjoying the evolution - I am too. It is fun, and sometimes challenging to see how things adapt and change as sizes and needs change.


2 October 2013 at 17:04  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Kevin,

There were another set of drawings that evolved when I was drawing the K4 that may end up looking like what you described. The challenge is keeping the family resemblance.


2 October 2013 at 17:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Ric,

I happily accept your sucking title - cause the alternative, well... suck! Glad you like the K4 - it appears I should have been in Nova Scotia for this one.


2 October 2013 at 17:09  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dan,

You are so right - this little plane is great for all those smallish pieces that are just too good to toss, but too small for most other planes. It is fun looking through the scrap boxes and finding perfectly suitable infill sets. It is often a walk down memory lane too - many pieces remind me of the larger planes that came before.


2 October 2013 at 17:11  
Blogger Unknown said...

You could have left it at my house, though in its unfinished state, a rock would be more useful to me because I sure couldn't finish it!
One day my friend…

6 October 2013 at 22:00  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Brad,

yeah - it was not so useable at that point:) you will have to stop by next time you are visiting family.


7 October 2013 at 07:33  
Blogger John said...

I love your planes, but I can't figure out from your blog hot to get in touch with you. When I click "contact" it opens an email form but there is no address.

14 June 2014 at 22:51  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi John,

Sorry the contact button is causing problems. It should open a new email window. My email address is or you can call at (519) 568-8159


15 June 2014 at 07:06  

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