One of the most ordered tools at Brese Plane is the small smoother that we've come to call the "J" plane. As I stop to think about why this is so, several things come quickly to mind to explain the popularity of this tool.
This plane fits the hands of a lot of different size people. I've had people of quite small size as well as woodworkers of quite large proportions pick up this plane and comment that it feels good in their hand. The rounded end if the plane presents a nice to place to grip this plane and keeps your hand from sliding forward and possibly pressing against the back of the iron which can crease uncomfortably into your hand.
The performance characteristics of this plane are well known. Many people have witnessed this plane working very difficult woods with and against the grain with relative ease. When confronted with a planing challenge, which happens frequently at WIA and the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events where we show our wares, I will always reach for the "J" plane first. It has never let me down and once I've been successful with the "J" plane then I will attempt these difficult boards with some of the other planes on my bench. In other words, it's my "go to" plane.
The combination of the 55 degree bed angle, tight mouth and the unified mass that this plane creates is a winning configuration. Combine a well sharpened iron with the other aspects of this plane and the wood fibers have no choice but to shear and curl up. There's no magic, just solid mechanical elements that yield a result.
If you compare the picture at the top of this blog entry to the ones below you will notice that this plane has undergone some refinements over the past couple of years. None of these refinements has changed anything about the performance characteristics of this plane. I have reduced the weight in this tool a small amount and feel that the balance was improved by this change especially in regard to using the plane on the edges of boards and in places where the sole is not completely registered to the work piece. Almost all the other changes have been cosmetic.
I've changed to a stainless steel lever cap screws and a lower profile button on the iron that makes a handy back bevel registration point. If you're using the scary sharp method of honing the iron it's easy to place a piece of painters tape over this button, swipe it with a some paraffin and with the button placed off the abrasive you can easily impart about 1/2 to 1 degree of back bevel to the back side of the iron.
I also think that the price point of this tool has made it an attractive entry point for many people looking to delve into the world of infill planes. This plane is almost always ordered with rosewood infill. The color of the rosewood works well with the stainless and brass. I've actually been sort of yearning to make one with ebony infill, fortunately I recently received an order for this plane with ebony infill. I like a bit of a change once in a while.
I introduced this plane at the first Woodworking in American Conference in Berea, Kentucky. This event was also when I was first introduced to the hand tool woodworking community. I brought two "J" planes to the first WIA and at one point myself and a gentleman from Canada were making alternate passes from different directions on a piece of curly maple that contain some of the tightest curl you've every seen. This worked because one of us was left handed.
Since the first WIA in Berea I have been wonderfully supported by the hand tool woodworking community, Thanks Everyone!
Because of you I have more "J" planes to make. This makes me quite happy because as you know......."I sort of live for this stuff."
"If you're too opened minded your brains will fall out"