Monday, October 31, 2011

Things that Caught My Eye at WIA, and Questions About Plane Kits

At the last two Woodworking in America Conferences the attendance has been great and the Market Place has been busy. For this reason I typically have a hard time getting away from the booth long enough to have a look around myself. This year however I was accompanied by my wife and also enlisted the assistance of a couple of customers that are local to me in the Atlanta area. Several times during the week end I would look over at my friend Steve Walls and say "Hey Steve, stand here and be Me for a few minutes". This gave me the freedom to look around a bit more than usual and I enjoyed seeing the new offerings of the assorted vendors.

Of course I didn't actually have to leave the booth to see the first item that caught my eye. In fact it was right in our booth space. The guys from Elkhead Tools resided with us in the Market Place and right away Gary Benson showed me the new screw driver they were offering. It is the official Brese Plane screw driver specifically manufactured to the fit the fasteners on the planes I produce. It's shorter length gives it more control closer to the work and it fits the slots in the pivot pins of the lever caps and the fasteners that hold the rear tote on the Precision stainless planes. Having close control due to the shorter length keeps me from skittering the screw driver across the plane side during re-assembly (yes this has happened to a nearly completed plane and it sent me back to the lapping plate for considerably more work).

As you can see it's made to the same high standards as the rest of their offerings. We enjoyed having them in the booth with us this year. Besides making great stuff they were fun to hang out with.

I've been looking for a properly sized plane hammer for a while. I've actually prototyped a very nice plane hammer but quite frankly we've been so busy making planes and filling customers needs that we just can't seem to find time to put another iron in the fire. Back Channel Tools was offering the hammer show below at WIA and I came home with one.

What I really like about this hammer is the weight and the length. It's light enough to allow fine control of the position of the plane iron. With this hammer I have to strike the iron with a bit more authority than usual especially for the lateral adjustment but then again that's what I really like about it. The hardest part of learning to adjust a plane with a hammer is learning how lightly to strike the iron for fine adjustment and I believe this hammer will shorten the learning curve which is typically only about 30 minutes anyway. It has a faceted handle which helps index the hammer in your hand and the only minor quibble I have is the sharp edges on these facets. This was an easy fix. It only took a few minutes with a scraper, a bit of fine sandpaper and some qualasole and now it feels great in the hand.

Many people that came by our booth at WIA asked about when we would be re-introducing plane kits. Actually I still don't have a definite answer, however we are working toward that end. I've recently brought an apprentice into the shop and his work is progressing rather nicely. His name is James Green and he's an enthusiastic student of the craft. As his work progresses and I feel that he can produce plane bodies to my standards then he will be responsible for producing plane bodies for that product line (with my oversight, and the shop's not that big). At that time we will re-introduce those offerings.

On a final note I wanted to once again say "THANKS" to Steve Walls and Charlie Levan for the help at this years WIA.