Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fred West

My friend Fred West is facing some challenging health issues. I, along with several other tool makers, contributed to a blog about Fred on the Lost Art Press Blog.

In lieu of repeating myself here I'll just direct you to the link below so you can read all the great things people from the Hand Tool Woodworking community had to say about Fred.

Here's the link to that blog post:

Get Well My Friend,


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Just A Regular Wednesday for "Just a Plane T-Shirt"

NOTICE: T-shirts sales have ended as of 12/18/2013

When I went thru the process of a total face lift on my web page months ago I did not include the "Apparel" page. By request I am rejuvenating this offering for the famous "Just a Plane T-Shirt", however I waited until after Black Friday and Cyber Monday because frankly all that is retail hype. No one really needs to tell you that the holidays are approaching and if you're planning to give gifts you need to make your purchases and ship your stuff, therefore we're making this offer on a "Regular Wednesday".

At this point I still don't intend to add the "Apparel" page to the main site, but I'm posting a link to the "Apparel" page of my Online Store here on the blog. For those that would like the "Just A Plane T-Shirt" the price is $16.95 and includes shipping anywhere in the lower 48 states and you won't have to stand in line at the P.O. We'll do that for you.

These are 100% Cotton Gildan Heavy T's and in a new color called "Old Gold". At some point we may add the "Apparel" page to the web site again but after the holidays we'll most likely either be selling these shirts thru brick and mortar retail establishments or only offering them at the limited events that we attend throughout the year.

T-SHIRT LINK, this link is dead, T-Shirt sales have been discontinued as of 12/18/2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season to Everyone,


Friday, November 22, 2013

The 125-38SBP (Brute) Dissected, also "There's Grinding and then there's Grinding

I'm in the midst of completing a group of "Brute" shooting planes. I use the magnetic chuck of my surface grinder to hold parts during assembly. The chuck supplies the other two hands I generally need during this task. During the process I thought it might be interesting to snap a picture of a cross section of this plane.

This tool is bedded at a low angle of 38 degrees. It's a bevel down design so 38 degrees is the effective cutting angle. This configuration puts the bevel of the iron almost in a line with the cutting action of the plane. With a primary grind of 25 degrees and then a secondary bevel of 27 to 28 degrees it still has around 10 degrees of clearance angle. Plenty, but it does need to be maintained.

The threaded holes serving as assembly points will have taper pins interspersed between those locations when all the parts are in place. This creates a very accurate and rigid structure, for all practical purposes a metal torsion box. The taper pins go into reamed holes and fit zero clearance. When the pins are set with a hammer it creates what we used to call in the fabrication industry, "End of the World Stuff".

If I've performed my work correctly it goes together marvelously well and makes a well fitted assembly. For this to happen quite close tolerances have to be maintained on every part that makes up the assembly.

All the grinding of the interior surfaces has to be completed prior to assembly and then protected during subsequent operations.  Clean vises and not trapping chips between vise cauls and the interior of the plane body is something that requires close attention. Other wise it is possible to damage areas that are no longer accessible for further work. When the threaded assembly pins are in place, peined and the taper pins are installed, it's then time to refine the exterior surfaces. Of course one of the most important functional surfaces on any plane is the sole.

The components of this plane are made from so-called precision ground stock. It is supposedly flat to .001 over a distance of 12 inches. I find that it is rarely this accurate. What comes in as precision ground and what leaves my shop as precision ground are two entirely different versions.

While grinding a designated amount of material is removed per pass. This differs depending on the material being work. Most are surprised to know that harden material like plane irons are actually easier to grind than the annealed material that makes up the body of the plane.

 As you proceed with this work the material warms slightly and expands.  In a process that starts with material being removed by 5 tenths to 6 tenths of one thousandth per pass, the final passes will be in the 2 to 3 tenths range. The entire body of the plane is allowed to completely cool again to the ambient temperature of the shop prior to making the final passe. On the first of the two final passes material will almost always be removed at the toe and the heel and not in the center of the sole which has cooled and contracted. Only after these final passes do you achieve a sole that is in fact quite extremely flat. Not allowing the plane body to cool prior to the last passes will leave a slightly low area just before and aft of the mouth opening.

In function this would not allow you to achieve as fine a setting of the iron and would not hold the fibers as tightly for shearing at the front of the mouth. Note the tightly wound shavings, of end grain no less, in the above picture. A very sharp iron and the other mentioned factors come into play to create this result as well as a polished surface on the end of the 45 degree cut of the sample board.


Leon Redbone was performing in Savannah, Ga. and was accompanied by a gentleman playing the tuba. During a break between songs the tuba player turns to Leon and says "Leon the Invisible man is here", Leon replied, "tell him I can't see him right now!" 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Desert Iron Wood

For some time now I've been interested in obtaining some Desert Iron Wood to use as totes and knobs and infills for my planes. My first attempts at purchasing this material didn't go well and I ended up with pieces with such obvious defects that I just didn't think they would be acceptable.

A couple of months ago I received an email from a supplier of this material advertising defect free bowl blanks. They were pricey but I knew the opportunity to obtain pieces this size defect free might be few and far between so I made a purchase.

When I received the blanks I was most pleased to find that one measured single digits in moisture content. A couple of weeks in my finishing kiln and it was ready to use. There was just one problem.

I've never turned a knob or shaped a tote from this material and the plane for which they were destined had to be ready for the recent Lie-Nielsen event at Woodcraft Atlanta.

Working unfamiliar materials with short time is not something that I approach lightly. Honestly I was excited to work this material and scared to death at the same time. If I invested a lot of time and then experienced a problem I wouldn't have sufficient time to recover. I finally decided nothing ventured, nothing gained and set about the work.

I began work on the rear tote early in the morning and finally applied the first coat of finish that night at 11:30. This material has a specific gravity of 1.20. I first thought that was a typo and it was more like Macassar Ebony which is 1.02. Nope, it's 1.20. I milled the blank with a fly cutter on the mill equipped with carbide inserts. The shavings coming off this material were shaped more like metal shavings than wood shavings. This stuff may well be harder than brass.

I do a certain amount of material excavation on a tote with power tools and I was thinking router tooling was going to be a problem, ironically the surfaces left behind by that tool were glassy smooth. When starting the hand tool removal of wood with a chisel I had envisioned having to pull up a new edge on my 1/2 chisel quite often. Once again this material surprised me. It actually got out of the way of a chisel fairly easily. However when I attempted to make the tight inside corner at the top the tote nice and sharp by cutting into the corner with the chisel I noticed this material kept fracturing right in the corner. I eventually had to resort to abrasives wrapped around the tight corner of a piece of brass to remedy this issue.

After all the fixing points were established and the final shape was attained with a varied selection of hand tools all the surfaces were final sanded up thru 1000 grit. When I flowed on the oil finish that night at 11:30 I was rewarded for my efforts. I've been to this point with a lot of different materials but the experience with this wood was something different and particularly special.

The  turning of the knob the next morning went quite well and in the end I actually had the plane completed with a day to spare.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at WoodCraft Atlanta

Besides being a very well stocked woodworking store and having a well appointed shop adjacent to a state of the art teaching facility, WoodCraft Atlanta is a very friendly, welcoming place to visit. You can tell the customers that frequent this store are comfortable there. I don't know about you but I'm always going to migrate to the place where I feel comfortable and this weekend during the 2 days I spent in this store it was apparent the people that frequent this store feel the same.

I know when I walk thru the door Steve Quehl, Robert and the rest of the staff are going to welcome my presence and if it's your first time there they'll do the same for you.

I've participated in several events at this store and this weekend there was lots of activity.

Curtis and Tim were on hand from Lie-Nielsen demonstrating tools and answering questions. These guys are knowledgeable and charismatic about hand tool work. If you talk to Tim you may well learn a bit about lobster fishing as well.

The local SAPFM chapter members were there performing all kinds of interesting work. These members basically just bring in pieces or parts of pieces they have in process so people can observe them performing these task. It's pretty amazing and it's a learning experience as well. The tool chest below was made by a gentleman named Ken Kline and it is an amazing piece of work. He's brought this piece along to other events and I always discover something different about it every time I have the pleasure to see it.

The chair below is the work of Marion Smith. The details in both of these pieces is remarkable.

Several local turners were on hand during both days turning all kinds of different objects. With the holidays approaching Christmas tree ornaments seemed to be a popular item.

Bob Zajicek of Czeck Edge Tools was there with a full array of his offerings and Jon Fiant a local Work Bench Builder from Marietta was on hand talking to folks about workbench construction. The bench in front of them was made by Steve Quehl at the French Oak Roubo Project this summer. Bob and Jon were standing next to a piece of history.

There was also a bandsaw tune up clinic and a Saw Stop demonstration, and I was there as well showing some planes that I had just completed, but I was the one taking the pictures so you'll have to take my word for it.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working Under a Time Line and.......Halloween Stuff

 I'm working with time constraints this week. I don't enjoy that. Plane making requires a lot of concentration and is not something that one can rush without risk. However I'm participating in a Lie-Nielsen event this weekend and I have a Winter Panel Plane coming together that I would really like to have at that event so I don't have much choice in the matter. To make matters even worse this is my first attempt putting Desert Iron Wood in a plane. If you live in the Atlanta area drop by Steve Quehl's Atlanta Woodcraft store this Friday and Saturday. If things go well I'll have a Winter Panel Plane that you can put thru it's paces. If things don't go well I'll have some other planes. Such is life.

For more information and times follow this link:

I'm not much of a Halloween enthusiast, however this year while browsing some social media sites I ran across some stuff that really shows the true spirit of Halloween..... fun for kids.

Below is a short video of one of the neatest ideas for a Halloween costume I've seen in quite some time. I just couldn't resist posting this.

Having just visited Brooklyn, NY a couple of weeks ago this picture on "Humans of New York" was pretty hilarious. The caption was "Robin Smells a Crime". It seems a lot of dogs end up in the pictures on "HUMANS of New York".

During this time of year my preference is typically photos of fall harvesting as shown in this picture. This photo was not found in historical archives. Helen English Ellis snapped this photo just this week in Lancaster, PA. As a kid I was involved in square bale hay harvesting but the wagon was pulled by a tractor. A team of horses doing this work is a thing of beauty. Also notice the kid in the shadows of the bales.

Fall may be my favorite time of year. I'm partial to the seasons that allow me to work with the front door of the shop open.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winter Smoother Different Flavor

I never ceased to be astounded how one can the take a plane form, apply different combinations of woods and surface treatments of the metal parts and create something that is quite different from the plane of the same form completed just a bit over a week earlier.

This particular plane, compared to the Olive and Stainless plane in the last post are as different as you could possibly expect when considering two objects using the same lines and overall form.

A darker wood, Rosewood in this case,  with contrasting highlights and brass with an aged patina, coupled with a plane body made from 0-1 steel creates an entirely different presence.

It's what makes this work so interesting and actually quite a bit of creative fun.


Monday, September 30, 2013

The Stainless Winter Smoother is Complete

Sometimes the hard part of this work is taking this tool that you've just poured yourself into and putting it in a box and sending it on it's way. Of course that's the ultimate goal but nevertheless it would be nice to have time to use the plane for a couple of days just to get the full experience of that particular tool.

That would have been particularly interesting with this tool because it was a slightly nonstandard version of the Winter Smoother. The thicker stainless sides on this tool created a bit of a different package of mass in that this tool is just a bit heavier than the 0-1 version.

As I was tuning this tool and then subsequently putting it thru it's paces I frankly forgot that it was any different. That's a good impression because that means it's not overtly toe heavy and it never occurred to me that there was any misplaced weight anywhere in this tool.

There was one other thing I learned when taking and then editing the photos of this tool. If you're not careful when enhancing a photograph you can change the color of a piece of wood to something that it really can never be. I had to go back into edit mode to color correct my overzealous editing. You may notice in this last photo that the wood is a bit more orange than the other photos. The Olive wood will change dramatically over the next couple of years but it will never be that orange.

I had one major interruption while completing some of the final operations on this plane Saturday afternoon. Julie set out to do a bit of yard work on such a beautiful early fall day and shortly thereafter came walking into the shop with a rather pale look on her face. Once she was over pointing outdoors and speaking incoherently she finally blurted out "SNAKE!" While fetching the wheel barrow she noticed it contained some water which she immediately poured out on a nearby bush. The bush immediately started rattling and that is when she realized she was in close proximity to a Timber Rattler!

Fortunately as soon as she heard the noise she stepped away and was never within striking distance as the snake coiled up.

 It actually would be a rare fall if we didn't see a one of these snakes this time of year. I guess it's getting too cool for them to operate efficiently at night and they're trying to feed a bit more before time to hibernate for the winter, so it just makes sense they would be more apt to crossing paths with a human this time of year. Of course finding yourself in close proximity to one of these is always an alarming experience. We went our way, the snake went his. Everyone was happy....well I guess the snake was happy. Who knows how a snake feels after an unexpected shower?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winter Smoothers Coming Together........and Woodworking in America

As of late I've been working on a batch of 3 Winter Smoothers. The opportunity to have this tool at an event where woodworkers could actually put their hands on this plane had not occurred until this past spring at the Handworks Event in Iowa. It was received quite well and it immediately became apparent to the attendees that this was a very versatile plane.

Some people have asked "if I could have just one of your planes, which would you recommend?" I always suggest this plane. Why? This plane is easy to handle when using it to clean up jointed edges, face or door frames, however it's substantial enough for smoothing panels.

I'm obviously a fan of all my offerings but I have to say that this plane is my favorite. It's fast becoming the favorite plane of many customers as well.

One customer requested that I make this plane for him in 440c stainless. You may notice that the plane on the left in the picture has slightly thicker sides. The standard side thickness for this plane when made in 0-1 steel is 5/32 (.156), however I can only source the stainless in 3/16" (.187). If I try to dramatically reduce the thickness of the stainless it will stress relieve and frankly it will bow and do all kinds of crazy stuff. The only remedy to this would be to stress relieve this material and frankly I have no way of exposing this material to the kind of heat required to accomplish this so 3/16 sides it is on the 440C version of this plane.

Woodworking in America would have been a great opportunity to give woodworkers a chance to try this plane and that is one event I had really hoped to include in my event schedule this fall, however it is not to be. My lead time at present is the longest it has been in the history of my business and for that reason I really need to stay in the shop, make planes and do everything thing I can to reduce the time it takes to get planes into the hands of customers. Filling orders is obviously the other way to get this plane into the hands of woodworkers.

If you plan to attend WIA have a great time. It's a great event......maybe I'll get there next year.


Email Problem Notice: The Web Host Email servers that serve my web page have been down for the last three days. Email links have been changed to direct Email to my personal email account until this is resolved. If you haven't received a reply from me please contact me again using the contact button at the bottom of the home page of my web site,

Monday, September 16, 2013

A New Web a lot of work

When I returned from Handworks one of the things on my "Must Do" list was to perform a facelift on a very dated Brese Plane web page. I had two new products that needed to be added and quite frankly nothing much had been done to the web page since 2007. As I added and deleted different products the current site had become more fragmented and harder to navigate. I really could not procrastinate about this chore any longer.

I am first and foremost a "Plane Maker", not an I.T. guy. In fact I never at anytime in my life have ever qualified as an I.T. guy. This in and of itself meant this job would be even a bigger task because there is always a learning curve involved. Granted the company that host my site has created template type software to make this endeavor easier for the common man, however they had just introduced a new version of the software and that was why there was a learning curve. Do you think the guy pictured below could have helped?

I know some of you are probably saying "why didn't you just hire an I.T. type person to do it?" and that is a viable question, however I like to be able to adapt on a daily basis if required. If I want to add a new product or respond to a custom request I want to be able to do so in a timely manner so I persist in being able to do this work myself. It gives me the ability to control this thing and reduces dependency issues.

The new software came with bugs. 1/3 of the way thru the creation of the first attempt I had to basically abandon the work I had completed because I ran into a problem that I could not resolve so I hit delete and started over. I had to devise a work around for the problem and as it turns out this was not the first work around I would have to devise.  I'm sure there were times when I looked like this guy pictured below.

After several weeks of shop work during the day and web page work into the late evening I finally got to the point of publishing the new page. I think you'll find it easier to navigate and the layout is much simpler. More importantly the photographs reflect the details of the planes that I am presently making whereas the photos on the prior web page did not reflect many of the changes made in these tools over the past years.

So here is it:

Here's hoping it doesn't crash before your very eyes!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pizza!......Yep That's Right, Pizza!

As you can probably tell by the title of the this post I'm into Pizza. Eating Pizza, talking to my Pizza enthusiasts friends and, oh yeah, cooking pizza.

When I first started this blog I was right up front that this blog would not always be about plane making. If you've been following my blog from the start, you might remember my first post was about the brothers Abraham having a bit of trouble in their neighborhood when they engulfed the entire area in smoke during their first attempt at making charcoal. Food or cooking related post are not uncommon here, nor are firetrucks in the driveway at the Abraham compound.

When I first started my foray into making pizza I thought I would end up in the camp of Chicago style pizza and the first pizza's I made were cooked in deep cast iron skillets and they were good enough to keep my interested piqued. But then my 2 oldest children went to college in the Northeast and I got my first taste of pizza in Philadelphia and eventually in Brooklyn...the Promise land of pizza. This is when I got really interested in  the Neo-Neapolitan style of pizza. Unfortunately while in Brooklyn I did not have the pleasure of eating pizza at Grimaldi's under the bridge or DiFara's, two of the better know pizzerias. I'll be traveling back to Brooklyn in October and I hope to remedy this fact.  Subsequently while attending a Lie-Nielsen Event in St. Louis I had the opportunity to dine on what would be considered the type of pizza you would find in Rome, Italy. This pizza had a crispy, almost cracker type crust and the sauce possessed a slightly sweet taste. I was really intrigued with this pizza and even though I don't remember the name of the place, the pizza was quite memorable, and I guess that's the real difference in pizza, what pizza is memorable.

About this time I was given Peter Reinhart's book "American Pie". I've just read it thru for the second time. I think it may be one of the most informative books about pizza that I've read. Not only did Peter grow up eating pizza in the Promise land of the Northeast, he then traveled to the Mother land, ate and researched pizza all over Italy, then returned to the states and pretty much did the same thing here.  He is most certainly a Neapolitan style pizza person. If you're from Chicago and firmly in the camp of the deep dish pizza you won't like what he has to say about that style pizza, in fact you probably should just skip reading "American Pie". Personally I have to say that I've enjoyed pizza in Chicago but it was memorable because of the company of the people I was with at the time. I have good friends and customers in Chicago.

Ultimately I would like to own a brick or masonry wood fired pizza oven, however I am presently making do with what my oldest son calls a FrankenWeber. I cooked pizza tonight and here is my process of the actual cooking. I won't go into recipes and such at this time.

If you buy the "Kettle Pizza" kit that basically just gets you a way to put pizza in and out a Weber grill and gives you easy access to the stone on the grill. You will never get this setup to cook the top side of the pizza sufficiently. The top of the grill is thin metal and it just doesn't have the capability to retain and radiate heat. It requires a modification. But first you need a good fire and to that fire you need to add some chunks of wood. The wood will raise the temperature inside the grill much higher than with charcoal alone. You need to position the coals toward the rear of the grill so that the heat rises from the rear and then flows over the top of the pizza as it convects toward the opening.

Then you add the Kettle Pizza band and the stone where you will be actually placing the pizza. The shiny appearance on the stone is a freshly applied coating of olive oil.

Then it's time for the modification that actually makes this work. Another grill on top of the band and a 19" diameter stone used to radiate heat from above the pizza to cook the toppings.

Here the FankenWeber is fully assembled and the temp gauge is well past 700 degrees, the stones have been given time to heat up and we're ready to cook.

And the picture at the top of the page is the result. I'm still trying different dough recipes in order to achieve a thinner crispier crust, and that's part of the fun of pizza. Like Peter Reinhart, I'm in pursuit of my version of the "Perfect Pizza".

The FrankenWeber is far from the perfect pizza cooking set up. It has it's faults. You'll need to quickly prep and cook your pizzas because there is a fairly short window of time for holding the 700 degree plus temps and adding more wood to this setup after everything has come to these high temps is not easy and can be dangerous, but for now it will suffice.

If you do attempt to add wood to this hot setup and you burn yourself in the process, the other people in your household will give you that "Look" know the "Look".....the one that implies....."you should have known better!"


Thursday, August 22, 2013

On Going Refinement

The work of Independent Tool Makers changes over time. I'm still making some of the same models of planes that I made when I first started into making planes professionally but the end product at this point is considerably different.

Some of the refinements are not obvious and some are hidden but the point is every time I make a plane a bit of refinement occurs and after one makes a certain number of planes the end product can gradually evolve into a much different thing. The Stainless Panel Plane pictured below is full pound lighter than the prototype and is visually lighter as well. The configuration of the assembly pins has been revised 4 times in the last couple of years.

Some changes are purely for functional purpose and some are visual. Whereas some of my first planes used tightly spaced threaded pins for assembly, my later planes use a combination of threaded pins, taper pins or in some cases press fit dowel pins. Most of this can't be seen without holding the plane body so that light reflects in such a way as to make these features more visually apparent.

The new lever cap in the Stainless Panel plane derived from a desire to design a different lever cap for the Winter Panel Plane pictured below. It was a natural progression to incorporate an improved design in the Stainless Series of planes as well.

 This refinement is part functional improvement but mostly a visual refinement that allows the lines of the plane to flow together in a more harmonious way. In the pictures below you see one my 912-50S planes in Macassar Ebony with the old style lever cap and the one below with Olive Wood and the new style lever cap. I've made both these planes somewhat recently however the Macassar Ebony plane is part of a matched set that began with the older style lever cap. As you compare the two it's obvious that the lever cap in the picture of the Olive Wood plane is more cohesive with the lines of the plane side.

Of course in some cases it's the process that's refined and one just gets much more proficient at performing a given task and that in itself produces an improved result, and then again the end result is most probably a  combination of all of these factors.

I've heard it said "when you quit learning, you start dying", I like the keep learning option myself and continuing to learn leads to more refinement.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why a 16 Foot French Oak Roubo Bench?

When pictures of Bo Childs 16 Foot Roubo bench showed up on several blogs and videos some questioned making a bench of this size. Some even suggested maybe it was a male ego strut of sorts. However there was a functional reason for a bench of this great size and capacity.

It's easy to forget that handwork on a large scale is still done in some places and some businesses make it their specialty. Wyatt Childs is one of those businesses. Bo provides flooring of several different types and textures among many other products. Almost all require some measure of hand work to create the unique look he is known for. Wyatt Childs  has some very fine machinery, in fact you'll see state of the art Martin machines in the background of these pictures and video,  but for some effects Bo knows that nothing looks quite like a surface created with hand wrought methods.

As you can seen in the above pictures and the video below, 4 people can work at this bench hand scraping walnut flooring.....and that's why sometimes a 16 foot workbench is required. Wyatt Childs does large scale work on a regular basis so this workbench will rarely get lonely.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The Different Personalities of the French Oak Roubo Project

Today as I was moving thru the shop at Wyatt Childs I began thinking about this group of bench builders and how diverse a group they are. Included in these people are Doctors, Attorneys, Glass artist, Auto Body Shop Proprietors, Tech Gurus, Woodworking Store Owners, Surveyor, Plane Maker, the list goes on and on.

Yet this week they are all like minded people converging in a common task. I can describe them all in just two words "Good People".