Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The latest "JR" plane

I've found that collaborating with other artisans is a very interesting way to work. Engraver Catharine Kennedy and I have been working on a kit of planes for John Rexroad and just last week we completed another of these planes that are engraved on the interior and exterior.

So how does this happen? I make all the metal parts, mask off the areas where the pieces must mate. I then send them to Catharine in upstate New York. She engraves the interior surfaces while handling the parts with great care. At this point there is no going back, so to speak. In other words we committed to the parts at hand and when the engraving on the interior is completed we are so vested in these parts from the standpoint of time, any ding or unwarranted scratch spells disaster. The handling of the parts gets tedious at this point much less engraving and performing subsequent operations.

When the parts return to me they are as pictured above. Now the ball is in my court. I have to handle the parts with the greatest care during the unmasking and assembly process. I see to all the peining, lapping and grinding the radius of the heel and toe to the points where the sides and sole meet coming to a perfect tangent point of sole curve to the curve where the side of the plane meets the sole. If that sounds complicated and involved..........well, if it was easy more people would be doing it.

I then send the completed plane body back to Catharine for her to perform the exterior engraving task, after which she sends the plane back to me yet again so that I can add the wooden bits and actually tune to the plane to working order. Finally comes the point when we get to hand it over to the customer.

An exquisite way to embellish a brass monogram.

And on this side a fully rigged sailing ship complete with sea gulls in the back ground.

I guess a plane that contains this much visual stimulation could well do with some good quality, yet mundane wood. In for a penny, in for pound. Nothing less than one of my best olive wood sets would do.

Considering that this is second of this series of planes you might expect that this plane would have less impact than the first. I have to admit I sort of expected that myself. Not so.  This larger plane has a presence that took me off guard when all the elements were assembled. I am not easily impressed and this one put a lump in my throat.

This being an all brass plane makes it a bit heftier than the standard version of this plane. This affects the working characteristics of this plane quite a lot. You just start it down the board and it pretty much does the rest. You just have to make sure you catch it at the end of the planing stroke. (grin)

I don't mean to emphasize the difficulty of the work, but rather that is what makes this work so interesting to us.


Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. Raymond Chandler


  1. I have to pick my jaw up from the floor. I almost wish there was some coloring the engraving to make it more visible. Fantastic work Ron and Catharine!

  2. You have done a fabulous work but I think it will be more appealing if you have added some different colors of touch to this beautiful design.