Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Plane for Bond.....................James Bond?

I received a request from a customer to make a 123-38SBP, also know as the "Brute" chute board plane entirely from brass, except of course for the iron and in this case the lever cap screw was made from stainless steel just for a bit more contrast. I won't say this was an unusual request because I think planes with bodies entirely from brass are very serviceable tools.

Early in my plane making career I did what I suggest to many budding plane makers. I made my first plane bodies entirely from brass. Brass is a much easier material for new plane makers to use and it means you don't have to jump as much of the learning curve in the beginning. Steel is such a different animal and frankly it requires a much larger investment in tooling to do well at the outset.

I still use some of those early tools daily in the shop and I've not experienced significant wear to any of the surfaces. I think the soles actually work harden after a certain amount of use.

These days I pursue plane making with a goal of precision in every part that make up the plane and in this endeavor brass presents a new challenge and difficulty. Making the component parts of the brass to very precise thickness is challenging mainly due to the fact that it's not magnetic and it is very difficult to dimension on the surface grinder.

Cold drawn brass bar tends to relieve itself of stress at the most inopportune times.

Hand lapping to precise thickness is possible with the right method but is very time consuming but it is what is most times required.

This customer asked if I had any particularly special wood for making the knob. I purchased a Desert Ironwood burl quite a while ago. It contained several inclusions that were significant enough that it would have been impossible to get enough material for a tote and knob, let alone enough good wood for an infill. The piece I chose contained heartwood and sapwood and that made it especially eye catching. The sapwood was rather coarse and open grained and required a lot of CA adhesive filling to establish a firm structural integrity in the wood. The process was most interesting and the end result was satisfying.

My generation was young when the James Bond film Goldfinger was released. After that movie most people associated the color gold with James Bond. As I was making this plane it felt as if I was crafting some secret gadget for James to use in his fight with the evil villains he encounters. The gold of the brass makes this plane  body look as if it's milled from a billet of gold. This in and of itself makes this plane very unique. 

The week after this plane was shipped to the customer I received an email from engraver Catherine Kennedy and it immediately became apparent why this plane body needed to be made from brass. I don't have pictures of the plane after engraving, however one comment in the body of an email between myself, Catherine and the customer that received this tool has sparked an entire other project that will require Catherine and myself to push the boundaries of our skills and that's challenging and exciting at the same time.

Daniel Craig is the new James Bond and frankly his ruthless manner and methods are what we always wished the kindler gentler James Bonds of my era would have been like. He doesn't need special gadgets, he just kills them that needs killing in order to keep the world safe and secure and he doesn't dilly dally around pursuing beautiful women in the process............well not much. (please understand that this comment is made tongue in cheek. I'm certainly not a war monger)

More about the project that this plane spawned in another post.


A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.


  1. Ron,
    re: surface grinding brass, could these help? You'd have to make a steel fixture plate but I've seen these hold down aluminum with an eighth inch of grip as a mill rips off huge thickness. Could speed up that tedium.

  2. Gavin those are probably a very legitimate solution. If my frequency of doing this work was higher something of that nature would certainly be in order.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.