Karl Holtey – Blog Archive

February 20, 2012

Window to my Workshop 25

Spiers Style Shoulder plane – 1

It seems appropriate to start this blog whilst I have a picture of these planes on my website home page here.

I don’t see myself making any more shoulder planes for some time. This style of plane is the only Spiers plane that appeals to me; in fact it is probably my favourite shoulder plane. The construction with its components is very much like the Norris A7 but has the shape I prefer. In the making of the Spiers I have had to make a lot of new tooling – for just six planes. As you follow this blog you will see some of my hidden work.

The following pictures show my familiar dovetailing of the bottoms being milled in pairs back to back so that I can form a compound dovetail. Please note that all the bottom blanks have been cut and precisionally ground all round in one piece (not separated at the mouth) at this stage.


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Filed under: A13,Conclusion,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:45 pm

Conclusion of making the A13 dovetailed infill planes

For a long time I have procrastinated in writing a blog, and in that time I have kept a library of pictures of plane making throughout my range hoping to document it over time.

With the A13 I have tried to give some idea of the sheer effort that goes into the making. Although I have missed out much of the story, I hope it is enough to provide an overall picture. I have shown the mixture of hand and machine work that is necessary to achieve something of this quality. Also, I hope that I have shown that the machine work is not an economy but a necessity.

I decided to make the A13 because I could see potential in this design and its very appealing aesthetics, and it has turned out to be my best seller. From the blog you will see that a lot of detail has been upgraded. Some of the enhanced contours have been copied by others and referred to as an A13 when in actual fact it is a Holtey designed A13 and not a Norris. The original Norris A13 was cast iron which supported a square bun. However the introduction of dovetailing (mainly brass on steel) and riveting through metal spacers are all my ideas.

With the completion of these few planes, I feel that I want to move on and look for a replacement for this infill design.

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Filed under: A13,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:31 pm

A13 dovetailed infill plane continued (8)

Shaping front bun on the A13 smoothing plane

Corner rounding after shaping the bun.


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Filed under: A13,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:22 pm

A13 dovetailed infill plane continued (5)

It is difficult to believe that these two pictures of the boxwood are the same handle. It is amazing what you can do with light.

This work is nice and easy but I find it a little tedious and boring. The start to finish on one handle is at least 2 days.

The abrading that you can see is particulary extensive as I have to remove every bruise or tear to the fibres which are left behind after the shaping. I start at 80 and work down to 400 grits. After using 600 grits then final finish is with 0000 steel wool.

Normally these marks are not seen when using polish but my chosen finish for wood infills is always oil. This is very clean, business like, mellows the wood nicely and is easy to maintain. The only downside is that the preparation work for oiling is considerably greater than for French polishing; this is because the finish has to be absolutely perfect as the oil will show up every scratch and blemish.

Four dovetailed bodies waiting for their infills.

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A13 dovetailed infill plane continued (4)

Some of the preparation work and then putting the metal parts together.

One of those tedious jobs – polishing the chamfers. As you can see these need constant blueing to maintain the true flat angle all the way round.

No, not a piece of origami!

The sides after chamfer polishing and blade kickers which seem to have appeared already riveted by the workshop fairies.

Peining the underside

This is the first stage of peining. As you will notice the body is clamped onto an aluminium former by two surface ground steel plates. These are castellated to match the dovetails so that there is continuous pressure over the whole of both sides including the dovetails and prevents the space between the sides getting larger.

Peining the underside

With the sides and their dovetails firmly supported, I can then pein the tails by starting in the centre and working to the outside. Without this kind of support the sides would blow apart. The object is to expand the dovetails inside which normally cannot be reached as these dovetails are true compounds and not the illusions that are normally practised.

In short this clamping arrangement behaves like a die.

Side peining of plane

As you can see this is peined straight off the flat of the hammer. All the joints here are already tight and have not moved or wandered due to the clamping arrangement as described above. By peinning with the flat of the hammer it makes the metal expand and flow keeping all edges straight and maintaining the true dovetail form. Everything is sharp and crisp when flushed off.

The reason I do not use the punch here is because I am making the harder steel flow into the brass. The brass being softer would lose its form. Care is needed as a missed hit could leave an unwanted ‘dink’ in the side of the plane.

This is after the peining, but showing one dovetail left undone for comparison.

The plane body after dovetailing showing the precision aluminium former.

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Filed under: A13,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 12:51 pm

A13 dovetailed infill plane continued (3)

Here I describe some of the work to the bottoms of the planes. This is an area where most of the work of the plane is. It is probably light years ahead of any other infill plane.

Rebate to dovetail

Machining stops to the dovetailing, this adds extra support to the plane sides and also provides a light stop. This is something I currently do to the shoulder planes and it will be a new feature to all my dovetail planes.

Roughing out bed area to mouth.

This area is rough machined prior to the frog fitting to facilitate better access around the mouth.

Milling to the front side of the mouth

This is one of the main reasons for leaving the finishing of the bed until last so that I can access an end mill to the front side of the mouth.

Frogs waiting for riveting

Now that 80% of the work to the mouth area is complete the frogs can now be riveted.

As you can see that most of the surfaces are surface ground and especially the contacting surfaces which will be air tight once the frogs are riveted. This is not achievable with filing.

Frogs after riveting.

All that remains now is for the flushing of rivet heads and the bed machining.

Finishing cut to blade bed

Work holding for bed working

The highest standard of bed working on a true plane with no azimuth error and the bed pitch is exact to 51 degrees to within 1 minute. This might not seem that important but it is to me because I know where everything else goes then. I want to know exactly where the pressure points are when the blade is clamped.

Plane bottoms complete

This is a nice sight for me as it is a milestone in the project. Once this is achieved I am a happy bunny.

Roughing out the dovetails

I usually do these 6 pairs at a time and it takes several pecks especially with brass as it tends to chatter more than steel.

At last the final dovetail cut

Checking for fit.

Now we are starting to look like planes.

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Making of A13 part two

Much of the infill work is always trued up flat and square before any of the work commences, as in most woodworking projects.

In this picture are the rear infill sides showing the frog area routered away and this gives me a datum stop which helps me work out the drilling positions and its position in the plane. This will also be the same with the handle.

This is one pair of A13 rear infills being drilled for rivet spacers. Note the frog cut out being used as a stop. After this is done then I can drop a template over the holes to mark out the cutting line for band sawing.

This is the handle being drilled for rivet spacers using the same stops. As you can see I am making planes with rosewood and boxwood at the same time.

Whilst the holding fixture is still in position on the CNC milling machine it is prudent to use this for other work as all the datum positions are set up. Breaking down and setting up can be very time consuming and a little tiring on the grey cells.

This picture shows the finger hole and handle being roughed out.

As I have said; taking advantage of the holding fixtures before they are taken down.

This is the final cut after using the band saw to cut the infills out. I use the CNC mill to cut the true form of the sides. I add on a few thou all round for better finishing.

Using a manual milling machine with a purpose made cutter to produce a moulded form on the front bun. This is very accurate on a milling machine especially equipped with a DRO.

Milling the dovetail pins on the A13 plane bottoms.

Milling these is very advantageous on a CNC milling machine as I can work two bottoms together face to face in mirror form. I have a left and a right side of the bottom being worked together. With a dovetail form cutter and tracking in a butterfly pattern this allows me a left and right cut. I use three different cutters for this process – roughing, finishing and form cutters.

After cutting the compound dovetails in the plane bottoms.

At the risk of criticism from the purists I will say that with some very careful setting up I can produce a near perfect fit between the sides and the bottom without filing.

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Filed under: A13,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 11:48 am

Making of A13

Not quite all of the sequential process, but most of it – not necessarily in order

A13 drilling lever cap for pivot screw

All my drilling and tappings are done in the milling machine so that I can achieve the best positioning and concentricity.


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Lever caps as used on my No 98 and Norris styled mitre planes


No 98 lever cap part machined


When the castings come back from the foundry there is still a lot of work to be done before I can even think about polishing.  This involves flattening, and determining a datum – usually the centre line of the thumb screw.  Then everything is lightly over machined to remove some of the unwanted texture and draughting (this is a taper to aid release of the pattern during moulding).





Drilling and tapping for thumb screw (14 tpi square thread, the traditional Norris style).



Retaining recess for removable lever cap.  This lever cap remains captive for more than 2 revolutions on the thumb screw before it can be extracted.




Lever cap showing its retaining recess complete.

June 29, 2009

Window to my workshop 4

Filed under: A1 Panel Plane,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , — admin @ 1:21 am

There has been much discussion about the brass pads on my blade bed but the logic is quite simple.  The blade is supported only where it counts i.e. along the bottom edge directly on the frog and at the rear where I have inserted the brass pads.  Theoretically the three legged stool principle would be ideal.  The idea of bedding a plane blade over the entire surface would only be possible if you were using some sort of bedding compound.  But it is pointless anyway especially with a blade thickness of 3/16ths”.  There is no way I want the blade touching the bed in the centre as I might be relieving some of the pressure at the front end where it counts and I could get a see-saw effect.  This is eliminated by raising the contact points a small amount.  There is also less chance of the blade coming to rest on any debris.

This picture of my A1 14 1/2″ dovetail infill plane shows the points I have just mentioned but with the brass pads waiting to be trimmed to level.  To do this the whole plane body needs to be held so that the blade bed is truly level.  Hence the DTI to confirm this.


Once the angle of the plane body – 50 deg in this case – has been adjusted so that the plane on the frog is level and checked with the DTI,  then I only need to touch on to the frog with the cutting tool and zero and that will be my cutting line for the pads.  This gives me a true plane for my blade.  There will be no stress to the blade or plane body after clamping from the lever cap.

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