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.


Window to my Workshop 15

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.


Window to my Workshop 11

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.

Window to my Workshop 10

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.

Window to my Workshop 9

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.

Window to my workshop 8

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.


June 28, 2009

Window to my workshop 3

Filed under: A1 Panel Plane,Window to my Workshop — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:59 am


The cupids bow section needs a slight camber similar to that of a carriage roof.  This needs to be done by hand.



Note that the edge forming should be blended where it contacts the rear of the front bun.


Final closing on my A1 dovetail smoothing plane.


As with all my infills the work is roughed out between 3-6 months before use.

Moulding to bun.

Completion of moulding.  I prefer to do this method on a milling machine using tools I have made myself.  The advantages of the mill are that everything is true and dead centre. All my machines are equipped with DROs.


Part of the cupids bow contour which runs into the front bun.


Picking up the side contours whilst the work holding tool is still in place.  It may seem over the top but if I can work the contours to the exact size and shape plus 5 thou then when it comes to fitting and flushing I won’t lose any of the shape and sharpness of the sides.  Its these little things that suddenly become a lot more important in the grand scale of things.

Yes, hand work!  Now my secret is out.

The final polishing even though it is only part of the bun.  As you will notice everything has to be done in an exact sequence so that you can have that sharpness which so many people miss.

Final fitting of front bun

Final fitting of the front bun so once its assembled for the last time there will be little spoiling on the final flushing and polishing.


Machining the adjuster recess in an A1 handle.  The cnc mill is just the perfect tool for this; too much hand work in this area could leave a finish as though it had been chewed out by a rat.  I am not criticising those doing this kind of work with hand tools but they would be hard pressed to match this quality.  It can take a long time in the setting up but once up and running the whole recess will take less than 5 minutes to cut out, using only two tools.

Removing handle after recessing.  Thought this picture would make things a bit clearer, with one of the clamping plates removed.  Each handle is individually centred as it is very difficult to apply any uniformity when working in wood.

Showing finishing handle after a considerable leap (I seemed to have mislaid some pictures).

Still a long way to go even with the metal work complete.

Centre finding for adjuster fixing.

Hand tapping after drilling the concealed brass dowel for adjuster fixing. 

This is boring the hole for one of the two brass pads shown (some people think that these are just recessed pads when in fact they connect with the metal spacers).  More discussion on this later.



June 25, 2009

Window to my workshop 2

A1 14 1/2″ dovetail infill smoothing plane


After grinding and drilling the sides they are then screwed to a holding jig via jig screws for profiling.


Roughing out the shape on the A1 14.5 sides.


A1 sides being chamfered.


A1 4.5 after chamfering.  The picture showing chamfering complete and removed from its holding jig.   Even with all the time saved from not having to manually file there is still the polishing.  This has to be done by hand with a great deal of care otherwise all the finish and precision can be lost.  But the dovetailing needs to be done first.


A1 after the dovetailing.  Picture showing dovetails after completion.  In this situation there are only 4 sides but I would do up to 12.


Cutting the dovetails on the bottoms.  These are usually done in pairs only as they need to be back to back to produce a compound dovetail.  Saves a hell of a lot of filing.


Bottom dovetails complete.



A1 14.5 drilling and breaking through for mouth.  Showing the bottom after the dovetailing, slotting for mouth and drilling holes for the frog riveting.


A14.5 frog riveting – a boring task; one of many of the riveting operations which I hate.  The frog is one I prepared earlier.


Rivet flushing on frog.


Milling operation to the mouth after the frog has been riveted in position. Easy isn’t it?


Second part of the mouth forming.


Mouth almost complete but will need tuning at the final stages.


Once all the work on the sides and bottom is complete one of these is very useful to have.  This is the tool I use for closing up i.e. joining bottoms to sides The inner former is precisionally machined from aluminium and also the two clamping plates are precisionally ground.


This picture is showing the plane assembled around its former with the dovetailed clamping plates applying pressure from a pair of milling vices, not just on the sides but also on the dovetails.  The dovetails would have a tendency to spread pushing the sides of the plane wider apart.  This means that I would start to lose the internal dimensions.  This process of closing up is extremely critical as things will run out of true if they are not secured well enough.  This can result in oversized and twisted plane body, There is a lot of evidence of this happening in some of the original infill planes that I have seen.  This means that you will notice that these planes usually show no uniformity in thickness to the sides and bottoms.


As you can see I use a very light hammer and a punch for the closing up, which means that I can make the metal flow in whatever direction I want.  The light hammer blows do not transmit too much stress into other areas.

June 24, 2009

Window to my workshop 1

In the beginning when I set about making my first dovetail infill plane there wasn’t a lot to go on. There certainly wasn’t a text book on plane making. The A1 14 ½” Norris smoothing plane is what first drew my attention to plane making. The first plane I made was a 15 ½” panel. Having decided I wanted to build Norris type planes I spent 3 years researching these tools and I have come to know many collectors and found them extremely helpful. I also had the opportunity to examine these planes closely and have been involved in a lot of restoration. In the time of my working with these planes I didn’t find a single plane that could match up to its reputation. Basically the quality and work standard to put it bluntly was quite appalling with the exception of one, which I saw a nice picture of, a 17 ½” A1 was just enough to inspire me to take the project up. It would seem that in the heyday of the infill plane that the people building these dovetailed infill planes were working under a considerable amount of economic pressure with poor tooling and equipment. Probably in conditions similar to a sweat shop.

My aim is not to discredit these people but to take this product and build it to the very highest standards possible. Without any financial constraints, over the years I have developed my workshop with a number of machine tools which could probably receive criticisms based on ignorance, as my aim is purely for precision and perfection which these machines play a great part in. I hate to disappoint those people who think I can set a dial and the planes fall out the other end of the machine in the style of Heath Robinson. Although the machining is very simple when it is running, the hard part is getting there. All this invisible work becomes part of the void in people’s thinking and leads to lack of understanding. Then when the machining is done the other work starts – this can mean hours of carving, filing and polishing. When it comes to flattening it is a story of its own.

Most of the following pictures will be based on a A1 14 ½” plane, I may use pictures from other planes where I need extra examples.

 Grinding No.982 bottoms

(e.g. grinding picture is of No 982 bottoms).  This picture shows the bottoms being surface ground to give me a starting point.

The material that I am using is hot rolled mild steel and comes in either bar or sheet form. It is ductile and has no stresses so this material can be worked easily without fear of movement.

The infill plane seems to be more of a sculpture than a technical innovation and which is coveted for reasons of vanity. I have tried in my designs to deal with some of the weaker points.


Brass spacer being drilled for the 7/32” mild steel rivet.

The original infill planes never used metal spacers and just riveted straight through the sides of the wood. It would seem that modern makers are also avoiding the use of spacers. I personally put a lot of store in the use of these spacers as they will be the only support for the plane sides which are already loaded with tension, should the wood infill give up some of its moisture and shrink.

I have no secrets in my methods. It just takes a lot of dedication to achieve this much work and detail.

A1 14 ½” panel

This is my long awaited A1 14 ½” panel plane.


The object in all my planes is to make it better than the ones that preceded it and the standard can only go up. This high standard can be seen from the close up photography and illustrations on this site .  I go to a great deal of effort to achieve this high standard and you won’t find its like in other infill planes.

Notice that these sleeves are shown in steel but I usually use brass.
The riveting passes through metal sleeves which gives positive support and spacing to the sides (the illustration just gives an image without the wood). Without these spacers there would only be wood which is dimensional unstable which would shrink with moisture loss which is a common situation. The antique planes usually reflect this with the rivets raised.. When the wood does shrink and the sides, which are always under tension as a result of the rivet peining, move inwards as this tension is released. So as the tops of the sides move in, the bottom also flexes and becomes convexed. Of course the opposite effect would be caused by humid conditions, with more moisture present in the wood, the wood will expand, this will push the sides out in my planes and everyone else’s as nothing can hold that force. By using these spacers at least I can deal with the shrinkage but it is essential that all wooden infill planes are not exposed to dampness or too much humidity.


Welcome to my blog.  It is my intention to use this forum to give a better insight into my workshop so you can see what makes my planes different.  It may change some opinion when it comes to the pricing of my planes.  It will allow you to see ‘inside’ my planes where the work is hidden.

I will show my work piecemeal and in no set order as I have lots of things I want to say and show, both current and past.  I do not have the time to edit into any order.  I have a large archive of photographs which I will be publishing over a period of time.  Also I will discuss techniques etc on request if time permits.

Powered by WordPress