The Krenov School Mid-Winter Show 2017

The Krenov School Mid-Winter Show opens tomorrow, the 14th, for just 10 days. It’s at Town Hall, 363 No. Main Street in Fort Bragg, California. The reception will be next Friday, the 20th. This show is always a stunning display of the finest woodworking in the universe. Not to be missed.

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Bazinga Bubinga



So long, Bubinga — we were just getting to know ya’. Here it is January 2017 and you’ve been added to the CITES list (appendix II) of  “species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.”

Oh, we can still ship you to our customers within the United States — until we’ve exhausted our inventory of plane kits and carving knife handles. But no more import or export. Here at Hock Tools we’ve been employing your good looks, toughness and durability for years. You’ll be missed, and fondly remembered. Now we’ll have to find… another*.

So, Bubinga lovers of America, the party’s over. Cherish what you have and can still get domestically. Bubinga has left the building.

*Yes, Jatoba, that’s you we’re winking at:



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This Amazing Tool Auction Closes on the 16th!

The College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program was gifted an extensive hand-tool collection to sell as a fund-raiser for scholarships. The auction is here: and closes on the 16th.

There are 127 items — a full range of high-quality tools. Some even have Hock blades in them. Go get ’em!

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Hock Blade in a Lie-Nielsen Plane?

The Cut-Away View -- the blue thing is the breaker

The Cut-Away View — the blue thing is the breaker

We are often asked if our blades will fit in a Lie-Nielsen plane. The answer is… usually. Hock blades will drop in to many Lie-Nielsen bench planes but there can be a problem with the breaker fit. And, no, Hock breakers don’t fit Lie-Nielsen bench planes so the solution is a bit more complicated than that.

Breakers are part of the plane while blades are temporary visitors. A blade will move a couple inches through the plane over the course of its life while a breaker will move back and forth a mere fraction of an inch while adjusting the depth-of-cut. Therefore, the distance from the sharp end of the breaker to the small rectangular slot is critical. And the Lie-Nielsen breakers’ hole pattern does not match the Stanley’s that Hock breakers are designed to replace.

So, what’s the problem? Hock blades are 3/32″ (.094″)  thick while Lie-Nielsen’s are 1/8″ (.125″), 9/64″ (.140″), or 11/64″ (.170″). When you install a Hock blade into a Lie-Nielsen plane the thinner blade moves the breaker down lower onto the adjuster lever (the yellow thing in the cut-away photo). That lever is tapered so it’s not uncommon for the breaker to jam partway onto it, making it inoperative.

However, and this is the “a bit more complicated” part, many times there is no problem and the Hock blade will simply drop in and require no modification. A frog adjustment may be needed as the thinner blade will make for a wider mouth and you may wish to close it a bit by moving the frog forward. But, it the breaker jams down onto the adjuster lever, read on.

Okay, what to do? There is still considerable demand for O1 blades, which Lie-Nielsen no longer offers. (O1 still outsells A2 here at Hock Tools, BTW.) If you want a Hock Tools O1 blade for your Lie-Nielsen plane, and encounter the fitment problem described above, you could file the adjuster lever to allow the breaker to seat properly, or you could file the little rectangular slot just a little to achieve the same effect. I strongly recommend the latter course of action because if you ever wanted to return your plane to “stock” condition, you’d only have to replace the breaker (and maybe not even that) to do so. Your LN plane will hold its value forever and if you (or your estate) ever wanted to sell it that value will be higher if the adjuster lever is unmodified.

File the slot at an angle to open it up to receive the adjuster lever

File the slot at an angle to open it up to receive the adjuster lever

Use a file small enough to get into that little slot and file it at an angle so that it tapers up from the underside to allow it to fit over the adjuster lever. You shouldn’t have to remove much metal. File slowly and carefully and check the fit often.

Linda and I have become good friends with the Lie-Nielsen gang over the years. They often recommend us to their customers who ask for O1 blades. And I had Deneb vet this post in case he had anything to add. We all want our customers to have the best tools possible and are happy to work together to that end.

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WIA Report

Konrad Sauer and Linda Rosengarten with me at WIA 2016.

Konrad Sauer and Linda Rosengarten with me at WIA 2016.

We had a great time at Woodworking in America! I offered a brief Q&A about sharpening that a number of woodworkers actually attended (you never know…) I hope everyone who did learned something new about sharpening. Otherwise, at least during conference hours, I spent most of the time at the Hock Tools booth. Customers new and old came by to say hi, to upgrade their planes, maybe even pick up a plane- or kitchen-knife kit, and to chat a bit about current projects, and of course, tools.

And, we’re not alone – not by a long shot. WIA’s Marketplace gathers many other small, independent tool makers. Most of us have become good friends over the years, in spite of the infrequency of our contact. We share something special in this field, and I find the company of my fellow toolmakers especially satisfying. (That’s Konrad Sauer in the photo — taking the woodworking world by storm, one legendary plane at a time.)

Once again we got to spend quality time with Dave Jeske of Blue Spruce Tookworks. Dave is one of our most enjoyable, low-key tool-making friends. A fine craftsman and high quality toolmaker. Seeing, talking and sharing meals with Dave is one of the things Linda and I look forward to at WIA.

Not to mention seeing Don Williams, Lee Marshall and Brian Meek of Knew Concepts, the Veritas and Lie-Nielsen gangs, including minimalist woodworker Vic Tesolin, and – oh, I can’t remember them all, but a lot, including a few newbies such as Brendan Gaffney and his rulers of the ancient world!

Crucible Tool’s launch party was the offsite event of the season. John Hoffman, Raney Nelson and Chris Schwarz have managed to organize themselves into a tool-making company (are three cats considered a herd?) Their first offerings — cast iron holdfasts and a set of very sexy dividers — were premiered at the launch party. It was a noisy, crowded, overheated mob-scene in spite of the 100-tickets rule. Seemed like more than a hundred to me as we spilled out onto the sidewalk. There goes that neighborhood! It was truly a night to remember, what with woodworking’s masters, gurus, (glitterati?) friends and family all milling about enjoying the camaraderie.

We also got a chance met with folks from Popular Woodworking, had fun eating and drinking outdoors way into the evening, talking about woodworking tools, and who-knows what else. So, all-in-all we enjoyed a great weekend in Cincinnati (really, Covington, Kentucky).

Our thanks to Megan Fitzpatrick and all those who make it happen every year. I can only imagine a fraction of the work it takes to facilitate something as huge as WIA.

You know that Linda and I will look forward to next time.

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Breaker Breaker, Good Buddy!


Complex Plane Innards

Complex Plane Innards Revealed

I confess that I spent many years of my tool-making life doubting that chip breakers break chips. I went so far as to start calling them cap irons in a feeble effort to shake what appeared to be a grand hoax inherent in the “chip breaker” moniker. My personal relationship to planes convinced me that, for the very thin shavings that fine woodwork finish-planing demands, a sharp blade and tight mouth were the primary contributors to tear-out-free planning. Who needs to “break” a chip that is thinner than tissue paper? I was right. And I was wrong.

Turns out chip breakers do break chips. But they have to be tuned and adjusted to do the job properly. I wrote a brief synopsis a while back.

A chip breaker (aka cap iron or back iron) performs more than one task in the seemingly simple yet elegantly complex machine that is the Bailey pattern-type bench plane (aka Stanley or Record or Millers Falls or Montgomery Ward or Fulton or Preston or Craftsman or Lie Nielsen or Veritas). In bevel-down planes such as these, the cutting edge is cantilevered, unsupported, the whole length of the bevel.

This descriptive diagram courtesy Ellis Wallentine,

This descriptive diagram courtesy Ellis Wallentine,

Regardless of the thickness of the blade, as the blade “sings” through the wood, that cantileverage allows for some amount of vibration of the cutting edge. A properly made chip breaker has some amount of bend in it – like a leaf spring. While the Stanley breaker has a rather pronounced curl, Hock Tools’ breakers have a slight 1-degree bend. When screwed tightly to the blade, the spring-action of the breaker applies pressure right at the cutting edge. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the breaker to flex the blade with the spring pressure it applies. The very presence of a chip breaker pre-loads the cutting edge – flexing it down to stifle vibration – and making the whole cutting system more rigid.

This illo from is from page 101 of The Perfect Edge

This illo is from page 101 of The Perfect Edge

Another job relegated to the chip breaker is that of blade advancement functionary. While it is stiffening the cutting edge and breaking chips, the breaker is integral to, and serves a vital role in the depth-of-cut system. When you turn the adjuster wheel located in front of the tote to make a thicker or thinner shaving, the wheel moves along a threaded stud to swing a little lever fore or aft. That little lever is hinged in the frog such that it passes through the blade, engages the small rectangular slot in the breaker, and then slides the blade-breaker assembly up or down along the frog.

Breaking the chip. This highly magnified view of a plane iron (1) and cap iron assembly, excerpted from the video by Professors Kato and Kawai, shows the chip-breaking effect of a closely-set cap-iron (2) with a 50° bevel on the leading edge. Note the lack of tearout behind the cutting edge despite the downward sloping wood grain.

Breaking the chip. This highly magnified view of a plane iron (1) and cap iron assembly, excerpted from the video by Professors Kato and Kawai, shows the chip-breaking effect of a closely-set cap-iron (2) with a 50° bevel on the leading edge. Note the lack of tearout behind the cutting edge despite the downward sloping wood grain.  — from Setting a Cap Iron by David Weaver,

So, we now have the breaker rubbing its tummy and patting its head as it damps the cutting edge and moves the whole business up and down. Why not make it break some chips, too? When set very close to the cutting edge – like a few thousandths of an inch! – the shaving, sliding up the very short edge projection, encounters the abrupt and unyielding wall of the chip breaker and … breaks!

Breaker should be set closer than this.

Breaker should be set closer than this.

That’s right, the shaving is deflected from its desired path, and must bend sharply up, and then out of the plane. That acute bend, combined with the very short edge extension, weakens the wood fibers so that they cannot lever up ahead of the blade and tear out. Voila!

No gap shall be tolerated.

No gap shall be tolerated.


No gap, at all.

All that said, the breaker’s chip crushing action will work against you if the breaker isn’t meeting the back of the blade with a near air-tight fit. No gaps at all. Finish shavings are very thin – like 0.0005” – and will catch under the most seemingly insignificant gap. When a shaving catches, it creates a miniature Pres-to-log that clogs the mouth of the plane. Some planemeisters go so far as to run the point of a sharp awl along the blade-breaker joint to roll a small burr down against the blade to close any remaining gap.

So, plane performance checklist:

  1. Reasonably flat sole. You needn’t go all NASA on this point. Flatness ahead of the mouth is necessary. No bump behind the mouth can be tolerated. Mostly flat everywhere else. And coarse grit is fine. Relax.
  2. Leading edge of mouth should be sharp and square. That edge wears rounded after miles of shavings rub against it. So, once or twice in your lifetime, check it out and file it sharp and square. It’s holding down that shaving as the blade advances to also help prevent tear-out. Treat it with respect.
  3. Blade – sharp. And if you’re new to all this, sharper than you thought was sharp.
    Polish the breaker's ramp...

    Polish the breaker’s ramp…

    ... to make a smooth slide for the shaving to exit the plane

    … to make a smooth slide for the shaving to exit the plane.

  4. Chip breakers are usually unhardened steel that can be bent if necessary. If your breaker is lifting at one corner, try securing it in a vise and tapping or twisting it flat. Test it fully tightened to the blade, as oftentimes the twist or gap will flatten out when the screw is tightened. And, the breaker can be further tuned by refining the ramp surface similar to how you’d prep a blade: polish with successively finer grits to create a slippery slope for the shaving to slide up.

If all that doesn’t make your plane sing a sweet melody while ejecting lacy, see-through shavings, call me: 1-800-327-2520. Just kidding. That’s Lie-Nielsen’s phone number. But honestly, if you have a plane problem that you can’t suss out, contact me here. I’ll do my best to help.

Good luck,


There is a lot of info about planes, blades, breakers, steel, abrasives and so much more in The Perfect Edge: the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers. Order your copy now!

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How to Fix a Book


“d” is Wrong. And Where’s segment “f”?

After over six years and umpteen thousand copies sold, sharp-eyed reader Bernie Vail noticed an error in the second illustration on page 102 in my book, The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers.

Now I know there are typos; we’ve found a couple and have had some pointed out. But they’re mostly minor things like commas, and such. And while I know that an errant comma can start a war or vacate a verdict, none of ours are that serious, I assure you. (Okay, I renamed Henry Bessemer “Charles” in the first edition but we changed it for the second printing. Sue me.) But this boo-boo renders that illustration useless.

So, what to do? Well, go get your copy of The Perfect Edge and a fine-point Sharpie (I used red), turn to page 102 and do as I did here:

Entries in Red Correct the Error

Entries in Red Correct the Error

That’s right, write in the book! It’s yours, after all, and if not you’ll be doing the owner a favor. You don’t even have to use red. In English: Arc “d” should end at the dashed line that denotes the back bevel. The arc that continues to the sole should be “f”, the clearance angle. We’re missing two arrowheads and an “f”. Make sense?

I hope you’ve not spent too many sleepless nights over the last six years wondering where the “f” is. I apologize for any confusion we may have caused. It’s still a pretty darned good book* and if you don’t have a copy I’d be happy to sell you one. I’ll even sign it for you (if you buy it here.)

Thanks Bernie!

*Unsolicited praise from one of my readers:
Wow! I must say that you have done a masterful job of tying together an enormous amount of technical data. Your sense of humor comes through as well without distracting from the flow. The book is also a visual treat — clear large images leave no doubt as to what you mean to illustrate. There is plenty of hard data to keep the controversies going. I think you have given a very balanced view of the great variety of methods available. In my opinion you have the absolute top book on the topic — period. Congratulations. — B.B.

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