Make a Krenov-style Wooden Plane

Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov
Hand Plane in Bocote, by James Krenov

It was James Krenov’s love of planes, much like the one in the photo above, that pulled me into the wonderful world of woodworking tools back in 1982. He waxed poetic in his books about the joys of using a wooden hand plane and Krenov’s fine woodworking program here in Fort Bragg starts each class with a thorough unit on plane-making. So to honor that tradition and share that joy I take every opportunity to encourage woodworkers to try their hand at making a wooden plane.

Making a Krenov-style plane may seem demanding, and it does require some precision work, but it’s not rocket science and there are many sources of help available. The help gamut runs from the simplest — Hock Tool’s plane plans or David Welter’s step-by-step instructions — to personal, hands-on instruction at one of the many plane-making classes which are popping up all over the world.

For an assist that’s more than plans but less than in-person instruction David Finck’s book or Scott Meek’s video will walk you through the process.

And I’ve recently found one more excellent online how-to. Many thanks to Mitch Roberson for his four-part step-by-step plane build that he posted on Craftsy*. Roberson’s instructions are clearly written, easy to follow and well photo-documented throughout.

Hock Tools' Plane Kit #KF150
Hock Tools’ Plane Kit #KF150

For the greatest possible boost up the plane-making learning curve consider one of Hock Tools’ kits for a Krenov-style plane. We’ve precision cut all the parts from bubinga so that you need only glue it, tune it and shape it to suit. A simple, reliable and very satisfying build.

Regardless of the plane-making path you choose here’s some advice before getting started: While it may be considered apostasy to Krenov devotees, I learned while designing our kits that the traditional pivoting cross-pin is an unnecessary fiddling. A simple 1/2″ dowel works perfectly well and saves a lot of time and fuss. Also, some still advocate using a dense hardwood like maple or walnut for the body and adding a more wear-resistant sole plate. If you can find the right sized piece of bubinga, jarrah, or other hard, wear-resistant wood, just use it for the whole plane and skip the sole-plate addition.

Give it a try! There’s no other tool quite like a plane you’ve made yourself. It will fit your hands and style of work perfectly, comfortably. And if you’re not happy with the results, well, it’s barely a board-foot of wood. Feed the fire and start over. Your next one’s a cinch.

*Craftsy is a huge resource of how-to craft projects. Navigate to HERE to find woodworking blog entries from a large variety of craftspeople. Great stuff.

That’s a Lot of Pianos!

The Fibonacci, By Steinway and Pollaro

Steinway and Sons recently unveiled their 600,000th piano, designed by Frank Pollaro:

Named “The Fibonacci,” the piano’s veneer features the iconic Fibonacci spiral made entirely from six individual logs of Macassar Ebony, creating a fluid design that represents the geometric harmony found in nature. The lines of The Fibonacci spiral on the top of the piano’s lid are projected down to its unique curved base. Synthetic ivory inlay adds a breathtaking effect to the design, which also features unique patinated bronze details. In the end, over 6,000 hours of work over a four-year period were devoted to the creation of The Fibonacci, from design to finish. The superior craftsmanship of the piano’s exterior is matched only by the unparalleled craftsmanship that is at the very core of all Steinway & Sons pianos.

It’s been five years since I posted this entry about the documentary film, Note by Note, that follows the building of Steinway #L1037 “from forest to concert hall”. It’s a great film, highly recommended. Needless to say I was quite impressed by the amount of hand woodworking that goes into the world’s finest pianos. This 600,000th Steinway, by Frank Pollaro, is truly stunning. We have just the place for it in the living room.

With the recent public exhibition of piano and organ builder H. O. Studley’s tool cabinet, and the publication of Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley by Lost Art Press, a nod to Steinway’s historic achievement seems apropos.

A Quick Path to a Fresh Edge

Rob Hanson’s Magstrop Four

My friend and fellow t00l-maker Rob Hanson of Evenfall Studios has developed what may be the ultimate Scary Sharp workstation: the Magstrop Four. He’s designed a 15″ x 15″ bench hook with four abrasive platens that are held down by magnets and kept from sliding around with dowels. The changing of grits or from paper to leather, etc.,  is quick and easy. And there’s no water or oil to mess up your bench.

Rob’s sales pitch for this system (and the simple one-platen Magstrop One) is that, by using abrasive films or paper, you eliminate many of the obstacles that we all encounter when an edge is dull. Many of our sharpening systems are cumbersome or messy. Many of us don’t have room for a dedicated sharpening station. We need a system that’s clean,  simple to store and that sets up ready-to-use easily for a quick honing touch up.

“There are two major ways you can approach sharpening.

Old School, where you run the edges into severe dullness and do a major reworking of them to restore them. (a common practice because people dislike sharpening, and it takes a while.)

New School, which is to sharpen rather continually as you work with fine abrasives so the edges rarely fail and keep cutting nicely.

It might surprise you, that even though the new school method is performed more frequently, it takes less time and effort. It can be done dry and quickly, getting you back to work and in the flow of things.” — Rob Hanson, Evenfall Studios