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.
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.
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.