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Sauer and Steiner

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Updated: 22 min ago

2 spare XSNo.4’s - Ziricote & Desert Ironwood

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:04am

I have a bit of a confession to make.

I enjoy making spare planes more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong - I love making custom planes, but there is something rewarding about walking to the shelves of roughed out parts, pulling a few down, and seeing what the possibilities are. I was surprised at how much I liked the naval brass with Ziricote and decided to continue exploring. This time, another Ziricote set with some sapwood on the corner, and a Desert Ironwood set that has been sitting for a very long time. This was an orphan set in that it was all that remained from a larger piece of Desert Ironwood.

Both planes are identical in spec - 5-1/2" long, with a 1-9/16" wide, high carbon steel blade and a 52.5 degree bed angle. Naval brass sides, lever cap and screw with an 01 tool steel sole.

The flash of sapwood on the rear infill reminds me of the painted flames you would see on a hotrod - the three little white tails are my favourite part. It was tricky during shaping not to loose them in the process.

The Ziricote XSNo.4 is $1,750.00 Cdn + actual shipping costs.

For an orphan set, this one turned out wonderfully. There is an incredibly bright golden spot inside the front bun - you can see it below. That same spot also appears in the rear infill, but was hard to capture in a photograph (trust me - I tried!).

The Desert Ironwood XSNo.4 is $1,800.00 Cdn + actual shipping costs.

Feel free to send me an email if you are interested in either of these planes. konrad@sauerandsteiner.com

Categories: Hand Tools

Trio in Desert Ironwood

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:14pm

This was a really, really fun set to make. A K5, K6 and K7 - all Desert Ironwood burl. There isn’t too much I can add beyond the photos  - other than the technical specs.

The K5 is 5-1/2" long, with a 1-1/2" wide V11 blade, bedded at 52.5 degrees.

The K6 is 6-1/4" long with a 1-5/8" wide, high carbon steel blade and a 52.5 degree bed angle.

The K7 is 7" long with a 1-3/4" wide, V11 blade, and a 52.5 degree bed angle.

Ok. Maybe I can add a little bit. It is always fun to work on a set like this in one shot - all 3 planes at the same time. I try to maintain a very consistent look to all my work, but given the nature of handwork, I know there are little variations and evolutions from one plane to the next. Little things like subtle changes to chamfers, or the roundness or flatness to the top of a front pad, the level of polish on the lever cap... you get the idea.

When I can work on 3 planes at a time, I like to work on them so that one stage is repeated from one plane to the next to the next. Shaping the chamfers one after the other for example. It feels like I am really only filing one large set of chamfers - and subtle muscle memory changes transfer from one plane to the next insuring consistency. Blaring music (or the CBC) certainly helps keep the energy and focus level up, and I think it makes for an even more cohesive family of planes.
Categories: Hand Tools

The ‘we can do this’ plane

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 7:16am

Joe Steiner stopped by the other night to continue working on a plane he is making for himself. He commented on the previous blog post and the first planes we each made and how magical that experience was. This lead to talking about our early beginnings and all the challenges and excitement we both felt. It was really great to reminisce - there were a few details I had forgotten about. 

One thing I asked Joe was if he remembered the plane that stopped us in our tracks when we had finished it. He answered right away, and it was the same plane I had recalled. That plane was for our third customer and went to California. That plane, an A6, was significant on many levels. 

It was the first plane we made using old, stunning wood (and it was not Cocobolo). This plane marked the beginning of a career long obsession with finding the finest infill materials possible - working with this wood was just that inspiring.

It was a plane we were shipping to someone across the continent, and was commissioned by someone we had not met in person. It felt like a monumental project - it was a monumental project. There was immense pressure of getting it just right along with a deep sense of gratitude towards our customer and the risk he was taking with us. 

That plane has an identical twin - my own A6.  This pair of planes have several important first. These were the first adjusters we used - were made by Ray Iles in England.

They have bronze sides - as opposed to brass. The lever cap screws are also much more refined with much better knurling and overall shape.

The handle shaping had essentially been finalized and has not changed since, although the K-series of planes represents another evolution.

This plane has an 01 tool steel sole - we spent the extra money and started using a more appropriate steel than mild steel.

We continued to try different bed angles - in this case, 47.5 degrees. This is often called a ‘Norris pitch’ because Norris used this bed angle splitting the difference between the common pitch at 45 degrees and the 50 degree ‘York pitch’.

The sidewall profile also changed and the shaping of the front bun started getting better, both ergonomically and aesthetically.

We had always stamped the bed with a serial number and a maple leaf ( a stamp purchased from Lee Valley) and Joe and I started using our own unique serial numbers for our own planes. KP-12-03 stands for ‘Konrad’s Plane, No.12, made in 2003’.

One of the challenges with adding an adjuster was positioning the lever cap so there was enough clearance for the blade and lever cap to be removed from the banjo or cup. The head of the screw in the cap iron is captured in the banjo and is what allows the adjuster to move the blade and cap iron as shown below.

When Joe and I finished this customers plane, we sat on my workbench and just stared at it. Neither of us spoke for several minutes. I am not sure who spoke first, nor what exactly was said, but with this plane, we both knew we could do this - and do it well.

Categories: Hand Tools

P-01 - the first plane

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 11:11am

It was interesting to pull the first plane down from the shelf and look at it again after so many years. Part of me was aghast at how primitive it is - but I was also able to look at it and be a little proud too. For a first plane - it was not bad. Better than ‘not bad’ I suppose - this effort is what encouraged me (and Joe) into plane making, and was good enough ‘right outta the box’ that it was comparable to my first infill - an unhandled Spiers coffin shaped smoother. I can still remember installing the blade at 3am and taking that first terrifying shaving. I don’t think I slept that night out of excitement of actually making my own plane!

The sole and sides are mild steel - a horrible material for planemaking really. The metal deforms like crazy, it is very prone to rusting when compared with 01 tool steel, and does not look so great. There are only 2 benefits - it is really inexpensive, and very malleable... but for anyone interested in making a plane for themselves - please, spend the extra money and use 01 tool steel.

The blade is 2-1/4" wide and at a 45 degree bed angle. I think this is one of only a couple planes I ever made at 45 degrees. I did not make the cap iron, but I cannot recall where it came from. 

The plane is infilled with Cocobolo. At the time, that was all Joe and I could find. And we got really, really lucky with this piece of Cocobolo. I bought it from Unicorn Hardwoods in Toronto - I don’t think they are in business any longer. It was a rather large piece that was sitting on their showroom floor. It was dusty and pretty crappy looking. I picked it up not because I knew any better or how to evaluate the age of a piece of wood... it was simply the only piece we could afford.

I say lucky because it was fairly dry. Again - we did not really know any better - but it has shrunk surprisingly little in the 14 years I have had it - other early Cocobolo prototypes have not fared so well.

If you look closely at the above photo, or click on it for a larger view, you can see the shrinkage to the front bun. Not too bad considering we had no idea how important old, dry wood was!

The lever cap was cast at a small foundry in Cambridge Ontario - I am not sure if they are in business either. They did a decent job, but had a tough time being consistent with color over the years, so I eventually switched to using solid bronze stock.

The screw is the most embarrassing part of the plane - not even knurled! The threads are terrible too - a regular V-thread as opposed to the ACME thread I use now.

Overall, the plane is not overly refined, but there are several things about it that I recognize as good early decisions, and are still present in my current work.

The first one is the relationship between the screw and the lever cap. There is roughly 1/3 of visible threads below the lever cap (contacting the cap iron), and 2/3 above. This may not seem like a big deal, but in my mind it is. It just looks nicer. It looks more secure - more tidy. And is way easier to ensure positive contact across the front edge of the lever cap when they are kept close together. Along those lines is the tip of the lever cap screw. It should be rounded over so it does not dig into the cap iron and start to cam out.

The other aspect is the shape of the handle. I can remember spending hours and hours shaping this one - I had never shaped a handle before. This one still feels pretty good. There have been quite a few little changes over the years, but this first handle still feels pretty nice.

The front bun is really uninteresting, and compared to the front bun on a recent plane, this one looks really crude.

The piening went well enough that there were not any gaps between the dovetails. That was a big relief and looking back on it, I think I got fairly lucky right out of the gate.

Oh, one other issue with mild steel - it is fairly soft and scratches much quicker than 01 tool steel.

The fit of the rear infill and shell is still holding up quite well - there is a little shrinkage in the infill, but not too bad.

The fit of the overstuffed infill on the radius is pretty good too. This first one took hours and hours to get just right.

P-02-02 - the second plane. There were several changes to this one. The most obvious being the brass sides. I was very interested to see what was happening during the piening process and using 2 different metals allowed me to see exactly how things were moving around. I also liked the idea of seeing the joints and construction of the plane.

This one also has a 2-1/4" wide blade, but the bed angle is 50 degrees - a ‘York pitch’.

It also has a new cap iron with a soldiered brass nut for the screw.

The Cocobolo infill came from the same block as the first plane and has also had surprisingly little shrinkage.

This plane taught me that piening 360 brass is not fun. It chips and work hardens very quickly... and it does not patina well.

This handle is a little nicer than the first plane - the shape is a little more consistent and fluid and overall nicer in the hand. 


The lever cap screw is now knurled (not very well mind you) and the screw has ACME threads.

Both planes have nice tight mouths on them - something I still firmly believe in.

There were several other early planes that Joe and I made that did not make it out of the shop - a few more steel sided smoothers, a couple panel planes and a jointing plane. There were constant improvements at an exponential rate.

There was one early plane that really stands out for me - a plane for a customer in California. After we finished it, we just sat on my bench and stared at it - almost surprised at what we had done. With that plane, we knew we could do this. I will post photos of that planes identical twin a little later on.

Categories: Hand Tools

by Dr. Radut