a Special Guest Chat with
with Guest Host Chris Schwarz

Sunday, Noverber 12, 2006
9:30 pm EST

Topic: "The Challenges of Planemaking"

    Konrad Sauer, a furniture maker and graphic designer, founded Sauer & Steiner Toolworks in 2001 with partner Joe Steiner, who later left the business. Sauer & Steiner makes handmade custom infill handplanes influenced by the designs of Stewart Spiers and Thomas Norris. From his one-man shop outside Toronto, Konrad builds handplanes with the artful eye of a trained designer, the practiced skill of a furniture maker and a vast cache of some of the finest exotic woods you'll ever see. According to their lucky owners, his planes work as well as – perhaps even better than – they look. Here is the edited transcript of that chat. Enjoy!

Ellis Welcome folks to the WoodCentral chatroom and a special guest chat tonight with Guest Host Chris Schwarz, editor of Popular Woodworking magazine, and Konrad Sauer, maker of exceptional hand planes. We're privileged to have both of you on board tonight. Welcome!
Chris Schwarz Hello all. And one little request. When you ask a question it is quite helpful if yu begin it with the name of the person you are addressing or answering. Helps me follow things.
Jim_Shaver I'll start, Konrad, what is the most challenging thing for you in making a plane for another woodworker
Konrad Sauer Jim - you start with a zinger right away! figuring out what the right fit will be for them. I like to spend as much time as it takes to get to know them and figure out what type of work they are currently doing and want to do.
Ellis So you design planes for particular woodworkers usually?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, your phone bill must be big. I hear stories...
Konrad Sauer Ellis - yes - their hand size being one of the biggest customizations. Left handed right handed etc. I don't have any completed planes sitting on a shelf somewhere - everything is made to order.
Jim_Shaver Konrad, what is your favorite plane to make ?
Konrad Sauer Chris - Jill has conviced one of the phone companies that we needed a special rate
pam Jim, who else would Konrad be making planes for besides another woodworker?
Chris Schwarz Jim, You have a panel plane from Konrad, no? Anything else from S&S?
Konrad Sauer Jim - tough question - I would have to say one of the coffin smoothers
Jim_Shaver CHris, I have a panel and a coffin smoother and ...??
Charles Konrad u make ur own plane blades?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, I've always wondered, why do you thin infill coffin planes exist?
Ellis The big question in my mind is what separates your planes from others?
Chris Schwarz Jim, Don't tell me you have a jointer on order.
Konrad Sauer Charles - I don't. Ron Hock makes quite a few for me - high carbon is a favourite of mine. I have a few other makers and in some cases people will supply them - either new or vintage irons.
Chris Schwarz Ellis, From looking at a lot of Konrad's planes, I'd have to say that one thing that is obviously different is the wood.
Jim_Shaver Not Yet Chris,,,,there are a few other smaller planes that I will find more useful right now...I need to sell some more pens!!
Chris Schwarz Ellis, The wood he uses is so beautiful and stable and... perfect.
Konrad Sauer Chris - I suspect they were born out of the wooden coffin plane. Ergonomically they make a lot of sense.
Steve_Elliott Konrad, of your own user planes, which ones do you like the best?
Jim_Shaver I know that answer
Konrad Sauer Chris - I have been extremely fortunate with my wood supply. At the time - I don't think I really appreciated just how fortuante I was. Now I"get it"
Chris Schwarz Konrad, Perhaps the ergo stuff is important. But it's just curious to be that they mimic a wooden form that had a use when the plane was wood ... that is lost when the plane is metal.
Steve_Evans Konrad I have to agree with the ergonomics. I find the coffin smoother the most comfortable to use for long sessions
Chris Schwarz Steve and Konrad: Even though the plane is toteless?
pam Ben and Dave said that the hardest thing in making infills is fitting the wood insert. Do you agree?
Konrad Sauer Hi Steve - my favourites are my unhandled coffin smoother (52.5 bed) and a recently completed A5. This is a small one - 2" wide iron and york pitch. The balance is wonderful.
Chris Schwarz Konrad, Is that A5 the one that is in black and white?
Jim_Shaver I was using my Coffin smoother today, it fits my hands perfectly
Ellis What makes a good plane?
Jim_Shaver Oakland Radiers Special Edition Chris
Konrad Sauer Chris - toteless is a dream. You can push, pull and turn corners very easily.
Chris Schwarz Jim: When you hold a coffin plane, where do you put your palm? On the top of the rear bun or behind?
Jim_Shaver On the top Chris, sort of in the cup of the palm of my right hand
Steve_Evans Chris I place my palm right on the rear of the top. (if that makes sense)
Konrad Sauer Pam - fitting the wood does take time - but I have gotten pretty comfortable with it. The trick with planemaking is every new phase of building relies on the previous activity being done perfectly - or at least with so much care that you know how to compensate for something that was not quite perfect.
Chris Schwarz Konrad: Agreed on the push/pull on the coffin. But for long sessions? Not trying to be combative. I just find coffin infills great for strategic work more than "all the boards, all the surfaces"
Konrad Sauer Chris - that is the one. :)
pam I agree, at least for woodies. So how do you compensate for a misfit? Simply make another?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, I wish you would put the black and white on your site. Or let me do a blog entry about it. It's quite the looker.
Konrad Sauer Chris - I can use a coffin for several hours without any problem.
Andrew_Dix Chris- I likened it to a Steinway & Sons.
Jim_Shaver Ebony and Stainless steel, sweet
Steve_Elliott Konrad, aside from appearance, do you see any differences among the species you use for infills as to how they affect the feel or performance of a plane?
Chris Schwarz Konrad: Good to know. Do you lift on the return strok or drag backwards? I try to be a lifter. But then I drag....
Konrad Sauer Chris - I also only use infill planes as finishing planes. I have a big jointer, thicknesser and bandsaw and use those machines for creating square lumber. Every surface from there gets a handplane on it.
Ellis Ditto here, Konrad.
Konrad Sauer Chris - go ahead and use the image - my photographer is lined up for a beauty shot - I will send that too
Charles Konrad u do woodworking too?
Ellis Konrad, do you saw your dovetails by hand and use files to get them perfect?
Konrad Sauer Steve E - good question. Brazilian Rosewood is light in weight - which seems odd, but compared to Blackwood it feels like the balsa of the exotic wood world. Other than that weight though - they all feel the same. I think it has to do with the vintage of the wood though - this stuff is all at least 50 years old and really does not look anything like the same species you can buy today.
Chris Schwarz Steve: Also important is how much the wood moves in service, no?
Konrad Sauer Chris - I think I drag - but only the one front corner of the plane. Hmm... I will try tomorrow and pay attention to it.
Norman old growth blackwood
Ellis Konrad, Brazilian rosewood has an amazing resonance. I wonder if that contributes to the feel of the plane?
Chris Schwarz Steve, I have some infills (on in walnut) that shrinks in a way that really takes the bed out of true.
Ellis Chris/Konrad: Does the movement of the infill wood affect the engineering of the plane?
Konrad Sauer Charles - I used to:) That is the irony of this whole thing - I started making planes to use for woodworking... now I am so busy making planes... I don't really have time! That said - I did spend a few hours with my dad dressing a couple hundred board feet of wood today.
pam Chris, what do you do when the walnut shrinks?
Jim_Shaver I bet the shop smelled great Konrad.
Konrad Sauer Ellis - I used to cut all the DT's by hand with a hacksaw. They are now waterjet cut which takes care of the grunt work. I still spend a good deal of time squaring them up and shaping them though.
Chris Schwarz Ellis, I think it's a good question. Orienting the rings of the infill is important, no?
Steve_Elliott Chris: All my infills are vintage and mostly have Brazilian rosewood. Not all of them have flat beds when I get them, but it's hard to tell if they were well-made and the wood moved or if they had a problem from the start. The climate here in Seattle doesn't have nearly the seasonal variation in humidity as most places.
JL What is waterjet cut? Cutting with water????
Konrad Sauer Norman - yes - old growth Brazilian
Jim_Shaver Chris, what would the essential infills be for Coarse, Medium and Fine?
Konrad Sauer Ellis - I wonder that myself. Although, Dalbergias are considered tone woods so they all are like that.
Chris Schwarz Steve, Interesting. I think it's a good reason infills aren't made with red oak.
Ellis Konrad, that makes sense about the waterjets.
Chris Schwarz Jim: Coarse: woodie fore plane. Medium: Any jointer plane. Fine: infill smoother or panel. All the infill jointers I see seem to have a really fine mouth.
Ellis Konrad, I just think of the vibrational qualities of Brazilian rosewood vs some of the other heavier Dalbergias.
Jim_Shaver Thanks Chris, just checking what I need...LOL
Ellis I don't know if your theory is to dampen vibration or enhance the appreciation of it.
Konrad Sauer Ellis - It can. If the wood moves that much - it can throw everything out of whack. The bed is obviously the worst place for it to happen. If the wood was really wet - the sole will be affected too. bless this old dry wood!
Konrad Sauer Jim - the shop smells awesome:)
Ellis Konrad, dry wood is happy wood.
Norman and calm
Steve_Evans Konrad, how old is the wood that you're using
Chris Schwarz Jim, I think you have more than what you *need* (like the rest of us!)
pam My understanding is that once wood is dried below a certain percentage it won't move further. Is that what you're saying about your 50-year-old stuff?
Jim_Shaver Konrad's shop is like a wood museum of old dry wood!
Konrad Sauer Steve - my original infills were the same way. I suspect it is just wear but also the softness of the steel used - more prone to being affected by what is going on with the infill.
Jim_Shaver Chris, I am doing my best!
Chris Schwarz Pam, Do you mean kiln-dried? Taken far below EQ?
Chris Schwarz Jim, And bless you for it.
Steve_Elliott Konrad: Is the steel you use for the shell significantly different from what the old makers used?
pam Not necessarily, dried any which way, but below eq.
pam For example, my dai are dried for 5 years or more in an attic in Japan and they don't seem to move.
Konrad Sauer Ellis - not sure really - sorry. I do know that I can "feel" the wood being cut better with an infill than any other plane I have tried. Part of that is because the infill is mechanically fastented to the body of the plane and nothing moves.
Chris Schwarz Pam, I've heard that about kiln-dried. Something about how it collapes the grain. But I've never been able to actually get some confirmation. Is there a Bruce Hoadley in the house? Paging Bruce Hadley!
pam In my case, they're air dried.
Konrad Sauer Steve E- depends on the species - but all at least 50 years. The blackwood is 70.
Ellis Exotics change dimension more slowly, but they can still respond to seasonal changes.
Ellis In a plane, there is very little transpiration going on. The wood is captive on three sides and sealed on the fourth. And 50-year-dry to begin with.
pam I've seen wood do amazing things to metal in the course of drying. For example, a straight edge would cup into all sorts of shapes, taking the metal with it.
Chris Schwarz Pam, You have flicked off an old scab. Now I'm going to spend the next few days researching this question. My gut says that wood always moves (except petrified). But my gut has been wrong so many times.
Konrad Sauer Pam - exactly. At least that has been my experience. For giggles I bought a clarinet bell (Blackwood) and cut it in half and shellaced it. I put it in my shop to see what whould happen. My shop is climate controlled to be about 40-45% humidity. The blackwood pieces literally cracked in half within a week.
Ellis Also, the widths aren't enough to introduce large dimensional shifts.
pam Konrad, wow!
pam But this wasn't your old blackwood, right?
Chris Schwarz Ellis, But even a little change is important in a plane's bed, no?
Ellis Konrad, was it solid or already carved out....?
Konrad Sauer Pam - no - a newish clarinet bell - and a nice one I am afraid.
Ellis Chris, I would like to know the prevailing wisdom. Shrinkage in width wouldn't seem to be enough to mess things up. I'd be more worried about expansion.
Jim_Shaver Konrad, How do you research the planes you make, do you make them from actual planes or from images...literature...etc..
pam Yeah, Ellis, that brings up another question. How do you orient the wood, Konrad?
Norman Ellis, unless you somehow orient the wood to move vertically
Chris Schwarz Ellis, When an infill expands, it changes how the iron behaves under the lever cap (I've found). It allows you to change the iron projection witht he lever cap. A feature? A defect? If it shrinks, the iron just isn't beede don as much material.
Konrad Sauer Jim - I would say I am inspired by old infills and borrow elements that I like and thing make sense. Then I add my own sense of aesthetics into the mix. It is strange - even now, when I am working on a customers plane, I am still half pretending I am making it for myself. That thinking certainly helps when I am lapping... and NIne Inch Nails:)
Norman Chris, true, any vertical movement would probably affect the bedding of the iron
Ellis Chris, interesting. But we're talking about very small changes with exotic infills, no?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, Would you say that you are inspired a little more by Norris these days than you were in the early part of your planemaking?
pam Larry, join in any time. How do you orient your beech?
Konrad Sauer Pam- - I try for QS as much as I can - when I can see the grain:) On planes that are made from a few pieces (A6's, A5,s) I try to orient it so one will cancel the other out. In truth though - the figure of the wood is usually what leads me when I am roughing blanks out.
pam Interesting.
Jim_Shaver Yes Konrad, the Shop Tunes help...I enjoy your taste in the finer aspects of the music you choose as well.
Chris Schwarz Ellis, Yup, small changes. But if it's not flat, the iron behave differently under the high-tolerance planing. Not a big deal with hogging stuff off with a jack. But with a smoother.
Konrad Sauer Chris - Actually - Spiers and Mathieson (sp?) are it for me. I hope I don't offend anyone - but I find Norris planes very clunky. The adjuster made him famous and rightfully so - but they are my least favorite to look at.
lwilliams Wooden planes and infills are different animals. I don't have to worry about the differential between them.
Ellis Chris, so we're really talking about deforming the sole -- making it concave front to rear?
lwilliams I'm here to listen to what Konrad has to offer
Ellis Nice to have you here, Larry
pam Larry, of course, but do you orient qs grain up and down like I do for the Japanese dai?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, I just figured with your A5 and the more frequent addition of adjusters...
Konrad Sauer Hi Larry. Thanks for stopping in. I am really looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month.
Steve_Elliott Konrad: I second your opinion on liking Spiers and Mathieson over Norris. They did better dovetaililng than Norris, too.
Frank_D Konrad, what do yo uthink of Holtey's strategy of bedding the iron on 3 points to eliminate the effects of bed movement?
Chris Schwarz Ellis, I don't know about sole deformation being caused by the wood. I was thinking of the bedding of the iron.
lwilliams I'm looking forward to it, Konrad.
Konrad Sauer Steve - E - sorry - I think I missed something you asked about sole material. I use 01 tool steel - either 3/16" or 1/4" Not only is it a beautiful steel, it is very stable.
Konrad Sauer Sorry Frank. I have to admit that one caught me by surprise. It makes sense on a logic level - but it seems like more effort. And if the wood moves - the two posts move too. LV does the three points as well.
pam Which 3 points, guys?
Frank_D Thanks, didn't mean to make you criticize anyone
Konrad Sauer one point being right at the bottom of the bed, and in Karl's case, two points (brass or bronze) pins in the bed. A tripod effect.
pam Really!? Have to think about that one. Do the points extend through the wood?
Chris Schwarz Konrad, I think the posts might go all the way to the sole on the Holtey. Not entirely sure. And don't want to cut one up (not that I have one!)
Norman doesn't this defeat the whole idea of compltely bedding the iron..
Konrad Sauer Frank. Not a critisism at all - just a different way to skin a cat. I have a great deal of respect for Karl... all the other makers to be honest. One of the most striking things I noticed from the event at POP wood last feb was just how differently we each approach our craft.
Ellis Can we back up to what makes an infill plane special or different or better than a metal plane?
Chris Schwarz Or a woodie (Larry!)
Norman or a transitional :)
Konrad Sauer Ellis - sorry for dropping that one; grade nine typing ain't what it used to be!
Norman just kidding of course
Chris Schwarz Norman, I like my transitional!
Mike_B Other than the esthetics of having brass and steel joined with beautiful dovetails, is there any reason that one could not use NC maching of the metal and wood parts of the plane and end up with a largely machine -made infill plain?
Konrad Sauer without taking too much time to type it all out - here goes.....thick iron, mechanically fastened bed to the frame of the plane, lever cap design (tremendous pressure to hold the iron in one place) and no moving parts.
Ellis Konrad, thanks for that. I think a lot of folks might want to know.
Norman I use the few I have here, after re-soling and tuning also
Chris Schwarz Norman: Glad I'm not alone.
Norman I'm stubborn that way.. I made them into users
Konrad Sauer Mike - you are right - that could certainly be done. But for me - it would take a lot of the fun out of it.
Andrew_Dix Konrad - are there any other types of planes you'd like to make? mitres, bullnose, etc.
Chris Schwarz Ellis, I think mass is a part of the appeal of infills. And some might argue it helps performance.... depending on the user.
Andrew_Dix Chris - I am definately in the mass helps performance camp.
Ellis Chris. Aha. I was thinking mass and responsiveness.
Chris Schwarz Ellis (and Larry and Pam): Of course wooden stock planes seem capable of everyting an infill is at a small fraction of the weight. So... perhaps that's a red herring.
Konrad Sauer Hi Andrew. Oh boy - tones! I have half a dozen very nice bullnose castings waiting for me - drawings and mock-ups for a panel rebate, drawings for a few compass soled rebates, more small mitres (I keep making them smaller instead of bigger). The list grows faster than I can make them
Frank_D Konrad, do you harden the O1 you use for the shell?
Konrad Sauer Ellis - responsiveness is a great description of it. I can "feel" the changes in grain as I am planing.
Andrew_Dix Konrad - holy cow, Oh boy!!
pam The mass of the Japanese irons and white oak is pretty formidable, as is solid qs beech.
Konrad Sauer Frank - no I don't
Chris Schwarz Pam: How many pounds would you say a smoother like that would weigh?
Chris Schwarz Pam, I have infill smoothers that easily top 6 lbs.
pam Haven't a clue, couple or three at the outside, I'll try to find a scale and weigh one later.
Ellis Pam, with the solid steel shell, though, you can't deform the sole by wedging the iron too hard. I don't know if that is a factor.
Konrad Sauer Pam - you are right. a solid ride is what is so key. I had a chance to try a C&W a while back and was blown away by how awesome it was! I was not used to how light weight it was - but it was a quick adaptation and I was in heaven.
Ellis My Japanese smoothers never weighed more than a couple pounds at most.
pam Ellis, I have a hard time deform my and Larry's soles, too.
Ellis Pam, not that you'd ever want to.
Chris Schwarz Konrad, The wooden stock planes also allow a good deal of "feel" as do the Baileys. I think it might be a sensitization of the user to some degree.
pam Sometimes you'd wonder, Ellis. :)
Konrad Sauer Everyone - are there any questions I have missed? I am not strategically avoiding any or anyone - sorry if I have missed something
Ellis :-)
Jim_Shaver Rapid Fire Konrad...Bonus round...
pam Big stupid question: how long is the longest shaving you've taken with one of your infills and how thick was it?
Konrad Sauer Chris - good point. Our hands are amazing things.
Ellis Do you specialize in extremely fine shavings?
Chris Schwarz Ellis and Pam: Sole deformation can be inconsequential to performance depending on the way it deforms.
Mike_B I'm curious about the market for expensive (+$500.00) planes. The woodworkers that I know (excluding myself) are a rather cheap-minded bunch. Is there enough demand for hand-made planes to sustain the handfull of makers that are out there now? With all due respect to you and your art.
pam Criminy, guys, this is too interesting to leave, will just have to watch Prime Suspect 7 on dvd in a couple of years.
Frank_D Konrad, i was wondering how you managed to shape the front bun (sorry for these dumb technical questions...)
Norman wooden planes are a little sensitive to humidity swings, unlike metal bodied planes.
Konrad Sauer Pam - believe it or not, it was about 16' out of eastern white cedar and my dial calipers could not go down far enough. It was when I was working on my deck this summer and my oldest son Riley and I were chamfering all the deck boards.
pam Chris, I trust your judgement.
pam Konrad, cool.
pam Oops, should have asked how wide, too?
Chris Schwarz Pam: Don't. I never feel like I really grasp the whole thing. No matter how hard I go at it.
pam Chris, yeah, but I don't think you'll ever lie about these things.
Konrad Sauer Frank - not a dumb question - I had to figure it out myself one day. I do it by hand with rasps or files. Files for Blackwood - and Aurious for the rest. Blackwood will routinely knock the teeth right off a rasp - it is that tough. Jim has tried it.
Konrad Sauer Mike B - the market is much bigger than I thought it would be to be honest. I feel very fortunate to be able to do this for a living.
Chris Schwarz Pam: Thank you. That is hands-down the nicest thing anyone can say to a person in my profession.
arw01 as to "cheap", I've cost myself a couple of times trying to make something that I could have bought for less than the doctor bills!
Jim_Shaver Yes I did, problem for me is that Konrad lives 40 minutes away, so seeing work in progress in his shop is almost too much to resist!
wdbob Konrad, could you mention how you are modelling and cutting the side profile. The exact profile of Spiers, Mathieson, Preston, Norris sides varies a lot.
pam Chris, you're welcome.
Konrad Sauer Pam - I try to take a photo of it - we rolled it up and mounted it under the deck
Andrew_Dix Jim, man I hate you :-). so jealous
Jim_Shaver so true Andrew
pam Konrad, that's OK. I do the same thing with my best efforts, have these little plastic film cans of shavings. :)
Konrad Sauer Mike B. It appears to be. There are several of us that are making a serious go of it now.
arw01 Jim, I made it to Knight's shop a couple of years ago. He's not making any kind of a killing out there in Portland, and doesn't have any windows. Outgrew his garage a bit I suspect.
Chris Schwarz Mike B: I know this sounds like a rationalization, but when I think of the $1,000 I've spent on routers that have burned up (nice ones), then an expensive plane that is forever doesn't seem so expensive.
Chris Schwarz At least, that is what I tell myself. And my kids. And wife. Friends....
Jim_Shaver Konrad, what percentage of your time now is actually in plane making, I know you are travelling more now
pam You buy $1000 routers?!
arw01 Konrad -> what type of marketing do you guys use? Is it pretty much word of mouth?
Chris Schwarz Pam: Noooooo! Four DeWalt 621s. One Milwaukee BodyGrip.
Konrad Sauer HI Wdbob. previous to my planemaking adventures I was an art director at an advertising agency... try not to hold it against me. :) I have a lot of experience on the computers and using design software. Typically I will clip a photo and rescale and redraw it and print it out, cut it out, draw some new lines and go back and forth this way until it feels right. then I make a full sized mock-up and see it if works that way too.
pam Whew, Chris.
arw01 $1000.. not even a 5th of a shopbot yet!
Ellis Konrad, what's the best way to adjust the depth of cut with one of your planes, since they aren't made to be struck with a hammer?
Chris Schwarz Pam: Those are for five woodworkers, by the way. I don't need five router. Well, not tailed routers.
Ellis Konrad, Ron Layport, the turner, was also in graphic arts and an ad agency. I think this is a very salient point.
pam :)
Konrad Sauer Jim - time in the shop building planes is about 28 hrs a week on average. Does not sound like much - but as you know there is a lot more to this than just making planes.
Ellis So much of the appeal of the finest planes comes from the wonderful design.
Mike_B Chris that point is well-made. I just don't encounter many fellow woodworkers who are willing to spend freely. The internet helps craftmen like Konrad reach those who are interested.
Norman Konrad it also demonstrates you are a creative individual
Chris Schwarz Mike: *Definitely* thank the new technology for spreading the glory of the old technology here.
Ellis Let's hear it for the internet. :-)
Konrad Sauer arw01 - I have not done any traditional advertising in years. Word of mouth has been great for me. I have been doing quite a bit of speaking lately - which I am sure helps as well.
pam Ellis, be sure and tell your phone company to keep it the way it is.
Ellis You can only work so fast, eh?
Andrew_Dix Ellis - without it we wouldn't be having this chat, or know each other existed
Chris Schwarz arw01 (Dave): Konrad, Larry and I will all be in Boston Dec. 1, which will be very good word of mouth.
Ellis Andrew, righteo.
Konrad Sauer Ellis - is it ok to admit I do strike them from time to time? Are you asking about unhandled coffins?
Chris Schwarz And not your kids!
Norman the Internet has definitely opened up new business opportunities in woodworking and tool making
Jim_Shaver Ellis, did you not use my coffin at Indyfest?
pam So when are all you guys coming to Austin?
Ellis Yes, Konrad. I am so used to striking wooden planes to retract the iron a smidge. I couldn't imagine having to loosen the cap and try to adjust it by hand. Maybe I'd get used to it....
Konrad Sauer Yes - there is no way my business would have grown the way it has without the Internet - no way at all
Andrew_Dix and Richmond, or at least Washinton DC
Ellis Yes, Jim. That's what prompted my question....
pam Or Colonial Williamsburg?
Chris Schwarz Konrad: Have you ever built a plane with a snecked iron? I like snecking to reduce the cut.
Andrew_Dix Pam - I could go for that also. anything that is within reasonable driving distance
Konrad Sauer Pam - I will be in CA in January - how far from there?
pam Chris, I've always wondered if that works as well as it appears it would.
Chris Schwarz Pam: Anytime there's something at Williamsburg I want to see, FWW is sponsoring it. My boss won't approve that trip!
pam Depends on where, but at least 1000 miles too far. :)
Konrad Sauer Ellis. It is really really easy. Jim was over one day a while back and he was a pro in no time. No offense intended Jim
Chris Schwarz Pam: The snecking works *great* with a cross-peen hammer. And when the snecking isn't a groove in the side.
pam Chris, let me talk to your boss. See, this is blatent partisanship. Didn't we vote that out this past week?
Konrad Sauer Chris - yup snecks are good. And - a coffin without a chipbreaker is on the way:)
pam Thanks,Chris.
Chris Schwarz Pam: I really want to go to the one on 17th century woodworking with Mr. Alexander (my hero!). I'll just have to buck up and pay the fare myself. And get a beard for a disguise!
pam Really, Konrad, a single bladed coffin, should be cool.
Andrew_Dix Konrad - how do you feel about Chipbreakers?
Ellis Konrad, tell us what snecking is all about.
pam John is my hero, too, Chris. Try and make it the first week this year.
Andrew_Dix Chris - you are welcome at my house, just show up!
Chris Schwarz Pam and Andrew: Thanks. The event is on the calendar.
pam Chris, you can stay in our van. :)
Chris Schwarz Pam: A van in January. Vanuary!
Konrad Sauer Pam - yes. One of the things that scares the pants off me is the idea that I ever feel like I "arrive". As soon as that happens I would not have heard Chris commenting on his thought of a coffin without a cap iron. I also would not have tried to make a smaller A5 if I thought the slightly larger one was not worth tinkering with.
pam It's supposed to be cold for sleeping.
Jim_Shaver Januweary
Chris Schwarz Jim, Pam: Ha!
pam Of course here it's usually a lot warmer than in VA.
Konrad Sauer Andrew - Chipbreakers are a must if there is an adjuster in the plane... but on other planes I am not sure... that is why I will make one without and try it out.
pam Sounds like a good experiment, Konrad. I have used single bladed wooden coffins, work fine.
Andrew_Dix Konrad - interesting. I know Wayne Anderson makes a smoother without a chipbreaker, and I believe Chris really likes it, no?
Konrad Sauer I suspect the shape of the lever cap will perform a very similar function - I am sure I will play around with its placement though.
pam I use all my Japanese planes without subblades.
Konrad Sauer Andrew- yes - and it was that conversation that made me go "Hmmmmm."
Chris Schwarz Andrew: My breakerless smoother is very very nice. As is my breakerless C&W.
Ellis I think chip breakers are overrated.
Andrew_Dix Ellis - how so?
pam Well, got to toddle along. Thanks, Konrad, very informative and fun.
Chris Schwarz All: On breakers, when we're done, would you check out this site?
Konrad Sauer Thanks Pam
Ellis I doubt that they function to break the chips.
Chris Schwarz It is one of the most interesting things I've read about breakers.
Konrad Sauer or bend a 3/16" iron
Chris Schwarz Ellis and Konrad: They can break chips, but not like we usually think they do.
Ellis Say more, Chris...
Chris Schwarz Ellis: It's a Japanese study I've been turning over in my head for a long time. And there is some interesting stuff on breaker placement and angles.
Konrad Sauer yeah - that one can't hang
Chris Schwarz If you can get the breaker right on the edge, right on. It breaks chips.
Chris Schwarz And when you have the angle of the breaker high (weirdly high!) that helps.
Ellis Sure, but who does these things?
Chris Schwarz I actually got into this issue when dealing with scrapers. And when you read it with that in mind, I think you'll see why.
Konrad Sauer Hmmm. interesting. I remember playing with the angle and clearance early on - maybe I should revisit it - thanks for the link.
Chris Schwarz Ellis: I guess my point is that the study is a red herring for planes. But not for card scrapers.
Chris Schwarz It actually points out some of the mechanics of scraping that were hazy to me.
Chris Schwarz I think a high bed angle is probably more important than a breaker in a plane -- at least in controlling tear-out
Steve_Elliott Ellis: I actually do set the chipbreaker VERY close, at least for experimenting. I've found that it does in fact reduce tearout.
Andrew_Dix Steve - what type of plane?
Chris Schwarz Steve: How close? .007?
Konrad Sauer Chris - bed angle is something I am constantly amazed by. I have not made a single plane for anyone that is less than 47-1/2degree. I am not convinced that a plane is that much harder to push when the angle is higher. Of course the fact that the mouth opening is so small as are the shavingscertainly helps.
Ellis I don't doubt that, Steve, but I think you have to be very close to the edge, no?
Steve_Elliott Andrew: an old infill plane, bedded at 45 degrees with a 2.5 deg back bevel on the blade.
Chris Schwarz Ellis and Steve: This study had breakers as close as .004"
Ellis Whoo. That ain't me.
Chris Schwarz Me neither!
Frank_D Konrad, Has anyone ever bought an infill from you to plane softwoods?
Ellis It would have to be a trophy piece of bees-wing satinwood or something to make me get that fussy with plane adjustment.
Steve_Elliott Chris: The chipbreaker was set at about .005" from the cutting edge. I have a page on my website with details about the experiment and a microscope picture of the chipbreaker setting. I can get the link to you after the chat.
Chris Schwarz Steve: Do! I haven't seen that page on your (very nice) site.
Konrad Sauer Frank. Not specifically. someone in upstate NY asked for that a few years ago and I asked if he had any LN planes. He said he didn't and I told him to pick up a No.4 and get a high angle frog. He called me back about 6 months later to thank me.
Chris Schwarz Ellis: I'd be in scraper territory with what you describe.
Ellis Right. Or sandpaper. (Heresy.)
Konrad Sauer Steve - I have been to your site so many times, I know my way to the link without looking now!
Chris Schwarz Ellis: We say "abrasive rush."
Ellis I'll have to stop by, too, Steve.
Frank_D Hehe, I was thinking of the Japanese who take soft woods seriously, Not many people do around here I guess. Some soft woods even some softer hardwoods prefer low planing angles
Ellis Chris, or "getting the job done." It comes down to results.
Chris Schwarz Frank: Soft softwoods can be as a PITA as hard hardwoods. No?
Konrad Sauer Frank - I thought so too - until I was able to take an amazing shaving on some eastern white cedar with a york pitch smoother.
Steve_Elliott Just a note on my website: The permanent link is at The older link will disappear if I ever change ISPs.
Ellis Sure, Frank. That's why most Japanese irons are set for softwood cutting.
Frank_D Chris Yes but I'm not sure the solutions are always the same as they are from hardwoods, at least not IME.
Frank_D for hardwoods
Chris Schwarz Ellis: Getting the job done enjoyably.... Process!
Ellis But not process for its own sake.
Chris Schwarz Frank: No. But difficult softwoods are more likely to drive me to my ROS than any wacky hardwood.
Ellis I would think that softwoods would be the ultimate test for edge tools.
Andrew_Dix Chris - is that because you can scrape the hardwoods if need be?
Konrad Sauer Chris - agreed - spaulted mullberry is a weird one to plane
Chris Schwarz Andrew: Yup. Scrapers seem to be tricky on some softwoods.
Ellis Konrad, luckily that isn't something that most of us have to deal with on a regular basis. :-)
Andrew_Dix Chris - Agreed, I just cut straight to the "abrasive rush"
Chris Schwarz Ellis: We need to have a beer over this one (or more Thai food). It's a very twisty and interesting alley!
Ellis Yes it is.
Steve_Elliott Chris: Here's the link to the chipbreaker test at .004":
Chris Schwarz Steve: Got it. Bookmarking now.
Frank_D Conrad, how close are the joints on your dovetails before peining, and do you use a punch to pein, or a hammer?
Frank_D Konrad...
Chris Schwarz Konan the Planemaker.
Frank_D LOL
Konrad Sauer Frank. the joints are close enough that I have to tap them into place. I have never really measured them. I use a ball pien hammer and occasionally a punch but not for the dovetails.
Konrad Sauer Chris - you just took me back to grade school :-)
Chris Schwarz Yes Ellis, come to the dark side.
Konrad Sauer to everyone - this was great but I feel like I was not able to give as much detail to some of the questions as I would have liked. If anyone wants longer details - send me a note and I can answer in full
Chris Schwarz Konrad: You did great!
Frank_D Thanks Konrad
Ellis Konrad, I would like to have you back to get into some finer points.
Frank_D You were very generous
Ellis Yes you did wonderfully.
Konrad Sauer Thanks Chris and everyone
Andrew_Dix Thanks Konrad, I enjoyed the chat. :)
Frank_D See ya Steve
Konrad Sauer Ellis - anytime - this is great
Ellis I hope that carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't affect your plane making.
Jim_Shaver Thanks Konrad!
Chris Schwarz Konrad: Go kiss the kids. See you in Boston. Beer is on me.
Frank_D Night all
Charles see ya Konrad
Konrad Sauer Your most welcome Andrew
Joanne Thanks everybody. I learned a lot about planes tonight!
Charles nite frank
Andrew_Dix Thanks everybody. Night
Norman Thx Konrad, Ellis, everyone... very informative and good chat..
rustym Thanks everyone. I have to be up in 4 1/2 hrs.
Ellis Cheers to all. See you next week.
Konrad Sauer You're welcome, Jim.