Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Company Selling Kits to Build Infill Handplanes

Legacy Planeworks officially opened its doors on Tuesday and began selling kits that allow a home woodworker with no metalworking experience to build an English-style shoulder plane with naval brass sides, a steel sole and an exotic wood infill.

The company currently offers two sizes of shoulder planes , 1″ wide and 3/4″ wide , with prices starting at $425. And two more infill kits are on the drawing board: a chariot plane and a Norris-style A6 smoothing plane with a mechanical blade adjuster, says Marty Sivar, one of the owners of the company.

The kits have been in development for many months, Sivar says, and the parts are so finely machined that you can literally snap the metal dovetails in place when you take the parts out of the box.

“We wanted to offer a refined kit,” Sivar said today in a phone interview, “not something you had to spend hours prepping the parts for assembly and cleaning them up.”

The kits come with all the metal components you need (even the drill bits for boring the wood components). The home planemaker will need a ball pien hammer, a steel plate (or anvil) and a handful of files to complete the project, Sivar says. Legacy Planeworks also sells all the files required for planemaking on its web site: legacyplanes.com.

Some woodworkers might remember the kits that were sold by Shepherd Tool, a Canadian company run by two partners outside Toronto. After Shepherd’s early success with its first Spiers-style smoothing plane kits, the company ran into some rocky times and shuttered its doors in early 2006 with a crowd of angry customers who were upset about a variety of problems, from not being able to get technical questions answered, kits that were missing parts, and credit cards that were charged with merchandise never shipped.

Sivar was one of those angry customers of Shepherd, and he said he and his partner, Ernie Barber, have set out to make sure that Legacy Planeworks is everything that Shepherd Tool was not.

Sivar says that the company’s web site will not sell you a kit unless there are more than two in stock, and that every order will be shipped within two or three days of it being placed. Plus, Sivar says that Legacy now has plenty of kits on hand to sell right away (one of them is heading for our office for a full review, by the way).

The kit components for a Legacy shoulder plane (both photos courtesy of Legacy Planeworks).

Every kit has a money-back guarantee and includes a 52-page instruction manual that includes many step photos that will walk the planemaker through the process. The manual, Sivar says, has taken a long time to develop and has been through many revisions to make the instructions as complete and foolproof as possible.

“I think our customers will be very satisfied from the minute they open the box,” Sivar says.

Sivar has experience both as a woodworker and a metalworker. He started his career as a machinist and then went into the military. After a short stint as a corporate pilot, Sivar completed some marketing and management training and went to work for a petro-chemical company, where he is now an area manager and nearing retirement. Barber works in law enforcement and is an accomplished woodworker and carver who specializes in 18th-century furniture.

Sivar says all the plane components are going to be professionally made by other metalworking companies to Legacy’s specifications; that will leave Sivar and Barber to focus on working with current customers and developing future products.

Personally, I’m quite pleased to see someone getting back into this business. I built several of the Shepherd kits, including a couple smoothing planes, a chariot plane, a shoulder plane and a panel plane. Despite the glitches (my kits were missing critical parts, too) the overall experience was fun and you learn a lot about plane mechanics by building one of the tools.

I think it’s especially encouraging that Legacy has started out offering just the shoulder plane kit. Of all the kits I built, that one was the easiest to complete and will likely give would-be planemakers a good taste of the process.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post photos of the new kit and my progress building it.

– Christopher Schwarz