Thank You Karl Holtey - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Thank You Karl Holtey

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

Holtey No 983 6 reduced sizeAn interesting e-mail dropped into my inbox yesterday. Across the top of the message was simple written “Karl Holtey.” Knowing that name, I eagerly opened the message. And if you’re mouth juices are beginning to build, you too know that name.

Along with three photos came a short press release about a new addition to the Holtey stable of planes, a limited-edition stainless steel No. 983 block plane.

Of course, Holtey’s planes are also art, which reflects the depth of research and development involved, and the unrivaled standards of design and engineering for which Holtey is famous. “The qualities I was looking for were: simplicity, elegance and above all ease of use. The No. 983 is unusually high at 2-1/2″ overall, with a palm rest that sits very comfortably in the hand, giving a positive drive from the palm without having to pinch the sides too hard. When combined with the feedback provided by the low front finger rest, the result is better control with less fatigue.”

Holtey No 983 3 - reduced sizeThe release goes on to say that, “Block planes are small and versatile so users hold them in many different ways – the No. 983 has a chamfered blade and sides for comfort however it is held. The profile of the sides and the rear cutaway of the lever cap combine to allow easy access to the clamping wheel and adjuster. The curves of the side panels flow nicely to give an elegant retro look.

“Block planes pose particular challenges in blade clamping and adjustment and in the No. 983 these have been the subject of intensive development.  Solutions include a hi-tech friction reducing coating on the adjuster thread, fully machined wheels for much better grip, and a lever cap recess which engages with the bridge to provide stable clamping and a rock solid palm rest.”

The price of the No. 983 is £5,160 price (including a spare blade) – that’s $8,587 USD. Before you balk, remember that the Mona Lisa is considered priceless, and she doesn’t shave anywhere near as close as Holtey plane. We had a number of Hotley planes in the Popular Woodworking shop a few years ago, and while yes, the tools are expensive, they are in all ways top of the line – just gorgeous work on every  level. His web site is

Holtey No 983 2 - reduced size— Glen D. Huey

• Read more about the Holtey planes we were lucky enough to get our hands on years ago, as well as other high-end infills. in this article from Christopher Schwarz: “Test-driving Exotic Infill Handplanes.”

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Showing 8 comments
  • JMAW Works

    I don’t get why the Seymour card table sold for >$500k when I can get a functional card table at Target for <$50. Both hold up my beverage equally (the Target one won't get those annoying rings either) so only fools would be conned into paying more for the Seymour.

    While I don’t plan on buying a no. 983, I’m glad that Mr. Holtey can make a living creating precision functional art. (I’d wager that the owner of the company that makes the $40 block plane is making more money than the owner of the company making $8K block planes, so you be the judge as to who is living in ludicrous luxury) I’m glad that in the past there were wealthy sponsors of art masters, so artists could create the best and not just what the common man could afford.

    • karl5005

      Pricing is very difficult. If I priced accurately ………

      When I show my workshop pictures I am hoping that people can see the lengths I go to in order to achieve the desired results. A lot of work goes into tools that are never sold i.e. tools to make tools.


  • 7-Thumbs

    Who in their right mind pays $8,587 for a block plant? How would someone trying to make a living building and selling furniture justify the pay back time; if it could ever pay for itself. Hotley’s planes while beautiful and I’m sure highly functional are simply a ludicrous luxury for the person with no self-esteem that has to buy it by possessing toys like these. I’m sorry but I can’t see paying such prices as anything but self-indulgent insanity.

    • Napie

      So what is the difference between this and a Maloof rocker? They were $50K and a three year wait. Great craftsmanship is worth what someone will pay for it. Just because you do not value it does not make it wrong.

    • madeiranlotuseater

      I own and use five of Karl´s planes. Yes, they are an indulgence but they are not toys. Why did I buy them? Several reasons. First and foremost when there is someone in this world who is driven to produce definitive products, drawing on their own desire to improve their skills and sets their goals ever higher, then someone needs to buy the end products. The plane making world without a Karl would be bereft. Secondly, they are amazing to work with. Bruce Luckhurst, one of the greatest teachers in the cabinet making world, taught me that a tool is supposed to work for you. Not the other way around. Fettling massed produced planes is educational but I do prefer to take something straight from the box (with Karl, of course, it is the famous green baize bag) and get on. And thirdly, Mr 7-Thumbs, I am really happy in my self-indulgent insanity!

      The Americans love to talk of “heirloom” tools. Maybe one day I will have grandchildren and they will show a strong interest in making furniture by hand and not in the chamber of some 3d printing, CNC tech bubble.

  • pmac

    Definitely falls into the category of “Tools for the Gentleman Woodworker”.

  • Eric R

    His work is absolutely instantly identifiable.
    Out of my price category (by far..haha) but when they lotto ticket comes in, I will be waiting outside his door…
    Thanks Glen.

    • karl5005

      I will be waiting. The dogs might bark but they don’t bite.

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