In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

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When I was assisting a woodworking class this April, a student asked why anyone would buy an infill plane. They are more expensive than a premium plane from Veritas or Lie-Nielsen, and perform at the same very high level.

“Well,” I answered. “I build stuff by hand. When people occasionally buy my stuff it’s expensive. So I believe in supporting people who build tools in the same way I build furniture.”

Another student at the back of room put it better than I did: “You have to practice what you preach,” he called out.

This week I’ve been working with two planes made by Matt Hodgson, a Utah luthier-turned-planemaker who runs the Gabardi and Son tool company. (For a short story I wrote earlier about Matt, read this entry: Matt Hodgson: From Luthier to Planemaker.)

After borrowing his Norris A5 for a few months, I sent it back to him and started saving my money to buy one of Hodgson’s planes for myself. I settled on an unhandled coffin smoother with a thick O1 Hock iron. The plane arrived while I was on my way to New Hampshire last week, and when I returned I immediately opened the boxes Hodgson had sent.

Boxes? Two? Hodgson had sent along two additional planes of his for me to try: a handled smoother and a small-straight sided smoothing plane, which he says is an adaptation of a Spiers No. 6.

I immediately set up the plane I had purchased and have put it to work — in fact, I have hardly put it down as I’ve been finishing up this workbench and a few other projects. Then I set up the Spiers No. 6. Both of these planes are fantastic, both to work with and to look at.

The mouths of the two planes I’ve set up are super-tight, the workmanship is A+ and the wood is just gorgeous. I’ll be writing more about these planes in the coming weeks and writing about them in great detail in the Fine Tool Journal. In the meantime, I’m off to buy my wife some flowers. And maybe some jewelry for good measure as well.

– Christopher Schwarz

Other Handplane Resources You’ll Enjoy

Gabardi & Son website

– If you think I have a problem, read about my visit to John Sindelar’s tool museum.

– My book “Handplane Essentials” is also a bad influence on many woodworkers.

– And for the biggest rock of crack I know, check out Sandor Nagyszalanczy ‘s “The Art of Fine Tools.”

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Damien

    "You have to practice what you preach," When looking at planes the same idea occurred to me recently, but on a different line. Should I forget about iron and ironclad planes and go for wooden planes, or am I just scared by wood?


  • Mark

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment about appreciating fine hand-made tools. I recently had an opportunity to try out a few of Ron Brese’s planes and even though there were Lie-Nielsen planes on the other side of the room that cut every bit as well and were certainly beautiful in their own right, there was something thrilling to the eye and hand to actually use something so artfully created by hand. Anyone can sense the difference between an assembly line product and something wrought by hand. Chris, you’re going to need to make a really cool chest for your tools for someone to find tucked away in a corner some day after you’re back’s too bent to work at a bench and your eyesight is shot. May that day be a long way off.


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