The Wood Shepherd on  Planes  

 Norris A5 Infill Smoother

Infill Planes

   As you can tell by now, planes are an incredibly multi-faceted subject, which is why they so easily attract Galoots (like crows to shiny objects!)  When wood meets metal in careful manners, some truly beautiful things happen.  In the late 1800's British gentlemen with names like Spiers and Norris began making the Rolls-Royce of hand planes, the infill plane.  With the outer shell of the body made out of metal, the infill is so named because fitted into the metal casing is usually some sort of exotic wood such as ebony or rosewood.

The masters machined their metals to close tolerances, and infills are sometimes machined out of a single billet, sometimes the sides are dovetailed to the base, and sometimes the sides are riveted.  The luxurious exotic woods were hand-fitted into the base, and the entire plane was carefully polished to a high luster.  And the term "luster" would describe any Galoot longing for one of these! 

Norris No.-7 Infill Shoulder PlaneInfills gained the reputation on the Old Tools email list as being the playground of well-off yuppies, and carried a moniker that adequately and bitterly described how we that are have-nots felt about that.  Enough said; just say that infill planes will change the way you look at any plane once you try one.

Recently there have been a number of "cottage industry" infill plane makers emerging around the world, and they all seem to be producing planes that at least equal the originals for quality, fit, finish, and use-ability. I've had the opportunity to visit with a number of them, and every one was clearly doing what they loved to do, and making a product they loved to make and use. 

   The above information is only intended as a plane primer; listen to episodes 11 & 12 of my podcast for more information, or feel free to email me at mack (at) thewoodshepherd (dot) com.

Important Links:

  Tool Information and Lore:
    Patrick Leach's Stanley Blood & Gore
    Jay Sutherland's Stanley type study
    Stan Faullin's Stanley Bedrock type study
    Lars Larson's Metal Router Plane type study
    Peter McBride's Aussie tool page, featuring lots of infill planes
    Randy Roeder's Excellent Miller's Falls history
    Tony Seo's tool page, including cool information on wooden planes
    Frank Scronce's router planes 101
    Handplane Central - You HAVE to visit this site


You may have noticed by now that I have not included any antique hand tool vendors.  I have omitted this intentionally, because a number of them are friends of mine that I don't want to upset by showcasing their competition, and because I don't have any sponsors as of right now.  There are a number of really great and trustworthy vintage tool dealers out there, and great people all, and there are a couple that are, of course, crooks.  If you are unsure, email me and I'll tell you how I feel and what I know.  (That shouldn't take long!)

  New (Quality) Hand Plane Manufacturers:   
    Anderson Planes - Inspired dovetail infills
    Blum Planes - An innovative range of hand planes with a twist
    Bridge City Tool Works - John Economaki thinks outside the box
    Jim Brese - Infill planes extrodinaire
    Clark & Williams - Excellent new wooden molding planes
    Gerd Fritsche - Infills and very cool infill kits from Germany
    HNT Gordon - Planes and plane kits from the Land Downunder
    Hock Tools - Plane irons and kits
    Holty Planes - Classic infills
    Darrel Hutchinson - Infills in the classic British tradition from England
    Knight Tool Works - Fantastic wooden and infill planes 
    Jim Leamy - Breathtaking custom moving fillister and infill planes
    Phillip Marcou - Great new infills from New Zealand
    Phillyplanes - Phillip Edwards, who makes incredible wooden planes
    Lie-Nielsen - Stanley Bedrock planes, better than the original
    Sauer & Stiener - Stunning infill planes
    Veritas - Innovative quality planes

Plane making

Let me encourage you, the Galoot interested in hand planes, to consider the fine art/hobby/vocation of considering making your own tools, especially planes.  There is a lot of information on how to go about doing so, and making planes is less of a challenge than it appears to be at first, especially if you simply take your time and are careful.  Handplane Central has enough information to get you either inspired (or overwhelmed), and this page is a plane making primer.  There are two great books out there as well:
Finck, David, and James Krenov: Making and Mastering Wood Planes
Whelan, John: M. Making Traditional Wooden Planes



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