Krenov Smoother 1 – Making the Blank

One of my personal joys in woodworking is making my own tools.  While most could have been bought, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from making things yourself.  Not only do you save money, but you have a chance to create exactly what you want instead of settling for what’s available on the market.  Over the years I have made things such as marking gauges, mallets, reamers, jigs,  and grooving planes.  These and others have done much to improve my abilities as a woodworker without spending a ton of money.

Something I always wanted to make was a Krenov-style hand plane.  I already have a fairly good selection of planes, but making my own was seen very much as a rite of passage for me.  Korean swordsmanship has a tradition that a student must eventually make his own sword to truly be a complete swordsman.  I felt much the same way about handplanes and woodworking.  So, after recently completing a pair of grooving planes, I felt the time had come to take the next step.

Accordingly, I ordered David Finck’s “Making and Mastering Wooden Planes”.  This book is considered by many to the THE guide to building Krenov-style planes.  I had decided to make a smooth plane with a 2” iron and 45 degree bed angle – pretty much the definitive Krenov plane, which embodies all the principles of this style.  My thought was that if I could make one of those, I could adjust the design later to make planes for different tasks.  Once the book arrived, I studied up on the design and principles until I felt reasonably comfortable with the concept, and then got to work.

Smoothing Plane 1
After ordering a 2” iron from Ron Hock (see my blade review post), I surveyed my available wood supply.  Since my tools are for work and not for sale, I tend to keep the eye candy to a minimum.  I had several pieces of wood that could fit the bill, but in the end I turned to my rapidly-dwindling supply of white oak pallet wood.  It’s not the prettiest stuff on the planet, but it’s relatively hard and well-cured, having been in my shop for almost 20 years.  This piece, cut right through the center of the tree, has the typical pith checking.  But, if you rip off one side of the board and crosscut it:

Smoothing Plane 2
Voila!  Two pieces ready to be joined together into a plane blank.  While not as aesthetically pleasing as a one-piece blank, laminated plane bodies are perfectly acceptable and often more stable.  As per Finck’s recommendation, I oriented the wood so that the sole of the plane would be parallel to the growth rings for maximum stability.  The grain starts to get a bit ratty towards the top of the blank, but this part will be cut away in the final step of construction, and so is not a real concern.

Smoothing Plane 3
This selection looked pretty good to me, so the only thing left to do was spread the glue and clamp it up.  Notice that in addition to the parallel clamps holding the halves together, I added a couple of F-clamps across the glue line to hold the two halves in alignment and eliminate any creep.  Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the glue to dry.

We’ll pick up there next time.  Stay tuned!


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