Hi guys, I thought that I would start a new weekly Blog Topic that will help give you folks some perspective into my shop. I love talking shop with all of you and I get lots of questions daily, so I figured why not share with everyone? So as long as the questions keep coming in, I'll post them. They can be about anything, me, my shop, my tools, my experience, etc. Here are the first few;
Q. Do you use hand tools mainly or power tools?
A. I use both. I am not for or against any type of woodworking, whatever gets you in the shop and makes your time enjoyable is fine by me. I have lots of equipment, a SawStop Table Saw, a 1950's restored Rockwell Planer(I love restoring old machinery too), a similar vintage Rockwell 8" Jointer, 2 newer floor standing drill presses, Enco Edge Sander, Enco Belt Sander, 10" and 12" Disc Sanders, 30+ routers, etc. I also have 2 walls of my shop covered in hand tools and a 505lb Euro Style Workbench that I built out of Hickory. Especially now, but even before my shop time was limited, so machines help me produce what I want to make. Even with all of this equipment I still prefer to do joinery and bench tasks with hand tools.
Q. What got you into tool making?
A. The simple answer is that when I got started in woodworking about 14 years ago, I couldn't afford the nice hand tools I longed for. That got me started in making my own, which grew into this beautiful monster!
Q. Why don't you make longer planes?
A. The truth is I do make longer planes. I haven't released any into the market other than a few commissions from customers because I don't necessarily think the customer base is there. Don't get me wrong, longer planes, i.e. Fore, Jack, Jointer, etc., definitely have their place in the shop and I own lots of them. But if I make a, let's say, Jointer Plane, the cost will be high, much higher than a Veritas, LN, and especially an old Stanley Plane would be, but would it be that much better or do better work? Probably not enough to justify the price(yes, that statement hurts). I concentrate a lot on Smoothing Planes because it is one tool that can be made better. I can say without any reservations that my Smoothing Planes will work far better than any cast iron or wooden plane ever could. Period. They will leave a better finish, they will tame just about any wood you could possibly find, and in my humble opinion, you've never experienced a smoothing plane until you've used a high quality, unhandled Infill. A smoothing plane has a specific purpose, and unlike those mentioned above, it's not to just take wood off. This is the last tool that will probably touch your work, so it has to be spot-on, 100% of the time. Plus there is something to be said about the tools laid out before you on the bench. I know that when I look at one of my Smoothing Planes, it makes me want to produce better work. It's quite honestly inspiring.
Q. How can you produce a product such as your smoothing plane for less than half the price of the competition?
A. That's a tough question, but I'll tell you my feelings. Tool makers, especially ones making Infill Planes have to learn numerous different skill sets. Patience is definitely your best friend when making tools, which is part of where the time involved comes in. There is nothing fast about making a high quality tool, and I stand behind my first teaching rule; When your work starts to get sloppy, stop. Do something else until you're ready to put 110% of your concentration into it. That is the only way this works out in the end. All of this equates into hours spent on one tool. That time has to be worth something. And to guys who have large equipment helping them make things, they have to justify the cost of this stuff too. I have time, but not many machines and I have learned to get by just fine without them. This helps on my pricing. I buy my materials from two suppliers, one is a friend and the other is an Industrial Liquidator. I can go into machine and fab shops that have sadly gone under and buy their materials at a fraction of the cost. I don't buy brass, bronze, or tool steel one piece at a time. I buy lots(pallets, truck loads) of materials, pick the best stuff for my tools and then unload the rest to other people, helping me make up my investment. I spend a lot of time hunting down what I need, but I figure that if I can save money myself and sell a better tool at a better price, it all works out. I don't make much if anything on a tool when I first introduce it. I sell the first lot at a big discount to get people excited, and those that take advantage of it are always happy. Once those are gone, I set the price at a number that works out to be okay for my business. I don't plan to get rich from tool making, it's a labor of love. I will never sell a smoothing plane for thousands of Dollars. There are some amazing tool makers out there and I admire them, however, I couldn't ever see myself spending so much on a plane, so I don't demand those prices and I am still able to make a superior product.
I think this is a good start to the Q&A, if you have questions, I'd love to post them with answers, so send them into me! email@example.com