Hi guys, I hope everyone is well and getting to spend some time in the shop. Just like I said in my last post, I have been in and out of the shop a lot lately. I have had some family things to deal with and I'm doing the turn-around as we speak getting ready for a class. I wanted to take a minute and say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has bought one of the New Style Planes from me! They have been a big hit and orders are coming in more than I expected. If you have placed an order for one in the last week, I'm still running about 3 weeks out(that's working 3 18+ hour days in the shop!), but if you've ordered a demo plane or a vintage tool it was shipped out this morning(just got back in town). The couple of New Style Smoother demos I had went fast, but I will have 1 more after this class. I recently put up a dovetailed miter plane for sale that I made a long time ago and not only did it sell fast, but it overwhelmed my email inbox with potential customers. I have been asked about dovetailed planes more in the last week than I have in my whole career, so I made a few of these things into weekly questions. Here we go!
Q. Do you make/sell dovetailed infill planes to sell?
A. Yes and no. It's not something that I have really done in the past, but with the interest that the miter plane generated I will probably make more. I do take custom orders for dovetailed planes and I am working on 2 New Style Smoothers for customers now. The price is about the same as my "riveted" body planes because the work is about the same. The only fluctuation in price will be if I have to special order materials. I do keep a small stock of metal for dovetailed planes, but it's never any more than enough for 5-10 plane bodies.
Q. What's the difference between the riveted bodies and dovetailed bodies?
A . Besides everything, nothing at all! The Dovetailed bodies use a thinner sole, usually 3/16-1/4" thick. The sides remain the same, but require a bit more material. The riveted bodies use a 3/8-1/2" thick sole depending on the model. This adds more mass to the plane, which you may like or not. I prefer a heavier plane, especially on a smoother. Some people like a lighter smoother, but I think the mass helps you "power" through the cut. You shouldn't have to white-knuckle a smoothing plane. Just get it started with a push, then let the planes momentum do the work.
Q. Is a dovetailed body stronger than a riveted body?
A. In the testing I have done(and Karl Holtey, he uses a riveted body on his Signature Planes), a riveted body is stronger and stiffer. When I say "riveted", I don't mean pop-rivets like you buy at a home center. Karl uses an integrated rivet, which he machines into the sole of the plane so it's all one piece. I make my own rivets which is easier for me and I can place them where I want to. Some people have asked me if you could use a standard machine screw and I guess you could, but would you really trust a machine screw on a tool that's made to last many lifetimes? If you've ever torqued down on a machine screw, you know how easy it is to strip them completely, if not break the head off all-together. I cut mine from O1 Drill rod or 954 bronze, which both can be hardened. I cut a "hex" style head on each one, taper them for a "countersink", then thread them. They are then permanently fixed into the sole, then peened, and machined flush with the sides. Each one of my planes has at least 16 of these "rivets" holding the sides to the sole, making it incredibly strong and stiff. I have dropped my planes on the shop floor with no damage at all. Dovetailed planes don't have a mechanical fastener holding them together which can allow movement over time. Will it ever come apart? Not if you do it right and the dovetails will remain clean and flush pretty much forever. The biggest advantage of a riveted body is that the plane can remain perfectly square throughout the building process. Even with a buck installed while peening the dovetails the body tends to splay inwards, creating a challenge for some makers.
Q. Does it take less time to make a riveted body?
A. Not at all. In fact, it may take a bit longer. When you rivet a plane body, you have to make sure all edges and faces are square. Period. There is no going back to "tweak" anything once it's together as you could do with a dovetailed body. If it's not perfectly square and true, you'll see gaps where the sides meet the sole. It wouldn't really affect the planes use(a hand plane is a simple tool), but I couldn't put my name on a tool with gaps in the materials.
Q. Why make a dovetailed body if you already make a riveted body?
A. Good question. I guess it comes back to the demand of the product. I know just as much as any hand tool guy how awesome it is to see a dovetailed plane. It's almost a Black Art to someone who doesn't understand it and they look great. If someone wants a dovetailed plane I am happy to make it because I enjoy doing it. I own numerous dovetailed planes and love them all, but I use my riveted planes much, much more often.
Q. Does one work better than the other?
A. Nope. They both work as good as the craftsman that makes them. A flat bed, large escapement, and a rigid iron are all that it takes. But as I stated before I personally enjoy the mass of the riveted body.
I hope this sheds some light onto the subject and thanks to the folks that emailed me about them. If you have any questions please feel free to send us a message! One last thing, we have added a message/live chat to the site. Even if it says we're offline we will still get your message instantly and respond immediately, so long as it's not 3am or something. If you have any questions or you need to contact us fast, go to the "about" page and call or text the phone number. That is my direct cell and as long as I hear my phone I will answer it. If I don't, leave a message and I'll get back to you within a few minutes.