From the Workshop

March 22, 2019

Workshop Blog no 19 – No 985

One of the things about the smoothing plane is that it is for finishing only and this is better achieved by keeping the plane as short as possible. In the past a smoothing plane was a smoothing plane and usually about 7 1/2″ sole length, obviously here we are not trying to straighten or flatten the wood, this means very fine cutting. You have to follow into imperfect surfaces which bigger planes wouldn’t reach.

For this plane the adjuster had to go. I wanted a full rear handle but had to lose some of its height, which is fine as most people are happy with just holding with three fingers leaving the index finger to rest on the side of the blade for orientation and feedback.

I have had to make a compromise on the length of the sole as I could not get down to 7 1/2″ but settled for 7 7/8″. One of the reasons it was hard to keep the length down is that I managed to retain a 50 degree working angle on the rear tote which makes the plane much more comfortable to use. Not to be confused with the blade angle which is 54 deg.

As mentioned previously the plane is in 416 stainless steel and the wood used for the handles is the same as the No 984 – Dalbergia Stevensonii. This wood has a nice texture, hard, dimensionally stable and retains its contrast and colour.

The lever cap and thumb wheel are in a similar design to my No 984 plane also. The handles are extremely rigid and show no sign of their fixtures (another example of hidden work). As my blog progresses you will see more about them.

This is a designed and engineered tool. I feel that I am fulfilling my object of always surpassing the standard which has gone before.

I thought this was a good stage to let people know what this plane looks like. I have added two drawings though I do get paranoid about being copied.

Holtey No 985c

Holtey No 985a


  1. The world is full of unscrupulous people. Your idea will get copied. Not sure there’s anything we can do about that sort of thing. Just look at what happened to Andrew Crawford and his SmartHinge hardware that Linley copied and had manufactured in China just to save a few quid on their incredibly expensive boxes.

    But, like Linley, that’s all they can steal – the idea. They will never achieve your quality, fit, and finish and the “you” that you put into every plane you build.

    I don’t claim to have ever come up with any ideas for things I’ve made that are completely new or never-before-seen, but I’ve definitely put together a few clean designs that have come from my own brain. And I occasionally have someone come right out and ask me for exact dimensions/plans for boxes I’ve made so they can copy them.

    I always respond with something like, “Sorry, I won’t do that. I can’t stop you from copying my work, but I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into my design. If you want to make something similar, you’ll have to put your own thought/effort into it, and that includes figuring out dimensions and proportions that are pleasing to the eye. That includes trying to figure out the best way to handling certain construction techniques that I’ve had to figure out. That includes proper wood selection and getting the right fit and finish on the box. Good luck.”

    And that’s all I can do about it. I won’t waste a minute’s sleep worrying about such things because, like I said, it’s going to happen. And there’s so very little you can do to stop it; some things are beyond our control. Instead, I focus my efforts on making the best whatever-it-is-I’m-making. That IS something I can control.

    I think losing the adjuster is a good idea, as is keeping the tote to the 3-finger size. After using my own custom-made infill plane (by Wayne Anderson) for about 6 years now, I wish I could remove the adjuster from all of my other planes! Adjusting laterally with a plane hammer is far easier and more precise. I find I accidentally adjust my setting more often by bumping the lateral adjuster more often than I get use out of it.

    Comment by thekiltedwoodworker — March 22, 2019 @ 3:09 pm

  2. Hi Ethan

    Thank you for your nice, thoughtful and helpful comments. A lot of the people who steal designs take it on as if it was their own. You are right in what you say about not losing sleep – I lose more sleep trying to think of new ideas.

    Thank you for your supportive opinion of the three finger handle and no adjuster. I thought the handle comfort was important so I have allowed an extra 3/8″ on the plane’s length.

    When it comes to designs you have to assess a number of compromises. No such thing as perfect, just attitude.


    Comment by admin — March 27, 2019 @ 10:18 am

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