From the Workshop

February 5, 2019

Workshop blog 7 – No 985

Filed under: No 985,Window to my workshop — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:44 am

I have spent a long time on my drawing board this year working on a new design – designated No 985 which will be part of my range of non-infill planes, which I very much prefer. This smoother is a non-adjuster type plane which means a reduction in work as the adjuster is a big item – both to make and accommodate, which will show in the price. Some people prefer a non-adjuster plane and I have not made this on a full handled plane before.

This plane is to be made from 416 stainless steel which is expensive and flat sections cannot be sourced in the UK. My experience with this alloy is that it is the best for my purposes. It is also preferred for making rifle barrels. It is very nice for working with and has a lovely texture to it. And I can stick it on a magnetic chuck for surface grinding.

Whilst waiting for the stainless to arrive I have made a start on the handles.

Holtey No 985 smoother plane

This is an area in which feedback would be greatly appreciated. Since I am making a smoothing plane my objective is to keep it as short as possible. A lot of the older planes were 7 1/2″ long which makes sense for finishing purposes. However, these planes were usually handleless, which can be uncomfortable to use. Once you introduce a handle it is going to increase the length. As this is a non-infill plane I will be using a round bun, which also needs a little bit of extra room. I would like to make the handles short for use with three fingers plus the index finger resting on the side of the blade. What I want feedback on is would you prefer a taller handle so you can use four fingers which will make the plane longer, or do you prefer three fingers and a shorter plane?

For those who have experienced my No 98 they will have noticed how comfortable the handle is as it has plenty of room for four fingers
- However, it is better to have the plane shorter if you are going to use it for smoothing/finishing.

If I use the taller handle the plane will be 8 3/4″ long or 8″ with the shorter handle.

A lot of modern smoothing planes seem to be about 9 1/2″ long which is neither a smoother or a panel plane – needs redefining.

Holtey No 985 handle templates

My handles are all hand made and I make several templates to find the one I am happy with.


  1. I think three fingers and a shorter handle is the better option; pretty sure I’ll never hold a plane or a saw with a four-finger grip. After having a few handles customized for me (a tote and knob on my Bedrock 604 1/2 made of American Holly by Bill Rittner and some panel saws and a dovetail saw by Ron Bontz), I believe a detail that is just as important is the thickness of the handle. Both Bill and Ron use 5/4 stock for their handles and finish with a handle that is 1″ to 1 1/8″ thick. That extra 1/4″+ thickness in the handle makes a huge difference in how the saws and plane feel and handle and increase the time I can comfortably work with said tools.

    Being a proud owner and user of one of your purfling tools made in conjunction with Lee Valley (THANK you for that, by the way; I started saving for one the minute I found out they were for sale), I think you probably get that. The handle of the purfling tool is… plump. It is easy to grip and hold, not so thin that your fingers cramp after a bit of use, yet it isn’t so big that it is bulky and difficult to use. So I suspect your handles are likewise thicker than the old standards, and it’s not something I should bother to mention, but… I’ll mention it, anyway, just in case.



    Comment by thekiltedwoodworker — February 13, 2019 @ 3:41 pm

  2. Thank you Ethan for your valued thoughts.

    Yes, I am going down the three finger route and usually my handles are 1.06″ to 1.08″ thick.

    Just going to do a blog posting, will try and do them more often


    Comment by admin — February 19, 2019 @ 2:16 pm

  3. The shorter grip is always the classic familiar one. And oh so good looking. I do like the tall “4 finger” grip totes on Veritas planes, yet often I find myself three fingering gripping and my index finger extended and touching the Norris adjuster.

    Very happy with the constant blog posts, I had forgotten to comment on this post when it first came out. Was staggered by the price of the stainless in your most recent post. I suspect here in Canada I might get gouged just as much for the same bar, albeit cheaper shipping.

    Looking forward to the many new posts to come and the finished planes,


    Comment by Vincent — March 1, 2019 @ 7:40 pm

  4. Hi Vincent

    Thank you for your comments


    Comment by admin — March 8, 2019 @ 11:42 am

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