Monday, June 15, 2015

The Evolution of the Panel Raising Plane, à la Caleb James

I have been enamored by the panel raising plane ever since I watched Roy Underhill use one in The Woodwright's Shop episode entitled Raising Panel-Zona. I saw that plane and decided I had to make one. So I did. If you were a reader back in October 2013, you may remember the post in which I talked about that first one I made. Ironically, Bill Anderson came out with an article on making a raised panel plane in Popular Woodworking magazine about 3 days later. Bill is a great resource for restoring vintage planes.

The version I made turned out pretty well, but the profile was based on what you would see on a router bit common today. As it turns out, modern router bits don't really reflect the profiles found on antique furniture. This is no surprise, really, seeing as modern day bits are made for architectural work like kitchen cabinets, shutters, full size doors or the like. The scale is a bit large. I could tell  something wasn't quite right about it for furniture, and so the plane never went to production. I had to get the profile proportions just right first.

About a year later I visited Winterthur and was able to look at a couple of pieces there. I could see that the scale was, in fact, smaller on those planes and it helped me nail down the proportions that look correct for a furniture piece.

About 6 months later I ran into Roy Underhill at a Lie-Nielsen hand tool event where I was demonstrating some of my planes. I showed Roy the updated panel raiser that he inspired me to make and, the next day, he brought the actual ones from the show. It was a real treat! The proportions and skew from the two planes he brought were different, but not completely. Interestingly, my plane's profile and skew proportions were nearly an average of the two. Needless to say, I felt I was on the right track after that.

But, I wanted to take it a step further. Why not make it even more authentic with a blacksmith-forged, laminated iron? I think most would agree that there are few people who know how that iron should be made better than Peter Ross. He did, after all, study the tool chest of Benjamin Seaton 1797 and all the iron work in it. Here is an iron that he made for me. It is just wonderful.

Unfinished Blacksmith Forged Laminated Iron (left) O1 Tool Steel Iron (right)
This plane has been a long time coming. So, I'll be talking more about this panel raising plane in posts to come and will eventually take pre-orders on them, as well. In the meantime, you can see a little clip of the plane in action in this Instagram post. I'll put up the full video soon.


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  2. I would order one for sure, Caleb.

    1. I can put you on my list if you want to be contacted when they are up for pre-orders. Shoot me an email. Calebjames(at)me(dot)com

  3. Really very cool, Caleb. Congrats.