Saturday, 28 September 2013

Introducing the K4



Several years ago, I was given a rare opportunity to live with, and study, a very rare plane. A Spiers thumb plane. To be honest, I did not really appreciate this opportunity until several weeks into my time with it. I knew it was rare and therefore valuable, but I underestimated the design and functionality of it. I thought my first infill was ordinary - an un-handled Spiers coffin shaped smoother... this plane looked even more basic.

Until I used it. 

It was a pretty amazing experience. Everything was exactly where it needed to be. There was an amazing relationship between the sneck of the iron, the top of the lever cap screw and the empty area at the front of the plane. There was a complex and deliberate relationship between these points and they all worked together to provide a very comfortable experience. I was pretty shocked and was once again reminded that simple looking, does not mean that complex design thought did not go into something. I kept this experience tucked away until the time was right.

As I have been exploring the K-series of planes, it made sense to consider a really small plane - a true one handed plane. This was the goal for the K4. 





I outlined the specs I was after. It needed to feel like that Spiers thumb plane - the relationships between the elements was critical. I wanted it to be taller - like the XSNo.4. The extra height allows it to fill out your hand a bit more and provides a place to put your fingers (along the edges of the plane). I have a few traditional block planes and they are great until I want to use them in the middle of a surface - they are so squat that I spend more time figuring out where to put my fingers than actually working. And my fingers are always cramped up anyway.

If possible, I wanted it to have a similar front pad design to the rest of the K-series planes. I also thought the angle to the rear infill would be an advantage for getting the geometry right for a one handed grip. 

 The plane would be 4-1/2" long with a 1-1/4" wide blade. I opted for a 52.5 degree bed angle again.

It was a real challenge to get everything into such a small plane body. The lever cap design needed some serious modification to allow it to fit inside this small space and be functional yet still look like the lever caps in the other K-series planes. The scoop on the front pad is not at all functional from the standpoint that you cannot get your finger in it, but it does serve a very important practical purpose. It allows the top surface of the pad to be wider allowing the plane to be used with 2 hands if you want. It is wide and long enough that you can 'pinch' it for planing an edge.






The sides and sole are 01 tool steel, the lever cap and screw are bronze and the infill is Desert Ironwood.







 









A few photos of the K4 with a few other planes to give a sense of scale...



(with a Lie Nielsen 'Violin plane')




(with the XSNo.4)






(with the K7)




(with the K9)




Here is the grip that I use with the K4. The palm of my hand fits comfortably against the angled rear infill. The tip of the blade tucks into my hand. I can feel it, but am not putting pressure on it - the top of the lever cap screw is slightly higher and helps facilitate the natural curve of one’s hand. The distance to the front pad is also key - as is it’s height and shape. Typically one handed planes have a depression in the front grip - suggesting your index finger rests inside it. I have often found the geometry of that depression to be too low - tilting your hand a little too far forward and down. The idea behind not having a depression is to allow for a larger variety of finger positions and the height of it should keep your wrist in a more natural position (less stress during use).





I will have the K4 with me at WIA this year, and am looking forward to people trying it out and giving me feedback. It feels great when I use it, but nothing beats getting tools in the hands of other woodworkers to really test it. If you are going to WIA this year, please stop in, say hi to Joe (Steiner) and I and try out the K4 or any of the other planes.

15 Comments:

Blogger FJ said...

Stunning! Really nice lines.

28 September 2013 at 23:01  
Blogger David Wall said...

Very nice indeed. The evolution of your planes is a joy to watch.
David

29 September 2013 at 05:06  
Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

I had thought that maybe you would lower the blade and lever cap to get them put of the way, which would totally change the look of the plane. Using them to create a comfortable grip allows you to stay true to the k-series style.

29 September 2013 at 09:09  
Blogger Richard Wile said...

Konrad,
Nice to see this plane done, I love the "thumb plane" form factor. I use my "violin plane" all the time. I am sure folks will love this at WIA. See you then.

Rich

29 September 2013 at 10:01  
OpenID fairwoodworking said...

Wow! That is perfect!

I "accidentally" heard about the K4 yesterday at the LN event here in town. You didn't disappoint.

By the way, I now understand how you manage to score so much sweet old growth wood.

You suck!

29 September 2013 at 14:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Konrad,

What a great way to use all the extraordinary bits of wood that are too small for the bigger planes! I'm sure you've got quite a stash by now.

Keep up the great work and the posts.

Dan

30 September 2013 at 12:22  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks FJ - glad you like it.

cheers,
konrad

2 October 2013 at 17:04  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi David,

Glad you are enjoying the evolution - I am too. It is fun, and sometimes challenging to see how things adapt and change as sizes and needs change.

Cheers,
konrad

2 October 2013 at 17:04  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Kevin,

There were another set of drawings that evolved when I was drawing the K4 that may end up looking like what you described. The challenge is keeping the family resemblance.

cheers,
konrad

2 October 2013 at 17:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Ric,

I happily accept your sucking title - cause the alternative, well... suck! Glad you like the K4 - it appears I should have been in Nova Scotia for this one.

cheers,
konrad

2 October 2013 at 17:09  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dan,

You are so right - this little plane is great for all those smallish pieces that are just too good to toss, but too small for most other planes. It is fun looking through the scrap boxes and finding perfectly suitable infill sets. It is often a walk down memory lane too - many pieces remind me of the larger planes that came before.

cheers,
konrad

2 October 2013 at 17:11  
Blogger Brad Quarrie said...

You could have left it at my house, though in its unfinished state, a rock would be more useful to me because I sure couldn't finish it!
One day my friend…

6 October 2013 at 22:00  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Brad,

yeah - it was not so useable at that point:) you will have to stop by next time you are visiting family.

cheers,
konrad

7 October 2013 at 07:33  
Blogger John said...

I love your planes, but I can't figure out from your blog hot to get in touch with you. When I click "contact" it opens an email form but there is no address.

14 June 2014 at 22:51  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi John,

Sorry the contact button is causing problems. It should open a new email window. My email address is konrad@sauerandsteiner.com or you can call at (519) 568-8159

Cheers,
konrad

15 June 2014 at 07:06  

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Friday, 20 September 2013

An awesome trio




Well over a year ago I cut into a really promising piece of wood.  The first cut is always the scariest - especially when the best cut should be right down the middle. 

Thankfully - it worked out quite well. I was able to get three planes from the piece - an infill set for an XSNo.4, a SNo.4 and a No.4 smoother. 






 



 The first plane is the XSNo.4 - 5-1/2" long with a 1-1/2" wide blade and a 52.5 degree bed angle.

I should also add that I have borrowed a friends camera to take these images. I am getting ready to buy a new one (which is long overdue) so pardon the learning curve with the new camera.

















The rear infill has some of the most amazing grain.





The SNo.4 - 6-1/2" long, 1-3/4" wide blade and a 52.5 degree bed angle.
















 The No.4 - 7-1/2" long, 2" wide blade and a 52.5 degree bed angle. 







Matching grain to the XSNo.4 in the rear infill of the No.4.




A few photos of the 3 to show the transition in sizes.












Next up will be a new prototype - a K4. 





Here is a shot of the piened together shell next to my XSNo.4. The goal with this plane is a true one handed plane. It is 4-1/2" long and has a 1-1/4" wide blade.  The french polishing is done - I just need to clean up the over polish on the steel sides. I will post photos very soon.


9 Comments:

Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

I'm curious to see how the K-series style will mesh with a one handed grip...I'm sure you have some great ideas. As always, beautiful planes.

20 September 2013 at 18:57  
Blogger Steve Kirincich said...

Hi Konrad,
Is that desert ironwood? Beautiful as usual.

Steve

20 September 2013 at 19:44  
Blogger Jay Christian said...

Hi Konrad,
Beautiful set -- that wood is gorgeous!
Can't wait to see the shots of the finished K4.
Cheers,
Jay

21 September 2013 at 10:31  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

Nice set of planes Konrad. Some awesome Rosewood I'm guessing? Really interested in the K4
Cheers Chris

21 September 2013 at 22:29  
Blogger Konrad said...

HI Kevin,

I am pretty excited about the new K4. It was a tricky little plane to make for lots of different reasons. I hope the next blog entry will cover it.

Cheers,
konrad

23 September 2013 at 06:23  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Steve,

These ones are not Desert Ironwood - more old Rosewood:)

cheers,
konrad

23 September 2013 at 06:24  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Jay - it will follow soon - just learning how to use my new camera. Steep but enjoyable learning curve. Are you going to be at WIA this year?

cheers,
konrad

23 September 2013 at 06:25  
Blogger Konrad said...

Yes Chris - more awesome Rosewood:) It should looks somewhat familiar to you:)

Cheers,
konrad

23 September 2013 at 06:25  
Blogger kevjed said...

Looking forward to the K4 Konrad. It looks terrific.

26 September 2013 at 04:03  

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Monday, 16 September 2013

Fluxible – an amazing weekend in UX

In march 2013, I received an email from Mark Connolly, asking if I would be interested in speaking at a conference on UX he was co-organizing. He had to explain what UX was. UX stands for User eXperience, and in what is likely a poor attempt at explaining it – it is the very large umbrella that encompasses any and all eXperiences that a User might have when interacting with something. Usually, it is in the context of technology and digital interfaces, but not always. For example - the experience that you or I have when we use a hand-held devise – there is an entire UX industry behind that experience. From the macro level – someone is designing those pixels on the screen, to the way the devise feels in your hand, to the way the text and images appear and are organised on the screen. That is UX - and it is everywhere.

I invited Mark and Bob Barlow-Busch (the other organizer) to come by the shop, spend an hour shooting the breeze.  If they thought it would be a good fit – I was in. We had a great first meeting and agreed we should go for it.

As time passed and the other speakers were announced (and their bios appeared) – my digestive system responded. There was a really impressive and accomplished list of speakers. I was getting nervous about this. I have enjoyed speaking at many woodworking conferences over the years and while I still get a little nervous before them, this conference was well outside my comfort zone. To be honest, that is part of why I agreed to do it – I know that while new things may be uncomfortable, they are good for us to experience, and help us get better and grow. Crap or get off the pot. 





The conference was this past weekend – held at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy - three short blocks from my house. It was strange and wonderful to be able to walk to it each morning. The venue itself set the stage very well. A pretty cool modern building with a double set of massive teak doors, a clean crisp (but not sterile) interior, flooded with natural light. The main conference room was a fairly intimate space – not a bad seat in the house.

From the first speaker Steve Baty to the last, Josh Seiden, it was total engagement. My head hurt in that wonderful way when it is challenged and the absorption rate is maxed out. It was awesome. I am still trying to digest everything – it was overwhelming on a lot of levels. As I reflect back on the event I will do my best to share some of what I learned.

Teresa Brazen spoke about the culture of an organization and the impact it has within that organization. A healthy culture encourages collaboration, conversation and honesty. It is flexible to allow for the inevitable unexpected changes that happen. It is a place that feels safe to ask a dumb question. It is full of respect for everyone who interacts with it. I found myself reflecting back on the culture of my previous career. It had a great culture, guided by our fearless leader. I am all the more grateful for those 9 years. It also got me think about the culture of Sauer & Steiner Toolworks. I often describe myself as a one-man-band, which is true from the standpoint that I am the only one making planes. But there was something about her talk that got me thinking about the idea of organizational culture in a much broader sense. I still need to think about this one, but I will share more once I sort it out more.

Steve Portigal gave a 5 minute talk between talks and while it was short – it was likely the most important thing I learned. He talked about asking questions and how we frame them. He used the example of asking someone, “What did you have for breakfast. Juice, toast, cereal…?” He then pointed out why this is a crumby question. By asking this question, we have already partially framed the answer. By adding “ juice, toast, cereal” and the trailed off pause that three dots represent, we have already installed a barrier to an honest answer. We have suggested that they may not know what breakfast is (how insulting) and what if they had a turkey sandwich? The listener now has to explain why they didn’t have toast or juice or cereal and may be somewhat annoyed or defensive. Not the best way to start an engaging conversation. I am not sure if I am capturing his 5 minutes very well, but it was a powerful reminder of how a simple poorly asked question can lay the groundwork and guide an entire conversation.

After this 5 minute talk, I was all the more excited to be part of the workshop he was leading in the afternoon. I was not sure what to expect – the description was intriguing though. The workshop was marvellous. A few logistics observations. The chairs were arranged in a circle – conducive to conversation and sharing. Steve sat in a chair at the same height as the rest of us. We were all asked to introduce ourselves, which took time, but all 3 of these things allowed for a very high trust level in very short period of time. The loose theme of the workshop was presence. One of the most meaningful exercises was a staring contest. He told us about Marina Abramovic and her performance art installation at the MoMA – “The Artist is Present”. I had heard Jian Ghomeshi speak with her this past summer on Q, so I knew a little bit about her. For 3 months, she sat in a chair facing another chair with a table between. People were invited to sit across from her. She sat each day from the time the doors opened until they closed. Please take the time to look into this further – it is fascinating. Steve then asked us to turn to the person beside us and for 30 seconds, stare into the other persons eyes. We were all strangers and the experience was amazing. After the exercise, we were asked to describe the experience. Most people had a strong sense of discomfort – this was an incredibly intimate thing to do with someone let along with someone we did not know. Many people found strategies for dealing with the discomfort – to focus on a single feature on the persons face – usually to avoid the eyes. Some people laughed, some people looked away. Some people paid attention to their breathing, the noises outside. But we all observed that we had made a much deeper connection to that person sitting across from us. Throughout the rest of the conference, whenever our eyes re-connected, it felt like seeing a very old friend again and there was a an immediate re-connection. That is how one of the other speakers described it and I think he was bang on. It was very cool.

There was live music between each speaker. Only about 5 -7 minutes long, but incredibly impactful and added yet another experience to the event. One of the other themes that came up in the conference was the issue of fear and how everyone has fear – even the big successful CEO’s of businesses have fears. Everyone was encouraged to accept the fear, embrace it and work with it. One of the speakers celebrated a birthday during the conference and his wife came to town to have dinner with him that evening. She gave him his first stringed instrument - a Ukulele, and for his closing comments, played a few chords on his one day old instrument. It was the most succinct example of embracing fear that have ever seen. Thanks Adam.

For my own part in this event, it exceeded my expectations. After a few minutes of talking, my wallpaper-paste mouth disappeared (thankfully) and I felt like I found my stride. Many people approached me afterwards to ask questions continue talking and see and try the planes and sit in the dining chair I had brought along. It was really wonderful to see non –woodworkers excited and interested in something they had little or no experience with only an hour earlier. It was even better to watch them use a hand plane for the first time. Within a 3 minute window, people went from fear of trying, to excitement of trying, to trying something totally new, and I am happy to report a 100% success rate on that front. Everyone used a plane until they had a pile of shavings, and while most were focused on the shavings and the silky smooth piece of wood – I was enjoying the ear to ear smiles on their faces. It was a pretty incredible experience from my perspective.

Mark and Bob and the rest of the Fluxible crew put together an incredible event. The food was wonderful, drawing from local bakers and eateries. The speakers were inspirational, the attendees were excited, fully engaged and generally wonderful people.

And one final note, I observed that I think I was the only person in the entire conference who did not have a hand-held device of any sort. No smart phone, no tablet – nothing ( I assume I cannot count the 11x17 sketchbook I had with me as a hand-held device). After seeing how the community of UX designers connect with one another, and how human that connection is – I have a sense that I may just cave and get one.

Thanks to everyone for an unforgettable weekend.  

9 Comments:

Blogger ChrisHasFlair said...

Konrad,

Thanks for telling us about the event. I like the idea of an interactive format. I did a PechaKucha Night presentation earlier this year, which was a lot of fun.

Chris

16 September 2013 at 11:21  
Blogger Bartee said...

WOW, What a great experience. Thanks for your report and insights. I follow your blog and have for a long time. I always look forward to hearing what you have to say.

I really smiled at your description of the UX of a hand plane. That experience is what turned me and lighted my love of hand wood working.

And Shavings are always just FUN !!

17 September 2013 at 06:42  
Blogger Ianpilon@sympatico.ca said...

Hey, konrad, If you do cave, like I just did very recently I think that you will find it's just another tool, over hyped but definitely useful.

from a UX stand point the HTC one is a quality device that I would highly recommend.

Your talk was refreshing and inspiring.

@ianpilon

17 September 2013 at 18:29  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Chris,

Had to look up Pecha Kucha Night - looks pretty cool.

cheers,
konrad

17 September 2013 at 21:37  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Bartee,

Thanks for the comments and glad you have enjoyed the blog. I have been very neglectful of it over the summer and will do my best to write more often.

You are absolutely right about what ignited my interest in woodworking and handtool work - that experience of joy and delight when tools, mind and hand all come together. It is very therapeutic.

best wishes,
konrad

17 September 2013 at 21:42  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Ian,

thanks for the advise on the device - I will certainly post once it happens. Glad you enjoyed the talk.

Best wishes,
konrad

17 September 2013 at 21:45  
Blogger Steve Portigal said...

But you were the only person with a pencil behind your ear? [Well I kept wondering if that was a pencil or a piercing and I didn't want to stare ;) ]

Thanks for your great writeup and I'm so honoured to read what you said about my two pieces. I think you explained the questioning example and the reason behind it quite well!

18 September 2013 at 16:49  
Blogger Konrad said...

Steve - you should have been my partner for the staring contest - you would have had 30 seconds to figure it out.

The workshop was great - I hope to get together with Tammy to talk further about her experience with a choir self-correcting on the fly.

Loved the Zeppelin cover... made me feel old that I knew what it was.

cheers,
konrad

18 September 2013 at 21:22  
Anonymous Skyline Cleveland said...

Great post recapping your entire conference experience. It sounds like you had a great weekend!

23 September 2013 at 16:23  

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Handles for a drawknife


First week back to school and life it reverting back to ‘normal’. The summer was pretty amazing - lots of travelling and visiting with friends - more on that later. 

I spent a good part of the day clearing off some of those nagging projects that sat waiting over the summer months. Adjusting the pocket door to our sunroom - it was sagging and rubbing against the threshold. Changed a few light bulbs and cleared away a few leaves and cobwebs from the photocell sensor for our front porch light. And there was enough time to get to something I was really looking forward to - getting my Lie Nielsen drawknife up and running.

When I ordered it, I had asked Deneb if they would be willing to use some supplied wood for handles. He agreed and I sent along two pieces of African Blackwood - enough for 4 handles just to be safe. It is a good thing we did - they had a hard time with the broaching - two of them split. Deneb contacted me to fill me in on the issue and we decided to send everything as it was and I would get to it when I could. That was several months ago and the handles and drawknife have been sitting on one of the auxiliary benches ever since. 

The supplied handles are beautiful. Beautifully shaped and finished. As soon as I saw the tangs, I knew what the issue was. The handles had a 1/4" round hole through them, but they needed a rectangular hole.



Here is a shot of the tang. There is a nut that threads onto the end and the handle bottoms out on the shoulder of the tang near the leather case.


 

 I clamped the handle into my shoulder vise so I could work on it. The end of the handle just happened to rest comfortably in a dado on the bench which acted as a solid stop.




I was not quite sure how this would work - African Blackwood is not the friendliest material to work with but my Imai chisels performed perfectly. I should not be surprised - I use them for planemaking all the time and they always do everything I ask of them. I also had a coarse file on hand to do any clean up if needed (I ended up not needing it). I used 2 bench chisels and 2 paring slicks. The extra length of the paring slicks were a real advantage along with the fact that they are triangular in cross section allowing me to get right into the corners.




 Once I had the first inch or two squared up, I put the handle on to mark the shoulder.




 With the shoulder marked, I just pared down to that line.






 This shows the final shape of the rectangular hole.



I marked my progress with a pencil line as I went.

All in all it went quite well and there were no mishaps and the handles fit and feel great. Now I need to learn how to hone a curved drawknife.


5 Comments:

Blogger Mike Hamilton said...

You need to talk to Peter Galbert about the honing. He has an interesting jig/device that Jameel is planning to produce for him for just this purpose. It's one of those things that brings a Homer Simpson dope-slap once you've seen it.

Regards,
Mike

10 September 2013 at 07:13  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Mike,

You are the second person who has mentioned it - Jameel sent me an email last night saying the exact same thing. I called him an enabler in my reply:) Looks like perfect timing to me.

cheers,
konrad

10 September 2013 at 08:20  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

Hi Konrad,
So what are your plans for that nicely handled drawknife.
P.S. Still lovin my plane : )
Cheers Chris

12 September 2013 at 09:30  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Chris,

Oh... there are a few chair designs floating around in the melon and the ability to remove huge amounts of stock is really appealing.

Glad you are still lovin it - any more project update photos?

cheers,
konrad

17 September 2013 at 21:36  
Blogger Lee Laird said...

Love the Blackwood handle choice. It looks so elegant. Glad you made it work.

Cheers,

Lee Laird

11 February 2014 at 17:18  

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