In 1926 the last American wooden plane factory, The Sandusky Tool Company, closed its doors. Since that date, traditional double-iron woodies, to the best of my knowledge, have not been commercially made in North America. Today I'm taking a big step toward addressing that unfortunate shortfall with the official formation of Voigt Planes.
I started making planes almost 15 years ago. My earliest efforts were laminated planes, but I soon gravitated towards more traditional designs. My planes are loosely based on those in the Seaton tool chest and other late 18th-century/early 19th-century planes. They are bespoke planes, made one at a time in my small workshop. A few basic power tools are used for rough dimensioning, but for the most part these planes are made by hand: Finished surfaces are produced with chisels, planes, gouges, floats, and rasps.
What follows is some information about the design and construction of my planes, what planes are available right now, and timelines for additional orders.
The Cutting Irons
One of the biggest obstacles to making traditional planes is finding appropriate irons. My search ended when Rob Lee of Lee Valley, the eminent Canadian woodworking manufacturer, agreed to make tapered, slotted irons to my exact specifications. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rob, and to his R&D director Rick Blaicklock.
The dimensions of these irons are closely based on those of typical 19th-century irons: They taper from approximately 3/16" at the cutting edge to 3/32" at the top.
The irons are O1 high-carbon tool steel, hardened to 58-60 RC. They take and hold a wonderful edge. They come with a 25° primary bevel, then I flatten the backs add a very small 30° secondary bevel. These irons are ready to work, right out of the box.
The Cap Irons
My cap irons (or chipbreakers, if you prefer) are unlike any other on the market today. Most modern cap irons have a bend in the middle and a single flat bevel. My cap irons, like all 18th- and 19th-century cap irons, hook sharply at the bottom and are gracefully curved to facilitate shaving escapement. These cap irons are made in-house.
The Wooden Stock
Like most traditional planes of the last 300 years, mine are made of quartersawn beech. The bark side is normally oriented down, though I will occasionally make exceptions to this rule as the situation warrants. If the grain slopes, it typically slopes from toe to heel.
The Mortise and Escapement
The earliest double-iron planes had elegant, efficient mortises and escapements that required a great deal of labor-intensive handwork to produce. Later 19th-century planes were often made more cheaply, in large factories that used unskilled labor. My planes return to the older method of construction.
My planes feature the traditional finish details of period planes: Bold long chamfers, stopped chamfers, and gouge cuts. When the plane is done, I test it thoroughly, finish it with oil and wax, test it again, and send it out into the world.
What's Available Now
Right now, I have a batch of coffin smoothers available for purchase. Please visit the "planes" page on my website for a description and pricing information.
When this batch is gone, and for all other models (jack planes, try planes, etc.), I'm currently anticipating four to five months to fill new orders. This isn't a cheesy, infomercial attempt to get you to buy right now: it's just the way it is, and has more to do with supply lines than anything else. As time goes on and work flow becomes more predictable things may change, but right now that's where we are. If you are interested in ordering a plane, use the email link in the upper right corner of this post. Feel free to also visit the "how to order" page on the website for more information.
For a couple of years now, I've made planes for customers on a part-time, informal basis, strictly by word of mouth. The new website is part of an effort to take this business to the next level, and to reestablish the traditional double iron wooden plane as a viable option for hand tool woodworkers. I can't predict where this is going, but I plan to enjoy the journey.
If you have thoughts or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment, and thanks for looking.