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Interview with plane maker Steve Knight

comments (6) October 28th, 2010 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, senior editor
thumbs up 26 users recommend

Smoothing plane. Before he sent them out, Steve tuned his planes to take the fluffiest shavings.
Ebony smoothing plane.
Japanese style smoothing plane.
Smoothing plane. Before he sent them out, Steve tuned his planes to take the fluffiest shavings. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Smoothing plane. Before he sent them out, Steve tuned his planes to take the fluffiest shavings.

Photo: Steve Knight

It has been at least five years since I first saw one of Steve Knight's wooden handplanes. I've always found them attractive and the word on the forums was that they worked great--and that's the real test of a plane. I always had it in the back of my mind to buy a plane from him, just to support him. But then I started making my own and I never got around to it. So, I felt a bit guilty when I went to his website recently and discovered that Steve no longer sells wooden handplanes, at least not completed ones. He does sell kits for wooden planes: a smoother, a pocket plane (bevel down), a jack, a jointer, and a scrub. I gave Steve a call and asked him to send me one of the kits--a smoother with a 55 degree frog--for review. I'll write a separate blog about it. (I am really excited about the prospect of making and using the plane. My job doesn't suck!)

When I was on the phone with Steve, he and I got to talking about his experience as a plane maker and the story was interesting. I've always wondered how hard it would be to make a living as a "boutique" tool maker. There are a lot of guys out there now who are making saws, infills, or chisels for sale. I think that's cool. I've also noticed that many of those guys owed a lot of their success to internet forums. It was on an internet forum that I first heard of Steve, and Mike Wenzloff, and Chester Toolworks, and Blue Spruce, and Ron Breese, and many others. So, I decided to interview Steve and share his story with you. Here's what I learned. Enjoy.


 

Panel raising plane by Knight Toolworks
Panel raising plane in curly maple. Steve Knight achieved a high level of craftsmanship in his planes. He used the Krenov method of plane making, even on traditional ones like this panel plane.

FWW: What was the first tool you made? Why did you make it?

SK: I think it was a smoother. My hands were really suffering from all of the sanding I did making furniture. I had heard about hand planes, so I bought a No. 4 smoother from Patrick Leach. Mind you, I couldn't even use a plane at that time, and I don't know if I ever got that No. 4 working. But I did want more planes. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford them, so I had the idea to begin making them. It was a struggle and for a while none of the planes I made worked. I had a boxful of non-working planes. I made those early planes out of red oak, I think, and glued on an ebony sole to combat wear. I then gave up on woodworking for about a year. I didn't get back into it until a friend asked to use my shop. I let him, in exchange for cleaning it. My shop, which is small, was so stuffed that it took him about two weeks to clean it! With the shop clean, I started making planes again. This time something clicked and I was off. Those first curly shavings really hooked me. Still, it was a struggle. I was not an accurate woodworker and my planes weren't square. It took a lot of effort to get the bugs out and to get the planes working. I was learning to build planes, tune them, and sharpen the blades all at once.

Learn more about plane making with Fine Woodworking

Wood Planes Made Easy
Shop Made Grooving Planes

 



posted in: blogs, hand tools, hand plane, steve knight, knight toolworks


Comments (6)

nado nado writes: Does anybody knows if Steve still selling his planes?
Or if his website is down?
I emailed him for information on how to purchase them and never got a answer?
Anybody?
thanks in advance
Nado
Posted: 9:23 pm on February 2nd

Daryl Daryl writes: I have five of Steve's planes (and in fact interviewed him years ago for my club's newsletter). The high back infill I have from him (stamped by the way 001) is the best smoothing plane I've ever used. And the jack plane with tote is my heavy lifting plane of choice. His tools were/are simply marvelous.
Posted: 11:00 am on November 5th

knight_toolworks knight_toolworks writes: thanks guys I had fun making the planes. I still like making them but tuning them up was becoming an issue.
if anyone had problems with my site it is up and running again. I updated it and it toasted. but I got it back up again.
Posted: 12:24 am on November 3rd

starryNight starryNight writes: great article with sloppy editing and spelling errors.
D-
Posted: 12:15 pm on November 2nd

dpaulstone dpaulstone writes: I bought three of Steve's planes about eight/nine years ago, when he was selling on eBay. They are works of art and nature, beautiful to look at and hold, and they work great too! A real "organic" experience. As with all wooden planes, there was that learning curve adjusting the blade. Can't imagine how dreary it was for Steve doing the original tune-up. Thanks for a superb product, Steve.
Posted: 8:23 am on November 2nd

stjones stjones writes: I have one of Steve's planes - an ebony smoother with the blade pitched at 50 deg. It's a superb plane, great on gnarly wood right out of the box. I'm glad I bought it when I had the chance.
Posted: 10:37 pm on October 28th

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