Cutting the apron strings

My grandmother made her own aprons. So did my mom. That’s just how we did things in our house. We’re makers.

I believe that, while anyone can (and should) learn to make things with their hands, there’s a certain disposition among some of us that goes beyond that. I don’t know what to call it exactly, but it starts with a curiosity and ends with some version of the declaration “well, heck, I could make that myself.” And then, there is something about that declaration that manifests like a self-directed dare: If I can make it myself, well then I have to make it myself. For some of us, the feeling is unduly compelling.

Wooden planes have occupied this creative place for me for the last few months. My curiosity about them lead me to try, restore, use and ultimately want to build few myself, and while I haven’t made a fully mortised version yet, I know that’s only a matter of time.

Making tools is fun and rewarding. The very first thing I made when I started getting into hand tools was a mallet. And then I made another to see if I could make a better one. I’ve made my own spokeshaves and rasp handles, fixed drawknife handles and made a pair of panel saws. Using a tool of your own making is simultaneously rewarding and addicting. You will want to make more.

As a way of exploring another tradition of wooden planes, in the style of James Krenov, I decided to take things in a different direction and make a few apron planes out of exotics. What I came up with, after a few design tweaks, was 1 5/16″ wide and 4 3/4″ long with a 1″ wide Hock blade. I made one for my daughter, one for my own apron, and then six or so to send out into the world.

The pins are turned on the lathe and then flattened on one side that will ride against the wedge. A round pin works, but I’m starting to believe a flat pin might seat slightly better and provide a little more longevity to the plane.

They’re fun to make, and I’ll admit I had a hard time pulling myself away from them to work on other projects. I’m making a few chairs this week and next, but my intention is to come back to these and make them in some other woods (zebrawood anyone?).


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe says:

    Very cool. I made a foreplane several years ago and carved the front knob and rear handle as well. It looks ugly as sin but it works and puts a smile on my face every time I use it because, well, I made it.

    My goal now is to make at least one tool a year for myself. It may be a modest goal but in 10 years, that would be 10 tools.


  2. Paul Hawkinson says:

    Thanks for sharing where your creativity is leading you. Those little planes are knockouts! How are you finishing them?

    I am more curious about your reference to chair making. Perhaps I haven’t dug into your past blog posts enough to see more. A month ago I swung through Ayden and visited Stuart Kent and he mentioned you and chairs.

    I would like to see your work.


  3. I made a little plane like this not long ago. I don’t have a drill press and didn’t want to mess about trying to line up the two holes or fitting a dowel. Instead, I used a couple of triangular pieces of wood glued to the inner sides to make a slot for the wedge.

    This turned out to be much easier to make and the wedge grips nicely without sticking.

    I can’t be the first person to have this idea, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I’m not sure it’s quite proper to link to my own blog, but I don’t know a better way to show pictures:



    1. That’s a very cool idea. Thanks for sharing!


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