For the last three years I've taken some time off in the early part of the year to visit my friend Ron Brese at his shop in Thomaston Georgia. This year I asked Ron if he would assist me in making a plane as a gift for a good friend of Benchcrafted. He happily obliged. So last week I spent several long days in Ron's shop building this plane.
But here's the interesting part. This is a prototype of a new line of planes that Ron has been developing for the past year. Before I arrived, Ron had begun his own prototype, in order to test out some of the details of the plane so my build could have a better chance of succeeding. As Ron finished up his plane, I built mine, and they both came together as a sort of fraternal twins by week's end. My plane did not get completed of course in only five days. But more on that later in the week.
Ron did not have a name for this new line of tools. So after looking over Ron's prints last week, and seeing that he had written "winter smoother" on one of them, the name stuck. I'm not sure if Ron will keep the name, but for me this tool will always be the "winter smoother."
~ Monday ~
The first day of the build I roughed out the plane sides from precision ground 1018 steel using a bandsaw. After a quick course in basic mill operation Ron set me loose on his Bridgeport-style mill and I proceeded to mill up the sides of the plane, as well as the sole pieces and bedding plate. My constant fear was crashing the bit into one of the vises, the table, or the workpiece. None of that happened, but I did end up encountering some rather tense moments. At one point I was feeling pretty proud of what I had accomplished, and the next I felt like I was back in junior high industrial arts. Needless to say, I learned an enormous amount on Monday. Ron was an extremely patient teacher, and gave me a wide latitude in figuring things out for myself. That ended up teaching me a great lesson, but it also made for some frustrating moments. I guess the best way to learn is to make mistakes. I won't argue with that. As Monday drew to a close I set my plane parts in a safe place and breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it through the first day without completely ruining Ron's mill, or my plane parts. If I had known what Tuesday had in store, I may have just booked an early flight home....