Here is the first tool maker I spoke with at the conference: Konrad Sauer from Sauer & Steiner Toolworks.
Konrad is, in a word, adorable. And while that might not affect your buying decisions, it needed to be said.
I'll let Konrad tell you the rest of the story:
"There are quite a few really great planemakers out there - many of whom I would call friends. I am not sure how many of us would consider each other competition but rather recognize that when one of us does well - we all do. There are a few things we are all trying to do. First and foremost - make a highly functional plane (ala plane birds eye without tearout and leave a mirror finish*). After that - we get to 'play' - to impart our own personal sense of what we feel is an artistic expression. I have a foot firmly planted in the original infill design language - the planes I make clearly come from that style. But if you put an original Spiers, Norris or Mathieson beside one of my planes, the lines, shapes and forms are actually quite different.
One of the unique things I am doing is allowing the customer to contribute to the process. They choose the infill material, the sidewall material, the bed angle, the blade width etc. I even ask for a photocopy of their hand to better match their hand size. Because I work with handtools - making these types of alterations is very easy to do, does not add additional cost and results in a very personal tool for the customer.
I am also 'all about the wood'. The most enjoyable part of planemaking is finding a spectacular piece of wood and figuring out how best to use it. Metal is metal - for the most part a piece of 01 tool steel looks like the next piece. This consistency is great for planemaking - but not very exciting. Wood on the other hand is always unique - sometimes even within the same piece. I have spent the last 10 years investing in my wood collection and I think many of my customers enjoy access to some pretty spectacular material."
You can read more about Konrad's planes here.
*Konrad references a planed piece of birds-eye maple with no tearout. I saw this for myself. It was as smooth as glass with a mirror-like reflection.