Last year I met Ron Brese, maker of exceptional infill planes. Ron left a career in engineering to pursue planemaking, and the woodworking community is all the more fortunate because of it.
If you plan to attend this year's conference, stop by to talk with Ron in person and try his planes. And if you're in the market for a handplane that can tame the most highly-figured surface with ease, read on.
Here is Ron's response when I asked him what distinguishes his planes from the competition:
There are several unique features to the tools that I make and some of them are not always very apparent on the surface.
(1) My tools are assembled with a riveting process that allows me to assemble very accurate and quite rigid and strong plane bodies. This also creates near invisible joinery that keeps the lines of my planes very clean looking. This process allows me to utilize different alloys of metals that don't always react well the double dovetail peening work involved in other assembly methods.
(2) Thicker irons and no cap iron configuration. We don't make any surfacing planes with a bed pitch of less than 50 degrees and have found no difference in the surfaces that these tools leave in their wake with or without cap irons. At these steeper angles, more heat is generated at the cutting edge of the irons, and the thicker iron serves as a heat sink to draw this heat away from the edge and help extend cutting edge life.
(3) We have worked hard to find the optimum mass factor for our tools. Adding mass to a tool for mass sake is not a good idea. There is a point of diminishing returns. We have worked hard to find the optimum ratio between weight and balance.
(4) Visually there are some very distinctive features that make my tools recognizable as a "Brese Plane".
(A) The small safety button at the top of the iron. The single iron configuration creates a situation that would allow the iron to fall through the mouth of the plane if the lever cap screw was loosened while the plane is held above the surface of the workbench. This button will catch on the lever cap screw or lever cap, preventing the iron from passing through the plane.
(B) The rear tote of the full size planes has a distinctive shape with the top of the horn tapering to a thinner, elegant edge at the very top. This, coupled with the option of the diamond-shaped, mother of pearl inlays, creates a distinctive look for these tools. The front bun shape on our 875 Series Smoothing planes is unique to these planes as well.
(C) The overall look of the 650-55 "J" overstuffed version of our small smoother is a unique shape that is only seen in this line of planes. The side cutout and "J" configuration of the 650-55 "J" overstuffed design was the vision of Jameel Abraham of BenchCrafted.
We are in the process of developing a new line of very refined, very precision-made, stainless steel non-infill planes. The first of this line was a 13.25" long panel plane that was on our bench at the WIA conference in Valley Forge. We have two other sizes of the stainless plane in the design process and are developing one more infill smoother as well.
Ron plans to have at least two more planes that will be part of the new stainless steel line ready to debut at the 2010 WIA.