An $1,800 Method for Refining Almost Any Woodworking Project

“A plane,” says Mateo Panzica, “has to be reliable 100% of the time.” Taken as a statement about aircraft, it seems self-evident. But if you’re talking about woodworking, as he is, it requires more explanation. Panzica’s Lazarus Handplane Co. specializes in exquisitely wrought implements for smoothing and shaping wood to a finer finish than mere sandpaper produces. His compact mouse planes, which start at $435, can shave ribbons of wood as if you were peeling a carrot. The $1,800 Bevel Up Smooth Plane (pictured) weighs a hefty 5 pounds, 6 ounces, thanks to its brass and stainless-steel body, and is built to avoid “chatter,” those marks left when microvibrations in the blades of lesser planes tear out minuscule strips of wood grain. When that happens after hours of methodical labor, he says, “you’ve just defeated yourself.”

THE COMPETITION

• Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Inc. has existed at the intersection of quality and affordability for decades. Its $175 No. 60-1/2 Adjustable Mouth Block Plane is a workbench workhorse, perfect for someone who wants to get serious in the shop.

• John Economaki’s designs for Bridge City Tool Works are radical, beautiful, and functional. The $769 HP-9v2 Dual Angle Block Plane adjusts for both general use and end-grain work and features a guide fence to help less able woodworkers improve accuracy.

• For mortise and tenon work, where space is tight, a narrowbodied piece such as Woodcraft Supply LLC’s $170 Woodriver #92 Medium Shoulder Plane can prove essential. The design is based on the Victorian-era tools of Edward Preston & Sons.

THE CASE

Whether you’re a novice woodworker or a professional, the traits that make a hand plane effective are mass, materials, and meticulousness. Products from Louisville’s Lazarus have a surfeit of each. Panzica’s art school and timber-frame construction background inform their creation, resulting in a tool designed to look gorgeous and work immaculately. Exotic hardwoods are a tradition in high-end planes, and Lazarus’s handles might be cocobolo, bubinga, or, as shown, a Gabon ebony that’s been French-polished—a time-consuming but worthwhile shellacking method. “There’s no modern equivalent that’s as abrasive-resistant or as durable,” Panzica says. What you’re getting is a beautiful tool, reliable 100% of the time. $1,800

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