Holtey Classic Hand Planes

Where precision toolmaking becomes art
Holtey No.98 Smoother
No.983 Block plane
No983 Group. No.983 with components. No.983 Boxwood handle.

No.983 Testing for fit No.983 Lever cap
Testing for fit. Lever cap.


No.983 Block plane


This is my stainless steel block plane - which has been a long time in its conception. I arrived at this design having studied and compared as many block plane designs as I could find, both old and new.

The qualities I was looking for were: simplicity, elegance and above all ease of use. One of the planes I looked at had an overall height of 2 1/2" and was noticeably more comfortable to the hand, giving a positive drive for the plane without having to pinch the sides too hard. This height is just right and truly feels comfortable and positive in use.

You will notice how the blade chamfer, the profile of the sides and the rear cutaway of the lever cap combine to allow easy access to the clamping wheel, whilst removing any possibility of contact with sharp edges. The open access to the clamping wheel makes blade adjustment or removal of lever cap, blade and adjuster so easy. I feel that the curves of the side panels flow nicely to give this plane a pleasing retro styling.

Bridge and lever cap

The circular cross section bridge has become a distinctive feature of my planes of late. It is fixed in place using integral riviting - the same technique used to join the sides to the sole which gives superior strength and ridgidity compared to more traditional fixing methods.

No.983 view of adjuster.

The lever cap has a recess cut (see photograph right) which engages with the bridge, thus providing further stability without any movement in the palm rest. I choose to use a low finger rest as I believe that this provides a much better feedback in use.

No.983 view of lever cap.
No.983 Blade Clamping

No.983 Preparing stock. No.983 Cutting the sole
As with all my planes everything begins as raw material so a lot of bar material needs to be cut, prepared and with ends and edges trued up and planed on both sides. The picture above shows a stainless steel panel being surfaced in the mill, not too dissimilar to setting out with wood.

As most of my planes are bow fronted the milling operation here shows the end radiusing and some form cutting. This helps to soften the outline of the plane.

No.983 Cutting the rivets. No.983 Adjuster recess
With this plane I have returned to integral riveting as first used on the N0.98 (also fabricated from stainless). The rivets have a small leading chamfer which also helps to prevent splitting when it comes to peining.

The adjuster recess is milled along with the blade bed - both surfaces are in true station, I decided not to fix the adjuster as it only needs to be positioned. The adjuster will support the rear end of the blade in line with the frog which makes up the blade bed. The adjuster is allowed to rotate and position the blade, this system was also used on the No.98 (excluding the retaining screw).


Jim Hooker is well known for his articles and reviews in the woodworking press, in fact he wrote a review of my No.982 plane. Over the many years I have known Jim I have come to greatly value his expertise and opinions, so I was pleased when he placed an order for my new block plane.

I sent him the first No.983 and with his permision have published here the email he sent me of his first impressions, I am looking forward to reading a full review of the plane.
Hi Karl,

I thought you might be interested in my impressions of the 983 block plane now that I have had time to put it through its paces. I have to admit that when I first saw images of the plane I had some worries about the ergonomics of it. Having had a lot of experience with the Lie Nielsen 60 1/2, the Veritas NX60 and the Stanley I have, perhaps surprisingly, found the Stanley to be the most ergonomically satisfactory (although much less good in other ways) and after much thought I have concluded that it is because it is taller so that it may be driven from the palm rather than by the fingers gripping each side of the body, which is what makes the LN and Veritas more tiring to use.

I must say that, at least for my averagely sized hands, the 983 is ergonomically just right; the palm rest sits perfectly in the palm of the hand enabling the plane to be driven forward with only a light grip on the sides and has no need of the finger indentations that disfigure other makers’ planes. I also particularly like the way that the body sides are cut away at the back. This works well visually but, more importantly, it allows very easy access to to the blade locking wheel and adjuster – areas where the LN is particularly poor.

Congratulations Karl, it may look unconventional but I think the 983 may just be your masterpiece.

All best wishes,

Jim.