Canadian Woodworking

Krenov Style Hand Plane

Author: Michael Kampen
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: February March 2007

This Krenov style plane, named after James Krenov, is quite easy to make. And, when fitted with a Hock iron, it is sure to cut every bit as nicely as a high-end bronze low-angle plane.


Krenov style handplane
handplane materials list

Wooden planes have been used for thousands of years. In fact, from Roman times, until the industrial age, when planes made of cast iron became widely available, wooden planes were the only option. Now, woodworkers have a wide selection of planes, of various materials, available to them.

Even with the wide range of planes on the market today, many woodworkers still enjoy making their own wooden planes. And why not? It’s a near perfect project: building the very tool with which you do your future woodworking. What could be more enjoyable and fulfilling?

This Krenov style plane, named after James Krenov, is quite easy to make. And, when fitted with a Hock iron, it is sure to cut every bit as nicely as a high-end bronze low-angle plane.

This plane’s style was originally popularized by James Krenov, a great exponent of hand planing. The Hock iron, named after its maker, Ron Hock, is a much thicker iron than what is commonly mass produced. The thickness helps to significantly reduce plane chatter.


Throat and cross pin

Select Your Stock

This is a great project to experiment with an exotic wood. For the amount you will need, the cost outlay will be minimal, and, as an added bonus, most exotics are heavier and denser, so they are ideal for the task.

These two planes are made from a single piece of bubinga. Bubinga has a heavy feel, and a surface that is both silky smooth and cool to the touch. It makes for a most enjoyable tool. When choosing the wood for your project, try to imagine what a plane-sized piece would feel like in your hands.

Why make two planes? Aside from the fact that both have different irons (one straight and one curved), it has to do with how I make them. I use a jointer and a thickness planer to prepare the material for these planes, and although it is possible to run short pieces through them, it is much safer to run a 24″ piece through these machines than a shorter 12″ piece.

Prepare the Stock

Preparing the stock for the plane is basic. You’ll need two pieces for the sides (A) and one piece for the center block (B). How you go about this will depend on the material you have chosen. Because the center block will be cut in two and glued between the sides, it is important to prepare it as one piece first and then cut it to avoid working with pieces of unequal thickness during the glue-up. If you wish to make this from one solid block of wood, you will need to find stock thick enough to be resawn into the three components. The thickness depends on whether you will be using a band saw or a table saw for resawing. Once you re-saw the blank, use a jointer and thickness planer to prepare the two sides and center block. If you can’t find stock thick enough, simply glue up the center block from thinner stock. When the glue has set, bring the parts to the final dimensions using the jointer and thickness planer.

Prepare the Center Block

  • To create the cavity that holds the plane iron, wedge and cross pin, the center block has to be cut twice.
  • Make the first cut at 45º, cutting the center block in two parts.
  • Set aside the smaller of the two pieces, this will become the rear section of the center block. You can use the middle piece for the wedge.
  • Make a 15º cut to remove the center wedge from the other piece which will become the front half of the center block. Save this piece for use later.
  • Set up a 3/8″ spiral cutter in a router table. To make a clearance groove, for the screw that fastens the chip breaker to the iron, you will need to rout a stopped groove in the rear half of the sloped face of the center block. Use a fence and an end stop, and rout this in two passes on the router table.
  • Use a table saw and a cross-cut sled to take the sharp point off the trailing edge of the front section. Making this section a little more vertical ensures that the opening will not get overly large as the sole wears during use.

Bring the Pieces Together

  • The next step is to bring the four pieces that form the body together and to index them with dowels to be sure they can be accurately reassembled during the glue-up stage.
  • On a flat surface, such as the top of a table saw or the infeed bed of a jointer, set the four parts down and lightly clamp them together.
  • To set the proper opening for the iron, move the two center pieces together until the opening is just ever so slightly too narrow for the iron to go through.
  • Clamp everything together, ensuring that all four sections are sitting flat on the surface.
  • Drill four dowel holes in each side – four dowels in each section. Locate these holes in the area at the top of the stock, which will be removed when the plane is sawn to shape.
  • Before drilling, test the bit/dowel combination in a piece of the same wood. I found that a 5/16 brad point bit was too loose with a 5/16 dowel to give a perfect fit during glue-up. Using a 19/64 bit gave me a nice tight fit. Unfortunately, it also meant that the dowels could not be removed, and needed to be drilled out later in preparation for gluing, but the added accuracy was worth the effort.
  • Drive dowels into the holes to hold everything tightly in place.

The Cross Pin

  • With the pieces held together with dowels, it is time to lay out and drill the holes for the cross pin (C).
  • Cut a 1/2″ thick spacer the same size as the iron.
  • Place the iron in the plane, and place the spacer on the iron.
  • Trace a line along the top edge of the spacer along the inside of both side pieces. This is the centerline of the cross pin hole, as measured from the iron. The cross pin centerline should also be about 1-1/4″ up from the sole of the plane.
  • Draw a line along the center section of both sides, on the outside, 1-1/4″ up from the base. Where these lines intersect is the center of the cross pin hole. To transfer the inside measurement to the outside, close the jaws of a dial caliper on the side and when both the inside and outside tips are on the lines you’ve drawn, mark this point on the outside line.
  • Adjust your drill press so the bit is square to the table, and using a 3/8 brad point bit, drill through the first side and keep going until you have gone through both sides.
  • Cut a blank for the spacer (C) sized to the dimensions shown in the materials list. For maximum strength, consider using stock with grain that runs the full length of the piece, in this case, I used quarter-sawn white oak.
  • Cut the tenons to fit the holes in the sides in two steps. First, set your table saw blade to project 1/8″ above the top. Next, mark off the shoulders. Measure in the thickness of the side for the first shoulder, then another 1 ¾” from that point to the next. Using a cross-cut sled, cut the tenons up to the shoulders on both ends with multiple passes.
  • Clamp the cross pin in a bench vise and use the shank of a 3/8″ drill bit centered on the square tenon to trace a pattern for a perfectly centered round tenon.
  • Use a sharp chisel to underscore the areas to be removed and then work down along the outline of the tenon to remove the waste. Test fit the tenon into the corresponding hole often until you achieve a snug fit that still allows rotary movement.
  • Shape the upper sides of the cross pin into a rounded, more streamlined shape.

Putting It Together

  • Take the plane apart. If the dowels won’t remove easily, it is best not to force them.
  • Select a brad point drill bit just slightly smaller than the dowel and drill it out. Be careful not to alter the original hole. The remaining dowel pieces will either pop out with the drill bit or can be pulled out of the hole.
  • Lay out all of the pieces in the order they will be assembled. Be sure to have fresh dowels ready.
  • Rub a little paraffin wax on the edges of the cross pin tenons and insert them into one of the sides.
  • The plane can be glued using either Titebond III or a two-part epoxy. If you are using a five-minute epoxy, be sure to be well organized. Apply the epoxy to one side of both center pieces. Place these face down on the corresponding side, turn the pieces over and drive the dowels into the holes. Apply epoxy to the other sides and locate the second side with the dowels. Be sure the cross pin is in place.
  • Use clamps to draw everything tight and let the adhesive cure.

Shape the Plane

  • When the epoxy or adhesive has cured, remove the clamps.
  • Flatten any irregularity in the sole of the plane on a stationary belt sander. If you don’t have one, take a sanding belt from a belt sander, cut it open and clamp it to the in-feed bed of your jointer and level the sole manually. Be careful at this stage. It is possible to make the opening too big quickly if the leading edge of the back of the opening is sloped upward.
  • Trace the outline of the plane on the side and use a band saw to cut it out.
  • Sand the sawn area to remove any saw marks and blend the curves into one smooth, flowing form.
  • Sand the sides. If you plan on using the plane with a shooting board, be sure the sides of the plane are at 90º to the sole.

The Wedge

The iron is held in place by a wedge (D) that is placed between the cross pin and the iron.

  • Cut out the general shape using a band saw, but be careful as the part is small and could be hard to hold. Alternatively, consider using rasps and a sander.
  • Refine the shape of the wedge gradually and test it in the plane often. Keep going until you have a wedge that fits and holds the iron firmly in place.
  • Apply a coat of oil to the plane to bring out the grain and follow that with a couple of coats of a paste wax for protection. Install the iron and wedge and you’ll be creating paper-thin shavings in no time.


There was a time when wood bodied hand planes were the de facto plane of choice in the workshop. Changing times and technologies largely replaced wood bodied planes with all-metal planes.  By the time this occurred most woodworking was highly mechanized, with most furniture being produced in large factories. Even small woodworking shops strived to emulate the efficiencies and production rationale of the furniture factories.

In 1975 a little known woodworker by the name of James Krenov published “A Cabinetmakers Notebook”, followed by “The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking” in 1977. These two books had an enormous impact on the woodworking community, particularly among furniture makers. Krenov’s approach to woodworking, and his heavy reliance on hand tools, precipitated the ‘studio furniture’ revival in North America. In 1981 he founded the College of the Redwoods’ Fine Woodworking School, where he taught and worked until his retirement a few years ago. The style of wood bodied hand plane that Krenov popularized has been affectionately named after him.

James Krenov


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  2. Thanks. I was very happy to see this show up on my Google page.
    It brought back memories of when I attended a 6 week class with Krenov in Mendocino California, during the Summer of 1980.
    I still have the hand plane I made while I attended that class, 40 years ago. The cabinet that I made while I was there was never touched with sandpaper. To this day, I still look at wood with an eye for which way the grain flows.
    Modern day cabinetmakers need to realize that finishing their work with a block sander is similar to a Mason using a brick.
    Krenov’s work is magnificent. People that joke about the size of the work that he has done do not have a clue about the unbelievable effort that it entails.

  3. I’ve made many of these planes for myself and as gifts for woodworking friends. My only modification is to use a brass rod for the cross piece. I purchase 01 tool steel pieces and shape them and temper them at home. Good article, great instructions.

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