The Toolmakers, 3: Brian Shugarue, BJS Planes

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Words: Raf Nathan

Brian Shugarue makes bespoke handmade infill planes for the discerning user and collector. He trained as a cabinetmaker in Canada, and worked on high end jobs until he moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2008. He continued with cabinetmaking, but something was missing in his life. The work was not really satisfying, particularly for Brian who is a perfectionist with a capital P.


Low Slung Smoother LSS-40 in naval brass sides, steel sole with resin stabilised Tasmanian blackwood.

He was always interested in plane making and had made many wood bodied planes, but switched to metal planes, as they are more stable and not as prone to movement with humidity changes. You can set up a wood plane perfectly only to find it needs a re-tune after a weather change. Matching beautiful woods with different metal combinations is what he loves, particularly showcasing special figured Australian timbers.


Japanese kanna inspired infill palm smoother, copper, brass and nickel-silver mokume sides, steel sole with Australian beefwood infill wood.

Because each plane is made one at a time, tolerances can be kept tight. Combine this with heavy materials and you get a plane with vibration free performance. His smoothing planes with O1 blades have very small mouth openings and a high pitch of 50°, and hence no chip-breaker. And each plane is painstakingly tuned and tweaked for maximum performance. A high level of sharpening is required to get the most out of any hand tool, but this is another area he loves.


Squirrel tail infill plane, brass and steel with Australian ringed gidgee infill.

Low slung smoothing (LSS) planes are Brian’s most popular design with sides usually constructed in brass or bronze. Another option is mokume, an extremely expensive laminated metal – it costs $1100 for the small sheet required to make an LSS plane. When you look at the materials and hours of making which go into each handmade tool however, his prices are quite reasonable.


Damascus steel and ebony low slung smoother

Photos: Brian Shugarue

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