The hand planes of Karl Holtey

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November 2019

By William Gregory MRICS, Golding Young and Mawer.
“All my Christmases and birthdays have come at once,” is an unusual statement from an auction buyer. But this man was talking about the sale of a collection of 20 wood planes by the renowned woodworking tool maker Karl Holtey. The auction, held on 2nd October, featured 20 wood planes and the collection made over £36,000.

So what is so special about Karl Holtey wood planes? A search on the Internet and a phone call to the man himself soon revealed all. Born in England in 1948 to English and German parents, Holtey started various apprenticeships after school and was employed in building and cabinet making businesses.

His relationship with wood planes began 30 years ago when he started to restore Victorian Norris planes. Norris tools had been the most sought after for manufacturers from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.

Whilst restoring the Norris planes, Karl began to reassess the designs and made improvements, always working to the motto that “every plane should be better than the last.”

Holtey developed the materials as well as the design, invested in new machines, with a view to benefiting both the craftsman and the collector, and now his buyers come from around the world.

He still designs and makes wood planes from his workshop in Scotland and, although he mentions retirement, he has a number of projects currently on the go. From the results of the October auction, he has plenty of admirers.

The highlight of the lots in the sale was an unused Karl Holtey 28.5-inch jointer panel wood plane of rectangular form with twin thread adjuster, shaped infill and handle, stamped with the maker’s name, in a baize pouch. It is reputed that only four of these were ever made and it sold for £3,500.

An unused, stamped and numbered Karl Holtey 17.5-inch smoother wood plane with twin thread adjuster, stepped front handle, shaped back handle and metal mounts in a baize pouch sold for £3,300 and a stamped 12-inch rebate wood plane of shaped rectangular form with brass on steel dovetail and shaped handle by the same maker sold for £1,000.

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