Karl Hotley Planes

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Forum topic by bluekingfisher posted 08-10-2015 08:15 AM 1964 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1333 posts in 4269 days

08-10-2015 08:15 AM

While I can appreciate quality and ‘nice’ tools I found myself staring mouth agape at the prices of Karl Hotley hand crafted hand planes

There are no price list shown on his website (price provided individually on contact) however the starting prices come in at around £2500.00 – £7000.00, ($4000.00 – $10000.00 USD) not exactly small change.

I am sure these planes are quality items (although not to my personal taste) so I was wondering, who would buy such a tool? I am guessing some do otherwise he wouldn’t be in business? Does the timber realise it is being planed by a 5 grand plane and does it produce better results than say a well honed and fettled Stanley/Record for example?

Would a plane at this price actually be used as intended or would it reside in a glass cabinet as a gloat factor by it’s owner?

So, I am interested to know if any of you guys in LJ land own one, would like to, and would you use it or keep it in a stand alone cabinet accompanied by an armed guard?


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

19 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6781 posts in 3598 days

#1 posted 08-10-2015 09:59 AM

If you were making a product that took up to 200 hrs to build plus all the taxes insurance, a shop and expensive machines, heat and electricity how much an hour do you think you would have to charge.

50 dollars an hour shop time, times 200 hrs=10,000 plus material.

Last time I took my truck to the dealer for repairs it was 110 dollars an hour.

Those planes are not for everybody and were never meant to be.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4093 days

#2 posted 08-10-2015 12:02 PM

I can only wish I had that kind of money. Maybe a big bag of it will fall out of a plane and land in my front yard. I keep hoping.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7301 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 08-10-2015 12:19 PM

PWW actually did a review on them a few years back. Schwartz actually had a small complaint about them (something about the way the tote was fastened) and I mentioned that on another forum. Holtey himself responded he thought the complaint was unfair, and what really surprised was that 6-7 folks chimed in how much they loved their Holtey. So he has a market, though that doesn’t include me.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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5811 posts in 3582 days

#4 posted 08-10-2015 04:39 PM

Thank you for the education. It never ceases to amaze me that super, high-end products not only exist and are offered for sale, but that there is an actual market for such products. My observation would be that there are and always well be people with more money than they know what to do, and I hope they enjoy it. I have no resentment or jealously, but I do accept the fact that I’m not one of them. I would also observe that life is full of trade offs, and I wouldn’t change my life for that of anyone else since I can honestly say that “I’ve Done It My Way”!

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

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1333 posts in 4269 days

#5 posted 08-10-2015 05:32 PM

Thanks for your input gents, much appreciated.

I take the point that X hours at X hourly rate equates to a formidable sum, does that make the product worth the price though? For one thing, the term hand made could be a little misleading, are they hand made in the true sense, some parts maybe of course although modern CNC engineering machines seem to be in abundance in the factory.

I cannot believe one plane takes 200+ hours to make and I would doubt one is made at a time, which to me would seem like a production run. I maybe wrong and I am sure someone perhaps one day will educate me to that fact.

Are they for example anymore hand crafted, tuned, designed or engineered than say a LV or LN plane, all of which seem to at or at least allude to individual hands on manufacture to some degree.

Other than having the bragging rights to owning an expensive plane I cannot see why anyone would wish to own one? How smooth can one plane or smooth the timber. That said, if it brings pleasure to the owner by using it then I am sure it is worth every penny to them and who am I to question that. It does, to my mind at least put the whole concept of what I considered premium or expensive planes into context. Perhaps I’ll put my order in for a dozen Lie Nielsens then put my case forward to SWMBO that I have actually had a bargain


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View jmartel's profile


9264 posts in 3439 days

#6 posted 08-10-2015 06:04 PM

I think the problem is that you are thinking of them solely as user planes. I think of the high end plane makers as “functional artwork”.

No one is going to go out and buy a set of Hotley planes to use every day like you would with LV or LN planes. They are going to buy it for occasional use as well as decoration/part of a collection.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 4274 days

#7 posted 08-10-2015 06:16 PM

I am a hobby infill maker (I think I can call myself that after about 15 planes), and here are some of my thoughts regarding this:

- The hourly wage is certainly a big consideration. While 200 hours seems a little high, it is really easy to burn 200 hours in designing and prototyping a new style, which is what Karl has been doing the last few years with the 983, 984, his take on transitionals, etc. For me, a new prototype usually takes 10-20 hours in planning, drawing, sourcing parts, etc. Then the actual build will take about 20-25 hours. However, my stuff is nowhere near his quality.

- The machinery is orders of magnitude more expensive than woodworking equipment. The next time you think $3000 is a lot of a new table saw, think of a new milling machine, the type Karl likely has is probably a $15000 machine and not the biggest nicest machine available. There are also lathes, surface grinders, sharpeners, band saws, etc. each of which is much more expensive than its woodworking counterpart

- His pieces definitely fit into the functional art camp. I think they are beautiful. I also think I will never be able to buy one, which is one reason I started building my own. You could just as easily look at a Dale Chihuli piece of glass as $20 worth of glass and some time in it, why does it warrant $5000 for a bowl or vase? Same thing, really.

- The infills being made today are all made using subtractive manufacturing. That means you are starting with billet materials and removing what isn’t a plane. This is much more work, costs a ton more in materials, requires a ton more equipment than what LV and LN are doing with mostly cast parts that are then machined the remainder of the way to meet tolerance. Billet brass is going through the roof in price. Working stainless is costly because it is a pain. The materials for a good infill can easily run a couple hundred bucks, more for more exotic woods.

- Just as a side note, Karl is retiring, so prices may go even higher. Whether you agree with the prices or not, he is a very skilled craftsman who has made a name for himself. Any master of their craft can charge higher prices than other practioners. That is the way it has always been. Expect to see prices after he retires to go even higher.

Now, does wood care if it is an infill or a well made, mass produced plane? Not really, but I love building them because they are both beautiful and functional. Nothing wrong with wanting both.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View bluekingfisher's profile


1333 posts in 4269 days

#8 posted 08-10-2015 07:19 PM

Thanks for your perspective fellas, very interesting to read.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Don W's profile

Don W

20247 posts in 3857 days

#9 posted 08-10-2015 11:35 PM

Keep in mind there is more to running a business making a product. How many hours so you suppose he’s spent at woodworking shows and other marketing events.

I’d be one who would buy them if I could afford them. Unfortunately I have other priorities as well.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Aj2's profile


4145 posts in 3087 days

#10 posted 08-11-2015 12:02 AM

I don’t see why anyone can say his work is priced to high,Unless you can make one your self as nice and cheaper.
I have several Tasai chisels that cost me as much as one LN handplane,Do they hold a edge better than A2 darn right they do do they improve my attitude using them.Darn right.My wood shop earned the money’s to buy them. I would never in my lifetime be able to make such a nice tool. I think Hotley planes are bad ass!

-- Aj

View bluekingfisher's profile


1333 posts in 4269 days

#11 posted 08-11-2015 06:56 AM

Is it fair then to assume these are then ‘trophy’ tools for those affluent enough not to consider what they cost??

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 4274 days

#12 posted 08-11-2015 12:43 PM

I would not say that that is how every owner sees them. Think of really nice sports cars. Some people have them purely as a trophy car. Others take them out and drive them frequently because they can discern the very small increase in performance over another car and enjoy driving them. I think most of us are that way with at least one thing in life. I like really nice tools and guitars (though I can’t afford them, so I make them). I know people who are very particular about chocolate, or their alcoholic beverage of choice, or music, or what have you. Some of those things are costly, some are not, but each of us has things in our lives that we hold dear and that we are very discerning with. I bet there is some guy out there who has a ridiculously expensive painting hanging on his wall, not because it’s a trophy, but because it stirs his soul and it gives him joy to look at.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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1333 posts in 4269 days

#13 posted 08-12-2015 08:30 AM

I can understand your point of view, if you have the money, then why not. I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder on any given item.

Who then are the target market for such planes? I assume it is the serious amatuer with disposable income? I cannot believe a craftsman (or woman) could justify buying such an expensive tool as their daily or even occasional user tool, particulary as profit margins from their craft may be tight. If I were to commission a craftsman to build me an item of furniture I wouldn’t expect him to charge an additional premium because he had to cover the cost of his expensive plane/tool. I would simply take my business elsewhere.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 4274 days

#14 posted 08-12-2015 12:34 PM

The target market for any item such as this, be it a Karl Holtey plane, or a Bridge City Tools one, or a ferrari, or what have you, is always those with money to burn. It has always been that way and likely always will. However, just because a target market is willing to pay for an item does not mean the item is not appropriately priced to cover costs/labor, does not function well, or does not possess other desirable characteristics. It is simply that many people either can’t afford them, or the cost/benefit in their case does not justify it.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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1333 posts in 4269 days

#15 posted 08-13-2015 08:56 AM

I think you have answered my question and on this basis I expect them to be around for a very long time indeed.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

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