Planes I Use Too!

I am often told of this plane or that plane coming from an alternative culture, as though somehow never had a western version and that somehow we might be behind when in reality what we had simply got dismissed by being forgotten in the flotsam and jetsom of our industrial ‘progress’. In reality it is true that planes of equal worth, quality, functionality and versatility existed through the centuries. They were just abandoned.

As a boy I watched men work planes of every type upside down, hidden from view, on pull strokes or push strokes according to access and grain orientation and the end result of each plane stroke resulted in perfection. With no need to prove themselves by taking 20-foot ribbons of shavings, and of course, no time for such things too, these men simply worked. Shavings the thickness of onion skins were really of little value back then in that production was on and things needed to be achieved and of course the bosses had little time for frivolity in the post-war years when we needed to rejuvenate the world economies. Indeed such working commonly produced shavings minute on minute. One thing I always enjoyed was the reality of work and less so the entertainment of it though it is fun to pull shavings from the throat of any plane when it just keeps coming and coming like magicians scarf from a hat. There at the various workbenches, I spent hours every week gathering up shaving six inches deep and bagging them to take to the incinerator which was the boiler we heated the workshop with. This, the work itself, proved both the man and the planes used. It was the same for the saws and the chisels. Fine workmanship is well proven in what is produced. In all cultures there are examples of workmanship exemplifying total control and mastery of material and tools. It’s from this standpoint that I present two planes that do all things that they were intended to do and they do it with pizzazz! Additionally, there are scraper versions of both that deal with the most awkward of grains. I have no need for more planes, just ones that work and work well and efficiently. The spiritual connection between me and my hand tools is evident.

I have been working on a new project requiring bevelled corner one eighth in and one eighth deep. Mostly, for work like this, I will simply use my #4 smoother working to just my eye or using pencil lines as guides. It might surprise you if I say that after I had done mine I passed the chamfer plane along the lengths of wood and the plane took off only minute amounts to correct discrepancies.

The first plane at the top is one of my favourites because it came to me as a second of its type I have seen and owned. The tapered escapement allows the exiting shaving free passage up from the throat below and out the top. The first pass is barely discernible but each stroke widens until the full width of the chamfer or bevel is achieved and the two sides of the inside of the V register on the two adjacent faces of the wood being worked (as shown in pic above). Setting the plane employs what I call the hammer-tap system where we tap the heel of the plane to shock the iron and wedge back and then to tap the wedge and cutting iron with the hammer to set the depth of cut the cutting iron removes. The width of the chamfer itself is preset before the work begins by altering the depth of the central tapered column to the desired width and planing away. Alternating grain is dealt with by planing one direction or the other according to what’s seen and felt. It’s simple.

The plane, as is the case with many wooden planes, is a user-made version that shows the inventiveness of the men who made them. A good design would be copied onto brown manilla paper of the stiff kind and stowed until time allowed the making to take place. Such practices were by invitation only. The owner of the plane and the designer might guard his invention as a pearl not to be cast before swine but willingly shared with those he liked on an occasion of generosity. I am including the pictures here below for those who might want to make such a version but I am not going to get into the processes as I am already maxed out in the day to day.

This second plane is simpler and equally pleasant to use. It too flips from one corner to the next and then end for end too with the twist and or flip of a wrist. Both planes slip into the palm of the hand so readily and are very comfortable to use being wood.


    1. The second one at the bottom of the page is currently in the pipeline for videoing–I may do both.

      1. Really looking forward to that!

        I may be a bit crazy, but I actually get more satisfaction out of making a tool than making something using the tool I just made.

      2. YES, Please do! I would be willing to take on building the chamfering plane using hand tools as those that initially crafted these specialty planes.

    2. Stavros Gakos (I hope the spelling is correct) on YT has a video making this exact plane. While not strictly instructional, it’s very informative and very satisfying to watch

  1. Your enthusiasm for hand tools and working with hand tools is a joy to watch and read about Paul.

  2. I’ve been a hand tool woodworker for forty years and it brings satisfaction and joy to encounter others who have experienced and are dedicated to this practice.

  3. Must admit these are the posts I enjoy the most, with the tools (and techniques) of the trade. Just using a #4 smoother works pretty well for me too. Had seen similar projects on the internet (making a chamfer plane) but they had always struck me as a bit frivolous. So it’s interesting for me to read that you do have a use for them. Someone obviously had to make a lot of chamfers, and probably accurate ones, to make such a plane. Either that or he just enjoyed making tools (something I’m guilty of myself).

    There’s definitely something about wooden planes. Recently used a wooden tongue-and-groove plane. It didn’t feed right at first, kept clogging. Didn’t take long to find out what the problem was and to correct it by taking a small amount of material off the wedge with a sharp chisel. A ‘repair’ that took only a few seconds. It fed magnificently after that.

    I recall as a child seeing my father adjust wooden planes with a hammer and being underwhelmed by the whole process. Seemed so brutish to me at the time. But it’s a wonderfully quick method and the one I use with my homemade routerplane. The adjustment screw gets hardly used, a tap with the hammer is quicker and more accurate.

    This morning I was leafing through a tool supplier’s catalog. Struck me that most products looked like children’s toys, made to project a rough and tough image of its owner. Battery tools particularly, almost look like ‘Transformer’
    toys nowadays. Saw a handsaw with ‘VENOM’ on it in big print. Who thinks up this idiocy?! Compare that to the tools in this post that just exude honest craftmanship without any need to impress with anything else than the excellent craftmanship of its maker.

  4. Wood planes are far and away my favorite. There is independence from the assembly line and self reliance resting on a big plant and a little scrap of steel. I grow veggies for food and used to raise heritage poultry. Ducks are the harshest taskmistresses. Feed them one second too late and they are up your kazoo in short order honking and screetching. Their eggs were huge. It was satisfying to sit in a summer chair in the shade and watch the birds dibble dabble after a worm or the raspberries jumping up and nibbling off a berry. There is a wholesomeness to a tool that makes your farm run.

  5. This post makes me think about how the context of making might reflect one’s attitude towards one’s tools.

    I was wondering if your view of tools changes depending on the type of job? Are there different factors in a tool when making a large number of windows, doors, stairs and the like, vs. when you were making items like canes, boxes vs. bespoke furniture like cabinets for the White House?

    1. I think about my tools differently now than say when I was a young man apprenticing. Back then the tools I bought seemed, well, characterless. The Stanley #4 felt harsh, the parts rattled, and such. Not at all like my borrowed plane from George. Today it is a prized possession that has earned its keep a thousand times over. and owes me not a penny. I do think though that tools become favourites through use and yes, that some earned all the more respect in reflections on where, when and how they were used. It’s truly something I would never have thought possible but using the Aldi chisels over the last ten years, refining them to match my using them, has resulted in them being the ones I turn to every day over any and all premium versions. I liken this to my own life where class systems, social backgrounds and such placed you squarely outside privileged circles and a certain group considered lower in the chain. This was not merely perceived but reality. How you spoke, dressed, ate food and where you worked and what you did categorised you. The Aldi chisels were the Paul Sellers of the 1960s. A bit rough around the edges but made of good stuff. Perhaps a little chintzy or even garish in places, but still made of stern determination, the stuff that overcame snobs and snobbism, privileged elitism. My Aldi chisels seemed to me just like me. A certainty resolved inside them not to be considered as a class but an independent. I hated the idea that I might seem somehow to elevate myself from being a working man in an honest working-life and working-class background to life to establish myself in the, well, middle-class. I knew there was no place in academia and nor would I ever want such a thing and certainly I would be ashamed to be considered upper-class. Whereas I might not like to even use the term working class, for all people working to make their living are in my view classed as working people, it does serve the purpose of stating that these people are working. No, it’s the self-elevation used even yet by influencers such as media reporters and such who still consider it best to state a person’s rank by using terms such as working class as the lowered level of being under their own level of self-elevation into the middle class.
      So my Aldi chisels are elevated firstly by their performance, secondly by my lifting them from the gutter of industrialism and refining their outward appearance and thirdly but not lastly by my using them to perform the most exacting of tasks. They, as I, have overcome conditions and use with the absolute utmost resilience. I place them well above any and all other makers, be that past and present, because, as a famed man once said of his protege, Timothy, “He has served me in the furtherance of my work like a child serves his father.”

  6. Tools made by craftspeople, people working hard, to get the job done. Yes.
    I appreciate and value the skill required to make a perfect, tightly fit dovetail. But I’ve also noticed that a lot of old furniture, pieces that have survived 150-250 years, and are more beautiful than the day they were built, that the joints could be visually a bit “crude”. Drawer boxes might not have perfect dovetails. Plane marks might still be visible on the panels, especially if they are in the back of the carcass. A seemingly repetitive chip carved detail will reveal it was laid out by eye and no two are exactly the same.
    And yet the piece was valued and appreciated. It was an object that was cared for and survived the centuries.
    I’m a beginner at woodworking and I’m determined to master the skills so that I too can craft the perfect dovetail. But then I hope to move beyond that to the point where I can do only what is necessary to create long-lasting beauty.

  7. Interesting as usual, I never cease to learn when I pull up this blog or indeed the website! I recently got a couple of wooden planes, both more or less jack planes as I struggle a bit pushing the iron planes around a bit more than I used to as I age. They do indeed glide like nothing I have ever used, even waxing the soles on my Bailey style planes. I still search for a small wooden smoother that will function like a standard bench plane, my block planes see little use these days just as Mr. Sellers has always said. Thanks for the introduction to tools we rarely if ever will see these days. Keep up tye good work, and stay safe.

  8. Scraper is a bad name for scrapers. What is a good name for a scraper? Shavers? The scraper shaving reminds me of the shavings of a double edged razor blade on pine end grain somewhat.

    Hookers may be misleading despite the hooked burrs on the scraper. No need to confuse the subject. Curly burrs just sounds silly.

  9. Having come lat to the party, as it may be deemed, reading your reply regarding “Class” led to this thought: It is so déclassé to be divided by “Class”.

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