The Furniture Restoration List: Planes

A woodworking plane is a wood (or now almost exclusively) metal jig, designed to hold and render adjustable an iron that is essentially a wide, flat chisel.  I have provided examples of planes that have worked well in my shop, most photos have two or more samples for comparison, and I tried to have one each of wood and metal. Having one each of each of the first four items shown (often collectively called Bench Planes) would be useful to begin with.  I can tell you that during any sort of project in my shop, be it restoration, hand tool or machine oriented a block plane is reached for the most often.

Block Planes

photo of 3 block planes
I am very fond of both the metal planes (Schlicthobel). The older Millers Falls has been with me from very early on. The wooden Emmerich in the back is included for comparison, note the blade angle.

Jack and Scrub Plane

Photo of jack and scrub plane
These are usually the first planes reached for when dressing down rough lumber. The Record No. 5 plane in front is often referred to as a Jack plane. I have ground the iron in this plane to a gentle curvature. The Scrub plane (Schrubhobel) in back has a narrower iron with a much more pronounced curvature.
photo of plane iron curvature of jack and scrub planes
The metal Jack plane in front and the Hornbeam sole of the Scrub plane in the rear. When replacing drawer bottoms or case backs I use these tools to impart an authentic “period” surface appearance. The sole of the metal plane became pitted when I had my tools stored (safely, I thought) outside in a box during the construction of my shop. It was not the only victim.

Trying Plane and Jointer

Picture of metal Fore and wooden Jointer planes
Used to bring stock flat and to true up edges for gluing. The Millers Falls in front is 22 inches long. The Ulmia in the rear (Langhobel) is almost 24 inches long. During restoration I have often flipped the Jointer over in my bench vise, blade up, and used it to joint pieces too small or delicate to put through my stationary power Jointer. This allows you to achieve more control than placing the wood in a vice on trying to plane it when the piece is so small or thin that the weight of the Plane would damage it.

Smooth Planes

Picture of metal and wood smoothing planes
Dopplehobels. A typical Stanley No. 4 with a Hock replacement blade. I reach for this plane quite a bit. The Ulmia in the rear is my very best smoothing plane, the one that I reach for when I have to contend with difficult grain. It is made of Pear wood with a Lignum Vitae sole.

Rabbeting Plane Variants

Picture of metal and wooden rabbet or rebate planes or moving fillisters
Rabbeting planes with attached fences and depth stops are called Fillisters (Falzhobels). These attachments allow for precise, repeatable cuts. They also feature a slitting blade sometimes called a “nicker” that scores and slices the wood proceeding the cutting action of the iron when cutting across the grain.

Rabbet and Bullnose Planes

group of 4 rabbet and shoulder planes Homemade skew rabbet, Stanley bench rabbet, Stanley bullnose and small Clifton bullnose
The wooden Shoulder plane in the rear was cobbled together from parts. I had the stock and an iron that was too wide. There was no wedge, and the mouth of the stock had been worn widely open. I added a new sole, made a wedge and ground the iron to fit the skewed mouth. It took some fiddling (fettling) to get it to cut well, but it now works fine. The larger iron plane has not been very useful to me, I bought it early on, maybe an impulse purchase? The smaller Stanley No. 90 (Simshobel) has an adjustable throat and has been useful over the years. The smallest plane, a Clifton is very useful when you need it, but I could probably make do without it. I seldom use any of these to trim the shoulders of tenons; I find a sharp chisel works just fine in most cases, you may decide otherwise.

Peripheral Planes

Specialized tools, you may not need any of them, but I thought some may enjoy learning a little about them.

Dado, router, tongue and groove, dovetail and chisel planes
From the back: a Stanley Tongue & Groove plane, an ECE Beechwood Dovetail plane* (Grathobel), a two-handled Router plane (usually used for cleaning up the bottoms of dadoes), on the bottom a Stanley Dado plane for cutting grooves across the grain, and finally the Lie-Nielson Chisel plane. The Chisel plane is a tool I would find difficulty living without; when you need it, you absolutely need it, and it always performs beautifully.

Shoulder Planes

I don’t own a proper heavy metal Shoulder plane for trimming the shoulders of tenon joints. I have always done this quite readily with a heavy chisel. Although many of these Shoulder planes are quite nice to look at, their price tags keeps them a distant dream. If I were building many pieces with large, and long tenons to fit breadboard ends (like chest tops or table tops) I would likely purchase one.

A Variety of Smoothing Planes

Below are some examples of Smoothing planes that I have accumulated over the years. I include them here as a reference you can use when you may be out buying.

3 smoothing planes transitional, Trustworthy and Millers Falls
In the rear, a Stanley No. 35 “transitional” smoothing plane. In the middle, an essentially generic “Trustworthy” brand smoothing plane and finally at the front a Millers Falls No. 9, this was my first smoothing plane because at the time it was affordable and it works fine.

There is nothing terribly wrong with buying old planes that are not made by Stanley but for one thing: their irons (and lever cap mechanisms) are often proprietary in shape and size. Finding replacement parts will be a bit of a challenge, but with on-line suppliers nowadays, probably easier than it used to be. So when you are shopping for used planes, make sure that there is plenty of iron or working length left on any oddball brand, look for tapped holes with nothing in them, so what is missing in the hole would not need replacing.

3 coffin shaped planes
I don’t use any of these, they have just showed up on my doorstep over the years. They look cool and the irons have interesting stamps. The rear item is is stamped Sandusky Tool Co. Ohio with a W. Butcher iron and is probably supposed to be a Toothing plane, but it has a conventional iron as a replacement…it’s possible that it could be a Scraping plane. In the middle is a typical coffin Smoothing plane stamped Osborne & Co. Southampton with Hearnshaw Bros. Sheffield stamped on the iron. Lastly, in front is a Coffin smoothing plane which is not marked but the iron is stamped THC s Ibbotson & Co. It has an adjustable brass mouth.
ece plough plane
A Plow Plane, or Plough plane, or if you’d really like to be technical, a Nuthobel mit 6 verschiedenen Eisen. It is used to cut grooves along the grain of the lumber, something we now do with the tablesaw or router bits. This is still available, but now with metal, not wood screw arms; probably good because the wood threads are easily damaged. I have to say though, that in use this is quite satisfying to handle; it works easily with relatively little effort. Antique versions of these planes can be especially elaborate and beautiful and must have been highly competitive status symbols. Not a needed tool, but it does look nice on the shelf.

* An experienced and observant reader caught my error here; this is not an Ulmia grathobel, but an Emmerich which was the better model, so lucky me.

© 2018 Joseph Hoover. Sticks and Glue. All Rights Reserved.

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