A hand plane is a tool used for smoothing wood surfaces. The components of all hand planes are generally the same: an adjustable cutting edge such as a sharpened metal plate is attached to a solid body which has a grip handle that allows the user to slide the plane firmly, but easily along a board’s surface. The bottom of the plane is called the sole.
The cutter, which extends below the sole, provides a constant angle and depth for cutting. When the plane is moved over a wood surface, the cutter slices off the uneven “high spots,” resulting in a smooth, even surface. The handle of the plane allows for a firm, steady pressure to be applied so that a consistent flat surface or straighter edge can be obtained.
Below: THE RE-PURPOSED PLANE
This item is a wooden hand plane. It is a homemade, repurposed item. The body of this plane is approximately 10 inches long. A center hole has been cut into the block to accommodate a cutter blade. Two pegs, one at each end of the top of the plane, serve as the handles. Both pegs appear to have been worked to make them fit into the plane. On the top of the plane, to the rear of the cutting blade is an oval hole that has been filled with wood. It helps to hold the rear handle in place and may be part of an earlier handle.
The cutting blade appears to have been hammered along the top. Hammering it into place with sufficient force to bend the metal, as is the case here, would surely have split the wooden block used for the base. Most likely, this cutting blade was repurposed as part of an axe. On the right hand side of the plane are two nail holes and the “ghost marks” of what looks like a small piece of wood. As with the manufactured plane, this side rail addition probably served as a guide to set the plane off from a wall or other vertical surface.
A list of the repurposed items used to make this plane would be as follows:
- 10” block of 2” x 2” wood (most probably cottonwood).
- 2 wooden pegs
- The front peg might be a re-used chair spindle
- The rear peg appears to be a tree branch cut and worked to the proper size.
- Cutting blade: heavy hammering marks indicate prior use in some other tool, most probably as part of an axe (sharp, beveled cutting edges are required on both tools)
The plane below is a manufactured item. It shows great wear as the stain on the edges and bottom have been nicked and worn. On the left side, the stain is worn and there is a small nail present. On the right side, two small holes have been drilled and three nails are present. The nails appear to be holding a broken piece of the plane to the main body. Further, small nail holes along the side would indicate a prior attachment of some kind (possibly a side rail as a guide). The finish is uneven. This may have been an attempt to restore the plane to its original finish after the attachment was removed.
The cutter is held in place with a wooden wedge and does show some sign of hammering along the top edge. The cutter blade does not extend beyond the sole here, but shows wear through its uneven cutting edge and small missing section. The handle on the top of the plane is the same kind of handle as used in a saw (pistol grip handle).
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