Review By: I.Ball
Category: Old Wooden Planes
Tool Type: Wooden Planes
Plane Type: Jack / Fore
The wooden jack plane and wooden fore plane have been put together for
this one as the wooden jack plane and wooden fore plane naming seems
interchangable for this one.
This plane is a much used plane in the process of working towards smoothing or flattening a board by being the first plane used to initially begin the smoothing process.
Please see the wooden smoothing plane review for the core details of the old British wooden jack plane as the core fundamentals are the same.
Wooden jack planes / wooden fore planes were in the region of 14 inch to 17 inch long fitted with plane iron's ranging from 1 3/4 inch to 2 1/2 inch wide depending on the width of the plane.
My feeling is the planes of 14"-15 1/2" are jack planes and the planes of 16"-17 1/2" are fore planes though I need to look more into the historical naming conventions.
The smaller sized jack planes were sometimes referred to as 'technical jack planes', certainly this is the case with the wooden jack planes which were made late on.
Other features on the technical jack planes were they had a striking knob on top of the plane towards the front of the plane and a sunken rear handle.
The purpose of the lowered sunken rear handle was to reduce the weight of the plane
in order that younger users such as students could handle the plane with more ease.
Another purpose was to lower the angle at which you push the plane to a lower center
The purpose of the striking knob was to make the removal or release of the wedge and blade easier; striking the knob with a mallet will release the wedge.
Note: from my experience this doesn't work when a wedge is jammed i.e. in a plane which has been sitting neglected for a number of years however for a plane in active use this is needed and used constantly to allow quick adjustments to the blade. An alternative place to strike the plane to release the blade is to strike the back of the plane (quite often you can see the striking marks where this has been carried for many years from previous owners)
The wooden jack planes generally have an open rear handle opposed to closed rear handle which is seen on the wooden trying / jointer planes.
The wooden jack plane / fore plane was the forerunner to the infill jack planes / fore planes such as the Norris A1 plane and the iron jack planes such as the Stanley jack plane number 5, Stanley fore plane number 6, Record jack plane number 05. and the Record fore plane number 06.
All three of these types of jack planes / fore planes (wooden, infill and iron) were manufactured and sold by tool shops in competition with each other for a very lengthy period of about 70 years or so during the latter 1800's - 1950's.
History shows us the overall winner of the battle of the jack planes / fore planes was the iron plane. Wooden planes and infill planes were more than capable jack planes / fore planes but ultimately they lost the prolonged battle for a foothold in the jack plane / fore plane market and as such production fell away to the point they were stopped being made by manufacturers.
Spin on to today and you will find wooden jack planes / fore planes are seeing a bit of a niche resurgence, if you watch the video's at the bottom you can see why.
There have been many, many manufacturers of old wooden jack planes / wooden fore
planes, the following is a list of some of these makers:
King & Co
Onion & Co
The manufacturer's mark (if present) can virtually always be found on the front nose of the plane. If the plane is quite mucky or you hadn't realised, this is the place to look to identify who made it.
Most planes also have an owner's name or many owner's
names stamped into the front of the plane; these can often be easily spotted as
they have been stamped more than once on the plane.
If you wish to delve deeper there are a few books out there to help identify the age of the plane(s).
The authority of these books (at the time of writing this) has to be Jane Rees 'British Planemakers - 4th Edition'. The 'British Planemakers fom 1700 - Third Edition' is also good if you come across a secondhand copy.
This is a nice example of an old William Marples wooden fore plane, 17", closed
This old plane is almost in new condition with its Marples trade labels.
There are a few makers in various places around the world who make new versions of this
style of wooden jack plane / fore plane, often with higher-end materials and/or additional features/variations:
Philly Planes (England)
There are also wooden jack planes of different design made by Japanese manufacturers and by European manufacturers such as ECE.
<1700 - 1970>
YouTube video with YouTuber 'Mike' talking about wooden fore planes and showing them in action...
YouTube video with YouTuber 'Mortise & Tenon Magazine' presenter talking and showing how to use a wooden plane with a lot of the video showing the use of a wooden fore plane...
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