Review By: I.Ball
Category: Old Wooden Planes
Tool Type: Wooden Planes
Plane Type: Plough / Plow
The old British wooden plough plane is an old woodworking hand plane
designed for producing grooves and small rebates / rabbets.
In some regions of the world the plane has a slightly different spelling, it is also spelt the 'wooden plow plane', this spelling is certainly used in the US and Canada.
With the exception of the early wooden plough planes, the wedged versions of the old wooden plough planes generally had a standardised design which most major manufacturers kept to.
The earlier wooden plough planes were similar but there were certainly some variations, particularly in respect of the depth stop.
The wooden plough planes were generally equipped with a
depth stop, a plough cutter(s) and a wedge.
This type of plough plane was very similar in design to the wooden sash fillister plane.
The main obvious appearance difference between the sash fillister plane and the plough plane, is, the plough plane has a steel skate and plough plane cutters opposed to the sash fillister plane which has a wooden sole, a skewed cutter, and an extra nicker blade and wedge.
The plough planes were supplied with a series of up to 8 different sized wooden plough plane cutters. Depending on the age and makers of the plough plane cutters, most plough plane blades had a number at the very of the cutter to help indicate the blade's size; they were numbered 1 - 8. The blades usually range in size from 3mm (1/8 inch) to 16mm (5/8 inch) - possibly 3/4"?.
The plough planes were sold with an optional amount of cutters e.g. plough plane + 1 cutter, plough plane + 3 cutters.
These planes have a hardwood main body, a hardwood moving fence and usually a variety of brass decorative and functional parts.
The body and fence are nearly always made from beech as this was the hardwood of
choice at the time due to price and availability. Sometimes these planes are seen
in other types of wood with the best examples being made from boxwood, rosewood
and I believe there are some ebony plough planes.
The adjustable fence consists of the fence attached to the end of two wooden arms. The wooden arms marry with the body of the plane via two holes running right through the side of the body.
The fence adjusts by the arms (and therefore the fence) sliding as one unit. When the arms are adjusted they are usually moved with one arm moving slightly at a time, as a result the fence has been designed to swivel to absorb these adjustments without damaging the plane.
Once the required position for the fence has been found, the arms are wedged in place where the arms meet the body. For this reason this type of wooden plough plane is technically called a 'wedged plough plane', although it is usually just referred to as a wooden plough plane as it is by far the most common type of wooden plane plane.
These planes generally have an adjustable depth stop which is controlled by a brass winder nut located on the top of the plane. This feature allows the control of how deep the groove or rebate / rabbet will be cut to.
The wooden plough plane was also produced with a different arm adjusting / securing mechanism which adjusted via screw threaded arms, the screw threaded types of plough planes are called wooden screw stem plough planes.
The old wooden plough / plow planes were produced by a number of manufacturers,
the following is a list of wooden plough / plow plane manufacturers:
See the where to buy wooden plough planes page for a list of shops which sell these planes.
The wooden plough planes have a long, rich history, they have been used by many master craftsmen to produce some most stunning pieces and many pieces which still furnish people's homes today.
These planes are still owned and used today by numerous craftsmen and hobbyist's as: functional tools, as a way of using a tool a craftsmen held in their hand 100-300 years ago, as an ornament / show piece or as part of a mini museum in a person's home or office.
The wooden plough plane was the forerunner to the iron plough planes such as the Stanley 50 S plough / plow plane and the Record 044 plough / plow plane as well as the many other different types of combination and multi planes.
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.
(Things To Look Out For)
When buying an old wooden plough / plow plane it is worth being aware of the following:
Woodworm: if the plane has live woodworm it would be very prudent to treat the plane in order to protect any other wooden items in the vicinity of the wooden plane.
Jammed arm(s): if the arm(s) is jammed then the plane is non-functional. It can be very difficult, if not impossible to free-up jammed arms. This very often happens in secondhand plough / plow planes where the plane has been neglected for many years.
Jammed wedge(s): if the wedge(s) can't be removed then the plane is non-functional; usually they can but sometimes they are so jammed it is not possible without brute force to the point they break; mainly with secondhand plough planes which have been neglected for a number of years.
Replaced wedge(s): a good replacement wedge should be fine, a poor replacement wedge may result in the blade not being able to be secured properly and may devalue the plane if the plane has any real value.
Cracked wedge(s): if the wedge has a hairline crack then there will be an increased chance the wedge will break if the wedge ever became jammed.
Pitted Blade(s): if the cutting area of the blade(s) is heavily pitted this will make sharpening the blade to a good edge more tricky (when the cutting edge reaches the heavy pitting) or if really bad then almost impossible.
Cross Threaded: the screw thread inside the depth adjuster mechanism can be seized up / cross threaded.
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