Dating the Plane
Before the Industrial Revolution, molding planes were
the product of small shops. After, they came to be mass-produced
and thereby standardized. It's important to distinguish
between the two types, because although both are finite
in number, early planes are much more rare. As users and
collectors, we are the custodians of these artifacts and
should be circumspect when determining which tools are
appropriate to use. My opinion is that especially rare and unusual planes, or those made in the craft-shop
tradition, should be used sparingly, if at all. However,
each of us comes to our own conclusion.
An early hand-made plane, probably American. There is no name stamp on the toe, but note the relieved wedge with its circular finial and the flat chamfers.
An English factory-made plane from the mid-19th century. Notice the elliptical wedge profile and the prominent rounded chamfers. Stamped "Arthington-Manchester" on the toe.
are some guidelines for verifying a plane's age:
- The maker's name is usually imprinted on the
plane's toe. A good reference guide will give
the working period of most makers. The style
of the stamp can also indicate age. An imprint
with archaic spelling (e.g., IOHN GREEN for JOHN
GREEN), or a zigzag border, is usually indicative
of an older tool. Conversely, stamps with elaborate
scrollwork, cursive script, or the imprint of
an industrial origin (e.g., Chapin-Union Factory)
indicate a later tool. Many guides rank the
rarity of particular makers.
- The wedge finials on planes made before the
1820s are circular in shape; later planes have
elliptical finials. Early makers sometimes relieved
the back of the wedge to prevent bruising while
setting the iron.
- Flat chamfers are generally indicative of a plane made
before 1800. Factory-made planes have rounded
- Beech was the choice of large-scale plane
makers because of its abundance, stability and
wear-resistance, but other hardwoods are equally
suitable. Early makers who worked by hand often
used yellow birch or apple.