Mea Culpa "What's It"
This issue's item is clearly not an unidentifiable object of
the sort one normally finds in this section, and for that I
humbly apologize. Things are getting tough at the old what's-it
wellhead, as it seems every historical and technical magazine
now has a section devoted to identifying bizarre and arcane
devices. That makes it somewhat difficult not to repeat what
others have explored and to keep the reader engaged. Frankly,
some knowledge has simply disappeared (or can't be found on
the Internet). It would be easy to present only items from the
17th century, for example, as there would be a much higher degree
of guessing involved. Buckminster Fuller's theory of "ephemeralization"
and another popular associated theory of accelerating change
also contribute to the dwindling supply of material for this
section of the newsletter. However, once again, we will claim
immunity with this offering; and while it does not adhere to
the formula, it certainly has a few quirks to keep everybody
guessing not about what it is but more about why it is.
The noted science fiction writer and editor H.L. Gold coined
the phrase "what will they think of last", and here
we have an extraordinary example of that. Russian in origin,
this plane is a spectacular interpretation of the handled rebate
jack plane. Presumably designed in the 1950s (only a theory),
and not collected until 1993, it is in unused, mint condition,
with remnants of storage grease on it. At 12" long, the
cast iron body is extremely robust. Its width is 2-3/8",
allowing for a 2" cutter, with the slot cut in from one
side. There is no evidence of body warp, as is found on other
examples of planes with this type of escapement.