Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
  Volume 8, Issue 2 - November 2013    
From the Collection
Replica shoulder plane
To Charles Caleb Colton, a noted epigrammatist of the early 19th century, has been attributed the popularization of the phrase "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". This expression can be used as the impetus for an individual to replicate an item of interest, be it prose, a painting, or another object. It's clear that the imitator may be trying to capture the spirit of the original and perhaps pay homage to the original item. In general, there are many reasons for taking such a path. In this case, however, the result is intended solely for the use of the item's maker with no commercial aspirations.
Replica shoulder plane
The permanent Lee Valley collection has a strong interest in the tools of the Preston company. So much so, that the composition of the 2012 woodworking catalog cover was made up entirely of Preston tools. Known for the elegance and fine execution of its castings, the company's sound and perceptive designs are still very much usable in the modern world. In fact, there are examples of the same basic plane design that had migrated from Preston in 1932 to Rabone, which then kept the rule catalog portion and immediately sold off virtually the entire plane line to C. & J. Hampton (owners of the Record brand name). Today, several modern companies are making and selling their versions of Preston designs that date back well over 100 years.

When this plane was spotted at a large open-air antique show last year during the first pass (you know the drill), it was surmised that we had found an extremely rusty version of a Preston shoulder plane. During the second round (and it may actually have been the third), close examination of the item revealed a tremendous surprise. The plane seemed to be an exceptional copy made entirely of laminated wood. This was like no other plywood that we had ever seen in the marketplace, however. Plywood manufactured with thin hardwood veneers (usually in Europe) has been commonly called Baltic birch or hardwood multiply. It is often used in high-end carcass construction of cabinets and some jigs and fixtures. Typical 19mm (3/4") ply normally has 15 to 20 laminations, depending on the country of origin.
Veneer layers
At 19/32" (nominal 5/8") wide and 8" long, this plane replicates the popular Record (Preston) 42 model shoulder plane. It was so perfect that it was thought that some original equipment manufacturer parts were used in the construction; however, this was not so. Though seeming to be original parts, both the blade and adjuster are purpose made. The most surprising aspect is the fact that there are some 40, yes 40, laminations of a hardwood veneer that make up the body. The lever cap is made the same way with 26 laminations and is only 9mm (11/32") wide. The body is dead straight, and it is apparent that the rubbed section at the front and back on one side was the only correction made to maintain the dimensional integrity of this construction. The plane has a fine mouth and in use functions just like the original that was used as its model. No worries about dropping this off the bench and having the casting break — perhaps that is what caused this replica to be made?

It is well marked with what we think is the owner's or maker's name, Hugh Roberts. This is a project that any wood mechanic would take great pleasure in showing and talking about, a superb example of woodworking at its highest level.

We have only one question. Where can we buy that plywood?

D.S. Orr

D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.
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