The most prolific designer of hand planes in history was Justus Traut, the great inventor who was associated with, or employed by, the Stanley Rule and Level Company for more than 50 years. By the time he made his last shaving in 1908, he had been granted over 150 patents – more, even, than Leonard Bailey whose name eventually graced a line of Stanley planes. Of the Traut patents about one third were related to planes and scrapers. In contrast, the equivalent total for Lee Valley now stands at nine plane-related patents in nine years (six issued, three pending). The most recently allowed (in April, 2003) is our bench plane patent that, in the words of our esteemed patent attorney, is "the first significant innovation in bench planes in a century".
When we set out to develop our plane line a decade ago, we made a conscious decision to address the line from a functional perspective, rather than an historical one; we focused on re-developing and innovating, rather than just reproducing. We had the disadvantage of following Justus Traut, but had the advantage of newer materials, better design and prototyping tools, advanced manufacturing methods and, most important, the clarity of hindsight. For each family of planes, we generated the design criteria from first principles, selected a suitable entry model, and will eventually cover the practical range of variants – with as little overlap as possible, and at reasonable prices. Two of the most recent developments, both with patents pending, are shown in this catalog for the first time.
The scraping plane on the facing page represents the culmination of numerous small but important improvements to past designs, coupled with an additional ability to bow the blade. Though this new model now has more in common with hand scrapers than hand planes, with a choice of two blades it can perform like either. The larger footprint, re-designed grips, and modified hand positions are all thoughtful and pragmatic advancements.
The changes with the second were not so subtle. As the first in our series of shoulder and rebate planes, the medium shoulder plane on the back cover reveals a more radical departure from previous designs. Though it incorporates increased toe length for better registration as well as a new positive and precise blade fixing and adjustment mechanism, what really set this plane apart are the changes in ergonomics coupled with the functional enhancements. With a grip that's as comfortable as a handshake, this plane inspires confidence the first time you hold it. A style that has been notoriously awkward to handle has been tamed, and is poised to become the new standard in type.
We like to think that Justus Traut would have approved of all this.
Robin C. Lee