“Wainscot plow” “joiners plow” or just “grooving plow” are several period names for the essential plow plane used in seventeenth-century joinery.

I just got a new old plow plane the other day. Bought it at an online auction, and was quite pleased with what I got. It’s marked W Greenslade Bristol. So I checked W L Goodman’s British Planemakers from 1700. I use the 3rd edition done by Mark & Jane Rees. There I found that Greenslade was in business making planes (& other goods) for many years, up until 1937. Seems Greenslade planes are quite common, and the 20th century examples are numerous. Fine w/me. this one was apparently never used. The wedges that secure the arms were missing, so today I cut 2 new ones from cherry. The plane came with 7 of its 8 irons. Not bad for $77.

W Greenslade plow plane

W Greenslade plow plane

plow greenslade
Which of course  brings us to Moxon, Felebien &  the plow plane.  The plow plane illustrated by Joseph Moxon has been discussed a number of times, and the gist of the discussion is that Moxon’s engraver copied a printed version of Andres Felebien’s work from 1676. Compare the two plates and you will see that Moxon’s is reversed, an easy mistake for the engraver, if it is a mistake. Might be that the engraver knew he was reversing the image, and just figured it would still convey the information required. Who knows .
plow plane, Joseph Moxon

plow plane, Joseph Moxon

plow plane, A Felebien

plow plane, A Felebien

Goodman’s  British Planemakers (pp. 87-89) has a concise discussion of these illustrations, pointing out that Moxon’s illustration copies Feleibien’s engraving, but that Felebien’s plow is a Continental-style plow plane, and that Moxon’s description is of an English-style plow plane. The differences center around fence and arms. Here is Moxon’s description:

 “The Use of the Plow.

 The Plow, marked B6 is a narrow Rabbet-plane with some Additions to it: viz. Two square Staves, marked aa (yet some of them have the upper edges of them rounded off for the better compliance with the Hand.) These Staves are let stiff through two Square Mortesses in the Stock, marked bb. They are about seven or eight Inches long, and stand straight and square on the farther side of the Stock; and these two Staves have shoulders on the hither side of the Stock, reaching down to the wooden sole of the Plane, (for there is also an Iron sole belonging to the Plow.)  to the bottom of these two Shoulders is, rivetted with Iron Rivets, a Fence (as Workmen call it) which comes close under the Wooden sole, and its depth reaches below the Iron sole about half an Inch: Because the Iron of the Plow is very narrow, and the sides of it towards the bottom are not to be inclosed in the Stock, for the same reason that was given in the Rabbet-plane; therefore upon the Stock is let in, and strongly nailed, an Iron Plate of the thickness of the Plow-Iron, for Wood of that breadth will not be strong enough to endure the force of the lower end of the Plow-Iron is put to: This Iron Plate is almost of the same thickness that the breadth of a Plow-Iron is. Joyners have several Plows, for several widths of Grooves.

 The Office of the Plow is, to plow a narrow square Groove on the edge of a Board; which is thus perform’d. The Board is set an edge with one end in the Bench-screw, and its other edge upon a Pins, or Pins, put into a Hole, or Holes, in the Leg, or Legs, of the Bench, such an Hole, or Holes, as will, most conveniently for height, fit the breadth of the Board; Then the Fence of the Plow is set to that Distance off the Iron-Plate of the Plow, that you intend the Groove shall lie off the edge of the Board: As if you would have the Groove lie an half an Inch off the Board, then the two staves must, with the Mallet, be knocked through the Mortesses in the Stock, till the Fence stands half an Inch off the Iron-Plate; and if the Staves are fitted stiff enough in the Mortesses if the Stock, it will keep at that Distance whilst you Plow the Groove: For the Fence (lying lower that the Iron of the Plane) when you set the Iron of the Plow upon the edge of the Board, will lie flat against the farther edge of the Board, and so keep the Iron of the Plow all the length of the Board at the same Distance, from the edge of the Board, that the Iron of the Plow hath from the Fence. Therefore your Plow being thus fitted, plow the Groove as you work with other Planes, only as you laid hold on the Stock of other Planes when you use them, now you must lay hold of the two staves and their shoulders, and so thrust your Plow forwards, till your Groove be made to your depth. 

If the Staves go not stiff enough in the Mortess of the Stock, you must stiffen them, by knocking a little wooden Wedge between the Staves and their Mortesses.”

I haven’t used the new plane yet, just wedged it today…here is the one I have been using for many years now, a gift from Jennie Alexander, I don’t remember when. I prefer these small British ones to the larger screw-arm plow planes often found in American tool collections. The smaller ones feel better to me…

plowing a groove in chest rail

plowing a groove in chest rail

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