PF fore plane

PF fore plane

Our friend Martha is studying local ceramic history for some degree or other. She sent this note the other day. Me, I’m a vegetarian. But I do use a fore plane from time to time, so in the interest of tool-use, I will post it here…


“I was reading in an 1851 New England Farmer journal (as they frequently preach against the evils of lead glaze there). There was a sausage recipe submitted by “a subscriber” who makes sausage meat by freezing it, then “I take a fore plane, set rank, and plane it to shavings” Apparently the meat needs very little chopping after that.  It wouldn’t hurt the blade, only add some grease- rust prevention through sausage! Yikes! They didn’t actually leave a name so you don’t really know if it’s by a man or woman, but they put the recipe in the “Ladies Department.”  What exactly is a “fore plane” ? 


So – we all use Moxon’s description to understand this tool:

It is called the Fore Plain because it is used before you come to work either with the Smooth Plane, or with the Joynter. The edge of its Iron is not ground upon the straight, as the Smooth Plane, and the Joynter are, but rises with a Convex-Arch in the middle of it; for its Office being to prepare the Stuff for either the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter, Workmen set the edge of it Ranker than the edge either of the Smoothing Plane or the Joynter; and should the Iron of the Plane be ground to a straight edge, and it be set never so little Ranker on one end of the edge than the other, the Ranker end would (bearing as then upon a point) in working, dig Gutters on Surface of the Stuff; but this Iron (being ground to a Convex- Arch) though it should be set a little Ranker on one end of its edge than on the other, would not make Gutters on the Surface of the Stuff, but (at the most) little hollow dawks on the Stuff, and that more or less, according as the Plane is ground more or less Arching.  Nor is it the Office of this Plane to smooth the Stuff, but only (as I said) to prepare it, that is, to take off the irregular Risings, whether on the sides, or in the middle, and therefore it is set somewhat Ranker, that it may take the irregularities the sooner off the Stuff, that the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter, may afterwards the easier work it Try. The manner of Trying shall be taught, when I come to Treat of the use of the Rule. 


I have much to write about, but this one’s easy for tonight…

Denne handsaga laga av Jan Arendtz var ein del av leveransen av verktøy i 1664. Tilsvarande handtak finnast mellom verktøyet frå Vasaskipet. Også Rålamb har teikning av ei tilsvarande sag. Det er eit fantastisk fint handverk i både bladet og skaftet. Foto: Roald Renmælmo

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just get over to Roald’s blog & see the Skoklosters Slott tools in detail like you’ve not seen them before. If you are new to the story, it’s about a castle built in Sweden 1650s-1670s. They ordered a slew of woodworking tools from Holland, and they are still there. with the paperwork.

Roald Renmælmo posted his photos from a recent trip to study the tools. I have linked before to his workbench blog; along with his colleague Tomas Karlsson. Good stuff, they’ve even posted some stuff in English for us uni-linguists!

here’s the link -

matt video

Poor Matt Bickford. There I was, gobbling up his new DVD from Lie-Nielsen about how he uses hollows & rounds to make moldings, when the video about Wille Sundqvist arrived. Eject, went Matt. In went Wille.

Now, some time has passed & I’m back to Matt’s disc.

As you can imagine, I’m partial. I’ve got to know Matt & his family through Lie-Nielsen events; took a weekend class with him once to boot. His teaching method is excellent.  The way he breaks down these moldings is simplicity itself. Things are presented very clearly on this disc, you’ll find it a great companion to his book of nearly the same name. It’s almost 3 hours’ worth of instruction. Makes me itch to get out some planes & make moldings…

here’s an earlier look at Matt’s work:

The book: 


I had a few minutes recently to take a quick look at a grouping of 18th-century Dutch planes. Like this:


I have always like these planes since I first saw some 20 years ago on Cape Cod.  Several of this batch are panel-raising planes, most have skewed mouths. And, all are carved. Some better, some pretty good. They often are trimmed at the back end like this one. Makes handling them easier, more comfortable I guess.


skewed mouth smooth plane

skewed mouth smooth plane





This one’s got a straight mouth, longer body than the ones above. Not like a jointer, though…I’d guess about 14″.


longer smooth plane

longer smooth plane

better view

better view


carved mouth

carved mouth

Here’s a couple of wedges that got away from planes…

carved wedges

carved wedges

One of the original irons, quite thin. Tapered in thickness and width.



Quite thin, not like 19th-century plane irons.

tapered iron

tapered iron

Here’s some of those scroll planes – a “gerfschaaf” in Dutch.  Gerrit van der Sterre says it is sometimes called a “hobbelaar” or “rocking plane.” Says the sole can be straight, hollow or rounded in cross-section, as well as straight or curved lengthwise. Thinks they are for roughing out… these are small. maybe 8″ – 10″ long. Not more…

2 scroll planes

two scroll planes

scroll plane


Then the full-blown jointer plane. Munged up a bit, but still a great tool. It makes me want to make one next week – but I have to wait til I finish a bunch of other stuff!






tote profile


jointer tote





Gerrit van der Sterre’s book is called Four Centuries of Dutch Planes and planemakers, published in Leiden by Primavera Press 2001.

Here is a plane from Randle Holme’s Academie of Armory or Blazon, 1688. Showing a Dutch-style plane, used in England. Was it an English style too? Or is it imported, or used by Dutch craftsmen working in England?

smooth plane dutch style

Once again, remember this place? I’ve posted it a couple of times, and and one more:


18th-century shop


Now you can read part of the story, from today’s Boston Globe:

(Ahhh…the link now only gives me a preview – says I need to subscribe. If the link fails you, do a search for “Luther Sampson Duxbury shop” or something like that. Might be that I reached the monthly limit on freebies at…)

I hope you can read it, it’s exciting stuff. Kudos to Michael Burrey for seeing it for what it is…and to the many who have worked thus far on documentation, research, etc.



red tailed hawk backlit & leaving


I haven’t had a chance lately to sift through some of the Jennie Alexander tools I have left for sale. Had a little time yesterday to get  some photos taken. Now I have posted some braces and a few odds and ends today. First come, first etc. Shipping’s on you. Any questions, email me. If you want any of these, leave a comment, or send an email to me at



I have lots of planes. Ones I use everyday, ones I use occasionally, some I keep for students in workshops. New ones, old ones. Some I’ve made.

a few planes


I have just sold lots of Jennie Alexander’s planes. Any of which I could have kept for myself, no questions asked. Some I did.

So what on Earth was I doing even looking at planes last week at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking? Not the LN planes, but a bunch of them at Josh Clark’s table, Hyperkitten Tools.

Hyperkitten Tools

Hyperkitten Tools 2

When I spoke to Josh that morning, I saw a plane that really caught my eye. I told him he’d better sell it during the day, because I did not want to have to buy it. When I went by late in the afternoon, there it still was. So now, it’s in my shop.

jointer plane

a “small” jointer as Alexander used to call such a thing. About 26″ long, an iron somewhere around 2 1/2″ wide or so. I forget exactly. Great condition. But so what? I sold several of JA’s jointers in similar shape. Here’s a detail

what do you notice?


I have only seen one other oak plane that I can remember & I bought that one too. It was a broken little live oak plane:

oak plane body

The new one from Josh is probably German, marked “Holst Hamburg” on its toe. Great chamfers, very heavy plane. Condition is excellent. It’s my new favorite plane. Got to shuffle some around to make room for it. I sharpened it up on Sunday and it’s shaving nicely.

new favorite

I was very impressed with the tools Josh has. I spent some time working beside Freddy Roman & kept commenting on various tools Freddy was using. Again & again he said, “I got that from Josh…” Some were planes I had never seen before. Lots of British planes, and other tools too. Josh showed me a nice lefty Kent-pattern hewing hatchet. Very reasonable. Sign up for his blog if you haven’t already. I don’t want to have to keep buying tools from him…so you should save me the trouble.

Thanks to all who have ordered spoons this week. I’m packing & shipping soon. A few are left, and another batch in a month or so.





After selling a bunch of tools, how about looking at some in use? Someone asked about the planes I use. I searched the blog & it seems I haven’t written specifically about them. so here goes.    

A good starting point. This is a German plane Jennie Alexander “restored” – new front tote. new rear turned section behind the iron. Also ground the iron to a curve, so it functions like a fore plane, or scrub plane.

altered iron

I’m aware of discussion about the length of a fore plane in the 17th century; most folks feel it was longer than these German style planes. Might be so, but I favor this size plane for my roughing-out work.

Alexander got me turned onto these planes years ago, & I have collected a few of them for use in my shop. I keep a couple of them around, some ground this way, and some I keep as smooth planes.

Here is a Dutch “gerfshaaf” JA sent me. I learned the Dutch name from Gerrit van der Sterre’s Four Centuries of Dutch Planes and planemakers (Primavera Press, Leiden 2001) – I don’t use this one, but it and an 18th-century one I once studied were the inspiration for my home-made fore plane below.

PF Dutch style plane


Here is a view of two of my everyday planes – the Dutch style one just shown and one I based on a plane from the Mary Rose shipwreck.

PF planes

The short one is made from a very fast-grown ash tree. Its sole is 6″ long, and its iron, made by Mark Atchison, is 2″ wide. The Mary Rose type plane is itself a wreck. It’s birch I think. 22″ long, iron also by Mark, is 2 1/4″ wide. Big knot right where it counts, lead to a split. Nailed the split shut. but I have used it a lot for about 10 years or more.

I also use antique planes a lot. American and British – when I am doing a lot of stock preparation, I like to keep two jointer planes set up, one for a heavier shaving and one for a lighter shaving. That way I am not adjusting the planes all day, just picking up one or the other depending on what task is at hand. This plane is un-marked, but never had a double-iron, or chipbreaker. Cracked handle, all but worthless to a collector. Great for what I need. I made the wedge back when I got the plane. The one it came with was beyond repair. I think it’s over 26″ long. Iron about 2 1/2″ wide. Beech.

single iron jointer

Here’s one I have been using a lot in the past few years, another jointer. Made by Sargent Co in the 19th century. It has a double iron. 26″ long, 2 1/2″ wide iron.

Sargent plane

One more I often use, a bit less now than formerly. A “razee” plane, made by Thomas Appleton in Chelsea Massachusetts, 2nd half of the nineteenth century.


razee jointer

where did that term come from? The OED says this about razee:

Naut. To reduce (a ship) in height by the removal of the upper deck or decks.


To cut down; to reduce. Obs 

as in, 1815   ‘T. Tarpaulin’ Paddy Hew 107   In a trice I’ll razee you—you long, long splice.

1820   Deb. Congress U.S. 28 Jan. (1855) 1008   It would not follow that they should have power to razee a depriving the admitted State of equal rights.
1837   F. Marryat Snarleyyow (ed. 2) I. v. 43   He was like a man razeed or cut down.
Razee planes are often ascribed to ships’ carpenters; and in fact the Mary Rose plane I semi-copied would fit that category, its back end is lowered from the area around the mouth. But that predates the OED use of the term by 300 years almost. A nice plane regardless. I like the way your back hand is down low. I think it helps in pushing…
so these are some of the planes I use a lot. There’s more. Lots more.


part of the pile of tools



Imagine the situation – I cooked up the idea to sell Alexander’s tools here. I offered to do the work – shooting the tools, writing the posts, researching the histories and pricing. Post office, etc. I get a small percentage and I am not complaining. the problem is that I get to sift through the boxes & boxes of tools that have arrived to see what’s inside. Each day I open the boxes, I see something & think – “wow – I don’t have one of these..maybe I should keep this one.”   – it’s tool lust for sure. So tonight I am putting some things up here so you folks can help me resist the urge to fill my already over-crowded shop with even more tools.

Go. get some tools. please.

NOW – for a serious part. Jennie & I are quite pleased to offer these tools here. We have spoken many times over the years about what to do with these tools. The default was going to be they would come to me & Nathaniel Krausse, who has been a fixture in Jennie’s shop since I got my job at Plimoth back in the mid-1990s. But when we first discussed the tools’ future, the idea of a blog did not exist.

Lo & behold, an audience has come to us from out of the blue & we are grateful for the attention & enthusiasm. So we came up with the idea to offer the tools to you folks before trying to sell them out in the world. Your response has confirmed our gut feelings. We thank you. If for any reason, someone gets a tool that they decide isn’t what they expected, or are otherwise dis-satisfied, send it back to me & I will refund your purchase price. No questions asked. I do not want to be a tool dealer, this is just a preemptive house-cleaning. When these tools finally wind down, then I am out of this racket.

I know the posts lately are thin on content, and heavy on commerce. When the tools disperse, there will be the concentrated attention back to shop-work. & birds.




JA H&R011 stamp

Once again, thanks to all who have responded so enthusiastically to the yard sale of these tools. You’re helping two people clean out some clutter….and getting nice tools to boot. 

This batch of timely tools is mostly molding planes, the bulk of them are hollows & rounds. Mixed pieces, no pairs, etc. 

Once you’ve read Matt Bickford’s book, then you can get going with planes like these.

here’s the link.

Send an email or comment if you’d like any of them. I’ll be away from the computer, but will just go by time stamped on incoming mail…first-come, etc. Shipping is extra. Pay w paypal or check. 


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