some european planes & braces

German-style plane w incised decoration

Yesterday, I got out some old slides I shot of European planes. I saw them at the Heritage Plantation in Sandwich, MA. many years ago. A few years back, I thought I would go have another look (and hopefully get better pictures, notes, etc) but they had been de-accessioned by then. So these slides are all I have…some are OK, some are pretty dismal. Digital cameras have made a better photographer out of me… The planes, probably most of the tools there, were thought to be generally 18th century, although an axe I will show later has a date of 1602. I mostly only looked at planes & braces, which is what I was making at the time, c. 1998 I think.

The first plane here is one I really like, some nice carving to the front tote and the area in front of the plane’s mouth. Then the additional incised lunettes on each side, with the punched work above them.  Here’s some of the mouth detail.

mouth detail
Dutch plane

Here’s one of those little Dutch-style planes, with some nice carved volutes. I will pre-empt Alexander & apologize for the position of the ruler. It obscures the bottom of this plane, but it presumably is shaped like this newer example, (is it 19th-century?) sent to me by Alexander:

Dutch smooth plane

 And here it is, drawn by Randle Holme in England before 1688, when he described it as “The Smoothing Plain, is a little short Plain, which hath its Iron set very fine, and to take off very thin shavings, because its use and office is only to smooth the work from those irregularities which the Fore Plain and the Joynter have left behind them”

Holme's smooth plane


The next detail shows the volute; notice how much wood is removed at the sides of the plane to make them stand out…

volutes detail Dutch plane


Aside from the bilious color background and the fact that I composed the photo to crop the bit away, here is a pretty good view of a wooden brace with a nicely turned head. This is a case where the brace has one permanently-fitted bit.

brace & bit


This next brace looks like it’s made from ash, a wood that I wouldn’t expect to see in this application. Nice chamfers; small turned head. Can’t quite see in this view how the head really attaches…
small brace


There are a few more of these slides, I’ll try to put them up tomorrow or the next day.

10 thoughts on “some european planes & braces

  1. Thanks for posting the photos. I’ve never gotten to see volutes from the front view, so I’ll add this to my reference folder. Were you able to tell how the front tote on the first carved plane was attached to the body? I thought to use a sliding dovetail, but have never gotten a close up look at a plane like this, so I don’t know what method was used.

  2. I didn’t record the construction of those planes; just shot a bunch of lousy slides, then scrammed…
    I have seen modern ones secured with a sliding dovetail, I have seen some fastened with a wrought nail. Usually the bottom end of the “horn” fits into a recess in the plane body too. If I think of it, I have some busted ones in the shop, I’ll see if they are any help.

  3. Peter
    Just to confuse things, the Jos. Harm catalog, c1900, shows braces much like these. Plus a variety of planes, although not with the volutes. It does make it difficult to date tools when the same styles were in vogue for centuries!


    • Hi Ron
      judging by the tools you have made thus far, my guess it you’ll have it done before I finish typing this sentence…send photos of some of your tools when you get a minute, I’ll put ’em up here…

    • Kari
      I can’t find my broken horn plane. I might have fixed it. I see some with sliding DTs; some with dadoes & even one (repaired) wth a nail. I will send you some shots. None of my horn planes are more than 50-100 years old, if that. Do you have Gerrit van der Sterre’s book? It has some exploded drawings of Dutch planes. The other reference for this style of plane is Das Werkzeug des Schreiners und Drechslers by Gunther Heine. I have Alexander’s copy on long-term loan, I’m lucky that way.

  4. I have an identical (both in size and looks) small brace at home, though without the drill bit. My ferrule is made of horn. The head is made of two parts (the hollow knob and a mushroom shaped pin), which are fixed in the brace stock with a dowel pin (the pin is also visible on Peters small brace, just below the head).
    Ash was commonly used for Dutch wooden braces. Dutch wooden braces were called spikerboor, meaning nail (=spiker) drill (=boor).

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