rabbets & turkeys

One of the first planes I need to make is a rabbet plane, for the carpenters at the museum. I dug out this old one I have; it’s a little unusual to my eyes. Long, no marks of any kind. And a double iron in which the cap iron does not attach to the cutting iron. I don’t know enough about planes to know if this is as strange as it seems to me. The plane is pretty worn out; its sole is not flat; and the mouth is really wide open. I’m not inclined to add a new piece to the sole; but I guess that would be the best way to revive this tool. For me, it’s a study piece. No idea of its age. I assume the wood is birch.

rabbet plane, about 15" long


rabbet plane, from other side


Here’s the irons fixed in the plane by the wedge. It isn’t until you remove the iron that you learn that they just sit together in the plane, no screw to fasten them to each other. Maybe some reader will tell me this is found more commonly than I think. I don’t know if I have ever seen it before.

rabbet irons


In the photo below, the cutting iron is the bottom one, the cap iron is between it & the wedge.

rabbet irons


Here they are in detail; width is about 1″  or so.

rabbet irons detail


I started one today, in quartered, riven maple (acer for those outside the US). I only got this far…

PF rabbet plane begun


While I was working on it, these guys scootched across the woods behind the workshop…they are often around, but I haven’t seen many this season…

3 turkeys

10 thoughts on “rabbets & turkeys

  1. It’s pretty unusal to see a double iron on any (older) moulding plane. I wonder if someone might have been experimenting? It’s hard to tell just how far the wedge is inserted, but it looks like it’s not seated very deeply. Of course, when all is said and done, Japanese (modern) planes use a chip breaker that simply sits under a crosspin. Ingenuity never ceases to amaze.

  2. I’ve never seen a plane with a blade like that. I would tend agree with Dennis that it’s probably home grown. Also strange is the length. I have a rather old eighteenth century molding plane that is quite long. I made a reproduction of it and stayed with the length. I find it very comfortable and easy to control.

  3. I’ve seen references to a double iron plane before, but wasn’t sure what it was…

    Is this a normal “double iron”?

    In an 1866 book titled “Our Workshop: The Art of Carpentry and Joinery” I found a list of tools required to work in the workshop.

    It included a line for “Jack Plane (double iron)” which I wasn’t sure about.

    (you can see the whole list here: http://www.badgerwoodworks.com/2010/01/a-tool-chest-from-1866/ if you’re curious.)

    Is this the style they referred to? Or something else?


  4. Peter,

    This plane looks very familiar to me. I had the opportunity to visit the Canary Islands about 2 years ago. While there I stumbled onto a woodworking museum (Garachico, Tenerife) and a mom/pop restaurant (La Orotava, Tenerife) decorated with planes. I went back and tried to see if these contained double irons as you mentioned. At least one of my notes reminds me that a plane in the first and second picture had a double iron.

    Here is a link to the planes that might interest you: http://picasaweb.google.com/jlloydparks/CanaryIslandRabbetPlanes#

    From my limited Spanish most of these were used in the carpenter trades and possibly in small ship building. Period wise was harder to tell I kept getting the reply that Columbus stopped in the Canaries so from 1492 onwards.

    I hope that helps.

  5. Peter: Late night work leads to confusion. My comment on pins and pegs belong in the preceeding blog about attaching stool seats. I await with beat up breath your further comments about square pegs. You make a good point that tapered mortise pins and square seat pegs are quite different. They work quite differently.
    Is there some majical way you can move our comments to the correct blog? Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Peter

    It’s a ship’s carpenters rabbett plane. The double iron is not that uncommon in shipwright planes. John Taber of New Bedford was particularly fond of them. Some of this style can be very long. I have one from Boston measuring in at 24 inches.

    • Can you tell me anything about the John Taber you mentioned? I’m a descendant of John Taber, shipwright, of New Bedford, Mass. I wondered if this is one and the same? If so, I’d love to know more. (If you know the years the John Taber you mention was active, it would help. Mine was born in Tiverton, RI and died in NB in 1869.

  7. A few times a year I really wish I had a double iron rabbet plane. For most rabbets, however, either the surface does not matter so much because it is hidden, or I have chosen especially straight grain for a moulding. ECE makes a nice double iron rabbet plane.
    I have always assumed that early 18th century double ironed planes were all like this, without the screw holding the irons together. It must take some skill to adjust both irons at once. Your two irons seem alike enough that I wonder if they both originally made as cutting irons. Do they both have steel?
    The long rabbet plane reminds me of pictures in Felibien and Moxon. I think Diderot pictures a long rabbet plane as well.


  8. well, ain’t this world something. Ask & ye shall receive I hear…thanks to Josh, Gary & Warren for chiming in about the rabbet plane. Josh when I looked at your photos, they reminded me of the planes from the Mary Rose shipwreck of 1545. Then Gary mentioned ship’s carpenters’ planes like these. Warren – hello, I believe this is the first we’ve heard from you on this blog. The cap iron is curved a tiny bit. I have done nothing with this tool, so I can’t say whether they are both steel or not. I will look more closely when I get to the shop tomorrow.

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