Planing oak joinery stock

planing a long rail

I got a new log last week, and have started in on planing it. Daniel & I are finishing up a video about splitting and planing, but there’s lots of that to be done – so here’s a short post about the planes I’m using this week. When I have a lot of pieces to plane, I usually keep several planes going at once. In this case, 5 of them.

5 planes

From the top left to bottom right – an American jointer 28 7/8″ long, a German jointer, 223 1/2″ long. Then another American plane, just a bit shorter, 22″, and an Ulmia (German) smooth plane 9 1/2″ long and a Dutch-style plane ground as a scrub plane. Its body is only 6″ long. Why so many? I tend to set a couple to different depths-of-cut, so that I switch planes rather than adjust irons when I want either a heavier or lighter cut. Depending.

German plane, marked J Holst Hamburg

I dragged this German plane out of the tool chest recently, and have been using it as the primary plane the last few days. I got it years ago from Josh Clark, I bought it because it’s oak. It feels pretty heavy, I weighed it today – it’s 7 lbs 9 oz. The American jointer behind it is more than 5″ longer and weighs just about the same.

Working 4-foot long rails, I was finding this plane easier to get full-length shavings. At first I thought it was about the weight, but I then looked at the placement of the iron in the body.

compare iron placement

The American one on top is 22″ long, its cutting edge is 7″ from the end. The German one at 23 1/2″ long has its edge 9 7/8″ from the end. Finally, the large jointer is 28 7/8″ and its iron is 9 1/8″ from the front end. So the German one has more mass ahead of its iron than the other two. Maybe that accounts for the different feel. The angles the irons bed at are pretty similar. I didn’t measure those…

Here’s the maker’s mark from Holst.

J Holst Hamburg

The internet search I just did wanted to take me to Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” instead of Holst planes. I found one hit, what’s listed as a hornbeam plane – One of those views seems to show pronounced medullary rays – similar to the plane I have. I looked up European hornbeam in the wood database – that entry doesn’t mention ray fleck figure – it does discuss the end grain – but I can’t see anything on the end grain of this plane. So I keep thinking it’s oak, the medullary rays look like white oak to me – but maybe it is hornbeam – which is what someone told me 9 years ago – I’m a slow learner.

this picture is from when I bought the plane in 2012

Here’s Josh’s site, if you’ve not seen it before

4 thoughts on “Planing oak joinery stock

  1. that’s a beautiful plane. looks like oak. medullary rays in hornbeam would be possible but rare — it’s a beech species so unless i’m mistaken it’s possible but rare enough it would be an odd choice for a plane. just about the same density as white oak, though, so hard to tell by weight.

    • Well, it’s a confusing situation. The way I read it, hornbeams are related to birches, not beeches. Even though one of the American hornbeams is often called “blue beech.” Just to keep things confusing, the oaks are members of the beech family overall – that makes my head swim. I have several Ulmia planes from Germany with beech bodies that have laminated hornbeam soles. It is commonly used in Germany for planes. So I’m willing to buy it – I just didn’t know that it showed medullary figure. I’ll keep looking.

  2. Having several wood planes at different settings makes so much sense. Less need for that with metal planes since adjustments are quicker. I’m still hoping for oak for your sake. Sometimes wishful thinking makes life better. I have an oak jointer about 24″ long iirc. 1st plane I ever made, though I cheated heavily using plenty of power tools. did my own take on a laminated krenov esk construction but with styling more akin to the old planes. I laminated 3 pieces of slab cut 3/4″ stock stacked horizontally and resawed pieces <1/4" thick vertically for the outer walls. Stuck a lie-nielsen 2 3/8" blade and chip braker in it. Used quartered canary wood for the open tote and wedge. Wood choices were cause it's what I had. I love it. And was surprisingly easy to build. Has nice heft. Though I've never been able to set it to a super fine shaving, but generally don't need to. Now that I have it I use my big 8" power jointer less and less.

  3. Ah, i have just taken a look at some of my hornbeam planes and yes, i can see quite some rays. I think the difference to oak is seen in the fresh wood. With hornbeam the rays do not contrast in colour with the other wood as it does with oak. And oak should be rougher, showing pores, hornbeam is rather dense. Don’t think, a single antique planemaker ever used overseas wood as white oak for planebodies back then. Have seen but one european-oak bodied plane so far, a french smoother, touches like a brick, rough, furry, dirty…

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