Roy Underhill is a bench-clutterer. There, I said it. But, I am as well. As hard as I try to not be – I am. Once I asked Roy about Peter Ross’ shop – it’s so neat & organized. “Why can’t we be like him?” Roy told me he asked Peter the secret one time and got the answer:
“Never put anything in a temporary place.”
I have no idea if Peter really said that. (maybe he’ll let us know…or maybe it’s better just thinking it’s true.) But I think of it all the time. Like today when I spent easily 90 minutes looking for a plow plane iron. The chest I’m building has 2 different size grooves. One for the oak panels, about 2 1/2-sixteenths. And one for the floor of the chest and the rear pine panel – about 1/4”.
I was working on a video about plowing the floor grooves last week or even the week before. I switched out my standard panel groove-iron and put it in a safe place. Inserted the 1/4” iron, plowed the floor grooves, finished the video. And set up to work on some chairs I had kicking around.
Today I went to resume the chest project, shooting the next video segment – about framing the rear section of the chest. So I cut the joinery for the side frame & panels – where they meet the rear stiles. And went looking for my narrower plow iron. I thought I had put it in a top tray in my tool chest, tucked in with some carving tools. Didn’t see it. Maybe the window-sill. Nope. On & on. Pulled the bench out away from the wall & swept under it. Lifted the tool chest up on some blocks and swept under it – that never happens.So the whole time I spent looking for it, I kept thinking this is what I get for not putting things away. Wondered did it get swept into a bag of shavings. Thought about going in & ordering a new (old) set from Patrick Leach. Then gave up & plowed a slightly wider groove in the rear stiles – it’ll work but it doesn’t match what meets it.
Then I found it. I had looked right at it, right where I first thought it was.
The photo above is a detail of a joined chest’s top rail-to-stile joint. There’s a few things to see, but right now I want to draw your attention to the molding run on both framing members. This is what we think a “crease” molding is; one run down the midst of the stock rather than at the edge.
Until then, you can cut them with a plow plane and a scratch stock. That’s how I do most of them.
Here, rather fundamental stuff – a wooden plow plane set to cut a narrow groove down the middle of a stile for the chest. To hold the stock on the bench, I just pin one stile down with a holdfast, then shove the workpiece against that, and up to the teeth of the bench hook (planing stop).
I measured the stile’s width, marked the center, then set the plow plane so its blade hit the point I had scribed. I eyeball the depth of the groove. I tend to start at the forward end and get the groove running, then lengthen each successive stroke to gradually make the grooves full-length.
Now I use a scratch stock made from an old scraper blade, or saw steel. I filed the shape into the end, then mounted the cutter in a wooden stock that works like a marking gauge. Set it to cut this ogee shape down one side of the groove:
Then, re-set the scratch stock, and run the other molded edge.
To check the shape, I just lay a piece of scrap wood on edge across the rail, and look at the shadow made from it. This helps you see the definition of the profile.
In the midst of making these moldings, I remembered a new technique I sorta learned from watching Matt Bickford – once I cut the plowed groove down the length of the stock, I take a round plane & start a bit of a hollow – with the plane riding in the groove. This just gets some of the waste out of the way before scraping the actual profile.
Here’s another look at a period example:
Simple stuff. Notice on this period example how the profile runs out towards the shoulder of the rail; or the upper end of the stile. It’s best to scrape this molding on stock longer than you need, then you more easily hit the entire profile the full length of your finished stock…but if it doesn’t make it …the chest will still hold linen.
Here is the carved panel with that molded framing around it, had the camera a bit tilted. This and the previous are from old slides; so not the best views. Often either the central plowed section or the entire molding is painted black.
By now, you have seen Chris Schwarz’ effect on the so-called Moxon vise. Chris has turned the entire hemisphere, and more, onto this bench fixture. Jameel Abraham even makes them complete with bells & whistles. What, no racing stripes, Jameel? http://benchcrafted.com/MoxonVise.html
Chris uses his mainly for dovetailing – but in Moxon’s era English joiners didn’t cut dovetailed carcasses. So how were they used? Jennie Alexander & I have been tinkering with this fixture for some time, we were curious to see just what they were for. What Moxon says leaves a lot to be desired.
“Sometimes a double Screw is fixed to the side of the Bench, as at g; or sometimes its farther Cheek is laid an edge upon the flat of the Bench, and fastened with an Hold-fast, or, sometimes, two on the Bench.”
Randle Holme adds one key phrase, “to have their edges wrought” (i.e. worked):
“The Double Screw, is sometimes fixed to the side of the Bench, and sometimes the farther Cheek is laid an edge upon the flat of the Bench, and fastned there with an Hold-Fast, and sometimes two are fastned to the Bench to hold fast some sorts of Stuff, that are to have their edges wrought.”
He then goes on to describe this fixture a bit more:
“the double Screws, mentioned before in the Joyners Bench, numb.139. they are made of Spar, the Screws are fitted with holes or Screw Boxes in the Spars fit to receive them, which being turned, the two pieces are drawn together so hard, that they hold firmly any thing set between them.”
So then we wondered, what is a “spar”? Is it a specific size of timber? Holme runs down a whole list of joiners’ timber:
Terms of Art used by Joiners in their way of Working and explained.
First for the Names of their Timber.
Raile, it is a piece of Timber, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 foot or more long, and carrieth four inches broad, and an inch or more thick. A Raile is an half Spare.
Spare, is two inches thick, and four inches broad; in some places it is termed a single Quarter.
Joyce, it is four inches square. In some Counties called a double Quarter.
Bed posts, such as Beds either for Standards, Bed sides, or Beds feet are made of.
Munton, the short down right pieces in Wainscot.
Stile, the over cross pieces in Wainscot, in the riget of which two, the Panell or middle pieces are fastned.
Boards of several sorts, as
Plank, of any length, but never under 2, 3, or 4 inches thick.
Half Inch Boards.
Vallens, narrow Boards, about 5 or 6 inches broad, and half inch thick, and of all lengths.
Pannell, little cleft Boards, about 2 foot high, and 16 or 20 inches broad, of these Wainscot is made.
Shingles, cleft Wood about 6 or 8 inches long, and 4, or 5 broad; with these in Wood Countreys they cover their Houses.
Alexander made a nice double screw that I now use a lot; its “spars” are 1 ½” x 3 ¼” x 21” long. I have one I made with even smaller spars…its use is somewhat limited. Here, I have a long rail for a joined chest, ready for chopping mortises.
I fix the rail to the bench with a holdfast; but secure one end in the double screw to keep it from tilting this way or that under the pressure of the holdfast. The forward end of the rail is jammed against the bench hook.
After I mortised the rail, then I plowed the groove in it for the panels. Again, the double screw is a key element in this operation. I fasten the back end of the rail in the double screw; and jam the forward end against the hook, so I can run the plow plane along the rail to cut the groove. In this case, the holdfast secures the double screw, not the rail, to the bench. But if I keep the rear end of the rail on the bench, and in the screw – the spars of the fixture interfere with the fence on the plane.
So I bump the rail up onto the screw itself.
And there is one detail that Alexander incorporated into this version of the double screw that is really subtle, but useful – JA bored the holes for the screws off-center in the height of the spar. So the one-inch screw has 1 3/8” above it one way, and 5/8” the other. If I needed more clearance than what’s here, I’d flip the fixture over, and re-fit the rail in it.
A small detail that often perplexes people is the grooves plowed in chest’s stiles for the bevelled panels. In this view of a joined chest from Dedham, Mass. the groove for the side panel runs out the top end of the stile . (it’s clogged with some kind of filler, after the fact) The groove for the front panel does not come out the top.
Now the other front stile:
Here the groove for the front panel runs out the top, (again patched). The other groove is stopped before it gets out the top. This is as it should be. Here’s another chest, from Essex County, Mass. – same scenario.
The plow plane’s “handedness” is the reason behind these grooves being found in this pattern. I started a joined chest last week, and got a couple of shots that aim at showing how this happens. The plane goes up one side of the stile, and down the other. To get the groove deep enough just above the lower mortise on any side; you need to extend the groove beyond that mortise. Here’s two front stiles, laying on their faces.
Here is a full view of the stiles. To get the groove deep enough (about 1/2″) just above the lower mortise on the left-hand stile, I had to bring the plow plane back & extend the groove below this mortise. Because the plow only cuts in one direction (like a molding plane) the other stile’s groove was cut from top to bottom. Thus here, I had to get the groove beyond the top of the top mortise, to hit my 1/2″ depth just below that mortise. Thus the grooves run up one side, down the other. Almost always.
Here is the plane, (a poor shot, but the best I could get quickly) – the gist of it is to get the rear “skate” of the plow low enough to engage the iron in the mortise. If the groove did not extend back there, the skate would be tilted, and the iron wouldn’t be able to cut the groove deep enough right above the mortise.
The plow in use:
The chest thus far:
Here’s some other posts I did concerning plow planes, if you didn’t see them:
Well, if you have read this blog for a while you have seen how Alexander & I go at it…the latest is some back & forth regarding Moxon’s reversal of Felebien’s plow plane image. To keep you from jumping around, here are Moxon & Felebien’s plows again.
Jennie Alexander wrote a comment the other day – here is an excerpt, with some of my comments in brackets:
Peter: I respectfully disagree that we should ignore the issue of miror reversed images Moxon’s printer made from Felibien. [PF: I said let’s get past it, not ignore it. It is well-known, & clearly proven, that Moxon’s image is backwards.]
This becomes important when a tool has what I call “handedness.” I believe the plow plane issue is important. Serious students of the Felibien and Moxon plow prints assert that the Felibien print is characteristic of a Continental plow because, among other things, the fence is located to the right of the craftsman… [PF: I think JA has garbled this a little here, so she will chime in…]
When an actual Felibien plow is used, the craftsman typically holds the plane stock in the right hand, the staves by the left. The workpiece is held on the front side of the bench. The fence is on the hither or near side of the workpiece and to the craftsman’s left. Thus, as far as fence location is concerned, the Felibien plane is identical to the English plow. Your excellent shot of you using an English plow illustrates this fully. You would hold and use the Felibien plane in exactly the same fashion! [PF: we are in agreement here]
The Moxon print confusion leads Moxon himself to erroneously describe the mirror reversed plow in his text: “For the Fence ….will lie flat against the farther edge of the board,…” [PF: this is his description of the use of the plow…]
Moxon does not correctly describe an English plow or Felibien’s plow either.
[PF: this is the real stickler. I think Mark & Jane Rees are correct, when in Goodman’s 3d edition of British Planemakers, they point out that Moxon described a plow plane of the type we now assoicate with English or New England planemakers, not the Continental plow.
Here’s Moxon’s description of the tool, (not its use):
“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:”
So, two square staves that go through the stock of the plane. These staves have shoulders on the near side of the stock, reaching down towards the bottom of the sole of the plane. Attached to these shoulders is the fence. See the early 18th century English plow plane at the top of this post. Nothing like Felebien’s plow…but sounds like what Moxon was writing about. The plane probably dates from just 20 or 30 years after Moxon, if that.
So I will hold with my statement that Moxon’s description of the plow’s make-up is an English plow plane rather than a Continental one seen in Felebien’s print, and reversed in Moxon’s own book. Principle differences being that on an English plow, the staves are fitted to the fence, and the body slides on them. On the Continental version, the staves are fitted to the plane, and the fence slides along them. Also, the fence on the Continental plow is a broad board on edge, and the English fence is slung under the plane’s body…here’s two views that should clearly show the difference.
This project got me looking through some favorite books; here’s a few.
W L Goodman, British Planemakers from 1700 (3rd edition, revised byMark & Jane Rees; Astragal Press, 1993)
Josef M. Greber, The History of the Woodworking Plane: Des Geschichte des Hobels, translated by Seth W. Burchard (EAIA, 1991)
Don & Anne Wing, Early Planemakers of London: Recent Discoveries in the Tallow Chandlers and the Joiners Companies (Marion, MA: The Mechanick’s Workbench, 2005)
Gunther Heine, Das Werkzeug des Schreiners und Dreschlers (Hannover: 1990)
Charles F. Hummel, With Hammer in Hand: The Dominy Craftsmen of East Hampton, New York (University Press of Virginia for the Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum, 1968)
“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.
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 .
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…