Saturday, January 9, 2010

Curious Rabbet Plane

This funky little rabbet plane arrived in the mail the other day. I saw it last week on eBay, and though I really didn't need it, there was something quirky about it that I liked. So I put in a low ball bid and won.

The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on it was that not all the decorative surface line carvings were actually carved. Some of them were drawn on in ink. And some were actually joints in the wood. Huh?

A closer look revealed that the top was composed of three layers of wood laminated together. The center layer is an extension of the bottom of the plane. I don't think you can see that in the following pictures, so you're just going to have to trust me:

So the body of this plane is really made of six separate pieces of wood. The lower section with the attached upper center layer was cut into two parts to create the mortise for the iron. Then the two cheeks were attached and the two parts of the sole "boxing" were added. For some reason I thought laminated planes were a relatively new idea. Hmm.

I also discovered that the "boxing", which I first thought was purpleheart, was in fact some strange material. Bakelite? Masonite? I'm not sure.

Here are a couple of shots of the throat area of the plane. You can clearly see the glue lines where the separate pieces of wood (birch?) are laminated:

At 8 1/2" long, it's shorter than my other rabbet planes, but works great after I sharpened the iron. With no maker's mark or owner's marks, it's hard to judge the age. My feeling is that it is on the old side, although the laminated construction is confusing. All my other rabbet planes are made from a single piece of wood. But, I did just see another old rabbet plane on eBay which looked like it might also be of laminated construction (and it too had a "boxed" sole), so maybe laminated rabbet planes are an old tradition and I just never noticed them before? And I did see a plane with very similar surface markings that also had a "Germany" stamp on it, so maybe this is European?

Overall, it's a nice little plane that arouses my curiosity. Anyone have any insights or ideas on this? I'd love to hear them.


  1. Dan,

    Regarding the construction: are the lines perhaps just scribed markings and not gluelines? The wood grain should show that. I guess you have already taken that into account - but I just want to make sure.
    If it is European - that's a good possibility - the wood may be hornbeam. I have a German scrub plane - a wonderful tool by the way - that is made of hornbeam and has a similar wood grain as your rabbet plane.


    Alfred Kraemer

  2. Alfred - Thank you for the input. It's hard to see in the pictures, but there are places where the grain clearly changes directions at the line. Although, I think that all the pieces were cut from the same stock, because overall the grain (which is very tight) is so uniform.

    Thanks for the hornbeam idea - I don't think I have ever seen hornbeam in person.

  3. Pretty neat. I'd say it looks like a user made plane. Probably early to mid 20th century. Charles Hayward had some instructions for planes built with similar construction to this in "How to Make Woodwork Tools" (check it out for free download on Google books; it's a good read with some neat stuff). What about the iron. Does it look forged or does it appear to be made from another tool (e.g. old file)?

  4. Dan,

    Regarding the iron: you mentioned that is stamped 'Germany' but is there anything else on the blade, e.g. an anchor or other trademark?
    There is a listing (in German) by WolfgangJordan of trademarks and their corresponding manufacturer.(


  5. Bob - It does kind of have a shop-made feel to it. Thanks for the Hayward info. - for some reason, I couldn't get the Google books version to work, but I did find it over at Toolemera Press. Very interesting stuff - his method is similar, but with only two laminations. Hmm.

    Regarding the iron - it has no markings of any kind that I can find. It doesn't look like it came from a file, but it does have a newer, "cleaner" look than most of my moulding plane irons - so it might not be forged - maybe just cut from a blank? I'll have to clean it up a bit and see if any clues emerge.

    Alfred - My comment was not very clear; sorry. The "Germany" was a mark on a similar plane I saw online. There are no markings of any kind on the iron - which really would help.

    Thanks for the link! My German is pretty rusty, but with Google's translate help I explored that site a little. Very cool!

    Erik - Thanks! It's fun to know that there are others out there who also find funky tools interesting :)

  6. What a neat find, that's a great example of making it work with what you had.

    It certainly looks like this tool was made carefully, and with thought rather than a slap together tool. Someone thought this through.


  7. "Curious Rabbet Plane" eh?

    Obviously, it's a McGregor.

  8. Badger - Yes, and I think that's what makes it so attractive to me - quirky, but quality. I think it gives it some personality.

    Josh - Nice!


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