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Wedge-arm Plow Planes - a Second Look by Jason Stamper

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As I began getting into more traditional woodworking, and reading a lot of stuff about what tools to get, I decided that I needed a plow plane.

So, I went into research mode and tried to find out what I should buy.

 A lot of the books I was reading talked about the fancy screw arm wooden planes, which were often said to be the most decorated and coveted tools in a workman’s tool chest.

"The Office of the Plow is, to plow a narrow square Grove
on the edge of a Board", Joseph Moxon, 1694.

Later, Stanley tried to take over the market with their highly sought after 45’s and other combination planes. These also were quite fancy tools that a workman would have been proud to have in his possession. These days there are even modern manufacturers that sell beautiful screw arm plow planes.

But what of the lowly, simple wedge arm plow plane? They are a simpler form to be sure, and are cheaper to manufacture. Would buying one of these be like buying a moped instead of a Harley? Joseph Moxon describes a wedged plow plane in his Art of the Joinery from the late 1600’s, as does his French contemporary Andre Roubo in his work, “To Make as Perfectly as Possible.”

So with the endorsement of Moxon and Roubo, I felt better about buying a wedge arm plane, if I found one. The final issues for me, and the ones that ultimately led my decision were cost and condition.

All the screw arm planes that were in my price range had really messed up screw threads, and I was not interested in a repair job like that. One benefit to shopping for wedge arm plane became readily apparent. If the wedges are missing they are much easier to replace than chewed up screw threads.

And so it was, that I found a nice little wedge arm plane at an antique dealer one day for $20.

It was missing all the irons, except for a rounded iron the dealer had found. I fell in love with it and vowed to bring it back to life. It has no maker’s marks on it and a face that only a mother could love.

Ok, well I actually think it’s a pretty good looking plane, and it seems to be of pre 1850 British origin. It was obviously used a lot, which told me it must have been a good plane.

Luckily, all the wedges were present; the pressure fit depth stop was there, and it had potential. I was also able to find some suitable irons on eBay, a mixed lot, but they work.

I used a bench plane to flatten the fence where it had been worn, and also squared the fence to the arms. I then oiled and waxed the wooden portions of the plane and cleaned the rust off the metal skate.

It turns out the mortise that houses the blades was only 1/2” wide and the only blades I could find were 5/8”. So I modified the throat of this plane slightly to allow for the 5/8” blades to slide in.


 
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