Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The medieval toolchest: the plane (part 1.5)

This post is an addendum to the first post on medieval planes. I did mention a specific medieval Italian plane with side handles (shown in the two images below) and also my wishes to make such a plane. I have just finished the reconstruction of such a medieval plane this month, and would like to show it to you in the next set of photos. 

Above: The fresco of Campo Santo, Pisa, Italy  by Pietro di Puccio (1390) showing the plane with side handles from the bottom in the basket. 

Right: An intarsia by Agustino de Marchi dating from 1468-1477 in the choir of  the San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, Italy, showing the plane with side handles (on the chest) from above. Both images from the book by J.M. Greber, Die geschichte des hobels.

My plane is made from beech and is 29.5 cm long, 20 cm wide (with handles), 8.7 cm wide (without handles) and 7 cm high. The plane iron is made by the German mastersmith David Schütze (Wollschmiede) and is 5.2 cm wide, 13.5 cm long, and has a 6 mm thickness. The blade can protrude maximally 4 mm from the block and is set at an angle of 50 degrees. The plane has been made for roughing out (scrub plane) and as such it has a rounded iron. The side handles make it a plane that can be worked by two men, one pushing and the other pulling. Thus far I have only used it as a one-men plane, and found it working unexspectedly easy. Shavings of 1 mm thickness were no problem at all.

 The plane with shavings. The plane blade is secured by an wedge and a 10 mm thick iron pin.

 The top, side and bottom of  the plane.

Left: The back of the plane. Right: the rounded iron and the wedge together with some shavings.  

The result of testing the plane: beautiful shavings of 1 mm thickness. My other medieval Italian plane, 
in sharp contrast, produces near translucent shavings.


  1. Nice one! What kind of joints have you used for handles to body connection?

    1. Hi Ondra,

      Normally these planes are of one piece, thus without joints. I did not have such a wide piece of beech available, so the handles are fixed with large 10 mm dowels through the block (four in total) and (modern) glue. I first drilled the hole for the dowel through the main block with a drill press. Then using this hole as a guide, I drilled a few centimetres into the side handles. This way, the dowels are invisible from the outside.