A Gentleman Woodworker's Plane



Anderson Mitre Plane with Damascus steel

I like the term, "Gentleman Woodworker", which my friend Peter uses to describe himself. Many, if not most, of high cost handplanes are destined for the Gentleman Woodworker. I just loved his comment in the review of the Marcou smoother:

"Well, it is beautiful. It combines the best of new design with the tradition of the dovetailed infill planes of the late eighteenth century. It has heft, it has been lovingly hand machined, it says “pick me up and use me”. It is a plane to visit, take down and make a few gossamer shavings before retiring for the night. It is a plane about which to say to the progeny “someday this will be yours” (if you are good). It is a plane which, when acquired, will demonstrate once again that men are as romantic as women, and for that reason alone it was a bargain".

Holtey A13

As an aside, the high end planes are not all infills. There are the bevel up planes of Marcou and Holtey, and there are wooden planes, such as C&W. I do not view the infill, just to take one category, as having any special qualities that guarantee a superior performance. Rob Lee is fond of saying that the wood cannot tell the difference.

When I reviewed the Marcou smoother I had to decide on a way to gauge its performance. My opinion was, and remains, that for most woodworkers the performance of a LV BUS or a LN #4 1/2 would be as much as ever needed. In fact for most woodworkers even planes of this caliber are overkill. So I chose to use these as a benchmark - that is, the Marcou had to perform at least as well as they did. I was not seeking to demonstrate that the Marcou was X times as good as these planes, just that it was good enough (there were some who did not understand this point and read the review as if it were a plane-off of the planes used).

Marcou S15

The point is that people buy high end planes like the Marcou and others for reasons other than planing performance. If you are even considering value for money, well you should not even bother to ask the price of admission. High end planes are as much about the aesthetic pleasures of using beautiful tools. These are art forms as much as tools.

Can one measure the upper end of performance? The LV BUS is a fine, fine plane. But it is not as good as the Marcou smoother on really gnarly, interlinked grain. I cannot measure this upper end this to prove this statement because planing wood is not a purely objective experience. It is my opinion based on subjective experiences, such as the amount of shine on the planed boards. I can plane into grain as easily as with it. I have spoken with another owner of this plane and this was his experience as well. I have no doubt that this result will be evident among other high end smoothers.

Ian Dalziel Panel Pane

Will a high end smoother make me a better woodworker? No, don't be silly, nothing can do that - but one will put a foolish grin on my face!



Regards from Perth

Derek Cohen