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Cooper’s Jointer/Big Jointer

When Jiri sent me the blade I saw it as an opportunity to build something different in a plane. I decided to build a jointer, one that would allow me to easily edge joint two boards together. I built a 30”woodie a few years ago, but it has a 2” wide Hock blade, which makes it harder to skew the plane when working with two ¾” boards.

Then I did a little research into large jointers, and came across Cooper’s Jointers. These are used by … surprise … cooper’s to shape the staves that form casks and kegs. These planes are e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s!

Salaman in his “Dictionary of Woodworking Tools” (thanks for the info Alf) describes these planes as “The largest of all planes, made as long as 6 feet and more ... Unlike other Planes it is used when lying stationary with the sole uppermost ... The cooper pushed the stave along the upturned sole of the sole towards the cutter.

Jiri’s blade quite likely came from a smaller cooper’s jointer, as a 3” width lay at the lower end of the range. It may have been anything from 36” – 48” long.

Cooper’s jointers were often mounted on legs at the rear and angled at about 60 degrees, with the toe resting on the ground.

Sandy Moss sent me a picture of his jointer. My example of a cooper's jointer is 42" long, 4 1/2" wide and takes a 3 1/2" blade. I consider it to be a "keg" size jointer. Its most interesting feature is a fixture of captive legs that support the high end of the plane. While the body is of beech, the legs are of oak, with cross supports that are through mortised into the steam bent legs. It is a nice (although not overly used) example of jointer. The toe of the plane is rabbeted to fit into a floor cleat or bench.

Some of the jointers are built with twin blades. I suspect that this was to ensure that one blade was always sharp so that production was not held up when the assistant went off to sharpen the blade. I’m still trying to understand why these planes need to be wide – long is helpful with jointing long staves. What required the width? Was it simply to have a sharp section of the blade to use? Hopefully I will have some insights here when I prepare the third section of this topic, which will be on technique of using cooper’s jointers.

Below is a cooper pushing a stave into the cutter…

So why would I want a cooper’s jointer? Do I plan giving up my couch for the high life of the cooper? I must say I was tempted when I learned how much these casks sell for … but, sadly, no.

I do enjoy building pieces with curves, and I have done some with coopered sections.

Boxes with coopered tops …

An end table with coopered legs …

These all required a tablesaw, which was a finicky process and terrified me and my dogs. It did occur to me that I could build something that may replace my power jointer (at least some of the time).

The plan was to build a jointer that would be used for both edge jointing wide sections and freehanding edges ala coopers. This jointer needed to be large/long but not so that it was unwieldy. I really was not keen on a stand for the plane. This would be one more thing to find room for. Instead the plane would be held by a face vise.

The plane that Derek built

I have some Jarrah ex-roofing beams from a remodelling at home three years ago. These are 4” x 4”. Unfortunately, by the time it was jointed and thicknessed, the dimensions approached 3”x 3”. This necessitated that I add laminations to the sides.

I hope you get the irony here ..

OK, I’m going to save you the boring part (we all know how to build a plane), and skip to the good part, the finished plane.

Drum roll … 36 ½” long, 4” wide, 2 3/8” high at the front and 1 7/8” at the razee …

For comparison, here it is alongside a Stanley #7 (22” long).

I used a darker Jarrah for the tote to contrast with the lighter wood on the body.

The bed is 50° (York pitch). I thought that this would be a good compromise for the hard, interlocked local woods bearing in mind that the blade is 3” wide. Ordinarily this would be a handful to push, but there is also a lot of momentum from the 5 kg (11 lbs).

The mouth has a brass wear plate. I may rue doing so, but this gives a little more durability as well as more control when sizing the mouth. The mouth is tight enough to take fine shavings, but can still manage to remove wood quickly.

The bevelled edges are partly decoration and partly to disguise the laminations.

So how does it work?

In spite of its size and weight it is well balanced. I experienced little difficulty jointing ¾” wide Tasmanian Oak. The shavings are effortless …

Turning the plane around, it fitted thus in the face vise …

Pushing a board through the blade was easily done. I’m looking forward to doing some research on methods – there must be a lot more to it than this.

It seemed appropriate to add a fence for jointing. The plane can be used with and without this fence.

It is one way to make it easier to wield a large, heavy jointer.

But wait .. there’s more!

Turn the plane over now, and you have a fenced jointer to replace that powered version. Think of this as a shooting board of sorts (for boards that are far too long to fit there).

That’s all for now folks. See you in Part III.

Regards from Perth


April 2011