I love hand tools.
Especially planes. In this, I know I am not alone out there…and I especially love wooden hand planes. Although I don’t know why, exactly, since, until this week, I have never even held, let alone owned one.
However, I really enjoy history and for me part of the appeal of hand tools is connecting with our craftsmen fore-bearers by doing the work the way they did.
The only thing more satisfying in my mind would be doing the work they did, the way the did, with the tools they used! I have lusted after the old hand planes on the internet for a while but never had the opportunity to find one yet. Until now!
While out and about this week, I drove past an antique mall that I never knew existed in my neck of the woods. I only had a few moments to spare but decided I’d give it a shot. Within five minutes, I discovered two things: (1) I could spend all day in that place and (2) this (the new gnomon is 6″ for reference):
My meager knowledge of planes told me a few things: It was solid, no rattling, no repairs or cracks. It had a chipbreaker and iron assembly, complete with wooden wedge. The iron looked slightly cambered and was mostly free of rust but had a layer of dirt/oil/grime. It also looked like someone recently tried to grind a new bevel on it:
But it felt solid, dense, and warm. That right there opened my eyes. As much as I love my WoodRiver jack plane, it feels cold, aloof almost. As if it doesn’t care if I stand on my head while I hold it, it will destroy the wood for me, no questions asked. This little plane, I don’t know, seemed to have a grandfather’s hairy-eyeball for me, as if it was sizing me up the way I was it, to make sure I was worthy of putting it to work again. I know, that’s all crazy zen stuff or something, but that’s the only way I can describe the instant feeling of…I hesitate to say attraction, but there you have it…for this plane.
For $15 I had to bring it home. Whether it like me or not.
“Scioto Works 3” stamped on the front. And on the iron, something about Ohio Tools…there some rust and grime obscuring the stamp so I’ll clean it up soon. The blade looks a little rough, but even with my fledgling sharpening skills I feel confident I can sharpen ‘er up.
I just can’t express to you how nice this feels in my hands. It just feels natural. Maybe I’m getting too philosophical and should get back to making sawdust. Or it’s just that wood (I think this is beech from the research I’ve done) feels better than metal in your hands.
Either way, I’m looking down the long road of addiction through the now-open door of wooden hand planes. And I’m smiling ear-to-ear!
If you’re curious, as I was, about the Ohio Tool Company, here’s what I found online:
Historical Summary of the Ohio Tool Co. 1823-The Ohio Tool Company started operations in Columbus, Ohio. 1841 to 1880-The firm made use of Prison Contract Labor from the nearby Ohio State Penitentiary. 1851-The company was incorporated with a capital stock of $190,000. It employed about 200 and was frequently called "The Plane Factory" since carpenters' planes were the chief article of manufacture. 1858-The Ohio Tool Co. officers this year were George Gere, President; A. Thomas, Secretary and Treasurer; and C. H. Clark, Superintendent. 1865-Patents issued in this year for mortising machines used in cutting plane stocks helped to speed production. 1887-The Ohio Tool Co. employed 70 hands. 1893-The Auburn Tool Co. and the Ohio Tool Co. merged with offices in New York and factories in Auburn, N.Y. and Columbus, Ohio. 1900-The Ohio Tool Co. received the highest award given on carpenter's tools at the Paris Exposition. 1903-The Business Directory of Columbus lists the company at 63 North Scioto Street which was close to the Scioto River. "Scioto" was marked on their second grade planes. 1913-The factory was probably washed away by the great flood of this year. 1914-The Company moved to a new plant at Charleston, West Virginia. (Perhaps, because of the flood.) 1920-The Ohio Tool Company ceased operations. Source: Ohio Tool Company Catalog No. 23 (Ca. 1910) Reprint by Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. OHIO TOOL CO. A major plane manufacturing company in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was incorporated in Columbus, OH, in 1851 by Peter Hayden (see P. Hayden & Co.) and others, and had a tradition of periodically utilizing prison labor. The first president was George Gere, a hardware dealer (see Gere, Abbott & Co.). In 1851 the company was reported employing 200 hands, with carpenter's planes as the mainline. By the 1870's and 1880's, the ready acceptance of metal and transitional planes, and other compeition, was increasingly felt. In 1887 the company employed only 70 hands (the use of prison labor having ceased in 1880) and in 1893 Ohio Tool merged with Auburn Tool Co. (w.s.), with Ohio Tool the survivor. In 1913 the Ohio factory was destroyed by a flood and in 1914 manufacturing was re-established in a new plant in Charlestown, WV. Operations ceased in 1920. The 1910 price list still offered an extensive line of wooden planes. Source: A Guide to American Wooden Planes (Third Edition) by Emil and Martyl Pollak. Page 281.