Identifying European wooden planes

What is one of the hardest tasks in the study of planes? Determining the lineage of a wooden plane. Not just any wooden plane though – North American or British-made wooden planes are fairly well documented, with numerous books tracing their heritage. No, it’s European planes. Partially this may be due to the fact that they aren’t as common in North America. It may also be that woodworking as a hobby in Europe is less common, limited by workshop space, access to lumber and hand tools. European planes have largely remained wooden, with very little evolution towards metal. Consider as a case study the following plane which I purchased on e-Bay.

swissPlane_profile

I had no information about this plane except that it looked somewhat interesting. A simple smoothing plane, or maybe a plane used on a shooting board, and likely made of some type of fruitwood.

swissPlane_back swissPlane_front

The challenge with wooden planes is that in addition to the makers trademarks, they often have the owners name stamped on them, in addition to various marks left by years of using a plane hammer (or something similar) to loosen the blade assembly. On the heel of the plane there is a partial word “ALBIM”, the number 6 and “42 m/m”, signifying the width of the blade. On the toe of the plane there is the owners name “H.GALLIATH”, and the word “BUHL” (a German word for inlaid work of woods, metals, tortoiseshell, ivory), a series of tool strikes, and an upside-down imprint of a church or chapel.

swissPlane_mark

One of the best resources on the net is the German website “HOLZBEARBEITUNG MIT HANDWERKZEUGEN“, or “Woodworking with Handtools” by Wolfgang Jordan. The website contains a myriad of information about hand tool makers, trademarks and patents, with a nice section on planes. In the section on “Manufacturers and Merchants”, there are links to German, and European manufacturers with relevant makers marks or brands. It is now a process of searching through and matching the mark on the plane to the relevant manfacturer.

In the case of this plane, it turns out to be from a tool manufacturer Firma Lachappelle in Kriens, Switzerland. It was a subsidiary of Lachappelle Fils, Strasbourg (France), established 1840 producing workbenches and planes. The trademark is the Tell Chapel on Lake Lucerne. Above the two arched windows are the letters FXL for Franz Xaver Lachappelle, the founder. Lachappelle produced woodworking tools until 2000.

A beautiful plane, and maybe a rare find. The plane blade in this case is a Goldenberg, (a French tool company) and likely a replacement as it has been modified (i.e. the hole cut in the centre!). This method of locking together the cap iron to the cutter is known as the “Long screw”. The Goldenberg catalogue described this as the “Bavarian” pattern, with various other patterns describing changes in the head of the screw. The use of the “Long screw” cap iron was restricted to Austria, Switzerland and France, which shows that knowledge about a planes components can help in finding its locale.

swissPlane_blade

Remember, studying the origin of a  woodworking plane is often more of an investigative process than anything else, and whilst the internet contains a wealth of information, don’t use it as the only source.

N.B. From literally hundreds of wooden plane makers in Europe, there is really only one remaining – E.C. Emmerich – with a comprehensive range of wooden planes (Primus) , some incorporating intricate blade adjustment mechanisms. In Canada they are carried by Adria Tools.

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