The decline of the wooden plane in North America began around the 1850s, and was partially due to an expansion of the population, and in urban regions, resulting in increased demands for processed lumber. Machines were developed to replace some of the more time-consuming manual methods of processing lumber – sawing, moulding, and floor board planing. Imagine a floor board cut using vertical sawmill, e.g. muley saw, with a width anywhere from 12-16″, and a length way beyond 12 feet. The resulting rough side used as the top of the floor would have to be planed by hand. The sides would have to be hand planed to form a rabbet joint, allowing for a “ship-lap” joint between floor boards. The introduction of the Woodworth Planing Machine (developed by WIlliam Woodworth, Poughkeepsie, NY) in the 1820s revolutionized the processing of lumber for floors, and mouldings. This planing machine evolved into a series of forms, each adapted to a particular product.
Of course, more machinery meant less demand for wooden hand planes. Yet, machinery was not the only harbinger of the wooden plane’s demise. There was also the rise of metal planes.