All those planes in catalogs seemed *so* cheap.

It’s hard not to look at historical catalogs and be in awe at how cheap those planes seem. In an 1894 Sargent catalog, a low-end No.107 block plane sold for $0.60, whilst the highest end plane, whilst the No.1317 with all the bells and whistles sold for $2.05. Doesn’t seem like a lot. How much is it really?


In this period, the average income for a family living in the northeast was $748.81, of which the major expenditure was on food – $306.31 (this income equates to approx. $20,356 in 2017 $). After all expenditures, it left about $52.37, or $1.00 per week. So a 60¢ plane cost less than a weeks worth of savings. To compare this, the median household income in the US in 2014 was $51,939. So about 2.5 times its 2017 equivalent. With inflation, that 60¢ plane is worth about $16.31 today. Can one buy a plane for $16 today? No. Unless you pick up an equivalent vintage plane somewhere, it’s impossible to find a similar plane today for that price. The closest, might be the garish red-and-green No.110 from German manufacturer Kunz, which sells for about $40. Or at a similar price point maybe the more adjustable Stanley “Standard Block Plane”.

Sometimes it would be interesting to travel back in time, just to see the variety of planes available in the late 19th century.

[1] Hanger, G.W.W., Cost-Of-Living and Retail Prices in the United States, 1890 to 1903, Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor


Going to Norway…

We will be vacationing in Norway this coming summer, travelling to Oslo, Bergen, and Voss. Anyone out there know of any places selling vintage Norwegian woodworking tools? Looking for chisels, or two-handled planes like the one below? All suggestions welcome!

Romsdalsmuseet (

A frame saw in action…

Frame saws… an oft forgotten tool

When it comes to saws, people are either in the western-saw camp, or the Japanese saw camp. But those are not the only two “families” of saw. The saws that are so prevalent in the west, originated in the UK, and would be better classified as British-style saws. The eastern saws are dominated by the saws of Japan. Western saws cut on the push-stroke, Japanese saws on the pull-stroke. But a third style evolved in Europe – something we call the frame saw. Tour any folk museum in Europe and you will see frame saws. They are the descendants of the pit-saws historically  used  to break down logs.


Frame saws (The Open Air Museum, Copenhagen).

The British use a smaller related saw commonly known as a bow saw, which is used to cut curves. As with many woodworking tools, there were once a multitude of manufacturers in Europe. Now, there are still two German manufacturers: Ulmia, and ECE.  These saws have many  benefits, not least of which, the blades can be interchanged to allow for different blade widths, and easily replaced. Tension can also be adjusted. They can be used for ripping, crosscutting , cutting curves, and even resawing.


Saws from French manufacturer Peugeot Freres

Quite a few people are making the Roubo frame saw, which is a massive frame saw often used for re-sawing. But whilst there are a number of toolmakers making Western style handsaws, there seem to be none making continental style frame saws.

Block plane depth-adjustment mechanisms (i)

There are two core types of depth-adjustment mechanisms in block planes (apart from manual adjustment). The first involves a thumbscrew which travels vertically on a machine thread. The thumbscrew engages a lever which has pins that mesh with grooves in the back of the blade. As the thumbscrew is raised, the lever pivots up, extending the blade down. Lowering the thumbscrew retracts the blade. This mechanism is commonly found on block planes with 20º bedding angle.


The second mechanism is a screw mechanism that is attached to a “sled” that moves in and out extending or retracting the blade. The screw mechanism can be horizontal, or at an angle commensurate to that of the bedding angle of the plane. This mechanism appeared with the advent of low-angle block planes, where the bedding angle was 12º, and lacked the space necessary for the first mechanism.


Older block planes often exhibit a lever based depth adjustment mechanism. The following blog posts will discuss these blade depth adjustment mechanisms in more detail.

Liogier hand-cut rasps have arrived!

The Liogier hand-cut rasps I ordered in early December arrived last week…

They were made to order, then shipped to The Unplugged Workshop, who then shipped them out to me. It seems like a long process, but the reality is that I didn’t need them urgently, and there is something inherently satisfying about having something hand-made by an artisan. They came individually stored in those wonderful plastic pull-apart containers, ideally made for sharp or delicate instruments.


They are beautiful…


… with hand-stitched patterning…