Early European Handplanes and Mitre Planes

INSTRUMENT MAKERS PLANES

This section includes a good number of early European metal planes from the 16th through 18th century, including both small block-type and instrument makers planes as well as mitre planes.  A limited number of these early Continental planes survive, and a commensurately small number of photos of these planes exist.  A notable portion of examples that remain extant are represented here.  Because of this scarcity, I have used this webpage as a repository of images for these rare artifacts.  I have include sources of the photographs where possible.  Hopefully, this page will serve as a resource for those that are interested in this specialized subject.

At a certain point, the sizes of small piano makers planes and large instrument makers planes begin to overlap. J. Popping shoulder plane, smallest size and 3″ ovoid, 19th century

At a certain point, the sizes of small piano makers planes and large instrument makers planes begin to overlap. J. Popping shoulder plane, smallest size 4″ long with 1/2″ iron, and 3″ ovoid instrument plane, French type, 19th century.

Instrument maker's plane for large stringed instruments, in a very old style, and slightly compassed violin maker's plane with applied sole.

Instrument maker’s plane for large stringed instruments, in a very old style, and slightly compassed cello and bass maker’s plane with applied sole.

Early instrument planes, from the 16th to 18th century, made of iron stock, brazed together in ovens:

Stradivari compassed iron plane

Compassed iron plane, used and owned by Antonio Stradivari.  One of several of this type in his possession.  At least 4 wrought iron planes and 2 bronze planes survive from this workshop.

Stradivarius viola. From Newsweek.

Stradivarius viola. Photo from Newsweek.

Diderot

Diderot, volume 5, plate 18. “Music instrument making, works and tools.” Circa 1767,  Picture includes violins, violas, a clamped up bass, harps, organ pipes, a 17th century guitar, a lute, virginal, and hurdy gurdy.  A luthier is working on the face of a violin or viola, with a hand plane.

Early instrument plane. Jim Bode tools

Early and ornate 16th to 17th century instrument plane, with a handcut screw through the bridge (head broken off). Jim Bode tools

16th to 18th century 3 1/4" instrument makers plane. Wrought with brazed on sole.

16th to 18th century 3 1/4″ instrument makers plane. Wrought iron with brazed on sole.  There’s a couple of capitol letters inscribed upside down on the side, looks like ‘CR.’

17th to 18th century block plane, 4" long.

17th to 18th century block plane, 4″ long.  The old craftsmen had copper brazing alloys which would melt at different temperatures within an oven, enabling multi-step assembly of the iron components.  In this case, we have the U-shaped body, a separate front piece, a cross-pin, and the sole.  Plane has a thicker stock and is more sturdy than the instrument plane shown above.

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Brazed dovetail in rear of plane.

Inscription--looks like 'Jones' to me.

Inscription–looks like ‘Jones’ to me.

Mortised and brazed French block plane, 4 1/4 inches long. 17th century. No. 802 in "Antique Woodworking Tools," by David Russell.

Mortised and brazed French block plane, 4 1/4 inches long. 17th century. No. 802 in “Antique Woodworking Tools,” by David Russell.

Rabot 1579. Photo from pinterest.

Rabot 1579. Photo from pinterest.

Early bronze and brass instrument makers plane. From Cleveland Museum of Art.

Early iron instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early iron instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Similar early chariot-type plane. Photo from internet source.

Another chariot type plane. Rare as these early planes are, distinct patterns are uncovered when enough examples are available for comparison. Photo from MJD tools, April, 2018.

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Early instrument plane. David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Early instrument plane. David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Early instrument plane. From David Stanely Auctions c 2014

Early instrument plane. From David Stanley Auctions c 2014

19th and 20th Century Instrument Makers Planes

Large instrument plane ~3" Blanchard, Paris

Large cast instrument plane ~3″ Blanchard, Paris  From Ebay c 2015

Large instrument plane. Iluthier.com c 2005

Large instrument plane, probably early 19th century. Iluthier.com c 2005

Large 2 1/4" Preston violin plane, c. late 19th, early 20th century. The iron is bedded on what looks to be rosewood infill. Clever design arrangement for the lever cap screw, and much copied today.

Large 2 1/4″ Preston violin plane, c. late 19th, early 20th century. The iron is bedded on what looks to be rosewood infill. Clever design arrangement for the lever cap screw, and much copied today.

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Diderot, volume 5, plate showing stringed instrument components and three ovoid shaped violin planes. By the 1760s, luthier planes had developed into the basic design that is still used today.

A couple of 20th century instrument planes, 3" sole.

A couple of 20th century instrument planes, 3″ soles.  Gewa plane on the right.

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Radiused and compassed violin plane bronze, with tail handle. Note the toothed iron which helps to reduce tearout on difficult surfaces.  In the style of those offered by Hammacher Schlemmer c. 1880-1920. Flat-soled instrument maker’s plane, similar profile, with rosewood infill.

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c. 1903.

EARLY MITRE PLANES

Early mitre plane, 18th century or earlier, with sole extending beyond the perimeter of the plane body, and mouth aperture placed towards the middle of the sole. A similar plane was shown in Seiver’s “Il Pianoforte; Guida Pratica…” which described methods of piano manufacturing before the introduction of steam and electric power. Obviously, with an extended sole, these early mitre-type planes were not used with a shooting board on theirs sides. It underscores the notion that mitre planes had many uses, as described further on the piano planes page of this website.

16th to 18th century mitre plane.  These early mitre planes from the European mainland were made as one-off efforts or in small quantity batches.  They were typically decorated, sometimes even ornate.  This one has a bronze or brass body sweated to a thick iron two-piece sole.  It was found in Germany.  Typical of the style, it has a complex, turned baluster bridge, and a protruding front hold or tote.  The wedge is made of cormier wood, a hardwood almost exclusively found in continental Europe. Sole is proud of the sides, and the front extension has a hang hole, which can be observed on other similar examples.

Early Continental mitres were often set up with an iron bedded closer to 30 degrees, bevel up. Part of the reason for the steep angle was to place the mouth in the middle of the plane. A long front sole and a fine mouth made the plane easier to position when approaching the edges of the wood for a cutting pass.

Rear view.

Illustrations of a workbench and a range of wooden bench planes, as shown in Siever’s “Il Pianoforte…” In figure 21 we see s box mitre plane with a sole proud of the body, and a similar front handle to the plane shown above. Here is the key to the rest of the plate: Workbench; Bench planes: 24. rebate (rabbet) plane with nicker; 22. rebate plane; 21. 18th century iron mitre with proud sole and tote at nose; 18. coffin smooth plane; 17. large smoother, German/Austrian type with horn on nose; 14 and 15. 2 plane irons with chipbreakers, 23. radiused plane; 13. jointer plane; 16. jack plane; 19. Dutch gerf plane; 20. toothing plane; 25. moulding plane with double iron; 26. plow plane; 28. convex plane; 12. cabinet workbench with vises. 27. compass plane.

Early bronze mitre plane. ?

Early bronze mitre plane, Bill Carter, planemaker’s website.  Dated 1752.

15th century iron plane, from Cincinnati Art museum

15th century iron plane, from The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Early iron mitre plane, with acanthus leaf hold. David Stanley auctions. c 2014

Early iron mitre plane, with acanthus leaf hold. David Stanley auctions. c 2013.

Early iron mitre plane

Early iron mitre plane or vergatthobel .

!7th to 18th century mitre plane, with front infill and no tote at the toe.  Photo from D. Stanley Auctions April 2018.

Early mitre plane. David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Early 19th century French instrument maker/mitre plane. For bow making, among other things. This example had a toothing iron.  David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Bow making planes in Mirecourt, France.

Bow makers plane with applied sole. Photo from MJD auctions, September 2016.

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Bow makers plane, large at 6″ length, with 1 1/16″ iron. Reinforced heel, mahogany wedge, and cast body.

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Large, heavy 18th century low angle instrument makers plane, 8 3/8″ long and 2 1/8″ wide. Later I & H Sorby iron, with ash wedge, probably original.  Rear infill is shimmed with thick papers full of very old French script.   Body is made of thick wrought iron stock, a 1/4″ sole, brazed together, with pillar and pin construction. Formerly in Russell collection, no. 810. Found in Allier area of France, which includes the town of Jenzat: a center for hurdy-gurdy making. Famous hurdy-gurdy makers there include Pajot, Tixier, Pimpard, Decante, and Nigout.

Hurdy Gurdy made by Pajot, Allier, France. Circa 1880s. Photo from http://www.music-treasures.com/antmisc.htm

Hurdy Gurdy made by Pajot, Allier, France. Circa 1880s. Photo from http://www.music-treasures.com/antmisc.htm

Rear view of planes, showing reinforced heels, Foreground: doubled on the interior. Background: doubled on the interior.

Rear view of planes, showing reinforced heels, Foreground: doubled on the interior. Background: doubled on the exterior.

“The instrument-making centre of Jenzat draws the attention of musicologists because of the high quality of the work, and the makers’ specialization in a single instrument, namely the hurdy-gurdy. This heritage has long since aroused the interest of museums.

In 1959, Mr. Favière, the curator of the Bourges Museum, wished to set up two glass-cabinets devoted to hurdy-gurdies in the Montluçon Museum; to do so, he requested the aid of Mr. J.-A. Pajot, Maison Pajot Jeune at Jenzat.

As early as 1960, an important collection had already been made by the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Paris, as a result of several visits Georges-Henri Rivière, the curator of the museum, had paid to Mr. Pajot, and of the inquiries made in 1959 by two MNATP musicologists, Claudie Marcel-Dubois and Marguerite Pichonnet-Andral, research workers at the CNRS.

In 1984, an exhibition prefiguring the Jenzat Museum was financed by the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique of the Ministère de la Culture. In 1986, the foundation of the Maison du Luthier-Musée allowed the acquisition of a very important collection of tools (see the hurdy-gurdy workshop), through a donation by Jacques and Hélène Pajot, and as a consequence of the inquiries (1983-1984) made by Jean-François Chassaing, an ethnologist.

In 1991, the city of Montluçon bought a collection of tools from Mr. Boudet, an instrument maker, for its own museum ; originally, these tools were part of the Pajot Jeune collection.

After 1935, the major part of the tools for musical instrument making belonged to the Maison Pajot Jeune, for at the time their workshop was the last one still in operation in Jenzat. From 1991 on, the collections have been shared out among the museums of Paris (MNATP), Montluçon and Jenzat. The tools have been shuffled and reshuffled and dealt out, some coming from the Pimpard workshop, some from the Nigout workshop, others from the Tixier workshop, others again from the J.-B. Pajot workshop. Only a close study of the various items can result in finding out the identity of their original owners.

The Jenzat Museum has started research in this field, as well as in others concerning the circulation of hurdy-gurdies, the trade and restoration of the instruments, the use of certain specific tools, such as the Keyboard-rulers.”

Jean-François Chassaing from  http://maison-luthier-jenzat.fr/le-musee/

From “L’ Art Du Menuisier,” by Andre’ Jacob Roubo. Paris 1774. Plate 281. Similar metal plane.  Vertical position for toothing iron, and alternative ~30 degree angle for a bevel up iron.

Early bronze mitre plane. ?

Early bronze mitre plane.
Dated 1739 and was the earliest known mitre plane that was made in England.   Early mitres were made in Continental Europe: Germany, France, and Italy.  This example is possibly unique, in that it it may be the only English mitre with continental features.  Features include turned baluster bridge, curved front handle, and curved sides towards the front.  Sold at David Stanley 2012 auction for 7,500 GBP.

Early iron mitre plane. David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Early iron mitre plane. David Stanley Auctions. c 2014

Vergatthobel. Photo from internet source. I think this plane is from the Luigi Nessi collection.

16th to 18th century mitre plane, wrought iron. Photo from Jim Bode Tools.

Frontal view, showing acanthus leaf  hold. 16th to 18th century mitre plane, wrought iron. Photo from Jim Bode Tools.

16th to 18th century mitre plane, wrought iron. Photo from Jim Bode Tools.

17th century mitre plane, 8 3/4″ long and 2 5/8″ wide. 2 1/8″ replacement iron by Sorby. From collection of John G. Wells (1929-2018) prominent architect in Berkeley CA. Photo by Jim Bode.

Same plane, inside view. Photo by Jim Bode Tools.

Early 16th or 17th century iron mitre plane, 7 1/2″ long, with 1 7/8″ iron. Ornamental replacement wedge.  From collection of John G. Wells (1929-2018). Photo by Jim Bode.

16th/17th century plane, inside view. Photo by Jim Bode.

Small 5 3/4″ 17th century gunmetal mitre plane. Plane has a 1 1/4″ iron by G. Luckhaus. From estate of John G. Wells (1929-2018) Photo by Jim Bode Tools.

17th century mitre plane, inside view.  Photo by Jim Bode.

Contemporary reproduction of an early mitre plane by Wayne Anderson. c 2005

Contemporary reproduction of an early mitre plane with acanthus leaf hold by Wayne Anderson. c 2005

Bottom of Anderson mitre, showing the through-tenons. This laborious method of construction was practiced after the earlier method of brazing iron components together in ovens.

Bottom of Anderson mitre, showing the through-tenons. This laborious method of construction was practiced after the earlier method of brazing iron components together in ovens.  Note the fine mouth, which is placed near the middle of the sole: its an important feature which affects cutting characteristics.

16th to 18th century Austrian German mitre plane. Photo from ebay U.K.