Clark & Williams, Plane Makers


In an Arkansas basement, this somewhat unusual three-man company turns out extraordinary wooden handplanes.
By Christopher Schwarz
Pages: 34-39

From the April 2010 issue #182
Buy this issue now

The married couple wanted a custom gazebo. So Larry Williams, a successful carpenter, fetched his camera and was getting ready to photograph gazebos around town to show his clients. Right outside his door, Williams took a wrong step, slipped on an ice patch and became a fulltime toolmaker.

Williams had broken an arm. To be more precise, he had ruined his arm and needed surgery and bone grafts. With one slip, his carpentry career disappeared.

“No one needs a one-armed carpenter,” Williams says. “God I love carpentry. The kind of work I got to do … .” His voice trails off.

Today Williams and his business partners, Bill Clark and Don McConnell, run Clark & Williams planemakers in Eureka Springs, Ark. This three-man business is one of the few in the Western world that makes traditional wooden-bodied planes.

The company uses modern and traditional tools to make planes that represent, in their eyes, the pinnacle of tool development – 18th century British moulding, bench and joinery planes. Planes of this era look simple – some woodworking authors have described tools of this period as “primitive.” Yet once you see these planes through the eyes of their makers, later handplanes look and feel awkward.

Online Extras

* Read handplane stories on our Editors’ Blog.

* Read our review of William’s first DVD.

* Read our review of McConnell’s first DVD.

* Visit D.L. Barret & Sons, plane makers.


From the April 2010 issue #182
Buy this issue now