But Lie-Nielsen wasn’t the first person to make this tool in bronze. That footnote goes to machinist Ken Wisner, who made the planes in small batches and sold them through the Garrett Wade catalog. When Wisner decided to get out of that business, he turned over his patterns to Lie-Nielsen, who took them to Maine and set up shop in a shack on his farm.
I’ve always wanted to own one of these Wisner planes , partly out of curiosity and partly out of my desire to own a piece of recent history. But they’re hard to come by. And they’re expensive when they do come up on eBay.
So this weekend, I got a little schoolgirl thrill when Jeff Skiver pulled a Wisner out of his bags of tools during a class on handplanes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. He wasn’t looking to sell it, and I won’t tell you what he paid for it. Suffice it to say that Skiver practically stole it from a starving widow who had substantial medical bills.
The Wisner is an interesting piece of work. On the one hand, the main casting was nicely polished and the machined areas were crisp and clean. But the thumbscrew on the lever cap was black plastic (the screw itself was metal, however). And the main screw that joined the lever cap, iron and body casting was an off-the-shelf hex-head screw.
Wisner signed his name on the plane with some sort of rotary tool (perhaps a Dremel). And the blade was thinner than the Lie-Nielsen version.
Of course, when you are blazing a trail like Wisner was, you have to overlook details like this and appreciate the sheer fact that this plane exists. Plus, look at what this little plane led to in Warren, Me.
And if anyone has a Wisner plane they’d like to part with (for the sake of history, natch) please drop me a line.