Chris Schwarz's Blog

Larry Williams and Don McConnell form Old Street Tool, Planemakers

Tomorrow, Clark & Williams, which has been in business since 1996, will relaunch as a newly incorporated business called Old Street Tool, with Larry Williams and Don McConnell as the owners (and planemakers). Bill Clark (the “Clark” in the former name), is leaving the company to pursue other interests. The new company will offer the same range of wooden bench and moulding planes as Clark & Williams.

It was, Larry said, an amicable dissolution.

“We divided everything three ways, and (Don and I) have everything we absolutely need,” he said, though there are a few tools and supplies that they’d like to have, which Larry says he’ll acquire by the end of the month.

“If you look at the history of planemakers, 14 years is an incredibly long run. Most of them last between two and five years; we made it an awful long time, and we’re still in business.” But, Larry said, transitions have always happened in the planemaking business, and for him the change is bittersweet. “I’m a little depressed about the history going away; I’m proud of that history,” he said.

But “Old Street Tool” has tapped planemaking history to come up with the new name. Old Street, in the Shoreditch area of London, was the location of Christopher Gabriel’s planemaking shop from 1779 to 1794 as well as John Fitman’s planemaking shop and William Moorman’s sawmaking shop, among other woodworking artisans. And in the late 1800s, Samuel Tyzack & Sons was located on Old Street. Today, the area, which is just north of the old City of London, is teeming with hip bars, restaurants and media businesses.*

“We thought is was pretty cool that we could pick a name that was an old London woodworking center, and is a cultural hot spot right now, because we think that the tools are as important now as (they were) then,” Larry said.

Customers won’t really notice a change, Larry said, other than the stamp on the planes. Old Street Tool will make the top-quality wooden bench and moulding planes that C&W customers expect. One internal change will be that Larry and Don will build bench planes, a task that Bill Clark specialized in.

“Don is sitting there working on bench planes right now,” Larry said. “I think what were going to do is, Don and I are going to take part of each week and work on bench planes, because we don’t want get to get too far behind.”

So tomorrow, if you go to planemaker.com, the site will be for Old Street Tool. But Don and Larry will still be there in Eureka Spring, Ark., making the planes one at a time.

 — Megan Fitzpatrick

*And because I just can’t help myself…Shoreditch is also where James Burbage built the first purpose-built playhouse in London, The Theatre, in 1576.

5 thoughts on “Larry Williams and Don McConnell form Old Street Tool, Planemakers

  1. Brian

    A workbench jumper who knows about James Burbage, the carpenter, actor and producer. Now that’s a class act!

    James’ sons, Richard and Cuthbert, settled a financial dispute with their landlord by pulling down the Theatre, salvaging the framing timbers, and carting them across town and across the river Thames under cover of darkness to build a new theatre, which they eventually named the Globe.

    Richard Burbage was the romantic male lead in Shakespeare’s company, and played Richard III, Romeo and Hamlet. Anecdotes from the period suggest that he was as popular with the female members of the audience as Tom Jones was in the late 1960s

  2. neinfill

    Any chance that under this new venture they are going to take on an apprentice or two? It would seem that given their seemingly never-ending backlog and unsurpassed quality reputation, their legacy should require them to make sure their expertise does get passed on to the next generation. They are certainly doing that some with videos etc. but it would seem that an apprentice or two would make sense. Many are lamenting the passing of Japanese toolmakers without apprentices, this trend should be reversed in this new golden age of hand tools.

  3. David Weaver

    Good luck, gentlemen. You might not need it given the fantastic planes, but good luck, anyway!

    What’s not clear from the article is whether or not Bill Clark will be making bench planes on his own. Any info?

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