Chris Schwarz's Blog

Raring to Rabbet: Philly Planes Fillister

My first fillister plane was so pathetic it’s a wonder I’m not the poster boy for DeWalt routers. But then, I don’t look so good in yellow. Mom says I’m a winter.

Abut a decade ago I bought a Sargent copy of the execrable Stanley No. 78. I know I’m being hard on a plane that many people like and use (“execrable” means “not so good”). But every example I’ve used of this plane has a wobbly fence , no matter how tightly I screwed the thing in (yes, I used a nail) or how tightly I cinched the lone thumbscrew.

So I was quite pleased to buy a C. Nurse moving fillister plane with a wooden body. It is a Cadillac: steel sole, brass wedge securing the nicker, smooth-acting and locking depth stop. But I’ve always been at a loss as to recommend a new maker for those woodworkers who don’t want vintage.

This week I received a moving fillister plane that I ordered from Philly Planes in England, and it is all I can do to stop typing and rush out to the shop and cut some rabbets. In fact, I’m just back from another rabbeting session.

Philip Edwards, the man behind Philly Planes, has done a remarkable job of building a traditional wooden-bodied moving fillister plane that works right out of the box. (Another choice for those who like new planes is the European moving fillister version from ECE. I’ve also seen one from Clark & Williams.)

Here are the pertinent details: The Philly Planes moving fillister is 9-3/4″ long with an 1-1/4″-wide skewed iron that’s 1/8″ thick and made from O1 , high-carbon steel. The iron is pitched at 55Ã?° and (once you get the fence involved) the plane will cut rabbets up to 1-1/8″ wide and 1-1/8″ deep.

The fence is a Ã?½”-thick slab of beech secured to the body of the plane with two straight-head bolts and threaded inserts , which will ensure many years of long service. The depth stop adjusts smoothly with a knurled brass knob. Also a nice touch: The sole is lined with a sizable chunk of boxwood that covers rabbets up to almost a 1/2″ wide , again, it’s another touch that says this plane is in it for the long haul.

Everything about the plane feels right, from the action of the wedges to the fit in the hands. And, as a bonus, it comes fully sharpened and ready to go. And that’s a good thing because I was ready to go as soon as it arrived.

In use, the plane performs as a well-tuned vintage wooden-bodied moving fillister. Shavings curl up smartly out of the escapement and drop onto the bench. Rabbets form quickly, whether cross-grain or with the grain.

The price is 175 pounds. With our weak dollar that’s about $350. Delivery time for me was about five weeks from the time I placed the order.

The moving fillister is as essential to a hand woodworking shop as a smoothing plane, and Philip Edwards makes a very nice version. If anyone has experience with the ECE version, please add a comments below. I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it.

– Christopher Schwarz 

7 thoughts on “Raring to Rabbet: Philly Planes Fillister

  1. pam niedermayer

    Huh? The moving fillister is as essential to a hand woodworking shop as a smoothing plane? If you’re only making rebates, you don’t really need a mf.

    Pam

  2. dave c

    I too have Sargent 79 (theic copy of the Stanley 78). I guess I’m glad that mine isn’t defective, its fence is wobbly too. Drives me nuts.

  3. joel

    It’s something isn’t it.
    10 years ago there were no English or American makers of traditional style wooden planes. Now there are 3.
    10 years ago there were no American makers of traditional hand saws and only a few English ones. Now there are at least 5 maybe more.

    It’s great to see more and more new makers making traditional stuff that really works.

    Ps – My Moving Fillester is about 150 years old but unless it breaks I’m not really in the market

  4. Mike

    Nice work, Phil!

    That Boxwood corner is a nice touch. It’s the biggest wear point.

    My vintage one doesn’t have a piece of Boxwood there. And the edge is showing it. Hey Phil–wanna do some plane surgery in Kentucky this November?

    Take care, Mike
    (who’s not jealous of Chris. Nope…)

  5. Paul Chapman

    I’ve had the pleasure of trying out several of Phil’s planes and spokeshaves – they perform really well.

    Paul Chapman

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