Chris Schwarz's Blog

The Scrub Plane Litmus Test

My boss at my last job had a test he gave to all job applicants. He simply asked them: “How many hours do you sleep at night?” If they answered “seven” or anything less, then you were hired. Here’s another one: Among trim carpenters in Chicago, simply knowing what a scrub plane was could get you a job.

Yesterday Carl Bilderback called me to share some of his thoughts about the intended use for a scrub plane (see my earlier entry about this tool below). Bilderback is a long-time trim carpenter and noted tool collector who specializes in saws. As a trim carpenter in Chicago, Bilderback always kept a scrub plane handy for fitting mouldings against irregular plaster walls. The scrub plane could remove large amounts of material from the backside of moulding so it would sit tight against the plaster.

Bilderback also was a primary supplier for scrub planes among trim carpenters in the region. He’d pick them up at flea markets and resell them to his co-workers and buddies. During one job, Bilderback said he had to hire 75 carpenters for a huge job that involved seven miles of moulding. One of the problems of the job was finding enough good carpenters to work on the project; Bilderback was going to have to hire people he didn’t know personally.

So when the job applicant came down for an interview, Bilderback had a scrub plane sitting out. He’d ask them: “Do you know what that thing is?” If they answered “scrub plane” then he hired them. So now there is one more reason to make sure you know what all the planes are , it could help get you a job someday.

Christopher Schwarz

One thought on “The Scrub Plane Litmus Test

  1. matt sullivan

    i’m also a beginner wood worker and would like to build the Roubo bench. my question is in regards to jointing and planing the boards: as a beginner, i don’t have a power jointer or planer but i do have some hand planes. do you think its possible to make the roubo bench using hand planes instead?

    thank you.

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