In 2006, shortly after I joined the staff at Popular Woodworking Magazine, we hosted an unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated gathering of planemakers.
What didn’t filter through at the time to my woefully overloaded brain (I had just begun to learn about hand tool woodworking and to appreciate fine tools) was that, had our office been spirited off to another dimension, the world would have lost many of the best planemakers working today. (And I’m sad to say that one of those makers, Robert Baker, is no longer with us; he passed away in 2010.) It was also the first time some of these makers had met one another (which was surprising to me – I guess I thought it was a secret club of some kind?).
I count myself incredibly lucky to have been there. I was in the company of greatness – and got to use some most incredible tools – and I was too uneducated to know it. (I wish I could relive that day now that I can recognize subtle differences in the whys and hows of how planes work – and now that I take great pleasure in using them.)
If you’re a long-time subscriber, you already know this: Christopher Schwarz wrote about the gathering, and shared a number of the gorgeous infill images that were shot that weekend in the article “Test-driving Exotic Infill Handplanes” (available free on our site by clicking the title).
I’ve also posted some of my favorite shots herein for your viewing pleasure. Many of these are tools after which I now lust (possibly as much as I lust after Ewan McGregor…with about as much chance of…oh, never mind.) A couple of them I’m lucky enough to at least still have access to from time to time.
p.s. You can try out some of these planes yourself in the Marketplace at Woodworking in America 2013, Oct. 18-19 (the education sessions run through Oct. 20) – and at the Planemakers’ Dinner on Saturday night, you can hear from the makers themselves on their designs, inspiration, philosophies and more. And if you want a brain dump of writing on handplanes, check out Christopher’s book “Handplane Essentials,” now available in paperback and as a PDF download.