Make a traditional double-iron coffin smoothing plane.
by Steve Voigt
From the Middle Ages until the dawn of the 20th century, wooden planes were the dominant bench plane form in the Western world. But when I started woodworking (in the hand-tool dark ages of the late 20th century), this traditional form seemed practically extinct. As I became interested in planemaking, I found plenty of information on laminated Krenov-style planes, but very little on traditional mortised planes.
Eventually, as I began to wrap my brain around these planes, I came to realize how enormously sophisticated and ingenious their design is. Virtually every feature has some functional purpose, even if it might not be immediately apparent. I came to think that traditional planes, in particular the British and American designs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, represent the peak of the planemaker’s art.
Making a traditional plane poses challenges, but it’s a great way to hone your hand-tool skills. It requires a small tool kit, and while a few specialized tools are needed, they are of modest cost (and you can make most of them, if you’re so inclined).
I’ll walk you through the design and construction of a traditional double-iron coffin smoothing plane (so-called because they resemble coffins, not because they were used in the mortuary industry!). A well built coffin smoother is an extremely useful and versatile tool – mine is rarely out of arm’s reach on the bench.
Website: Visit voigtplanes.com.
Article: Make a wooden panel-raising plane with Bill Anderson.
Model: Download the SketchUp model for the coffin smoother.
In our store: “Handplane Essentials,” by Christopher Schwarz.
From the November 2017 issue, #235