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catharine kennedy engraving jack plane

This morning has been frustrating. I’ve been scouring the shop for my bradawl, which I’ve owned for ages, but it’s just plain gone. And earlier this fall, one of our students accidentally took my favorite claw hammer home with him (he returned it). And I also lost the very first Starrett 6″ rule I ever
bought when I started woodworking during that same class.

When you travel with your tools, or work with other people, these things happen. That is one of the reasons people stamped their names into their tools.

But I would like someone to try to accidentally take home my jack plane. It’s not going to happen.

catharine kennedy engraving close up

Earlier this month I asked Catharine Kennedy to engrave the sidewalls of myType 11 Stanley No. 5. I’ve long admired photos of her craftsmanship that have been posted on various forums, and during a long bus trip with a group of rowdy sixth-graders an idea came to me. No, it didn’t involve a gun or a machete.

I asked Kennedy to engrave the silhouette of the English square I built for the December 2010 issue
onto the sidewalls of the plane. That layout square is part of a larger project I’m working on for next year, and I thought it would be cool to have that symbol engraved on one of the tools in the project.

My gut was to have just a simple engraving. But once Kennedy sent me a sketch of what she wanted to do, I jumped at that.

I’ve had the plane for a few weeks now and have been using it quite a bit on some projects at home. It’s funny, that particular plane is one of my favorite things I own, and I didn’t think I could get more attached. But I have.

The work that Kennedy did is exquisite. The engraving is deep and suits the 19th-century styling of the Bailey plane. The engraving work cost me $350, and if I get a raise next year, you can bet that I’m going to get my smoother and jointer planes done the same way.

Heck, I might even have her try to engrave something on my next bradawl.

To see more of Kennedy’s work, view her impressive woodworking resume and to discuss an engraving job with her, visit her website at

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 12 comments
  • Mike Craw

    Thanks so much, Ross!


  • Ross Manning

    Mike –

    There is an email contact on her site. Here it is (just substitute an @ for the (at) below – I’ve done this to avoid spam robots)



  • Mike Craw

    Ms. Kennedy led a woodworking tour at the Hancock Shaker Village when my wife and I stopped there several years ago. There were only six of us on the tour and we all interacted quite a bit during the tour. When we entered the Brother’s Workshop, I spotted a massive Shaker workbench, one of two in the shop, as having been on the cover of The Workbench Book. She saw it in my face, and when she talked about the fact that it had been a "cover piece" she gave me a grin.

    We went back into the Brother’s Workshop after the tour ended and we had gone over to see the Round Stone Barn. Ms. Kennedy was alone in the shop, and welcomed Sharon and me in. She showed me a spokeshave she had handmade in a class she had taken and let me take some shavings with it. She then took my photo with the workbench, a photo that still resides inside my copy of the Wrokbench Book.

    Ms. Kennedy is every bit as good a woodworker and teacher as she is an engraver. I have thought fondly of our visit to the Hancock Shaker Village and of meeting Ms. Kennedy. I wish her site had an email contact so that I could tell her just how much we appreciated her kindness. Maybe she will read it here.

  • Kevin Thomas

    That is just beautiful work. Our Guild has a couple of Lie-Nielson planes that we’ve had laser etched with our logo, but tt’s nothing near as special. Bet you don’t lose that one.

  • David Chidester

    Wow, she does tremendous work! If I ever have any tools engraved, I’m sending them to her!

  • Schweeeeeeeet! I’ve doodled with this very same notion for my "user" set of planes too. Thanks for the info, Chris. And uh, you might want to hit Catherine up for a bloodhound fee.

    J.C. Collier

  • Joe

    My wife will now run for president of wives against Christopher Schwarz

  • Bob

    Catherine’s work looks as fine as any of the legendary Colt or Winchester engravers of the 19th century. She would have to have a Federal Firearms license to engrave firearms.

    Christopher, if you think losing a favorite tool or two is bad, try having all your tools stolen including your tool pouch that you have carried for 25 years since your first day of your apprenticeship. There will never be another like it; no matter how hard you try, every tool is out of place every time you reach for it. It took over 2 years for me to get used to a new one. Very difficult to forgive the lowlife that took it!

  • Ron

    Well there goes her next couple years of free time……..

  • Oak Furniture Fanatic

    That is stunning – the detail on the engraving is just delightful.

  • John Cashman

    That work is especially impressive because it is done on cast iron. That must have been a real bear to engrave. I know that engravers don’t like working on modern firearms because the steel is harder than on 19th century weapons. I imagine Catherine would much rather work on a brass or bronze plane. I bet she could really dress up one of those.

  • Mark

    Absolutely beautiful work. That Stanley looks like it came from Sindelar’s museum. A tool like that will treasured by many hands down the road. It probably doesn’t make it shave any sweeter but I’ll bet it sure feels like it does.

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