So we will admit, this object is a little odd. And to be honest, it stumped a few people at the Museum who were trying to figure out exactly what it was. But after a little research and a lot of digging, we finally have some answers.
This mystery object is…a cabinetmaker’s hand plane! More specifically this is a wooden rabbet plane.
A plane is a tool used to shape wood. Planes are generally made up of a sharpened metal plate attached to a firm body. When this is moved over a wood surface, it will slice off uniform shavings and work to create a planed wood surface. Or in the case of this plane, it will create a cut edge for a joint, specifically a rabbet joint, giving the tool the name of “rabbet plane.”
A rabbet is one of the most common types of wood joints. It is a type of joint where the cut is made at the edge of the plank instead of the center. Rabbet joints are both extremely strong and very simple to make, when using a tool like this one.
This object is equipped with a singular skewed (or angled) iron for cutting across the grain, rather than with the grain. This angled metal plate allows the craftsman to achieve a cleaner cut. However, while this tool is incredibly useful it was only designed to have a singular function. As a result, a cabinetmaker or craftsman would need a chest filled with up to as many as 200 specialized tools like this one! This object is but one piece of a larger collection of planes owned and cared for by the Museum.
Farnsworth, J. (2020, April 7). Hand Plane Buyer’s Guide for Traditional Woodworking. Retrieved from https://woodandshop.com/woodworking-hand-tool-buying-guide-handplanes/
Green, C. (2016, January). An early Cabinet Maker’s smoothing plane from the City of London. Retrieved from https://taths.org.uk/tools-trades/articles/49-an-early-cabinet-maker-s-smoothing-plane-from-the-city-of-london
Written by Francesca Saldan, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions.