Block Plane Evangelism


IMG_0405Some time ago when I was on the Executive Council of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, with special interest towards outreach efforts, we spent a lot of time talking about the diminishing role of woodworking in the common culture and ways that we might foster increasing interest in skilled woodworking craft among those who were not yet practitioners.  One idea I devised was  something I called “The Block Plane Initiative” wherein established woodworkers would rehabilitate an old, unused block plane and make a gift of it to a new or potential woodworker.  The idea for this came from  convergence of several facts.

Almost nothing is more enticing to a new or potential woodworker than a tool that works spectacularly, but isn’t so exotic as to require esoteric skills.

The block plane is perhaps the most familiar hand tool to the outside world.

Unused block planes are ubiquitous in virtually every woodworking shop I have entered.

It takes less than an hour to rehab a block plane if all the parts are there.

Thus it would be a relatively simple and inexpensive way to evangelize for woodworking.  Personally I keep a large stash of vintage block planes just for this effort.  Some were given to me by friends, others were bought cheaply in box lots at auctions or flea markets.

There was not universal support for this idea, in great part because some furniture makers do not consider the block plane a “real furniture maker’s tool; it’s for carpenters.”  And my reply?  “Perhaps block planes are a carpenter’s tool, the way you prepare them.”  I remain steadfast in my support for the idea.

Recently I had the opportunity to practice Block Plane Evangelism once again to a friend who is a relatively new woodworker, certainly new to fine quality woodworking.  He mentioned that he had a raggedy Wally World block plane, so it was not a tool to inspire him.  Taking one of my old Stanley 220 block planes down from the shelf, lapping the sole and cheeks, working the blade from ground zero up through an 8000 water stone, and cleaning and lubricating everything, I had a high-performance tool in about an hour.

I gave it to my friend, and I have no doubt it was a seed than will grow and blossom in short order.

So I challenge you to engage in a little Block Plane Evangelism, and if you do, let me know how it works for you.