wooden plow plane is truly the workhorse joinery
plane of the hand tool or hybrid shop.
It cuts grooves for a panel door
faster than you can set up a router table. It can be used to cut
rabbets by burying the iron in the plane fence, rather like
setting up a sacrificial fence on a table saw. It can be used to
mark out, and even begin a long and accurate rip saw cut,
whether you make the cut by hand or band saw.
Even if you arenít committed to
working entirely by hand, a vintage wooden plow can be a great
fit for your shop and a complement to your power tools. Here's
how to make sure you buy a good one.
The first, and most difficult to correct thing
to check is the skates. Like an NHL defenseman, a plow needs a
good pair of skates. These are the strips of metal that protrude
out of the bottom of the plane. They are usually two to three
inches tall and sometimes feature brass trim.
Like an ice skate, this is the bearing surface
of the plane, meaning that this is what actually touches the
wood. It is vital to the operation of the plane that these two
skates are straight and lined up with each other.
Over the years, the wood in the plane body moves
with the seasons and can cause these skates to go out of
alignment, sometimes quite severely. Check this with a
straightedge before you buy the plane. The skates should be
aligned, both along the wide side of the skate and the bottom.
They should also be at a right angle to the bottom of the wooden
plane body. If they fail these tests, leave this one be and hunt
for another plow.
However, if it is just the bottom
edges of the skates that aren't lined up, and you aren't working
on a historic plow with real value, you can file the bottoms
until they line up.
Work slowly and
carefully until the edges line up with each other
and are parallel to the bottom of the wooden body of
the plow. This will be easier if you remove the
fence from the body and hold the body in your