Extremely Average #23: The English Plane

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 01-25-2010 02:52 AM 2105 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 22: Heroes Part 23 of Extremely Average series Part 24: A Viking Tale »

“The English Plane”

-by Brian Meeks

In a tiny shop north of London town
At a maple bench stood young man proud.
Off cobble stone road sat a flower girl
A comb in her hair from mother of pearl

He’d returned from the war a scar on his face
He’d flown a camel; they’d called him an Ace.
At the museum she’d once spent a day
The artist she saw was named Claude Monet

On way to his shop, each day he passed by
He oft thought of how, he might catch her eye
She noticed his walk and his hat pulled low
She thought he seemed kind, she wanted to know

Each day he worked fixing table and chair
Til one could find nary a sign of wear
An easel she made from two apple crates
With a brush and plank she painted the fates.

The days rolled by and He spends them alone
He dreams of her each night he walks home
At the base of his door, in a pink bow
Violets waited for him and whispered hello

With chisel and plane and saw and mallet
The rough hewn walnut became a palette
She painted his portrait he made the frame
The rest of their lives were never the same.

He built her a house with a small garden
She took his name and gave him three children
Though they are gone and we know not their names
His joie de vie remains in this plane.

While I drove home from the antiques show, the little English hand plane sat patiently in the passenger’s seat. What tales could it tell? I could only imagine. I don’t know anything about hand planes, except that they seem to be incredibly handy to have around. I watch videos online and see people using them. The other day, when I was buying the Jet 1000B air filtration system, I asked the salesperson if they sold hand planes. He said they only had a couple, because people don’t use them much anymore. This might be true among home builders and carpenters, who likely make up most of his clientele, but it seems to me, that woodworkers still treasure their planes.

I could tell that the little plane was worried that he might be destined for some sort of knick knack shelf, for he had been travelling to antique shows for some time, and knew the fate of the tools sold at these places. When I removed his blade and began to run it back and forth across the wet stone, he purred with delight. They years of neglect fell away and the blade slowly began to come to life. As the metal changed from black to grey, I could tell that the little plane was feeling hopeful that he might again taste the sweet wood which gave his life meaning. After 40 minutes of working on the blade, the anticipation for the little plane was causing it to fidget and fuss a bit, so I decided that the blade was sharp enough for now.

I put the blade back into the plane and we went downstairs. As soon as he saw the workshop and a piece of rough cut walnut sitting on the workbench he yelped with delight. I explained to the little plane that I had never used one before, but he didn’t seem to care at all. I ran him across the board and tiny bits of wood began to come up. I adjusted the blade and he bit into the wood bringing up small shavings. Yummy! We played together on the walnut for a while. When I sensed that all my little plane’s fears were gone, I told him that I intended to continue to work on him, to make his blade sharper. I promised him that I will make sure, that no matter how many planes I get over time, I will always get him out and let him have some fun too. My little English plane was happy and so was I.

-- Brian Meeks,

9 comments so far

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3796 days

#1 posted 01-25-2010 02:55 AM

After the post ‘She took my breath away’, some of the readers expressed disappointment that it didn’t have a happy ending.

I hope you like this one better.

-- Brian Meeks,

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4444 days

#2 posted 01-25-2010 03:25 AM

quite a story.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 3812 days

#3 posted 01-25-2010 03:33 AM

If time permits, try to collect “The Handplane Book”, by Garrett Hack. It will change the way you view handplanes (probably). Great book. You can’t go wrong with a great book; avoid junk (i.e. do your homework).

Incidently, I recently talked to someone from Veritas/Lee Valley at a woodworking show. He kindly gave me a “priceless” 10-15 minute lesson on surfacing a new table. Much of the detail I didn’t know concerned ways to grind the blade (for instance, to emulate a “scrub plane” with a #5). I’m forced to conclude that there is much more to using handplanes than meets the eye. Somehow this makes me want to learn even more.


View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3796 days

#4 posted 01-25-2010 03:41 AM

One of the books I purchased recently is ‘Working with Handplanes’, from Fine Woodworking Magazine. I can’t imagine having too many books on hand planes, so I will likely give Mr. Hacks book a read too. Thanks for the suggestion.

-- Brian Meeks,

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 3812 days

#5 posted 01-25-2010 04:42 AM

Brian, I’m sure the book for have is very good. I would probably like it alot. I’m currently reading about 8 books related to woodworking, not including magazines and catalogs…no kidding (thank goodness for bookmarks and the library!). Garrett Hack’s book, aside from containing lots of applicable facts, reads as much like an encylopedic history. Thus, I think owning both books is justified. One that I added to my “wish list” a few months ago is “Making and Mastering Wood Planes, by David Finck.

Of course, you mentioned that you picked up a good deal of instructional materials recently. As long as you are writing, I hope that you might provide the followers of your blog with informal reviews of the resources you find helpful!


View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3796 days

#6 posted 01-25-2010 05:19 AM


I will do that. I have already reviewed the Sam Maloof DVD, and as soon as I watch another one, or finish one of the books, I will let everyone know what I think.

-- Brian Meeks,

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4065 days

#7 posted 01-25-2010 12:16 PM

Thanks Brian. Always fun to read your stuff. It is well worth the time to learn about handplanes.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3839 days

#8 posted 01-25-2010 04:10 PM

I thought She took my breath away had a very nice ending. I can think of very few relationships in my past where things didn’t work out and I got a new tool because of it. Usually, I end up losing all my possessions instead ;)

Great post on the plane Brian. I couldn’t help but notice the Festool with the extremely sharp teeth is female while the little plane who wants to play is male. I get the feeling that I am not the only one with relationship issues….


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View RayCurtis's profile


128 posts in 3894 days

#9 posted 01-26-2010 05:22 AM

I am pleased to make your Acquaintance, I just ran accross your blogs tonight and am extreamly impressed. Great prose, and the poetry aint bad either.

-- RayCurtis

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