Spill plane - old English beauty

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Blog entry by mafe posted 11-22-2016 11:06 PM 4499 reads 5 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Spill plane
old English beauty

I usually don’t share my buys here on LJ, unless I restore or use them in a blog, but this one I think is worth it.
This one just arrived with the post today and I was all smile and joy, after opening the pack and seeing this wonderful old well used tool, making beautiful spills.

A spill is according to Wikipedia:
A spill plane is a device which creates long, spiraling wood shavings or tapers which are used to move fire from one place to another. They were most common in the era before matches were common. They are unique in that ordinarily wood planes are used to shape a piece of wood, whereas with a spill plane the shaving is the product.

Before matches became widely available in the 1860s, long, coiled wood shavings known as spills were used to transfer a flame from one location to another, such as from a fireplace to a candle, lantern or stove. Typically made using a special inverted plane, spills burn more slowly and consistently than paper, and also double as a convenient tinder material.

A spill in Danish is a fidibus.

Here it is in action.
The plane are used upside down from a normal plane, I could see from old marks that it most likely had been held like this before in a bench.
Then a piece of wood are run over the cutter.

Like this.

And wonderful spills come flying out the side.

The plane is made from these parts:
Body, fence (screwed in place), Iron, wedge.

Iron is skewed and flat to the surface.

The wedge has a hollow, this is becomes a circle in the fence, like a tunnel, this helps the shave take form.

Output hole.
Blade and wedge ends.

Spills come out like this.

For size.

The spills are quite equal and tight but it depends on the wood and the grain direction.
This is pine and burns same speed as a match.

Spills all over!

Here it is taken apart.
The wedge and the iron.
(The white thing is a sharpening stone, just touching up now it’s out).

The iron looks as if it has been in use for many years.

Have to love a old iron like this.

Backside of wedge has not been exposed to the elements so it still have the original wood color.

Quite simple design.
Easy to replicate.

Once set, it makes beautiful spills, perfect cones.
(Actually that’s only important for storage and look, as a spill it works fine even it’s not a perfect cone.

Now on the workbench, ready to be used as spills, lighting my pipe, or as cheap glue / stain brushes.

If you think now: ‘I want one’, then Veritas makes a metal version and there are plenty of plans on the web for building your own, just search spill plane.

Hope it could inspire or make you think hmmmmmmmmmmm.

Best thoughts,


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

29 comments so far

View Mark Wilson's profile (online now)

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1667 days

#1 posted 11-22-2016 11:12 PM

What a spillway, Mads. Now, how ‘bout a penstock?

-- Mark

View lew's profile


12932 posts in 4359 days

#2 posted 11-22-2016 11:14 PM

WOW, Mads, that’s awesome! I never heard of these before. Thanks for the “history lesson”.

If I used it , I’d probably cut the ends of my fingers off!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View mafe's profile


12286 posts in 3693 days

#3 posted 11-22-2016 11:17 PM

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4486 days

#4 posted 11-22-2016 11:21 PM

I did not know that. Makes sense when you think about it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Don W's profile

Don W

19424 posts in 3171 days

#5 posted 11-22-2016 11:39 PM

Very cool Mads. I have a spill plane I need to get sharpened up. This may be the motivation i needed.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brinth's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#6 posted 11-22-2016 11:43 PM

And not people misunderstand you every time you say: “jeg går lige hjem og tager en spiller…”

-- Brinth, Denmark - "nothing is impossible and everything goes; if you have the will (and the time) to do it"

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1251 days

#7 posted 11-22-2016 11:53 PM

Yes, about the only plane not used to improve the surface of the wood. Thanks, Mads! The photos are awesome; I especially like the last one … mug full of spills. Great buy!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10859 posts in 4656 days

#8 posted 11-22-2016 11:54 PM

I think WE learned something today thanks to Mads!!

I did for sure!

Could be used to get a flame a long way away from the normal distance… like lighting a Pilot Light in a water heater, etc. Anywhere where you need longer lasting match too… Lighting several candles… etc. or transferring flame when lighting a fire in the fireplace…


Yes, you have me thinking… don’t know if I wanted to spend much $$$ on it though… :)

Thank you, Mads… GOOD ONE!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23740 posts in 3709 days

#9 posted 11-23-2016 12:43 AM

Thank you, Mads. I learn something new every day on here and a lot from you. That is so cool to make those curled ship on purpose!!

Cheers, my friend…............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2233 days

#10 posted 11-23-2016 01:14 AM

Your presentation style is SECOND TO NONE — text and photos !!!

When is your book coming out ??? Seriously. No smiley this time.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View Schwieb's profile


1896 posts in 4065 days

#11 posted 11-23-2016 02:40 AM

Very nice presentation as always Mads. You are my hero when it comes to diligence in putting together good post. I learned something from you today and that makes it a good day. Danke

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View CFrye's profile


10823 posts in 2443 days

#12 posted 11-23-2016 05:50 AM

Those spills look very at home on your bench, Mads!

-- God bless, Candy

View Druid's profile


2161 posts in 3399 days

#13 posted 11-23-2016 05:59 AM

Very interesting post Mads. What a treasure to receive in the mail. I had not seen a version like this one before, so it’s quite informative to see your demonstration along with the clear explanation.
Since you mentioned that Veritas has a version, I thought that I would pass along a photo of the one hiding in my workshop. The “tunnel” on mine is not as narrow as yours, and the spills are a little more cone shaped, but it is easy to use and does a beautiful job as long as you have a decent piece of straight grained wood. Just like you mentioned.

My wife and I enjoy having candles, so you can be sure that I’ll be making her a fresh supply of spills for the Yule Season.
Thanks for another well done tutorial.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3380 days

#14 posted 11-23-2016 01:20 PM

Very nice Mads, something that was used for so many years and lost when matches and lighters were invented.

I expect that you will make the spills of a nice wood that will make lighting your pipe even better.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View ClutteredShop's profile


38 posts in 1156 days

#15 posted 11-23-2016 03:18 PM

The wood of the plane body appears to have the marks left by an up-and-down sawmill. I would expect that a commercial manufacturer would have planed these off, which makes me wonder if your specimen might be a one-off made by some craftsman for his own needs. Are there any maker’s marks or owner’s marks on the tool?

-- Cluttered Shop

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