Roman Plane re-created

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Project by YorkshireStewart posted 06-08-2008 03:02 PM 12251 views 12 times favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The ash of Pompeii (AD 79) preserved the earliest planes ever discovered but the earliest physical evidence appears on silver coins from nearly 100 years BC, although, naturally, the details are scant. It is possible to see from the series of coins that different styles of plane already existed, so, clearly, much development had already taken place 2100 years ago.

Having said that, there is no evidence that the ancient Egyptians had developed the wood plane. All the evidence shows that wood was smoothed by adze, followed by rubbing down with stones and sand.

It is possible that the Greeks in the fifth to the second centuries B.C. had the plane to work their finely panelled doors. None has ever been found however.

A number of planes survive from Roman times. Some are very simple, being entirely wood with the iron wedged against a pin. Evidence suggests that most Roman planes were of this type. Others, like the Goodmanham Plane, comprise a wooden body riveted to an iron sole-plate. Despite the complexity in making a plane this way, the Roman makers had realised how much the iron sole extended the life of a plane.

Others incorporated iron cheeks to strengthen the throat sides. Those from Pompeii are of a similar width as this one (The Goodmanham Plane) at 55mm, but only 8” / 200mm long as against 13” / 330mm.

The iron of the Goodmanham Plane is 1 5/16” / 35mm wide falling nicely in the middle of the range of the other planes that have been found complete with irons (27mm to 40mm). The iron is set at an angle of 65° +/- 1°whereas the iron of a modern general duty plane will be set at 45 degrees (known as Common Pitch). The rake of all other excavated Roman planes ranges from 50° to 66°. An angle as great as 65° would be most suited to harder woods.

History lesson over!

The Goodmanham Plane was fairly recently found near the village of that name in East Yorkshire, and is now in a museum in Beverley.

This is my attempt at re-creating that plane which is from about the second to fourth century AD. The original was made of ivory and iron.

My construction method is outlined here on my blog.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

36 comments so far

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 5215 days

#1 posted 06-08-2008 03:12 PM

very beautiful work.

-- jeanmarc manosque france

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 5267 days

#2 posted 06-08-2008 03:17 PM

thats amazing YS! thanks for the post and keep up the great work!!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5717 days

#3 posted 06-08-2008 03:21 PM

That’s a real thing of beauty, Stewart! And a great history lesson.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5535 days

#4 posted 06-08-2008 04:04 PM


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5745 days

#5 posted 06-08-2008 05:18 PM

I was going to make a joke about Romans flying, but that was such an intellectual trip into the past I decided I actually learned something, thank you Mr. Stewart. A very nice plane indeed. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View rikkor's profile


11294 posts in 5373 days

#6 posted 06-08-2008 05:31 PM

Very, very, very nicely done.

View gizmodyne's profile


1785 posts in 5588 days

#7 posted 06-08-2008 05:36 PM

This is a great project. I enjoyed reading the blog as well. Very impressive. You could sell these or the plans.

Well done!

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5575 days

#8 posted 06-08-2008 06:07 PM

WOW…this HISTORY TEACHER gives your write-up an A+!!!! Loved reading all of it!! This makes me want to make one even more!!! In your research is there any evidence the Chinese had been using planes? Some of there discoveries pre-date “western” civilization…but I am not an ancient history historian…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5562 days

#9 posted 06-08-2008 06:11 PM

I have been waiting for this since you shared the original. Lovely job of it, Stewart. Thanks for a great post. That tissue-like shaving bespeaks a good tune as well.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View MrWoody's profile


343 posts in 5273 days

#10 posted 06-08-2008 06:48 PM

Stewart, that is simply gorgeous. Just out of curiosity, how long did it actually take to make?

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5487 days

#11 posted 06-08-2008 06:58 PM

As stated in my other posts, Fantastic job, Yorkie!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5373 days

#12 posted 06-08-2008 07:05 PM

Awesome piece of history. It is so cool that you recreated this! Great job too. I really enjoyed the lesson. I had never heard any of it before. Thanks!

-- Happy woodworking!

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 5567 days

#13 posted 06-09-2008 02:24 AM

Very unique and interesting. Thanks for the background.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 5349 days

#14 posted 06-09-2008 09:08 AM

Looks like you have a very good working plane Stewart as well as an ancient resurrection.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Dadoo's profile


1790 posts in 5489 days

#15 posted 06-09-2008 04:21 PM

I remember discussing/reading about this last year. Wasn’t there one in a museum that was made of stone or something like that? I remember you stating that you wanted to recreate it…and my friend, you did a wonderful job too!

-- Make Woodworking Great Again!

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