I have been thinking about buying a Moving Fillister Plane for years., and had decided on buying a fancy new German one. Christopher Schwartz once wrote that old ones can by quite difficult to tune and could be difficult to get to work properly. This one was in good condition, and cost 20% of a new one. It was worth the risk.
The plane was cutting perfectly after about five minutes of sharpening. I’ve spent far more time than that getting new planes to work properly. And after I did a little research, I found that I had purchased a piece of American woodworking history.
The Reed Plane Company of Utica, New York was founded by four brothers from Wales, who came to the US in 1801. A fifth brother was a builder who constructed most of the warehouses along the Erie Canal. All this info comes from the EARLY AMERICAN INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION.
Depending on the source, the brothers began making planes in their kitchen in 1820 or 1826. They are believed to be the first commercial plane makers in New York, and one of the first in the US. Note: Apple, Google, and Microsoft were either started, or worked out of, garages. At least Amazon was started in a rented house.
The Reed brothers eventually built a twenty square foot workshop, which contained a big one horsepower grindstone for sharpening plane blades. The horsepower was supplied by one horse.
They eventually built a much larger shop, staffed by the brothers, and various journeymen and apprentices. Apprentices at this time often had to pay to learn such a skilled trade, which amounted to a tuition of a sort–the early version of a technical college.
Back to this plane. The business edge is boxed, which means it is reinforced with Boxwood. There is a slight chip in the Boxwood right at the throat, but that has had no effect on its cutting ability. As the company ceased production in 1894, this plane is solidly nineteenth century. This is only a guess, but I say it’s 130 to 160 years old.
Now for a little outrageous behavior. How do you clean a plane that old? My go to cleaner, which many hate, is WD-40. It cleans the wood, and provides it with temporary water resistance. WD in the name means water displacement, and this is formula number 40.
Some necessary tools to use a plane like this.
The cross peen hammer is an all around useful carpenter’s hammer, and just the right size for adjusting the depth of the cut. The screwdriver is beefy enough to deal with the giant screws that hold the fence in location. It could also be used as a defensive weapon, if things come to that. They never do.