I have been off of WordPress for a month, as I have been setting up a new MacMini, a task somewhere in between cleaning the Augean Stables and finding the last digit of Pi. I am back with all new passwords, and projects delayed for too long. For example, look at that slab of Eastern Red Cedar the Gage plane sits upon. 6′ 7″ long, 14″ wide, and 2″ thick. It has new workbench written all over it.
Now back to that Gage G35 plane. It took over thirty years to corral all the parts. The last part was the combo cap iron and chip breaker, bought from the top tool seller in the country (he had several of them). I think my total investment in this plane was $29. A mint version of the same plane sold for $1700 plus.
Why so much Jack for a production plane? It is essentially an absolute masterpiece of late nineteenth century industrial design. Let me list a a few of the innovations.
To start, the plane blade/frog Combo is rock solid. The iron slides into the frog via a slot in the built in frog. The depth adjustment is far more accurate than a comparable Stanley one, and the slot means no floppy lateral adjustment. And that is not even the best part.
The trick shot is the union of the cap iron with the chip breaker. The chip breaker is essential another plane iron, turned around bevel up–thereby creating a double iron, twice as stiff as a Stanley plane. The cap iron is also adjustable up and down, and is tightened without the need of any tools, such as a screwdriver.
The final result of this is to create a “self setting” plane. Loosen the cap iron combo, take out the iron and sharpen it, and then re-assemble. No fiddling about with the chip breaker when the iron is put back in the plane. It is almost exactly the same depth every time.
Why didn’t this company crush the competition? Stanley bought them out, and after two decades of ownership, closed down the company. Just another example of rotten American business practices. Thankfully these champs are still in circulation on auction sites, though the prices vary wildly. Timing is everything–my retirement looms, and Melanie Jane bought me a G36 Jack plane for $49. Soon I will be officially “retard,” for all of you Borat fans. Sacha Baron Cohen introduced that term in Mt. Brook, Alabama, a place he loves to jape. The scene from Bruno in Mt Brook is even better than that.