An expert discusses the fine points of an 18th century masterpiece.
SHOP OWNER: Larry Williams
LOCATION: Eureka Springs, AR
During a recent Tuesday chat, I mentioned an old plane that was available at an old tool meet in Albuquerque. I said I'd post some photos and here they are.
This is an 18th Century American plane made by E. CLARK of MIDDLEBORO Mass. Very little is known about E. Clark except that he probably had a son who also made planes in a little later style using the same maker's mark but without the Middleboro. The early Clark planes are very similar to those made by Levi Tinkham, also of Middleboro, and those of Henry Wetherel, of nearby Norton. Wetherel and Tinkham were active in the last half of the 1700's.
The lead photo (above) shows the escapement side of the Clark plane. The other photo (right) shows the toe with the plane lying on its blind side. This plane has an almost classic 18th Century American style bold and angular wedge. The shoulder is low cut with a stepped and deeply dropping cove. It has 18th Century style wide flat chamfers that terminate at the step on the shoulder and flow into a beautiful ogee on the blind side.
Many early American planes feature a hollowed chamfer below on the lower section of the blind side. They are often similar to those found on early 18th Century Dutch planes but never found on British planes. Many think American plane makers were copying British makers but this and some other recently found information indicate that both may have been following early Dutch styles.
Occasionally you'll find 18th Century American planes where the blind side chamfers flow into this ogee detail. Usually wear or lesser design tends to obscure the ogee form. This is a clean crisp example of a well executed ogee on the blind side. It kind of looks like Lee's cabriole legs--everything is in proportion and balanced.
This 9 3/4" long plane like most early American planes is made of yellow birch rather than beech. Later planes were usually made to a standard 9 1/2" length. The profile, astragal and cove, was popular in the mid to late 1700's but I'm not sure exactly where it was used.
It's interesting that 18th Century American cabinet makers often drilled "hang holes" in their planes and hung them from nails in their shops. 19th Century carpenters and cabinet makers usually worked from tool chests and didn't do this. A hang hole in an 18th Century plane will have little or no effect on its value to collectors. The same hole in a 19th Century plane can have a very negative effect on collector value.
Oh, if you were wondering, the price was $1,250. My pockets aren't that deep right now.. . . Larry Williams
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Visit Larry's web site, www.planemaker.com, for a wealth of other information about planes and planecraft, including the Clark & Williams line of fine wooden planes.]
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