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UK Planes and their Makers


Sparks No. 70 by Douglas Coates

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For a small island we have more than our share of the best plane-makers here in the UK.

Karl Holtey, Bill Carter, Phil Edwards and others have set a World-class standard but it is exciting to see a new maker appearing. Itís also very pleasing to find that demand for premium hand-made tools is strong.

Oliver Sparks is still young in years but he radiates a passion for the craft that is backed by rigorous research and thorough knowledge. His planes exude that elusive Ďmasterís touchí. He will go far quite quickly, no doubt about it.

I had the opportunity to handle and test a number of Ollieís planes some months ago, and was particularly taken with his No70. I like smaller smoothers and I like woodies. I had been using a Philly blackwood coffin smoother for some time, so I took to this plane immediately.

It is called the No. 70 because itís based on the old Norris of that type. I donít see many of these around, but one picture reference I have is beech with the Norris adjuster (there may be variants I am not aware of).

The significant differences here are the use of fine Honduras rosewood, the deletion of the adjuster and an incredible attention to all the details resulting in a tool of the very highest quality.

The No. 70 is a small woodie smoother in all respects but with one big difference. I describe this plane as a small smoother but at 6 1/2Ē it has something of the feel of the old woodie block planes.

The introduction of a lever cap is its distinguishing feature and the big gain is to get the clamping pressure on the double-iron right down where it matters most (just behind the cap iron leading edge).


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Norris Planes


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