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The History of Industries and Toolmaking in United Kingdom

  Tools - a Genuine Expression of Folk Art  

Early European Decorated Tools from the Woodworking and Allied Trades by Jonathan Green-Plumb

The book presents a survey of European hand tools for woodworking and other trades, dating from the 16th century to the 19th century.

The tools illustrated and analyzed were either made decoratively or received surface decoration.  Although all the tools featured were made to be primarily functional, the focus of the book is on the esthetic qualities that transform such tools into examples of genuine folk art.

Planes, braces, axes, compasses, saws and chisels, etc., are featured, including many that have not been previously recorded or published. 

Tool photographs, drawings and paintings have been sourced from various national museums and private collections across Europe.

The Author

Jonathan Green-Plumb has been collecting antique tools for nearly 20 years.  He was presented with a Salaman Award grant by The Tools and Trades History Society, which allowed him to visit museums and gain access to tools and images that would otherwise have been out of reach.

Jonathan has a MA Degree in Fine Art Sculpture.  It was while studying and making sculpture at art school that Jonathan Green-Plumb began to appreciate hand tools more.

He discovered that tools could be more than just functional objects, they could also be of decorative form and combine function with symbolism and self expression.

He is continuing to collect and research old woodworking tools and related objects such as treen items, furniture and folk art. He hopes to publish further work in the future.

He is currently a technology teacher at a high school in the rural county of Norfolk.  He enjoys family life with his wife and two young children, making furniture, swimming and attending auctions.

Hare is a sample from the book.

English Shoulder Plane

This shoulder plane, on a purely functional level, is typical of the specialized low angled planes of rebate type that became widely used in the 19th century. They were made of metal, either cast in iron, gunmetal or brass, or were constructed from metal plates that were dovetailed together.

The examples that were cast in brass and gunmetal often had a steel sole added, as with this one, to help resist wear. 

Shoulder planes require a very narrow mouth to aid the removing of fine shavings, so steel soles were necessary as the softer brass and gunmetal planes were prone to damage and more rapid wear.

The cutting irons on shoulder planes are squared in form and beveled. Usually they are set to a low angle of approximately 20 degrees.  As the sharpened bevel is uppermost the effective angle is probably nearer 50 degrees.  In terms of their function, shoulder planes have been used to clean-up the shoulders of tenons (mortise and tenon joints), and rebates, working across the grain.

Seen from most viewpoints, via one of the sides, toe, heel and plan view, this plane is comparable to many others from the period.  The profile is, with the arched top and shaped ends, of attractive shape. This combined with the functional aspects result in a tool that is comfortable to use.

Seen from the remaining viewpoint, the second side, this plane becomes more than just a functional woodworking tool. The winding floral and vegetal engraving elevates the whole into an object that has a visual impact, not bound by function.

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January 2012

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