Like they say, there’s no accounting for taste. In my case, it’s old planes. I started with just a few, and much later on, here I am with boxes and boxes of planes to get rid of. I have to get brutal with my own fixation, because at a certain point I am storing these, and running out of good reasons why.
A voice inside me says that SOMEONE should celebrate old tools like these for posterity. I am taking apart a few to better clean them up, and I am fascinated like a ten-year-old all over again by the many intricate moving parts. All those components are mechanical and they have to work well individually and together in unison. They are not of the digital world we presently inhabit. There is nothing extra to be searched up via QR code in cyberspace, and everything can be seen and held in your hand. It possesses all the beauty and simplicity of the physical world, there to be apprehended and appreciated.
The tool is built to a particular established form, and any other plane in the world no matter the maker, will be of a similar standard dimension. It also doesn’t hurt that this tool is beautiful. Most old planes have a decorative flourish, a “lamb’s tongue” carved into a corner chamfer like a signature.
A fillester plane performs a very specific function. It cuts a corner channel to a particular width set by an adjustable fence, and to a depth determined by an adjustable depth gauge. On the side, a “nicker” blade scores the fibres if you are planing cross-grain, to ensure the cut is clean and you get no tear-out. You can do raised panels with this plane, unplugged. No need for a power cord or a battery.
This plane was intricately formed as a wedding of Sheffield steel and good hard boxwood, to perform one task very well. Most like these, came over across the pond from Britain along with the craftsmen who owned and used them to build the new world. In its first lifetime, this plane harnessed human will, creativity and the physical body of the man who used it in his working days to support a family and to make beautiful and useful things. The original owner’s name - W. Parkes - is stamped on the end of the plane.
You realize a few things when you refurbish an old tool like this. First off, its usefulness. This fillister plane can enjoy a renewed life. Once cleaned up and resharpened, its functionality has not waned. It also does exactly what a tool is supposed to do - it empowers and ennobles the man using it. It amplifies his humanity and creativity. It makes him more useful and more productive.
In contrast, I think of cyberspace - that big machine that subsumes human productivity. Cyberspace seems to demote human beings as mere cogs in its own works, leaving them drained and unsure where all that time went. Cyberspace like a vacuum, leaves nothing concrete or useful in its wake.
The little plane cleaned up well. All the crud and rust came off, and the blade sharpened up nicely. It makes me realize all over again why I love old tools. All this plane needed was a bit of love and care, and someone to see that it was beautiful and useful. Frankly, it makes it harder to part with.
Maybe the potential buyers won’t miss just this one. It can live with me a while longer. I am sure that W. Parkes, wherever he is, would understand.