Rosewood Jack and Smoother

  • Originally published September 2, 2018.

I stop by an antique store near where I live fairly often. I’ve found a few nice tools to use in my shop. I’m not a tool collector, I’m what they call a user. I like to buy old tools, clean them up, repair them, and put them to use. Recently I found some handplanes that are a little special.

They caught my eye sitting there in the midst of a bunch of normal antique store stuff. They are rosewood handplanes from another era. They don’t have their blades, called irons, and the wedges are upside-down. I contacted some knowledgeable folks I’m connected to and asked if I should get them. The answer was a very loud "YES!"

The only marks on the planes are M. JOHNSON.

There isn’t a known commercial maker by that name so we believe these were made by M. Johnson for his own use.

I took them home and cleaned them up a little with some mineral spirits. The wood is just gorgeous. The larger one is called a Jack Plane. The smaller is called a Coffin Smoother.

They are extremely well made, Mr. Johnson was a serious pro.

The bottom of the smoother, called it’s sole, looks like Lignum Vitae. That’s one of the very hardest woods.

Here you can see the rosewood body and the Lignum Vitae sole.

Did I mention that the wood is gorgeous?

The planes show signs of good use, but no abuse. All previous owners of these planes took very good care of them.

The other side of the smoother is also pretty gorgeous.

The wedges of the planes are very well made as well. Since the irons are missing these can give up hints as to what I need to look for.

The back of the wedge has no channel. This means the irons had a smoother front with nothing protruding. That limits the possibilities.

The bed of the planes have a groove cut in them to accomodate the screw from a cap iron. This does indicate that the planes had irons with caps.

The handle on the Jack plane, called a tote, is a classic design and is very comfortable.

The sole of the Jack is very flat and free of damage. This is fairly rare for an old wood plane.

The strike button shows use but no abuse.

There are some small cracks, called checks, but they are very stable. I might add some glue to stablize them more but they might not need it.

I have an old plane iron made by a famous iron-maker, Moseley & Son. This is a great English iron from the late 1800s. It is laminated steel and would last my lifetime.

This will fit the Jack plane, with one small issue.

It has a nut on the front of the cap iron. I don’t want to modify the original wedge. I will make a copy of the existing wedge that has a groove for the cap iron nut. I have a piece of rosewood that doesn’t match in color but will look great and work well.

These are wonderful old planes and I will get them working and use them for the duration of my shop time.


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