This post is a follow up on my friend Dennis that posted «Why old wooden planes look the way they do» on his blog today. That was his ansver to my question about finish on wooden planes in his earlier post about his workbench project. I am posting this to show some examples of how Norwegian planes looks. I write in English so that he could understand easier.
In my area in Norway it seems to have been common to make your own planes up to about 1920-1930. Therefore most planes are made from local grown wood and the most common is birch. In the last period with self made planes they seems to have a varnish without color, but earlier there is an interesting variety of colors. I have made a photo gallery with some of the planes I have at hand. Most of theese planes are from a tool chest with tools that was made and used by the master carpenter Knut Larsen Høis that lived from 1799 to 1882. It is mainly his planes I have been duplicating in my own work. The planes have not been cleaned. I will later post about my own experiments with different kinds of varnish on my own planes. I am still trying to find a finish that works and looks like the old planes. Click on the photos to open them in a viewer with text.
This plane is for grooving floor boards. It is from about 1860-1880 and seems to have been left without finish. It is not cleaned. It is from the tool chest that was used by the famous Knut Larsen Høis (1799-1882). Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This plane is from the same tool chest as the last. This is finished with a colored warnish. This plane is older, maybe from about 1830. It has not been cleaned. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is a moulding plane that seems to be among the oldest planes in the tool chest of Knut Larsen Høis. The color is very nice. The plane has not been cleaned. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This plane has the name stamp of Knut Larsen Høis but are not from his tool chest. The plane seems to have its original finish. You can see the wear from his hands on the side. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
Details of the same plane. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
The same plane from the back. You can see that the color does not seem to be darker in the end grain. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
The ploug plane from the tool chest of Knut Larsen Høis. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
Another plane from his tool chest. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
Another of the planes from the chest. I believe that this plane is from his later years, about 1870. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This large round plane would be one of his older planes and have a very nice color and the wear is also nice. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This plane has the more modern shape of horn. It is from the same set of tools but might be later than the others. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This plane has been modified around 1890-1910 and you can see the difference in color. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is also a plane from the same tool chest. It seems to be more like the «typical American planes». I dit believe that it was finished with pine tar. I have tried that on one of my own planes and it looks similar. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is a frame saw from a tool collection at a museum in Trøndelag. It has a very dark color. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
Theese tools have been posted in an earlier post and are dated 1874. Photo: Lars Aasdøl
Theese tools show some of the variety of colors, there could still be more variations. The vear on the tools show that the wood are not colored, the color is in the varnish. You are welcome to comment if you have any suggestions about this varnish.
Forfattar: Roald Renmælmo
Snikkar med fokus på handverkstradisjon og handverktøy. Universitetslektor og PhD stipendiat på NTNU i Trondheim. Eg underviser på tradisjonelt bygghandverk og teknisk bygningsvern og restaurering.
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3 tankar på “Why old wooden planes in Norway look the way they do?”
It’s difficult to be sure about finishes by viewing photographs. But the grooving plane in the second row certainly looks like it has been finished with some type of spirit varnish, probably shellac.
In the US, orange shellac was the standard finish for hardwood flooring until the introduction of quick drying oil varnishes. Was shellac used for floor finishing in Scandinavia? If so, any craftsman doing that type of work would have ready access to the product. Also anyone building furniture or musical instruments would be using shellac or other spirit varnishes, such as copal.
I wonder if pine or birch resin was ever dissolved in alcohol and used in a spirit varnish?
You are providing all of us with excellent information about Scandinavian planes and their finishes, as well as traditional woodworking in general. Thanks for your good work.
I understand that it is difficult to be shure about the finish by viewing photgraps. It is hard even when you can hold the plane in your hand.
As pine, with lots of resin, was the common wood for most uses when theese tools where used, you will find some resin from pine on the tools. That could be the reason for some of the tools to have an uneven color and surface?
In my area the most common flooring was pine boards. They could be painted with linseed oil paint or they could be left with no paint or varnish. The last could be treathed with milk (casein) or just cleaned regularly with fine grained sand. I do not know flooring finished with shellac in my area. I still believe that shellac was used for other purposes.
I have also been thinking about pine resin dissolved in alcohol. Pine tar was very common and used for a lot of different purposes in my area. It is still beeing made the traditional way. It could have a lot of different qualities depending on the wood and process of destilation. It is a sort of resin. So far I have only used it without any thinner, 100% pure pine tar. It gets dark and takes forever to dry. I could try to dissolve it and find a way to get it to dry faster?
I will have to try shellac as well.
Thank you for your comment and your effort to solve this problem.