Wood Planes - Friday, December 4, 2015


In our continuing discussion of the numerous artifacts on display here at the American Treasure Tour, we do what we can to acknowledge -- well, pretty much everything.  We recognize it's going to take time, but fortunately we are not going anywhere.  so we hope to give you insight into every.single.piece we have on display.  Today, we are going to make things a little easier for you by talking about a collection of pieces - four wood planes.  Not the sort of plane you fly, but the sort you use to make wood smooth, flat, or thin.  And not the stupid kind of wood plane where you plug them in and electricity does all the work, but the kind where you have to manually slide the plane over the wood yourself.  So, planes.  Here we go.

Ancient Plane (not located at the American Treasure Tour, regrettably)

Ancient Plane (not located at the American Treasure Tour, regrettably)

The plane has been used for woodworking for a very, very long time, and it has been modified only very slightly over the last few thousand years.  The two primary materials needed to make a functioning plane are wood and iron, with the wood usually used to hold the iron in place so that it can most effectively smooth out the wood.  There is evidence of these tools having been used in Ancient Egypt, while the oldest surviving examples date to the Roman era.  A few examples were uncovered in Pompeii, located at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which was destroyed in 79 A.D. in a volcanic eruption.

The principal behind the plane is that a metal strip is run along a piece of wood, literally shaving off any rough points to create a uniform look and feel that is ideal for furniture or any other use.  There are, of course, more subtle uses for the plane as well.  For the sake of space, we are simplifying descriptions here, but they are essential pieces for any craftsman and artisan.  Alas, ours (shown in the top image) will be used only for display, a silent reminder of the value of these ancient tools in the day-to-day lives of human beings everywhere.
QUESTION:  Has a plane ever been needed to build a plane?
A)  Yes
B)  No
C)  I have no idea what that means
D)  Sure, whatever

OVER THERE!  The President of the United States never left the country while in office.  That was a fact and unspoken tradition, although not a law.  The effort to remain free of entangling relationships with foreign countries, as well as the hazards of 18th and 19th century travel were likely the primary reasons.  That all changed, though, on this day in 1918.  World War I - the war to end all wars - was over, and peace talks were beginning in Versailles, France.  Woodrow Wilson decided he had to be there, ignoring the advice of his Cabinet and country.  To be honest, they would not go very well with him there, on some level because of him.  And the war to end all wars led directly to another war - a truly devastating one that would begin in just over twenty years.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DUDE.  Jeff Bridges has been around for a long time, and yet he's only 66. That sort of makes sense considering he grew up in a family of performers, with his dad Lloyd Bridges famously starring in movies and television while Jeff was a kid.  His first role was at the age of one and he really hasn't stopped acting.  He did start singing, though, and producing movies.  So there's that.  We would list all of the parts he's made his own over the years, but with over seventy film credits to his name, we will mention only The Big Lebowski.  That's a great one!

QUOTE:  Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn't. - Jeff Bridges

ANSWER:  A)  Yes.  Although C) and D) are acceptable as well.  Early airplanes were built with wood, so surely planes would have been needed to smooth the frame of the plane.  Then you have the Spruce Goose, one of the most famous planes ever built - which was made entirely of wood during the 1940's.  You can't build a wooden plane without using a wood plane.  That's just silly!