Friday, April 10, 2015

French Moulding Plane

French eBay strikes again!
French plane.
I picked up a pretty little moulding plane from French eBay the other day.  The construction of this plane is a bit different than the English tradition, and I thought it might be worth a five Euro bid to find out if it might be worth building one.

As is typical with purchases from eBay, you never quite know what you are going to get.  I tried to bid on one that didn't look too ratty.  Not too much rust or too many worm holes.

This one has a worn out sole.  The bit on an English plane that normally would be boxed is practically worn off in the front.
The sharp part of the profile on this plane's sole is worn away.
There are some interesting tidbits of French plane construction that one can learn from this plane.  First of all, it doesn't appear that the planemakers were too overly concerned about perfectly straight grain on their planes.  Looking at other planes on eBay, this plane is typical with a big swirly bit of grain right down by the sole.
Nasty tear out on the sole itself!
Here is another view of the sole from the rear.  The back of the plane took a bit less wear than the front.
One can see the profile on the sole from the back.

Here is another view of the swirling grain near the sole.
The wedge is a bit different in shape.  It actually looks practical and easy to make.
I was pleased to see the tapered iron was made by the Peugeot firm.  This should be good steel.  I look forward to sharpening it up.
Peugeot blade.

Here you can see the blade is tapered.  Curiously, it is full width the whole way back.
The big reason I bought this plane, is I wanted to see how the mortise for the blade was constructed.  I was right when I suspected that it was sawn out and another strip of wood was attached to the side.
This construction method for the mortise looks simpler to construct.
Indeed, looking at the end of the plane, you can clearly see where the strip was attached.
The side strip that is glued on is one wall of the blade's mortise.
Another view of the sole including the inserted blade.

Here is a view of the blade cavity with the blade removed.
I think the side escapement looks funny, but I imagine it is practical and works.  It looks like the end of the wedge fits seamlessly with the escapement.
The plane's escapement.
I couldn't see any spring lines on the end of the plane, however the plane's fence was canted a bit.  Could this be the angle that the plane should be sprung?
The fence looks sprung.
Here is a close-up of the maker's mark. It looks like, "8 VRAI CORMIER GARANTI" with a P. G. in the center of the star.
Maker's mark.
The over all length was 22 cm with a height of 7 cm for the body. (8 5/8" x 2 3/4")
Fairly short.
I think there is no question looking at this style of plane that the English style is superior.  However, construction of this plane looks far simpler than the English one.  One can not say that the French made inferior furniture using tools such as this.  Perhaps they viewed these tools with the thought of them being a bit more disposable than the English did.

In any case, here is a construction method of a plane that could perhaps be relevant today in the view of a more entry-level plane, or perhaps a tool one would buy for a single use.

I look forward to trying this plane out to see if it will still cut a moulding.  If so, it might be worth rehabbing and fixing the sole.

In any case, I might try and build one using principles seen on this plane to see if I can come up with a plane that is easy to build.


  1. Grand Cormier garantie means warranted Fruitwood. It is some sort of fruitwood, which one I do not know


    1. Hi Robert, I wondered what that meant. I suppose I should have looked it up. Many French eBay auctions mention that their particular plane is "Cormier," so I figured it was something desirable. I meant to mention in my post that it appeared not to be beach, but perhaps apple or pear wood. Larry Williams said in his side escapement DVD that apple and pear make ideal planes, if you can find big enough examples.

  2. Interesting construction, it looks like a simple bead, but the angled base and marked likes on the end are odd from my English beading planes. The iron is tapered and full width. Though I wonder if that is typical of wide French molders too it definitely makes for a simpler construction.

    1. Hi Jeremy! Thanks for the comment. You hit on the second thing I meant to mention in my post, that the blade is full width all the way. Perhaps I'll collect some photos of other French planes and do a comparison.

  3. Hi everybody,
    I think cormier is service tree, sorbus domestica L., it is the hardest of all fruit tree and the best wood for plane making. The price was double that of beech wood.

    1. Hello François, thanks for the comment!
      Sorbus domestica, or service tree is indeed a wood that was used in the best French planes. At least, that's what I read somewhere on the internet. According to Wikipedia, it is fairly rare nowadays.

    2. So far, the best resource on the internet I have found regarding this plane and it's relatives (like Whitebeam) is this page:

  4. the service tree nearly disapeared due to the agricultural industrialisation and cutting of hedgerows, and it doesn't grow well on all kind of soil. I never met one in my area, basque country, with very clayish and heavy soil, but I know of beautiful specimen in charente and bretagne.This tree is part of a familly that we should plant heavily if we turn to a more human friendly type of agriculture!!

  5. And it has edible fruits you can make alcool with!!

    1. This has instantly made it my favorite wood!

  6. I don't know about whitebeam but I understand it's also a member of the Sorbus familly, wich is a familly beloved by woodworkers of all kind. Cormier was used too to make the teeth in all kind of mills.

    1. I also understand that sorbus trees grow well in cities. Not all trees do well in poluted areas, from what I understand, but sorbus trees grow well in urban environments.

      So, if you have a yard, plant a true service tree and see what happens!

  7. The thing to do would be to give the plane a good scrubbing, take off the side strip, which was normally nailed onto a bed of hide glue that has since been munched up and come loose after sitting around unused in a barn for 50 years. Scrape the crud off the inside of the escapement, and then re-glue and re-nail the side strip. The iron will be a laid blade, with a piece of tool steel forge welded to a soft steel or iron body. The main problem with these blades is pitting on the flat side, in the tool steel, so that it is difficult to get a clean edge. As others have said, cormier is service tree wood, and it is supposed to be hard enough that you don't need to box it. PG would be the manufacturer, and 8 would be the model number of the plane. This one seems to have seen a lot more use than others I have run across. But one thing to remember is that a mm-accurate shape of a moulding, wear and tear on the plane or iron, isn't all that important - it is more that it can cut a profile consistently over the job that needs to be done.

    1. That sounds like a good plan. I'll do just as you say. While I have it apart, I will take a look and see if this is something I'd be interested in reproducing.

  8. Hello Brian,
    Neat-looking plane. If you are interested in building something along these lines, but even simpler, I recommend you Google "Roubo bouvet 10th tool" and read the Wood Central thread that comes up. The thread concerns a grooving plane, but the same could be done for rabbeting, moulding, etc.

    1. Thanks, Steve! That does indeed look even simpler. I think I may give it a try!

  9. Very interesting, especially coming from Roubo. Also really like the lines. I wonder about how scalable this is for wider widths though.

    1. One way to find out! I ordered some O1 tool steel in sizes for irons that will look like this plane's, in widths for #6 and #10 H&Rs. I would think some of the bigger ones will start to get a bit unwieldy. Perhaps there is an easy way to neck those down on top.

      First things first, though... stay tuned.