Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fingers In the Till - Ratty Old Swedish Jack Plane

This has to be one of the ugliest planes I've ever seen.
This plane will win no beauty contest.
Last year while building chairs with Mulesaw in Denmark, Jonas' parents came to visit one day to see all the commotion.  Jens also brought along a trunkload of vintage tools from his frequent visits to Sweden.  Many of those tools followed me home.
Jens and Jonas.  The Swedish Hoarde is on the bench.
In this pile of tools were a ratty old jack plane, and a somewhat nicer try plane.  Both beech, and both with EA Berg double irons.

My intention was to rehab these planes one of these days and see if I could use them.  Nothing happened because I like my Veritas BU Jack so much and I never really needed these planes. They sat collecting dust waiting for me to someday get to them.

To make this long story even longer, I have been watching David W.'s series about building a wooden try plane.  I wound up with a ginormous slab of quatersawn 12/4 beech the last time I was at the lumberyard, so this project has launched itself in to the "do soon" category.
12/4 beech on the roofrack of a VW.  That's not something you see everyday.
I have been psyching myself up to build a wooden jack plane, and maybe a try plane because it looks like a fun project.  David W. makes a good case for them. Honestly, I really want to try one (get it?  "TRY one.").

In the meantime, my list seems to add three projects every time I finish one.

While I was working on tapering some ash legs for a staked desk, I was thinking about the thick shavings I saw on YouTube with that wooden jack.

The other day, I got as far as tapering my foursquare legs to a tapered shape on one leg, and two sides of another before I was worn out with my BU jack.  Today I wanted to finish that up, and maybe get some octagonalizing done on them.

I had forgotten about this little wooden jack plane until I saw it when I walked in my shop today.  I thought, "Huh!  It's too bad I didn't rehab that plane already or I could use it for this project.  Perhaps I'll just see if the iron could be sharpened quickly and see what this thing can do."

Instead of that, I gave the iron a couple taps in the mouth of the plane to set it to a course cut to see what it would do.
A shaving in the mouth.
I would break my arm making shavings this thick with my BU jack.
Jens must have sharpened this thing before he brought it over for me to look at.  I can't believe how well it works.

It feels light, is easy to push, takes incredibly thick shavings with no tear out (unless going really bad against the grain), and made quick work of tapering the rest of the desk legs.

I actually finished the whole job of tapering the rest of the legs without ever taking the blade out to sharpen. I think the double iron forgives a multitude of sins in this matter.

The mouth of this plane is a little different than an English or an American plane.  Everything is very triangular, but I suppose it works.  The plane is 20 inches long and has a blade 2 1/8 inches wide.
Here is a view of the mouth.  You really can't see anything in this photo.
I think you still can't see anything of worth.
This one is a little better.
This plane looks like it was made from a rejected piece of firewood.  The annular rings go at a 45 degree angle to the plane, rather than quatersawn, like a quality plane would.
Can you see the annular rings?
The bed looks like someone thought it would be fun to plane a board with a nail in it.  Over and over again.
Not pretty.
The mouth is wide, as expected, and there is a big chip in the back of the mouth that is just cosmetic.  In fact, the whole plane is a cosmetic disaster.
You can even see rays in the grain on the sole!
The rest of this plane looks like it fell in a garbage disposal.
Maybe they thought they could set the wedge with a felling axe?

Another glamour shot.
I have fallen in love with Swedish steel lately, and was happy to see this Shark logo on the blade.

If you can see through the rust, there is an EA Berg logo there.
Cosmetics aside, this plane works well.  I was able to finish tapering the desk legs with far less effort than I did with the BU Jack.

Don't get me wrong, I love my BU jack, especially the versatility of the plane.  But, this old woodie does the one thing a jack plane should - remove a lot of wood fast.  I don't think I would use this one for shooting, or smoothing, jointing or any of the other things that the BU jack does pretty well, but for a single purpose tool, this one nails it.
I used it to taper these legs.
Just to see if I could do without my BU jack, I got out my old Krenov jack plane to finish the tapers and the octagons.
I made this Krenov jack plane a couple years ago, but it doesn't get much use.
This plane, unlike the vintage jack, is optimized for very fine shavings.  Next time, I'll know better. 
Very fine shavings, indeed!
It actually makes a good partner with the vintage jack.  Rough off the bulk with the rough plane, and this one smooths and joints in one fell swoop.  At least good enough for staked legs.
Finished tapered octagonal desk leg.
The moral of the story is, if you find an old, ratty jack plane, rather than let it go for firewood or something to screw to the wall at AppleBee's, try it out first.  You might be surprised.


  1. Good find! I acquired a similar condition beech jack (either Ohio Tool or Auburn I don't recall) it has a laminated iron and boy howdy does it cut (wide open mouth) I've wanted to make it into a scrub plane, but have been hesitant to grind the big camber on it. it certainly has some appeal, and don't use it enough.

    1. I think this plane will do in the future most of what I did with the scrub. Both planes work well, but this one is really pleasant to use.

  2. so you going tradi Brian? ;-) nice plane indeed, what's the weight of this monster? I like the picture showing the BU jack alongside your woodie, the BU looks really small. Best

    1. Hi Aymeric! I'm all for whatever works best. And, I like to build and restore tools. I think that this nasty jack is a serious contender for my tool chest. But, I'm not kicking my BU jack out anytime soon. If nothing else, it is indispensable to me for shooting.

      I have no idea how much it weighs, but it feels much lighter than the BU jack in use taking thicker shavings. Plus, I didn't get any blisters on my hands which happens sometimes with the LV plane if I'm not being careful.

    2. Haha! I looked at the photo you mention of it next to my BU jack. The woodie is resting on a workpiece and very close to the camera, so it looks way bigger next to that plane than it is. This jack is big for a jack, at 20", but it doesn't dwarf the rest of my planes. You can see another picture with both of the planes in it in the shot with my tapered legs stacked on one another.

  3. Looking at the picture "this looks a little better", it seems the wedge has been flipped. The bevel at the end near the cutting edge should be facing upward.
    Paul Sellers says long metal planes are too heavy (tiring) and flexible (needing extra skill).

    1. Hi Sylvain, thanks for the comment. I think what you are seeing is a trick of the light. The wedge goes in only one way, as there needs to be clearance for the back of the screw, holding the lever cap. I had zero problems with any clogging.

      I'm interested now in trying out some more of these big woodies to see how they work.

  4. I have two of them. If I remember well, I have paid each something like 5 or 8 Euro on flea markets. One is a Peugeot 58 cm the other one is a Goldberg 70cm.
    Goldberg was in Alsace which has been French, German, French, German, French. I don't know how old the plane are. Peugeot was the same as the auto constructor.
    The important thing i that it works.