|Last Updated: 10/21/2006|
They're called bunny planes and they're made by Collins Tools. Great idea; useful as hell. Wait until you learn how to adjust blade depth! Ingenious. A most original, elegant piece of toolmaking. And that leather pouch is pretty spiffy.
American beauty with a British education.
Here's a lucky break. My wife's brother, Walter, offers me some planes he has out in the garage. They were his father's (whom I, unfortunately, never met), he's not using them, knows I like planes, is a very generous guy. So, as we're walking out to the garage, I'm thinking "What are the chances that there's a Bedrock involved?" Just crosses my mind. Judging by what he made (Walter's father built the family home, I know the quality of his work) I'm thinking he might have appreciated Bedrock's superior engineering.
Lo and behold, a 605 appears. It needs a new handle and some elbow grease. And it gets a Hock chipbreaker and blade (the only tandem that fit correctly). Makes for a really neat jack. I'm proud to use it. Thanks, Walter. Both of you.
So I'm working in this shop in NYC, Minic Custom Woodwork, very good shop and I see that Bill Minic is holding a jointer plane like this. This was everyday practice. The reason isn't important (had to with the lack of any crosscut carriage or sliding table in the old shop). But, since he was doing it, I figured I should too. Being a bit smaller than him, not nearly as strong in my forearms and wrists, a really light jointer was in order, as thin a casting as possible. I found this one. I think it's Stanley (that's what the chipbreaker says), it's very old, the blade adjuster goes the opposite way. It's got a Samarai steel blade.
For some reason, this idea of using a jointer this way really appealed to me. It's refreshing. It goes sideways to regular thinking, like using a wrench as a hammer. And you'd better keep that blade sharp.
Anybody who likes woodworking probably has a copy of Ernest Joyce's Encyclopedia of Furnituremaking, (and if they don't, they should). He uses the word "incomparable". And Charles Hayward, who wrote a whole series of books about the trade, calls them "excellent tools, heavy and perfectly accurate".
To what do they refer? Norris planes.
I wonder if it were these references that fueled the tremendous interest in the "infill" plane, and Norris planes specifically. The mysterious double dovetail technique. Innovative adjuster. Legendary performance. Did they really work that well?
At the time that I first read about them (1970?), the only kinds of planes that were available in the US were the standard Stanley planes and whatever Record or Clifton products Woodcraft was selling. So it was pretty difficult to even see a Norris plane in person, let alone buy one.
Then, when visiting a shop one day, I saw an A2 sitting, unused, on a shelf. I wanted to try one for myself and pleaded with the owner to sell it, which he finally did. I don't think he knew, or cared, that it was a "Norris".
That started a life-long fascination with these planes. I've used them in all sorts of circumstances, for all kinds of work. And, in the end, one thing becomes clear:
They do work well. And, really, that's all that needs to be said.