Toothing Plane Update

Hello again, all:

On the recent post about toothing planes, we had a question in the comments section as to whether they were used to flush dovetail pins on drawer sides.  As Bill replied, we remember seeing this but have not yet had time to seek out examples from the CW collection.  Yesterday we got a couple of pictures from Kirk Rush of a period desk and bookcase made in Charleston, SC (now in MESDA) that he is reproducing.  On one of the drawer sides, sure enough, there are remnants of toothing marks across the half blind dovetail joint.

Note particularly the upward sweep of the marks across the pins.

While the surface now stands marred by dirt, old finish and wear marks, these appear to be upswept tooth marks.

Thanks, Kirk, for making this available to us.

The Hay Shop.

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5 Responses to Toothing Plane Update

  1. JC says:

    Makes sense — use a plane that was sharp and indifferent to knarlley — no detailed instructions just common sense and tool kraft — could be a lesson there… neh?

  2. Well, if you look at it logically, what you have with a toothing plane is a one row rasp. It is pretty safe to assume that in a world without sandpaper, rasping and scraping could potentially be used anywhere we sand in modern work.

    Unfortunately, it is impossible to offer definitive proof either way, as scraping would erase the evidence.

    • Well said, David. We should additionally add that, along with our regular tools, including toothing planes and scrapers, the 18th century artisans had recourse to sandpapers. Our earliest reference to its use (so far) comes in a 1754 book, The Fountain of Knowledge, in a procedure for staining pearwood black. From that point onward, we have numerous merchant ads offering sandpaper (by that name) amidst other materials. The Robert Carter papers include an invoice for ordering abrasives from England in the 1770s, including coarse and fine sandpaper and emery paper. The exact properties of these materials are lost to us now, of course. And, as you state, David, the physical evidence of it use on period pieces has been effectively erased. But abrasive papers do appear to be available to the period workers. Thank you, David, you have given us another topic for a future post, on the period options for final smoothing of a surface. The Hay Shop.

      • Loose abrasives have a long history and applying them to a substrate of cloth or paper was not a great intellectual leap. I would really suspect that while abrasive papers and cloths were available, they would have been a special purpose item and not often used on wood items other than maybe in the finishing process such as with shellac or laquer. On wood alone, steel is much cleaner and faster. The first thing that comes to my mind as a place for the abrasives to be used is with inlay work with mixed materials including stone, metals, and other stuff you want to keep away from your nice sharp steel tools. Even with more modern sources such as Holtzapffel, steel on wood was the rule rather than the exception.

      • Wow, David, we couldn’t have put it better and very much agree, sharp blades first and foremost, abrasives only when necessary, mostly in the finishing stages. Thanks for the comments. Hay Shop.

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