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Fremont County Museum System

The Humble Plane

Most American history museums have dozens of them at least. The humble plane is a ubiquitous item in early American history. Modern planners powered by electricity are a far cry from the hand planes used to build almost every piece of woodwork from the time America was colonized.

The plane was an indispensable tool along with the hand saw and brace and bit. With these three items it was possible to create beautiful furniture and woodwork.


Planes were first used by the ancient Romans and Greeks and in China. Rough sawn wood, and there was no other kind in those days, needed to be smoothed and the best way to do that was with a hand plane.


Early planes were made of wood with the only metal being in the blade. When a young boy was taken on as an apprentice to a carpenter that first task he was given was to saw a board along a line. After he could do that he was assigned the job of smoothing it down with a plane. This was a meticulous task since it was easy to end up with gouges, dips or waves.


Early planes were used for three purposes, to level, to fit or join and to ornament. Among the level planes was the “jack” plane and “bench” plane. The jack plane was used for planning rough surfaces and took a deeper “bite” of the wood. The bench plane was used for finish work and took a shallow cut. Jack Planes were short, while a bench plane could be as long as 30 inches. Floor planes were large and used to smooth off wooden floor planks.


There were dozens of kinds of planes, many used for molding or cabinet work. The plow plane cut a groove in two boards which then could be joined. Planes used for fine ornamentation were generally very small. The blades were cut in the shape of the finished molding and were delicately honed to keep a fine edge. To make molding with a hand plane required many passes of the plane over the wood since only a thin slice of wood could be removed with each pass.


The ornamenting or molding plane was important to cabinet makers, but since it required more time and skill it was only used on fine furniture, or molding in homes whose owners could afford the extra craftsmanship.


Next up for the Fremont County Museums



October 13th, Noon at the Riverton Museum, “Fall Fest for Kids”

              Children’s Exploration Series


October 20th, 3pm at the Dubois Museum, “Halloween Crafts & Games”

              Children’s Exploration Series

              

October 26, 6:30pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Downtown Walking Tour”

              Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series


October 26 & 27, 6:00-9:00pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Halloween Night at the Museum”

              Children’s Exploration Series


The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum work extremely hard to provide programs, care for the facilities, create exhibits and care for the thousands of artifacts and archival documents in the collections of the museums. In order to consistently accomplish these objectives the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.