Planes

The planes in my book are wooden handplanes – tools used by woodworkers of the 1700s to build homes and furniture, ships and wagons.  The photo here is a handplane made by Noah Pratt circa 1770 that he used to make crown molding as found where a wall meets the ceiling of a room.   Today we use this same molding, but it is ground out 1,000 feet at a time by machines in a mill shop so you can buy it at Home Depot.  In 1776 Noah Pratt spent days pushing this plane along boards to create the crown, which you can see the plane is sitting on in the photo.  If we think about it, as primitive as they seem to us the handplanes Noah used were the “powertools” of the 1700s.  They sped his work and helped him produce a high quality product.  Without these planes his work would have been nearly impossible!

This handplane is how I found Noah Pratt even though he had been lost to history for over 200 years. Plane makers often marked the toe (front end) of the plane with their initials or even their name and town.  This has made it possible for us to research who made a certain plane, and then with lots more research learn as much as we can about that person, their life, and even the fact they served in the American Revolution as Noah did.

Most other colonial craftsmen did not mark their work, so planemakers are quite special in this regard.  Think of how excited you’d be if you found a colonial musket with a name engraved on it – either the maker or the owner.  Think of holding this in your hand having done the research to know this person’s life and the role they played in the Revolution?  How close you would feel to this person and time in history.  Well, with the lowly handplane we are sometimes able to do just that, as I have done with Noah Pratt and the feeling I have when I hold his plane.   Goosebumps!

Near the end of my book, I include a chapter about other planemakers besides Noah Pratt that served in the American Revolution.  I show planes made by a man who served at Bunker Hill, and another by a man who crossed the Delaware River with Gen Washington Christmas of 1776 – more goosebumps.  I also share a very special plane used for making gunstocks.  Gun makers needed to grove the long fore-stock to set the gun barrel into, protecting the users hand from the heat of repeated firing in battle.  This plane was certainly used to make and repair guns for our patriots who fought in the Revolution.  The plane is marked only with the initials of the maker G P.  Through careful genealogical research I have identified a family of gun makers in Providence RI by the name of Peck that might have made this special plane – still more research is needed to tell the rest of this story.

I hope you will consider buying my book so I can share my passion for Motorcycles, Planes, & Revolution with you!