It’s a bit of a weird
scene – part Paris fashion show and part down-home barbecue.
A couple dozen tool collectors (and users) from the Midwest have
gathered around a cabinetmaker’s bench that’s set up in an
Illinois field and are chattering like old friends do.
This gathering is the ninth meeting of what is affectionately
called “Galootapalooza,” a summer event where old-tool
enthusiasts get together to swap tall tales, tools, tricks of
the trade and eat pork shoulder.
This year several of the
guys have brought along infill planes made for them by Wayne
Anderson, a mechanical designer from Elk River, Minn., who builds
custom tools in his off hours. As the infills start to come out of
boxes and bags and land on the bench, the talk subsides.
And by the
time there are more than a dozen of the planes on the bench, all you
can hear is the birds and the wind blowing through the trees.
Someone steps forward and
lines the planes up. Someone else lets out a low, wet and
appreciative whistle. And then the cameras come out and people start
to take pictures of the family reunion assembled on the benchtop.
One of those photographers
is Anderson himself, who has flown in to Chicago for the event.
Seeing all his tools together is a bit of a shock for him, too. The
tools were assembled one-by-one in his basement and then sent out
into the world. And now he can see all the double-dovetails, naval
brass, ebony and lever caps he’s slaved over during the last three
What’s most striking about
his tools is how they don’t look much like anyone else’s tools. Unlike many contemporary planemakers, Anderson doesn’t like to make
copies of classic infill tools from Norris, Spiers, Mathison or
Instead, Anderson’s keen eye and impressive collection of
files create planes with fluid sidewalls, sculpted and scalloped
wedges and details that are more often found on fine furniture than
“I was never one to copy a Norris or a Spiers,” Anderson says later
that evening over a beer. “Those were the production planes of the
era. I was never impressed with the style.”
So when Anderson set out
to build hand planes he drew more on his artistic drive (which first
blossomed in childhood) than he did on the traditional forms.
Here’s something you
don’t see every day: a low-angle infill jack plane.
The handle is thick, substantial and surprisingly
comfortable to hold.
there is one strong similarity Anderson’s planes share with the
old-school English tools. His planes work as well as any infill
plane – vintage or modern – that I have ever used.
I’m not alone in my
assessment. Ralph Brendler, one of the ringleaders of the
Internet-based e-mail list called “oldtools,” owns a few of
Anderson’s planes that he uses regularly.
“If I had my druthers,
every plane in my cabinet would be from Wayne,” Brendler says. “The
miter plane he built me so far exceeded my expectations. I was just
stunned when I opened the box…. My jaw hit the floor.”