Modern woodworkers use the
The scrub plane is a survivor in a world where even the die-hard hand tool enthusiast will own a powered jointer and planer to transform rough lumber into cabinet parts. Dressing anything more than a few boards of rough stock by hand is tough work. I’ve done it, and I can say without shame that I prefer my powered jointer and planer.
But I own a scrub plane. I use it
quite a bit. And
I’m quite attached to it.
This new VERITAS scrub plane
prompted me to dive a bit into the history of this
rough-and-ready tool form and compare it to the Lie-Nielsen
version. In the end, what I found was that most woodworkers
aren’t using their scrub planes for the tasks they were likely
The scrub plane is unusual in that it doesn’t fall neatly into the traditional English system of classifying bench planes. Rough stock was prepared first with a “fore plane,” which is a metal or wooden plane that’s anywhere from 16”to 20” long and has an iron that has a significant curve to its cutting edge. Then you refine the board’s surface with a jointer plane followed by the smoothing plane.
The scrub plane doesn’t jibe with this English system. The scrub is between 9-1/2” and 10-1/2” long and its iron is even more curved than what I’ve seen on fore planes. In fact, the scrub plane outwardly resembles the German Bismarck plane – a wooden stock plane with a horn up front that’s about the size of a smoothing plane and is used for removing stock quickly in European workshops.
If the plane was indeed a carpentry tool for ripping, this might explain why Stanley japanned the entire body of the plane, including the exterior sidewalls. Home sites are a lot less friendly to cast iron than workshops. It also might explain why so many of the vintage No. 40s I see look like they were dredged from the bottom of the sea.
This theory also makes sense from a workholding point of view. The fastest way to reduce a board in thickness by hand is with a hatchet or drawknife. But neither of these tools would be convenient to use with the workholding devices common in the long carpenter’s workbenches shown in “Audel’s Carpenters and Builders Guide” (Volume 1). However, working an edge on a long carpenter’s bench with a plane is a natural and simple operation.
Curiously, Audel’s excellent books on carpentry don’t shed any light on this topic. The books show a scrub plane, they repeat Stanley’s description of the tool and they don’t mention a scrub in the list of tools a carpenter should own or discuss it in the chapter that deals with the coarse removal of wood.
The trail of tool catalogs had gone cold there. So it was time to head to the shop.
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