Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Moulding planes from Johann Weiss & Sohn in Wien + a clever user made plane.

Yesterday I pulled myself together and took a look at the moulding planes I have brought with me.
They were actually all in a pretty decent shape after all, but they could use a bit of sharpening.
I decided that it was probably better to wait with the final sharpening til I was back home, I can use the grinding stone from the circular saw sharpening machine to do the contours of the rounded parts of the blade.

I think I bought them a couple of years ago at a flea market, for something like 4$ a piece.

Since I decided not to sharpen the irons, I just started checking if the sole was straight. Two of them were sanded lightly, and the last one just a bit more.
I didn't want to do anything to the actual body of the planes since they weren't damaged. They just showed some nice signs of age.

The irons had a bit of surface rust, but I didn't want to mix up a batch of sulfuric acid since it will be a small job to remove the irons and immerse them in vinegar at home. That is a lot harder if it is a chisel which has been handled.
So I took the easy road and cleaned them a bit with some sandpaper and a steel brush.

At first I couldn't figure out what it said on the iron, but I decided that it didn't matter anyway.

I then suddenly discovered a tool stamp on the top of the plane. It said: Weiss & Sohn in Wien.

My curiosity took the lead, and I headed for the computer to find out what it was.
Like the case was concerning the mortise chisels, I again ended up at the site of the Wolfgang Jordan small tool museum
The description is in German, and gives the story of the "Weiss and son" factory in Vienna.

Judging from the pictures and descriptions of the planes in the collection, I sort of guess that the age of the plane is around 130 years. This is based on the stamp which doesn't contain the clamp that was later used as part of their logo.

The stamp on the plane looks like this
And the iron has a similar looking logo, just saying Weiss& Sohn Wien

The next plane from Weiss  Sohn is a bit newer, since it has got the C-clamp as part of the logo.
The iron has got a stamp like this one on the iron: JOH. WEISS SOHN, D.FLIR F.WERTHEIM
From what I could reason, the age of this plane is just around the beginning of the century (the 20th).

The last plane looks like it is a user made plane.
The details are not so crisp, But all in all the plane seems to be well made.
Looking at the ends something is wrong. They have not been cleaned up after sawing. Actually one end is quite a bit out of square too. I think that the ends might have been sawed off by a later owner, maybe so it could fit inside his tool chest or cabinet?

In a way it is the most interesting plane of the bunch because it is rather well thought out and well made (except for the rough ends). I like to see how people earlier on have used what they had to make some working tools,
The iron for this plane is made out of an old smoothing plane iron, that has been sawed through, to give the correct size. I find such an approach admirable.

To overcome the difficulties making a diagonal mortise for the iron and the wedge, the plane is made with an open escape. Brian Eve and Jeremy are currently working on making some of those planes,

But the maker of this plane apparently didn't like the look of an open escapement, so he made a rabbet on the top side of the plane, where he later glued on a piece of wood. This should help to keep the plane body straight even if the wedge is hammered in a bit hard.
I think it is a pretty smart solution. First you saw the sides of the wedged mortise escapement, then a rabbet is made. The waste is chiseled out of the mortise, and finally a piece of wood is glues on.
At least that is how I would have done it.

Johann Weiss & Sohn in Wien

Profiles of the Weiss planes

Weiss & Sohn, Wien logo on old iron.

Reused iron from smoothing plane 

Rabbet with glued in piece on the user made plane.

User made plane from the side, length 23 cm (8.5")

Escapement from user made plane.

Iron of user plane.

Here is evidence that the piece was broken off.
There is also a crack all the way across the surface.

User plane from the top.


  1. Hi Jonas!

    I'm curious about your user-made plane. Can you post some more pictures of it, including of the entire iron?

    My recent research (i.e. I googled it) into French moulding planes revealed that many of them were user made examples that were made on a jobsite, often for the purpose of a one-time use. They could be made out of oak or whatever scrap wood was available. There is a post of one on the LAP blog around the time of 'Grandpa's Workshop.' That one had a blade made from an old chisel.

    I think there is something to be said for the design of a moulding plane that can be made on a jobsite.

    Nice find!

    1. Hi Brian

      I think I remember that post from LAP. It was a plane that was found beneath the floor boards as I recall it.

      I'll try to post some more pictures straight away (with our Net connection that means within half an hour if we are lucky).



    2. Thanks for those extra pics.

      You know, I wonder how much work that glued-on strip actually does, other than aid in aligning the iron? I bet that shaping the iron like that would make my H&R project a lot less bulky. I'll give it a try.

    3. Hi Brian

      I think that the major task of the glued on piece is to prevent the plane from bending while you insert the wedge.
      There is a bit of play, so the iron is not fixed sideways, but can be adjusted, though it won't come completely out of alignment as it is.

      I think you are right about the method being a way to reduce the bulkyness of an open side escapement H&R project.
      The glued on strip allows you to make plane that has got the same width as the bottom profile, but with a lot less effort than if you had to chisel the mortise all the way through.
      If you make a H&R plane of 1/4" width, with an open side, it will be prone to bending unless you make the solid side minimum 1/4" thick. But if you use the glued on approach I think that you could stay with a total width of 1/4".
      But I have no experience in plane making, so I am purely guessing.

    4. It sounds like something worth experimenting with!

  2. Very interesting. All this talk has me itching to work more on my "ugly-stick" concept or at least write a blog about it. The problem is I should be remodeling my kitchen...

    1. Uh, remodeling a kitchen is something that takes a lot of time.
      Could you perhaps promise yourself that you can make the planes afterwards as a treat?

      Brian told me that you had shown him your concept plane in Amana.
      So I was gambling a bit referring to your plane type, as I actually don't know if you will make an open escapement.

      What I like about this construction method is that it is bound to be a lot easier to make an open mortise, and then glue on the reinforcement, and that way keeping the plane from getting too wide. I can only imagine that a 1" hollow or round must need a substantial side piece to keep it straight, if it is the open escapement type.
      But on the other hand it would add some mass to the plane which could be a good thing too.

  3. HI Jonas
    That type of plane construction that you described, I have seen it often on "Continental" planes. I'm not sure where it originated from (France, Germany?) but it has been around for a long time. Sure makes it easier and faster to build that's for sure. The ones I saw seems to have hold up pretty well, so it is a solid construction methods.

  4. HI Jonas
    That type of plane construction that you described, I have seen it often on "Continental" planes. I'm not sure where it originated from (France, Germany?) but it has been around for a long time. Sure makes it easier and faster to build that's for sure. The ones I saw seems to have hold up pretty well, so it is a solid construction methods.

    1. Hi Bob, thanks for the comment.
      I must admit that I haven't really looked much at moulding planes, so I kind of believed that most of them were made with an angled through mortise like the Weiss planes in this post.

      This plane looks like it has been used well, so I guess that the construction method really is solid enough for that kind of tool.
      A thing I really like about this old plane is that someone actually took his time and made a fine tool.
      I wont argue that tools from well known manufacturers can be beautiful, but to me there is often something in an honest home made tool that is hard to describe.
      Moulding planes in Denmark are not very sought after, so when they appear at flea markets, they are usually really cheap.
      For some reason there seem to be an abundance of wooden jointers, and sellers believe that they are worth their weight in gold.

  5. I've been pleasantly surprised when it comes to sharpening/cleaning the old moulding plane irons. For the most part they've been pretty easy to work with, even in cases where the previous owner had no clue regarding the ability to sharpen. And how can you argue with the low cost?
    It may be just me, but I would rather rehab a wooden bodied plane than a metal one, they just seem to be easier to deal with.

    1. Hi Bill

      I agree with you on that the irons are usually fairly easy to sharpen. I have a feeling that they might not be hardened quite as much as irons of e.g. smoothing planes or chisels. Or perhaps it is because the irons are fairly narrow.
      I need to flatten the backs of the irons at home, and try to grind them a bit better than the way they are now.

      The low cost is really a benefit in this case, because if the entire project goes South like the double sash plane almost did due to wood eating insects, you haven't spent a fortune.
      Heck you can't even get a small meal at a burger joint for 4$, and those money spent aren't any that will teach you new skills or hone those that you already have.

      Regarding the rehabbing of a metal bodied plane vs a wooden bodied one.
      I must say that I probably prefer the wooden job as well.
      Flattening a metal sole is not fun, and neither is removing rust.
      Small metal parts can either be made or purchased. But if the casting is broken or cracked, it is very difficult to do something about it, unless you have an oxygen / acetylene set at your disposal so you can braze the thing back together.
      A wood bodied plane can be flattened fairly easy, If the wood is damaged in front of the mouth of the plane, you can insert a new piece of hardwood.
      They can be eaten away by insects though, which make a restoration next to impossible, but you could just try to stay clear of that kind of rehab projects.
      My most successful wooden rehab job is without doubt the plane that I am toting along in my green "tool chest for the sea".
      I glued the front tote and flattened the sole, then I soaked the sole in linseed oil, and de-rusted two irons. That plane just works like a dream, and it was one that was given to me, so a great cheap (free) project.

      There is also the thing that working on a wooden plane sort of reminds of woodworking. Working on a metal plane tends to feel a bit more like.. metal working (which is totally OK if that is what you like to do).

      I think that I need to get better at using the tools that I have, instead of always wanting to get more tools that just need a little bit of TLC to work just as they should.
      I have proven to myself that with a few basic tools I can actually have a great time, and build stuff that I like. So I should probably try to focus on that instead of being lured to save old tools from a life as restaurant decorations. The problem here is that saving tools is also a noble quest.