Collecting Planes is for Sissies
Yep, collecting IS for sissies. I know. I collect iron bottom bench planes. Does that make me a sissy? You bet it does and I'll tell you why.
When I was young and many of my friends were collecting things like coins, stamps, marbles and especially baseball/football cards, I never did, never felt the compulsion, never the need. As many of us do I succumbed to peer pressure and tried several times to collect something but usually it was an already established collection that my mother bought at our chuch's annual rummage sale. (back in those days there weren't any garage sales). I remember once she brought home a huge canvas bag full of marbles, probably 300. I could hardly carry it. I didn't know how to play marbles nor did I have an interest in learning how to play. I was too busy playing football and baseball to learn the manley sport of Marbles. So, they sat in a corner in my room waiting for the day that they would end up back at the annual church rummage sale to once again support the priest's living standard. Besides, the kids that colleted stuff were, in my opinion, lousy baseball and football players, obviously because they were to busy collecting worthless junk to practices those other sports that "manley men" played Except for the Elvis albums I had, probably 10, I never had more than 3 of anythng for most of the rest of my youth.
Fast forward 40 years. I have retired and made some effort to develop my old love of woodworking so I was fortuante enough to be able to build a workshop. What fun I had not only helping the contractor build the bulding but now I had some fun stocking it with really cool tools. Off I went buying saws, drill presses, making workbenches, generally having a great time, but not usually buying more than one of each thing. (I didn't want to clutter it up, you know) Then, something wonderfull hapened.
My wife, God bless her, IS a collector of sorts. She likes having small quantities of "treasures" in LOTS of collections. But, sadly, she is a collector of the type mentioned in a previous article, who buys the "whatever" puts it on a shelf perhaps never to be seen for the next 3 years. Now, luckily for me she had collected a small group of antique dining chairs that I'd been fighting with for space in the garage. None of them had an actual seat save one, which only had the frame and remnants of the original fabric and padding. Ah, the first project to try out my cool new tools in my cool new shop...I would make seats for them patterned after the one I had. I'm sure she'd then find in them whatever she was looking for when she bought them and they'd have a new life.
So, I started my project. The seat foundations were easy. The one pattern I had was made out of a 1 inch thick piece of hardwood with a "fanny" depression probably chiseled into the surface of the wood. My solution was to duplicate it out of plywood, since it would be covered. Great, got them all cut out then, a glitch. I also had to duplicate the "fanny" pattern into the wood but how was I going to do that? Chisel" Didn't have one. Router? Too complicated. Then, it hit me. I could use one of those little hand planes like I used 40 years earlier in shop class in high school. On down to the great tool supply house for home hobiests, Sears. I found a cute little Craftsman 110 block plane that was marked down to like 10 bucks. Now remember, I dont' know ANYTHING about how to fettle, sharpen, or even how to use the darn thing. All I know is that it will somehow, out of the box, magically shave cross glued, laminated plywood. Well, after I was so sorely disapointed in this cheap little plane's poor performance, (not quite sure what I was expecting) I thought "there must be a better way".
They say that if there is a need, someone will fill it. I'll bet eBay fills more needs than anything else on the internet. Of course, it wasn't my first choice. I looked at a lot of the new planes being sold in stores for hundreds of dollars. Why would I need a $200 plane? Why not buy a used one on eBay? The search began but being new to the process I was of course impatient with the 7-day auction so I went for one that was just ending and ended up with a 70 year old Stanley Four Square. Well, when I got it for some reason known only to God, I became so enamoured with it that I was immediately hooked on old iron bottom planes, how to clean, sharpen, restore and sit them on the shelf. Now I have over 250 of them some that I spent way over 200 dollars for, again for reasons known only to God because it is certainly an inexplicable mystery to me. I go to flea markets, tool swaps, antique stores, internet friends, places I would never have set foot into 10 years ago, all in search of that perfect Type 1 Bailey Boston No 3 smoother.
So, by now you are asking yourself: "How does collecting planes make me a sissy?" Well, believe it or not, I get more excited watching the "World Wood Planing Championchips" from Japan than I do watching the Superbowl and even though I practiced a lot I never was any good at baseball or football. If that doesn't make me a sissy I don't know what does.