Saturday, November 22, 2008

Clark & Williams

Thank heavens I purchased and watched the Clark & Williams dvds: "Traditional Molding Techniques: The Basics" and "Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes" prior to attending the WIA conference, otherwise I would have sounded like a complete nincompoop while conversing with Don McConnell and Larry Williams.

One of the questions I had intended to ask (before I watched the dvds) was "What are the future plans for your business; do you plan to offer complex moulding planes like ogees and astragals?"

Their booth displayed a page from "The City and Country Purchaser's Builder's Dictionary", a book originally published in 1726. Of particular interest is the explanation of Round and Hollow Planes: "curious artists have 16 sorts of these planes, of different sizes, from half a quarter of an inch to more than two inches, wherewith, by the assistance of the snipes-bill, and the rabbet-plane above mentioned, they make the various sorts of mouldings."

The first Clark & Williams dvd explains how to do just that*—create virtually any moulding with those few types of planes, all of which are offered on their website. Virtually any moulding....including ogees and astragals. Oh.

I was not at all familiar with the snipe's bill plane which Don told me is not only used to define and accentuate elements of mouldings, but to strike a gauge line and create a shallow ledge upon which a rabbet plane can ride. Rabbet planes are used to make fillets, but it's difficult to maintain a straight line without first creating a small channel in which to start the cut.

In the first dvd, Don shows how removing most of the waste with rabbet planes prevents wear and tear on the hollows and rounds that are used to finalize the profiles. Don prefers square rabbets, rather than skewed, which enable you to work in both directions when you happen upon rough grain. He also lays the rabbet plane on its side to clean up shoulders.

The second dvd shows in precise detail how to make hollows & rounds, including shaping, heat treating, and tempering the irons. You might be surprised how much work goes into making these planes, but to make your own is very rewarding. I made one a few years ago in a class and had intended to make more. This dvd provides the perfect refresher course.

Clark & Williams carefully replicates the elegant features found on the bodies of 18th c. planes but they use a modern finish—minwax antique oil—which protects the wood but allows moisture to flow through it freely, making it easier to acclimate to your shop's environment.

I asked Don why they made a video that shows how to make the products they sell. He explained that it took them a long time and a great deal of research to discover the intricacies of 18th c. planes and how to make them since there were no written accounts to follow, and that Clark & Williams wanted to document the process for future generations to use. Wow.

The planemakers have another soon-to-be-released dvd which covers the use of gauge lines to guide a snipe's bill plane as well as making more complex moulding, like those displayed along the top edge of their booth in the photos above. And you can bet I'll watch it before my next encounter with these two skillful, benevolent craftsmen.

*The dvd shows how to layout and shape a corinthian ogee, after which it becomes obvious how to make other types of mouldings, like astragals.


The Village Idiot said...

I'm happy you liked the DVD's as much as I did. It would also have been funny if you hadn't seen them prior to meeting them. That's how I feel most of the time talking to some of the experts.


The Village Carpenter said...

Oh, I'm quite sure I said some stupid things, and I don't even realize it.

Larry Chenoweth in Deltona, Florida said...

Kari, I too was at the "WIA" event. Sorry I missed meeting you. I was in the seminar when Don and Larry were talking about the wooden planes they made including the snipe bill planes. When the seminar was over I had to rush over to their booth to try out one of the snipe bill planes. After making a gauge line on a piece of poplar with a 45 degree face the snipe bill plane followed down the gauge line just like Don said it would. You only have to take about four passes before there is a shoulder sized well enough for the rabbet plane to ride in. Two important features with this process is that no batten is required for the rabbet plane to run against and you can make a rabbet on the 45 degree face of a board without the fence on the rabbet plane. I will soon own a set of snipe bill planes.
When Don and I were talking about these planes he said the advantage of being able to make a piece of moulding for a project the way you want and out of the same wood as the project you are working on is an advantage.

The Village Carpenter said...

Larry, thanks for adding information about the snipe's bill planes. I think I may have seen you because I noticed your name tag--I thought you had a cool last name. c-ya next year!

Dan said...


I haven't seen those DVD's yet - thanks for the Wish List idea!

Another advantage to using hollows and rounds to make complex moldings is that they can be worked in either direction - unlike a single, complex profiled plane. But, it IS nice to have the consistency of the single profile. My original plan was to go entirely with H&R and forgo the complex profiles, but then I ended up with a couple, and got hooked.

Oh, and for me, the H&R’s are WAY easier to sharpen without messing things up!