Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jim Leamy: Planemaker

The shorter list would be to ask Jim Leamy what he can't do.

Truly, he's a talented fellow. And he and his wife hosted a tour of his newly-built 1,100 sq. ft. shop for our woodworking club yesterday.

One room contains all his metalworking machinery. Another is his office. The main room holds, among other things, an enormous display cabinet that houses much of his antique plane collection and other tools.

Jim makes all the parts for his reproduction plough planes, and his perfectionism and meticulous eye for detail are apparent. Even the number and size of the threads of the knurled knobs are historically accurate.

For 30 years prior to making planes, Jim spent time with another type of plane—in the airforce. There, he worked for the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) where he dismantled bombs. "I loved it." he said.

After that he worked in a cabinet shop, then a retail store repairing furniture.

He collected antique tools all the while and one day decided to reproduce one of the plough planes from his collection. Then, someone asked him to build one for them.

For two years he built planes part-time and has been making them full-time for ten years.

Jim uses legally-obtained ivory in many of his planes. He's also used artificial ivory, but has found that it yellows with age (as seen in the close-up image of the plane's gears at left. The yellowed parts are artificial). Real ivory stays brilliant white. It stinks, he says, but it machines nicely.

In his wall-size display cabinet are many of his antique tools, plus some new ones, and a few dovetailed boxes made by Jim that are just as beautiful as his planes.

In his home are period furniture pieces, a living room suite, and a soon to be garage-converted-to-master bedroom—including the plumbing—all built by Jim.

Jim's talent doesn't stop with deactivating bombs, building reproduction plough planes, metalworking, making furniture, and remodeling his home.

High on the walls of his workshop hang a dozen or so framed illustrations of airforce planes, all drawn by the planemaker himself. What an inspiration.