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How to make a moulding plane - historic films available

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AndyT

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A few weeks ago, I posted the good news that the historic films made by Ken Hawley and his mates in the 1960s are now available on YouTube. These are a precious resource, documenting some of the last craftsmen making tools in the traditional ways, when Sheffield still made tools for the world.

I'm pleased to be able to report that the fine people at the Hawley Trust have continued to digitise and upload more of these films and that today's release is of Norman Bayliss, the last maker of moulding planes at William Marples. It's a compilation of three short films, shot in 1962. The technical quality isn't great - this was amateur cine film in difficult conditions - but the historic content is superb.

If you've ever looked at a moulding plane and wondered how it was made, or if you've looked at the still photos of the jigs and tools in British Plane Makers, and especially if you've ever tried to make a plane, then this is for you.

And even if you haven't, it's worth a watch for the pleasure of seeing a skilled craftsman, working at speed, with the assurance of someone whose hands remember what to do - how deep to saw, how many cuts with the chisel, when to change to another tool. Enjoy!

 

toolsntat

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Good on you for your ever watchful eye Andy.

Very nice to see the adapted wedging plane and jig in action at the hands of the professional and the fact I've held and studied it personally is all thanks to Ken`s dedication.

Nice to see the bank of wedge blanks at the back of the bench and then mounted as singles in the jig. Did you notice that little trick of tightening up sideways movement by driving in the point of a wedge and snapping it of ?
An overwhelming thing that struck me was his ability to just make do and carry on producing a quality product with worn out and inefficient work holding. At this stage he is so proficient that he pushes on with the job regardless.

More watching and studying required to see what's hiding from first viewing and wouldn't it be nice to slow it down somewhat?(y):cool:
Cheers Andy
 

AndyT

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Exactly so. I spotted the way he got a square end although the jig was wavy as the sea, but will watch again for the snapped off wedge.

I should have said that there is a bit more film of Norman Bayliss, not yet released by the Hawley, which was included in the Cutting Edge exhibition which was the beginning of getting the collection publicly visible.

I'd not mentioned it on here before, but I now know that people at the Hawley are aware of it and ok with it. It's on a channel that includes some other good old Sheffield material, 'Culture of Work'.

The difference with this version is that it includes some of Ken's own observant commentary. :)


Btw, if you are watching YT on a browser, not an app, there are settings to let you play back slower (or faster) - right click on the picture to find them.
 

hodsdonr

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thanks Andy , really great watching the old craftsmen at work (old he's only a few years older than me. )
Richard
 
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Imagine how much faster he would have been had he known how to sharpen his tools. ;)
 
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pitch pine

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Fantastic stuff. It looked like he was using the finished shape of the plane to guide the shaping of the iron, without ruining the surface with his file. I also noticed how he "ploughed" on regardless when the plane wasn't held down properly. I suppose this is the skill of knowing it's good enough and he could compensate with his technique. Thanks for posting this Andy.
 

Nigel Burden

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Thanks for that Andy. I'll save the second film until tomorrow when the weather is supposed to be horrible.

Nigel.
 

Misterdog

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I live a couple of miles away from the works, I have a bag full of these moulding planes..
 

johnnyb

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fascinating footage. nobody was seriously using moulding planes in 1962 I reckon. but he was trained in the twenties or thirties when they were common. the person who trained him was edwardian/victorian. I reckon he's about 55 or 60. obviously fit and healthy. as making a plane seems a very vigarous thing. I reckon he was sweating doing it that quick.
I love the way he used the correct tools. a mallet on his wooden chisels(the big un looks like an oire nomi) and wooden jack planes a badger plane and an apron all look pristine as well(some new tbh). his wooden jigs are well worn.
all the racks of moulding planes are they his mother planes? was he making a small sash plane(sprung ovolo)
 

johnnyb

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also I feel this is slightly staged. maybe in 62 marples wasnt the behemoth it used to be. Mr bayliss may have had other duties apart from plane making(foreman?) and here he was showing off how quick he could used to make em. hence why many of his tools are new(off the peg)
total speculation or half remembered tale I dunno.
 

johnnyb

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I was apprenticed as an engineer at Royal ordnance and this was at that stage when I was there. huge company in its death throws. with massive amounts of buildings land tools etc but 1/40 of the workforce. People had been there 40 years in 1990. some parts of some buildings had been abandoned in the fifties and everything just left.
its nearly all gone to private enterprises now. the same story has been repeated ( on a smaller scale) for decades.
 

AndyT

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also I feel this is slightly staged. maybe in 62 marples wasnt the behemoth it used to be. Mr bayliss may have had other duties apart from plane making(foreman?) and here he was showing off how quick he could used to make em. hence why many of his tools are new(off the peg)
total speculation or half remembered tale I dunno.
I think you are right about the "staging" - by the time Ken Hawley was making these films, there wasn't enough work to keep the last trained men fully occupied.

We're fortunate that he did so, and even more fortunate that a few years later he went back and collected the tools, jigs and even the benches just before the management threw them out.
 

Flartybarty

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I watched this film through to the end with great interest and also a lot of sorrow. You are witnesing the end of a trade. There are no more traditional plane makers. Yes, there are those of us, both private and commercial, who carry on making wooden planes, but no longer truly hand made because it is simply not financially viable any more. To watch this man using wooden tools to make wooden tools with such skill and speed is both an honour and a sorrow. I have, as most of you do, a considerable collection of various wooden moulding planes - some of which I use, most of which I don't, but with care and attention, they will continue to offer good service for decades to come. Indeed, the oldest plane in my collection is probably dated around 1690, which says all you need to know on the subject of obsolescence! Each one of them was made by a similar plane maker, working at a bench and producing maybe 20-30 planes a day - many planes are now dust, but hundreds, even thousands, survive as a testament to unsung craftsment long gone. Viewing it is doubly touching, as the films were compiled by Ken Hawley, who has, himself, passed away.
 

hodsdonr

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also I feel this is slightly staged. maybe in 62 marples wasnt the behemoth it used to be. Mr bayliss may have had other duties apart from plane making(foreman?) and here he was showing off how quick he could used to make em. hence why many of his tools are new(off the peg)
total speculation or half remembered tale I dunno.
Maybe it was staged but if you go back and look at the the Woodworker magazines of '59 to '64 you will see that Marples were advertising wooden planes (4, 4 1/2 , and jack planes) in prime position in the magazines. So maybe they were just getting rid of excess stock or they were making and were good sellers. At the start of the film there were a goodly pile of "Coffin Smoothers" in a couple of scenes , all bright and new wood.
 
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I watched this film through to the end with great interest and also a lot of sorrow. You are witnesing the end of a trade. There are no more traditional plane makers. Yes, there are those of us, both private and commercial, who carry on making wooden planes, but no longer truly hand made because it is simply not financially viable any more. To watch this man using wooden tools to make wooden tools with such skill and speed is both an honour and a sorrow. I have, as most of you do, a considerable collection of various wooden moulding planes - some of which I use, most of which I don't, but with care and attention, they will continue to offer good service for decades to come. Indeed, the oldest plane in my collection is probably dated around 1690, which says all you need to know on the subject of obsolescence! Each one of them was made by a similar plane maker, working at a bench and producing maybe 20-30 planes a day - many planes are now dust, but hundreds, even thousands, survive as a testament to unsung craftsment long gone. Viewing it is doubly touching, as the films were compiled by Ken Hawley, who has, himself, passed away.
It does seem incongruous to use a machine to make a wooden hand plane, commercial exigencies nothwithstanding. And somehow taking three months to make what the gentlemen in the video could make by his morning tea break, completely by hand, doesn't quite satisfy either. Perhaps the latter explains the eye-wateringly high prices of new moulding planes.
 

johnnyb

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that date 1962 is the year that the old city(hibernia)works was sold and the lot moved to Dronfield. I believe the city works was a rabbit Warren with old workshops everywhere. it was also the place where marples apprentices were trained by retired ex marples workers.
incidentally the line of marples planes called Dronfield are a machine made plane. bb(best beech) planes were handmade.
 

AndyT

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johnnyb

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of course sorry its the shamrock brand that was handmade. not unlike all the secondary saw brands(john Cockerell et al)it gets really confusing fast.
just to give my perspective on trades dying out etc. I tend towards a less sentimental view with hand manufacture being a hard and usually very poorly paid arrangement. marples may have been an exception though. I look at the footage of the Ecclesfield gimlet forger and reckon he was probably one of only 2 or 3 guys making these for pin money in the latter years.
my mate calls em conker borers but there's a good chance if you've got one he made it!
when trades die out because demand is gone I figure its something I've personally been part of and its just a job in the end. like bemoaning the loss of windows msdos coders or gas mantle fitters. I know it has romance even for me but also poverty and industrial disease/injury seen close up. my view was formed as the son and grandson of coal miners on both mum and dads side. but I do have one eye slightly rose coloured.
 
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