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Jointer Plane Timber ID ?

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Dr W

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Can any of you genius wood-spotters help to ID what timber was used to make this 22" plane of mine? I picked it up in antique shop a while ago for £12 but have only just got around to cleaning it up. Came with a G.P. Pearson "Acute" iron and chip breaker - no makers mark on the plane itself.
When I first lifted it off the shelf, I was struck by heavy it was and also how dark the wood is - though at the time I couldn't tell if that was natural or some kind of stain/finish. Anyway, once I started prepping it, turned out the sole was a bit squiffy, so I took a couple of mm off with another plane to flatten & square it. This confirmed the wood really is that colour - sort of reddish brown with almost a hint of purple. Strong whiff of pipe tobacco from the fresh shavings, though I'm guessing that says more about the habits of previous owners than any scent characteristics of the wood itself.
Looking through the wood database, closest visual match seems to be Burmese Rosewood - but would that make sense for a (presumably late 19th century) English plane of this size? Colour in photos can be very deceptive, especially with workshop lighting, so middle pic shows it sandwiched between a couple of conventional beech planes for comparison.

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Would be helpful to know the original timber cos I need to repair that handle (horn's chipped and was also designed for smaller hands than mine) and would be nice to get something similar. Handle aside, it's a joy to use - fabulous weight and nicely balanced - so looking forward to getting it back into service.

Cheers,
Stuart
 

Fitzroy

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I think I'm aligned with your direction of thinking as in one of the dense exotic hardwoods rather than something more regular. It looks similar to sapele or iroko but in my understanding these are more modern timbers so less likely to be found in an old plane. However, they would be way easier to obtain to make a replacement tote.
 

D_W

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Sapele or one of the other mahogany lookalikes. How close is it in weight to a similar sized beech plane?
You mention heavy, but it might be worth getting a density number.
 

AESamuel

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Sapele or one of the other mahogany lookalikes. How close is it in weight to a similar sized beech plane?
You mention heavy, but it might be worth getting a density number.
I've not much experience with actual mahogany but the grain pattern looks very similar to sapele which I work with a lot. My money would also be on a mahogany or variant.
 

D_W

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In my opinion, older vs. newer mahogany is even hard to guess. I've got cuban that's about 0.88 specific gravity, and I've gotten honduran mahogany blanks for guitar where a seller lied about weight (less is generally better) that are heavier than maple or beech. And then I've got flatsawn blanks that were from fiji (planted by the English, no less!!) that are so light that I'm not sure they'll make a stable guitar , but by the end grain, they're all honduran (except for the cuban).

Another wood that seems to float around that's heavy (other than sapele, which doesn't usually look quite like mahogany) is Toona Sureni . "indonesian" or "toon" mahogany. Heavier and often on guitars from japan, and still on some indonesian guitars. Usually darker like that in my experience.

But honduran darkens with age (I don't know how deep).

And I've got a khaya neck blank that looks like honduran and is only ratted out by the endgrain making it clear that it's khaya.

No clue of an old timer who saw a lot of different woods for furniture could call it out given how different the grain can look just within like-colored honduran (and the density can be high even with large growth rings).
 

Orraloon

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I will also go with one of the mahogany group. As beech was the norm with British planes that would have been a bit upmarket. User made is another guess.
Regards
John
 

Dr W

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Thanks for all the thoughts. hard to say actual density but the only other 22" jointer I have to compare with is a beech example that's got lead-inserts to weight the nose - and this fella certainly weighs more than that one.
Mahogany (in the broadest sense) is certainly plausible. I suspect that would have been more widely available in 19th century UK than most of the more recent alternatives.
Digging through my 'offcuts' box I found some oddments of (I think) Iroko salvaged from an old door, so I'll probably use that for repairing the horn. Colour is lighter but close enough not to jar too badly.
 

Adam W.

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If it smells like tobacco and is heavy, I'll put my money on Honduran/Cuban mahogany. I'm working with some reclaimed stuff at the moment which is very hard and dense and has a rich deep red colour and not unlike your plane.

I might have an offcut in London if you can wait a week.
 

D_W

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If it smells like tobacco and is heavy, I'll put my money on Honduran/Cuban mahogany. I'm working with some reclaimed stuff at the moment which is very hard and dense and has a rich deep red colour and not unlike your plane.

I might have an offcut in London if you can wait a week.
I've only got one piece of old cuban and haven't opened it yet. Have you gotten a tobacco smell out of mahogany? Wood has a huge ability to hold scent - one of the beech plane blanks that I got early on came from someone who owns a scent making and taste making company (literally, like you make a new toothpaste and you want it to have a certain smell and taste, that's the guy who helps you come up with it - or if you don't know how you want it to smell and taste, then he's really your guy to sure it doesn't come across like liniment). Needless to say, the company he owns also formulates perfumes, etc, and he stores some of his lumber in his warehouse at work.

The beech I got from him arrived in 2013. When I move the wood pile, I can still smell it and I haven't even planed it yet. Fortunately, it's not an unpleasant smell.
 

hodsdonr

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I've only got one piece of old cuban and haven't opened it yet. Have you gotten a tobacco smell out of mahogany? Wood has a huge ability to hold scent - one of the beech plane blanks that I got early on came from someone who owns a scent making and taste making company (literally, like you make a new toothpaste and you want it to have a certain smell and taste, that's the guy who helps you come up with it - or if you don't know how you want it to smell and taste, then he's really your guy to sure it doesn't come across like liniment). Needless to say, the company he owns also formulates perfumes, etc, and he stores some of his lumber in his warehouse at work.
They call the industry Flavours and Fragrances and its fascinating. Did some consulting work at one.
 

D_W

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They call the industry Flavours and Fragrances and its fascinating. Did some consulting work at one.
There's a blue forum in the states that I don't particularly care for, but one of the hand tools mods is the individual I mentioned. He's an absolutely top notch fellow. Glad they weren't formulating putrifying agents when he bought the wood I snagged from him.
 

johnnyb

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I'm gonna guess a rosewood of some variety. just the smell and it looks like rosewood. and there's a large variety. and it was the choice for other woodwork tools.
 

Dr W

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Could you post the weight and LxWxH of the plane? A good approximation of the density could be calculated, despite the cut for the mouth.
So (apols for delay) LxWxH is
56.5 x 8.4 x 7.5 cm and the weight of body only (no wedge or ironmongery) is just over 2.6kg

Or in old money...
22 3/16 x 3 1/4 x 3" and around 5lb 12oz.

Assuming it's 19th century, I'd have thought mahogany or rosewood would be the most likely timbers for an English plane maker to be using. Wouldn't have been so much 'exotica' on the market then. I know rosewood was the choice for infill planes but I've not come across it on larger tools before and it seems a tad extravagant. Can't find the reference now but I did recently spot a note in Goodmans BPM about a mahogany plane produced by a firm who also used that wood for their lathe bases - so this one might just have been made by someone who was used to working with mahogany for other purposes and had plenty of stock on hand.
 

D_W

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Too light to be rosewood. That's about the same weight as an old dry beech plane. Probably mahogany or one of the look alikes.

When I make an American beech plane 24 x 3.25x3.125, it's about 7 pounds if all sap and 8 if half sap, half heart.
 
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