At the last Richard Arnold's
annual charity event, I was just about to leave when Richard
called me back
and said he had a little gift for me.
In a room
full of hundreds of moulding planes he gave me the most
beautiful one of all of them. It was made by Christopher
Gabriel, Falmouth and London, 1770-1810.
Gabriel was the very first moulding plane I ever
bought, a quid from a bootfair, and as I researched the master,
the more I fell in love with this mark. Later I had the honor to
see the iconic Seaton Chest and actually got to hold the tools
within many of them by Gabriel. I was hooked from that moment on
and set out to find copies of the tools from the chest and make
my own collection.
Gabriel was a prolific maker and his planes are
fairly easy to find, so what makes this one so special?
As Richard pointed out, there is a huge knot in
the heel - something Christopher would never have allowed to be
sold. But it was that knot and the strange profile that gave
Richard a clue as to its purpose.
At this point I perhaps need to explain what
mother planes are. These are planes used by the planemakers
themselves for accurately and quickly perform repeated tasks in
their workshop. This is indeed such a plane. Richard cut a
chamfer with it and noticed it bore a close resemblance to the
top chamfers on Gabriel moulding planes of a certain era!
A "not so ordinary" mother plane.
I am utterly gobsmacked and thrilled by this
gift Richard gave me. So in honour of one of my dearest friends
and one of the greatest master joiners in England today, I
grabbed a bit of quarter-sawn beech, tickled the skewed Hildick
iron and used a plane owned by the great master himself two
centuries ago to confirm this theory!
The knot blemish that started the journey of discovery.
The mark and strange profile.
Skew iron, fence (right) and depth stop