Infill Planes

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Plane of the Week with Ryan Sparreboom

  The Dutch Gerfschaaf by Ryan Sparreboom 1 of 3  

Dutch planes are weird, or should I say “veird”. I’m allowed to say that and poke a little fun, because I’m Dutch.

My last name, quite literally translated from Dutch to English is “Sprucetree”. No wonder I’m into woodworking, I’m named after a tree!

So why are Dutch planes weird?

Well, perhaps unique is a better word. Antique Dutch wooden planes are very recognizable and can be some of the most beautifully decorated planes in any fine collection.

From unique plane body and handle shapes to intricate carvings that often include the date a plane was made, Dutch planes strike a certain chord with me, not only because of my heritage, but also because of the beauty and elegance these tools display. One type of Dutch plane which features a distinct and recognizable shape is called the Gerfschaaf.

The distinct and recognizable shape of a Gerfschaaf.

Gerfschaaf is one of those Dutch words that does not really have a direct translation. A schaaf (or plural schaven) is a hand plane, the common tool we often talk about in woodworking. The word “Gerf” comes from the Dutch term “Gerven”, which means “bringing to a certain condition”. So a Gerf plane then, is a plane used to bring wood to a certain condition.

Well what condition is that, you might ask? It could be anything. Gerfschaven can come with a flat sole, a concave or a convex sole across the width or even a concave or convex profile across its length. In Holland, a plane that is convex across the length of the sole is called a “hobbelaar”, or a “rocking plane”. In English plane terminology, this would be a compass plane.

Gerfschaaf with a flat sole.

Gerschaaf with a convex sole, also known as a hobbelaar.

Gerfschaven were used for rough work of various types. Depending on their shape, they would have been used for general stock removal of flat stock, similar to a jack plane, but not necessarily so course as a scrub plane, or for general shaping of inside or outside curves.

They could have been used in all sorts of trades and uses from general stock preparation, to shaping furniture parts, to violin making. I have heard them referred to as “palm planes” and “violin planes”, the latter tends to be referred to when speaking about the convex soled versions.

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