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
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.