Although they come in a small size that woodworkers familiar
with planes would liken to a smoothing plane or a block plane,
Gerfschaven were general purpose tools not specialized to any
one task such as final smoothing. Their shapely front handle is
a strong extension of the plane itself, allowing a good grip and
made for heavy pushing that would be required in course work.
Two different sized Gerfschaven in my collection.
Prior to about 1800, plane making in Holland was regulated by
Guilds which protected their members, but also put restrictions
on the types of planes a plane maker could make, and how the
plane should look.
The design of the two planes here is typical of the post Guild
regime era, so after 1800 sometime. The carving around the
mouths of the planes is simpler than on earlier planes, and the
dotted square shape between the pronounced front handle (called
the toat) and the mouth is typical of the later period.
My belief is that both of these planes date from the 1800’s,
with the smaller convex sole plane being earlier in the century,
and the larger plane being later. That said, at least one famous
Dutch plane making company, Nooitgedacht, reportedly produced
Gerfschaaven until about 1940.
The simpler carved and decorated mouth openings of these
Gerfschaven help to date them, although only approximately, with
the one on the left certainly being earlier.
Another distinct feature of the Gerfschaaf is the large rounded
rear end, which gives the plane part of its unique “whale”
shape. The rounded back is often chamfered to be more
comfortable on the hand.
On the larger of the planes shown here, the chamfer is very
wide. Unlike the various chamfer shapes on English moulding
planes, this feature is not known to be able to help date the
Rounded palm grip and wide chamfers of this Gerfschaaf.