Traditional Tool

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The Jointer

Just as wood and metal have made a variety of boats serving diverse purposes, the same is true of planes, from the skiff-like spokeshave to this —the mighty jointer, the Thames barge of the shipwrighttool chest.

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If during a long cut the path of the ripsaw has wandered, this is the tool that will make a millpond of the boardresulting swell, leaving it smooth, square and —most significantly —straight.

Whereas the coffin smoother, seen in the background, will smooth a rough surface, it will not iron out the unevenness along the length. By contrast this early-20th-century jointer by John Moseley & Son will level the board before smoothing it.

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The sheer length of the jointerstock —22 inches (56cm) —excludes it from the valleys and confines cutting to the peaks, shaving them down until the board is straight. The sound of the jointerintermittent slicing recalls the rhythmic gasp of a stationary steam engine with shavings growing gradually longer until eventually they emerge from the throat as long as the board itself.

Weighing in at around 7lb (3.6kg), this leviathan of quarter-sawn beech with 2in (6.4cm) iron carries a deal more momentum than most power planers. With the right hand providing motive force it requires only gentle guidance in its progress along the board, the left thumb applying pressure to the toe while the fingers curling below the sole act as a fence to keep the plane on track.

In the 1930s, a jointer would have cost a shipwright around 14 shillings, and I must say I am grateful to the one who invested a quarter of his pay packet in this beauty.