served his apprenticeship as a carpenter & joiner, he went on to become a self taught cabinet maker. His last job was working for the Leicester Museum Services, doing cabinet work, gallery's
etc. This is where he saw his first Norris and couldn't believe the quality. Adjustable Norris's are the most sought after planes in this country, without doubt.
Bill started making planes for himself in the 1970's, these were always made out of timber. In 1983 he made his first metal plane after seeing a set of plans in the Woodworker magazine. In 1987 Bill left full time employment to concentrate on plane making at home. We estimate he has made about 1000 planes. He is now 81 years old and is still making a few planes in the summer months. Bill is self taught and never had any metal work tuition, it's all been learnt by trial and error. His speciality is copying rare mitre planes and making miniature mitre planes out of the brass backs of old tenon saw's. Bill likes nothing better than to find a rusty old disgarded tenon saw with a beautiful makers mark on the brass, which he retains when making a plane adding his name somewhere.
If you wish to read more about Bill go to Handplane Cenral Interviews. There is a 13 page interview with Bill, also some picture of his planes, the only thing they got wrong was his age.
About 20 years ago a friend of mine, Peter Bishop brought this plane for me to purchase, it was in a terrible state. The bronze casting was dented in on the front. A previous user had worn the iron right down past the wedge, so had cut the wedge off in order to set the plane. The front infill was beyond repair. I decided to infill it with boxwood, I only had one piece big enough to do it, with a little left over. On removing the front infill I discovered 2 bronze pillars cast into the body running top to bottom just below the top surface of the infill. Then at the bottom of the plane, cast again into the body, was a well. Fortunately it was a midsummer's day and the light was good. By tea time I had made the wedge and had partly shaped the front infill and without giving it to much thought, I had cut the front infill around the pillars and shaped it to fit into the well. Sarah called me up for tea and just before I went, I started to cramp the unfinished front infill into the plane, using the soft jaws of my vice. After tea, the front infill was half in and half out and I could not budge it, I'm now really upset, I chiseled a 3/8" gap running front to back of the front infill and I still couldn't get the 2 halves out. I had to nibble away until I got the rest of the wood out. Of the original piece of boxwood that I started with, I just had enough to make another front infill. I was so upset with the mistake I had made, I finished the new front infill and fitted it before I went to bed. It was now about 11 o'clock. Had I not finished it I would have been unable to sleep.
At a later date I coloured the boxwood with Nitric acid, to make it look more in keeping with the age of the plane. I said I would never sell the plane, but I did. It went to Ireland. About 10 years later I had the chance to buy it back, I said to Sarah, I will never sell the plane again. But I did, this time it went to America. Some years later I had the chance to buy it back, I could not believe my luck. I am now all on edge waiting for it to return. When I took it out of the parcel the nitric acid over all these years had coloured it a very dark brown, it no longer looked like boxwood. I decided to scrape it, this turned out to be a very tricky job, I could not take any off the bottom or sides of the wedge as it would make it loose and wouldn't fit in the right place. The front infill proved tricky as it had to be scraped in situ, it took the best part of a day. It was still to dark, the next day I did it again and it still was to dark, guess what, the naxt day I did it again, this time Sarah & I were both happy with the result. When I originally infilled the plane I stamped my name on the front infill, on each of the 3 days that I scraped it, I erased my name and had to stamp it again. In total my name has appeared on this plane 4 times, but no one would ever know unless I told them.
When I got up a week last Sunday, Sarah told me you will never believe a picture of a plane we have just received from Canada, somebody I don't know had emailed me telling me there was a very
unusual plane for sale on Jim Bodes for sale list, very similar to one I have already have. I couldn't believe my eyes, it is a very heavy cast bronze mitre plane, nearly 3" wide with ebony infill
and the iron is marked Gates, Warranted, Cast Steel. I don't know who Gates was. The bottom of the wedge has a very nice cupid bow which leaves me to believe it is British. You can just see on the
underneath side of the iron, there is a ink marked price of 1/9, this was probably put on when the iron was sold and it has stayed there all this time because of a dip in the metal, which is also
right in the position where you would rub every time you would sharpen it. The iron was a terrible shape when I got it, the last 2" near the cutting end was bent up and of course you can't straighten
this bit easily. I worked on the iron for the best part of 2 days and boy was it worth it as it now works like a Rolls Royce. Many thanks to the man who informed me.
I have now lightly cleaned it erasing any tiny faults, to my liking. It is a great plane.
I want to talk about the bronze plane with the ebony infill, I have placed it along side my existing plane for you to compare. I believe the boxwood one is not by the same maker, it is much bigger, cast in a different way and I would think earlier.
I would like to show you a plane I had earlier which had a very similar casting to the ebony one. The dimensions are very similar and the way they have attached the front part of the sole looks to be identical. I assume the ebony one will have 4 screws attaching the front sole piece as the plane below. I would need a xray to prove this.
This shows how the front half of the sole matches the one above it with ebony infill.
I have just bought this really old carvers mallet, thought to be early 1700's or before. When I first got it I displayed it on my table at a David Stanley sale and we all thought it was made of oak, most people thought it was burr oak, I have now very lightly cleaned it and I am 100% sure it is rosewood, this is one of my favourite finds and I have never seen anything like it.
I am hoping it belonged to Grinling Gibbons, ( wishfull thinking).
This tool was used for marking "Standing Trees" that have just been purchased. The owner of the axe would take a cut out of the bark,"a blaze" and strike his mark.
You can see a close up of the mark in the photo below, S&B in this instance, these initials coincide with our names, Sarah & Billy.
According to the Dictionary of Tools, under hammer "marking", these tools were very rare and when not in use, were kept under lock and key.
Paintings of Bill's Plane's by Shannon Reynolds.
Is this not the most beautiful smoother in the world, I think so. I could write a book about this plane but for now I will keep it brief.