TODAY ONLY...DON'T DELAY!!
O.k. now that I've got your attention...what's up with the screws in my ECE (Primus) Block Plane.? Not a straight head or flat head, a square head er,,...a Robinson here across the border. No. It has two, sort of 'softish', poorly machined metal Phillips style screws.? Hmmm....
This really boggled my mind, which obviously doesn't have enough to worry about these days. It seemed to me that this may actually be an error. No, not the name of the kind of screw head it is, but an actual manufacturing error. I think the original design was meant to have heavier and a more universally accessable screw style on the lever cap. After all, it was manufactured by a dependable company that's has been making wooden bodied, European style hand planes for years now. Ahhh, but there lies the question; are they still 'assembled' where they're actually manufactured? This is my question and this is the story. Let me take you back a bit to tell you how I arrived at this mystery.
As it goes recently, I was working with some nice Walnut, putting a chamfer on the edge of a foot-board, bed-rail. I decided to actually take the time to 'mark out the chamfer' in an attempt at giving the bed a slightly modern feel. Funny how a simple detail such as this can change the over-all look and feel of a piece of furniture; allow me to elaborate. Seeing as the rail in question will be the last thing you (my clients) touch before you, or should I say-they, crawl into your/they (you get the picture!) bed. That private or perhaps not so private sanctuary where God knows what takes place; this rail needed to be relived of any harsh or sharp edges. My first thought was to use my handmade rosewood Hollowing plane; a gentle round-over would be nice to the touch. I opened my tool cabinet to reach for the 3/4" Hollowing Plane and there it is, my ECE Block plane, starring at me. I haven't picked this poor old dog up in the past six months I'm sure. In a moment of haste and blind romanticism I lifted up the short, rather plump beach wood vessel from the darkness of the tool cabinet and dusted it off. It felt different from what I remembered; sleeker and a little more refined. I grabbed my Lie-Nielson, Gunsmith styled flat head screwdriver, you know the ones, all pretty with brass ferules and turned out of hardwood. I placed the plane down on my work bench and lowered my hands around it's body; cradling the block, I attempted to un-screw the lever cap..." My God" I cried. "It has Phillips style screws in it!" Shaken, yet determined I went back to my tool chest and found an old Phillips style screwdriver. It was hidden in a kind of suspended animation, lying there quietly under a pile of old Hockey cards I used to have back in the days when I used to use these Phillips style wood screws. I focused at the job at a hand and removed them. Slowly, backing them out of the Beech wood. Turning and twisting they started to bend and tear, a little at first and then a bit more. That Star shaped Phillips head, gleaming and proud, cast into each and every one of it's kind. C'mon, really does anyone still use these things? Apparently so, I thought to myself.
Once I had the cutting iron out of the finely machined plane body, I sharpened it like no other blade I know of. Honing and re-shaping, polishing and rubbing until finally, ready as the day it was born, I put it back into the plane. "Ahh, those damn Phillips screws again." I stumbled through my screw and bolt bins to find a couple of 'Square-Head' machine screws, suitable for the job with no danger of getting stripped. I picked up my old friend and brought it over to my work bench; the walnut trapped, pressed between my bench dogs like an offering of sorts to the newly reclaimed Block plane. I thought about my James Krenov-custom made Smoothing plane and my heavy in hand and perfectly produced Lie-Nielson Bronze #4. I thought about the planes of old, wooden bodies alike. I saw the similarities in the shape and body of the block. I pressed the sole to the crest of the stock and pushed ahead taking that first virgin shaving, peeling it off like an outter layer of skin. It purred almost like an animal, tearing through some prey; and then suddenly stopped. A grabbing-action and choking sputter, followed with tear-out from the stock. I took it back and waxed the sole, adjusting the iron and starting again, it hiccuped and then staggered. I thought again of my finely tuned arsenal of quality made hand tools, ready to use right out of the box. No fussing, reliable; a true joy to use. I walked back over to my tool cabinet and slowly swung open the door, and quietly, almost secretly, placed the little block plane back inside. Until next time old friend, I guess you really do get what you pay for.
**This story was a work of Fiction. If it sounds like a hand plane you have or have ever heard of, it must surely be coincidence. In defence of the Character plane of the story, I do like using my ECE Block plane as well as the larger bodied Jack plane by Primus I have. Just so happens, I didn't like using it yesterday morning to do some fine tuning on the piece of Walnut I have in my shop at the moment. Funny how hand planes can be so cranky at times. Both are available through mail order at Lee Valley Tools and both are very reasonably priced.
"This is a good all-purpose wooden plane at an almost affordable price!"