Spill Plane

Completed spill plane with spills

Completed spill plane with spills

The spill plane was a unique 18th century tool that was not used to improve the surface of the wood, but rather to create a shaving with a tight stiff curl that could be used to transfer a flame from one place to another, such as from a fireplace to a candle or lantern.  Spills would have been made of pine or similar resinous wood.  The plane was used as any wooden plane would be, using straight grained scraps of wood about 12  inches long.  Each pass produces a spill, so named for the way the chip “spills” out of the escapement hole in the side of the plane.  The blade is sharply skewed, and the chip is forced into a tight curl by the contoured bottom of the wedge.  The edges of the spill overlap each other, which gives the spill a tapered shape.

While there are many types of spill planes, the ones that we produce are patterned from an 18th century original, and feature a two piece body, skewed blade, and escapement hole in the side through which the spill exits the plane.  The blade is adjusted using a small hammer, such as one sold by Lee Valley or, for tool lovers, one by Sterling Tool Works, which is also available here. We have made planes of American Beech, Black Cherry, and Maple with spalting and/or light figure, all quarter sawn wood.  The plane body is actually two pieces, with one side ripped of  to make it easier to create the mortise and bed for the blade.  It is then reattached with brass screws. The blade is made of tapered O-1 tool steel, hardened to Rc 60-62, and sharpened, ready for immediate use.

Available for purchase here.  Price is $135.  For those who wish to make their own, a plan kit, including full size plans, construction notes, photos, and a ready to use blade can be purchased here.

The wedge is shaped to facilitate the curling of the spill and guide it through the escapement hole.  It is also taper both ways, which ensures that it will fit against the escapement side of the throat to ensure there is no gap for shavings to jam. Both sides of the plane have fences to keep the plane centered on the stock, allowing a maximum of 7/8″ thick material to be used.  Finish is several coats of Minwax Antique Oil Finish and paste wax.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

From left, American Beech, Black Cherry, and Spalted Maple

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Spill plane components

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Wedge detail

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Iron logo

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Front showing dual fences

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Each plane is test cut before shipping, and comes with a users guide.

These planes are usually available in various woods. They are new tools, used only for the tuning process, and are sharp and ready to go.  A user guide is included, telling about the purpose of the plane, and tips for using and care.

 

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8 Responses to Spill Plane

  1. Ken says:

    Hi Dan,
    I just got home from work this morning and opened the package. You, my friend, build excellent planes. I brought it out the garage, put a piece of pine in the vice and beautiful curly spills came pouring out. Well done. I’m going to be doing some antique tool demos in the future and your plane is going to be one of the highlights. I’ll be sure to send interested folks your way. Thanks again.
    Ken Pywell

  2. William Connock says:

    The plane arrived in very good time while I was away, and in perfect condition, thanks to a very good job of packaging from you. I had a lovely day yesterday challenging the other chaps at the workshop to work out what the plane was for, none did though there were some very imaginative guesses. It works fabulously and is knocking out spills with ease, have done a few hundred and it works without any problems, very reliable and uniform result.
    Thanks again for a wonderful plane that will be a much used and loved tool in the shop, indeed I feel there maybe a repeat order in the not too distant future.

  3. For you spill makers out there, you need to choose your wood source carefully. I like pine the best, and the grain is critical. For best results, choose very straight grained wood. Due to the skewed angle of the plane blade, almost any cut works, and I like quarter-sawed. If I can find a 10 or 12 inch wide board, I buy as long of board that is available. Pitch pine is interesting because you get great smells from the spills, as well as great flame!

    I’ve been making spill planes and using them for over 30 years as the lead volunteer carpenter at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento CA. Since we also make candles on site, we also make tapers by dipping the spills 4 times in the liquid wax.

    • Thank you Stephen for taking time to share your many years of experience with the spill plane. I agree pine is one of the bet wood, and I also like cedar for the fragrance and contrasting colors.

  4. Ramon Lyn says:

    Daniel,

    I just attended the Pratt Fine Arts Center Open House today and a mutual friend, @anneofalltrades had one of your spill planes on demo today and I absolutely loved it. I’m at a crossroads right now whether I should purchase one of your outstanding planes or purchase the plans to make my own as it looks like a fun build. My only problem is that I do not own any handplanes at the moment to refine some of the surfaces and I have had my eye on a Lie-Nielsen Adjustable Mouth Block Plane for a while now so I may need to some time to decide. Kudos to you for making plans as well because this would be such a great project to make. Thanks

    • Thanks Ramon. Anne had been a good promoter for my tools! The spill plane is a fun tool to use and produces instant results. Either way, to purchase or make is up to you. For the most part, you can built it without any special tools other than a 1/8″ edge float. I will look forward to hearing from you in the future.

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