Spill Planes

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 ranges from $135 to $155, depending on wood type and/or figure. 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 about 7/8″ thick material to be used. (3/4″ stock works best.) Finish is several coats of Minwax Antique Oil Finish and paste wax.

Completed spill plane with spills
Completed spill plane with spills
Wedge detail
Wedge detail
Iron logo
Spill plane components
From left, American Beech, Black Cherry, and Spalted Maple
From left, American Beech, Black Cherry, and Spalted Maple
Front showing dual fences
Each plane is test cut before shipping, and comes with a users guide.
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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Each plane is test cut before shipping, and comes with a users guide.