Friday, 8 February 2013

An 17th century plane from Alkmaar

This post is a sidestep from the medieval posts normally shown on the Saint Thomasguild blog. However, the lack of medieval planes have survived time and the fact that the plane from Alkmaar is not very well known (I did only know of this plane because Anne bought a book on archaeology in Alkmaar last month) are reason to devote this small post to it.
Archaeological excavations were carried out in the Huigbrouwerstraat 3 in Alkmaar, the Netherlands in 1995. Specifically the cesspit and chutes were dug up. The finds in one of the pits could be dated to 1625 and 1680. Most of the non-organic finds were broken earthenware and glass. One of the special finds was a more or less complete wooden plane. The description of the plane given in the published report 'Gebruikt en gebroken - vijf eeuwen bewoning op drie locaties in het oostelijk stadsdeel'  is very scarce. For instance the type of wood is not given and the measurement could only be calculated from the 1:2 line drawing.

Photo of the 17th century Alkmaar plane from the report 'Gebruikt en gebroken'. 
You can see clearly the wooden cross-pin and the low-angle for the blade.

The plane is small and has a length of approximately 16 cm, a height and width of 7 cm. The toat is slightly higher at 8 cm. The toat is cut directly out of the plane block and forms one piece with it. From the opening in the plane it can be deduced that the blade had a width of 4 cm and was set at a low angle around 35 degrees. The blade was secured by a wooden crosspin (still present) and wedge - an outdated method at that time, superseded by the grooved wedge. One side of the plane has been repaired using iron nails. The actual blade was present at the time of excavation, but removed due to heavy corrosion during the conservation process.

Line drawing of the 17th century Alkmaar plane from the report. 
The size bar has been added by me.

The Dutch plane from Nova Zembla

In the report, a comparison of the Alkmaar plane is made with another Dutch plane from an earlier century: the block plane of the Nova Zembla expedition of Willem Barentz (1596), which was left behind on the polar island and excavated in the late 19th century. The planes are however only comparable in size. The construction is very different, as well as their intended use, as the blades are set at quite different angles. 

 Dragging wood on sleds to the place where the 'Behouden Huys' (Safe House) is built from 17 September 1596. In the background the Behouden Huys is under construction, left the jammed ship can be seen. Engraving opposite page 67 of the book 'Warhafftige Relation. Der dreyen newen unerhörten seltzamen Schiffart so die Holländischen und Seeländischen Schiff....Anno 1594, 1595 und 1596 verricht' . Printed by Levinus Hulsius, Nuremberg, Germany, 1598. Image freely available from online collection of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The Barentz plane is very precisely dated between 1590-1596 and measures 16 cm (length) × 10.5 cm (height including toat) × 5.6 cm (width). The plane and toat are made of beech. The (top) opening for the plane blade is 4.5 cm wide by 10.2 cm. The octagonal toat is attached to the plane block by  a wooden dowel. The plane blade is set at an angle of 45 degrees and secured by a grooved wedge. Two plane blades which are slightly tapered towards the end are associated with this plane.

A detail of the engraving shown above, shows a carpenter cutting mortises. Behind him on the ground are an axe and a plane strikingly similar to the one found at the site of the Behouden Huys. The engraving is of 1598, the actual plane of 1596 - only two years difference. 

The block plane of 1596 found on the site of the Behouden Huys at Nova Zembla, Russia. 
Image freely available from online collection of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

The two plane blades associated with the Barentz plane. Both blades are 4 cm wide and weigh 121 gram. The length of the left blade is 14 cm, the one on the right 14 .6 cm. Both images freely available from online collection of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The Barentz plane with one of the plane blades.

Another comparison can be made with the 17th century planes found on the ship Vasa, which sank in 1628. The construction of this ship was overseen by Dutch shipbuilders, and some planes have similarities to later Dutch planes. I do however have no detailed information of these planes, except for the photos I took and were published in an earlier blogpost.

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