“The English Plane”
-by Brian Meeks
In a tiny shop north of London town
At a maple bench stood young man proud.
Off cobble stone road sat a flower girl
A comb in her hair from mother of pearl
He’d returned from the war a scar on his face
He’d flown a camel; they’d called him an Ace.
At the museum she’d once spent a day
The artist she saw was named Claude Monet
On way to his shop, each day he passed by
He oft thought of how, he might catch her eye
She noticed his walk and his hat pulled low
She thought he seemed kind, she wanted to know
Each day he worked fixing table and chair
Til one could find nary a sign of wear
An easel she made from two apple crates
With a brush and plank she painted the fates.
The days rolled by and He spends them alone
He dreams of her each night he walks home
At the base of his door, in a pink bow
Violets waited for him and whispered hello
With chisel and plane and saw and mallet
The rough hewn walnut became a palette
She painted his portrait he made the frame
The rest of their lives were never the same.
He built her a house with a small garden
She took his name and gave him three children
Though they are gone and we know not their names
His joie de vie remains in this plane.
While I drove home from the antiques show, the little English hand plane sat patiently in the passenger’s seat. What tales could it tell? I could only imagine. I don’t know anything about hand planes, except that they seem to be incredibly handy to have around. I watch videos online and see people using them. The other day, when I was buying the Jet 1000B air filtration system, I asked the salesperson if they sold hand planes. He said they only had a couple, because people don’t use them much anymore. This might be true among home builders and carpenters, who likely make up most of his clientele, but it seems to me, that woodworkers still treasure their planes.
I could tell that the little plane was worried that he might be destined for some sort of knick knack shelf, for he had been travelling to antique shows for some time, and knew the fate of the tools sold at these places. When I removed his blade and began to run it back and forth across the wet stone, he purred with delight. They years of neglect fell away and the blade slowly began to come to life. As the metal changed from black to grey, I could tell that the little plane was feeling hopeful that he might again taste the sweet wood which gave his life meaning. After 40 minutes of working on the blade, the anticipation for the little plane was causing it to fidget and fuss a bit, so I decided that the blade was sharp enough for now.
I put the blade back into the plane and we went downstairs. As soon as he saw the workshop and a piece of rough cut walnut sitting on the workbench he yelped with delight. I explained to the little plane that I had never used one before, but he didn’t seem to care at all. I ran him across the board and tiny bits of wood began to come up. I adjusted the blade and he bit into the wood bringing up small shavings. Yummy! We played together on the walnut for a while. When I sensed that all my little plane’s fears were gone, I told him that I intended to continue to work on him, to make his blade sharper. I promised him that I will make sure, that no matter how many planes I get over time, I will always get him out and let him have some fun too. My little English plane was happy and so was I.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com