The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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English Charm


Because I am a low-grade narcissist (of course I’m a narcissist, I write a woodworking blog) I like to think that every idea I have was formulated without any outside influence. Like most narcissists, I like to believe that I am too clever to be influenced by anything but my own dazzling intellect. So when a few months back Graham Legend, I mean Haydon, posted on Popular Woodworking’s web page an article and video regarding the restoration of a coffin-style smooth plane, I grudgingly admit that I was fascinated. (If I can find the original article I will post a link to it). After watching that video and drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I spent a good deal of time over the course of this year searching tool sales, EBay, and tool dealers to find a coffin-style smoother that was reasonably priced, yet in decent enough condition to restore. It took me from then until last week, but I finally found one on Patrick Leach’s web page,, that hadn’t already been sold, so I immediately jumped on the chance and purchased it.

The truth is I do not need a smoothing plane; I have a Stanley #4 that works perfectly. There really are only two explanations for why I purchased this tool. Firstly, I love the look of the coffin style plane, secondly, Graham Haydon is likely a Svengali. Maybe it’s his English accent, maybe it’s his writing, which somehow reads with an English accent, but everything he says or writes eerily resonates with me in a way that I can’t explain. Is it a man crush? Maybe. Want to hear something really scary? I did one of those silly quizzes on Facebook to determine who my most attractive friend was. Guess who the answer was? It wasn’t my lovely wife; it wasn’t the neighborhood hotty from 1988, If you guessed “Graham Haydon” you would be correct. In fact, I did the quiz twice just to be sure, and both times the answer was “Graham Haydon”. As a woodworker, Graham has such a strong strangle hold on me that I am certain that he is the only person who could convince me to sell my table saw and go full hand-tool commando.

As far as the tool, it arrived yesterday and like every tool I’ve ever purchased from Patrick Leach, it arrived completely as advertised. The body and wedge are in great condition. The iron assembly looks very good; there are a few minor nicks but nothing that shouldn’t be easily handled. The sole needs to be flattened. There is a high spot just behind the mouth, which I’ve found is the case with most wood-bodied planes. I truly look forward to restoring it, and while I’m going to try to keep the original “character” of the plane as much as possible, I have no problem in sanding or planing away patina if need be. I purchased the tool to use and in a lesser sense, learn from as well as “collect”, but I have no concern or worry in keeping its value for resale.

Coffin Style smoother. Appears to be made by Varnell & Sons?? York

Coffin Style smoother. Appears to be made by Varnell & Sons?? York

The assembled parts

The disassembled parts

View of the sole.

View of the sole.

I’ll try to post some photos of the process as it moves along as well as write about the progress of the restoration. Hopefully I will do a good job and the plane will become a valuable addition to my tool set. The worst case scenario is that it looks cool sitting on the shelf in my garage. It should be fun, and that’s all I’m asking. And before I forget, if anybody out there knows of a good witch doctor, or possibly an exorcist please let me know. I have a strange feeling that somebody out there is controlling my mind.



  1. dzj9 says:

    Seek help should you find yourself yearning for a B&Q saw. 🙂

    • billlattpa says:

      I just blew my tool budget (I also purchased a rip saw) for the next 6 months. It’s cool though, I got two tools that I really wanted. If I only had the room for a bandsaw, and I could convince my wife, I honestly believe that my tool set would be complete.

  2. theindigowoodworker says:

    That’s a nice looking coffin. I’ve been wanting one myself for quite some time. Keep hoping to find one locally but about to give up. Finding one not so hard, finding one in good condition is another story. I do think I’ll buy a junker after I find the good one so instead of being buried in a coffin I can be burnt with one. I can just imagine how that will go over.

    • billlattpa says:

      It took me 6 months to find one that was in good shape but reasonably priced. Including shipping I paid $66.50 for this one, which I though was reasonable considering most of the other planes I was going to purchase were in the same price range but not nearly as good a condition. At the same time, I had seen planes in good shape in the $100 range. The conventional wisdom was that a good “user” coffin plane should cost no more than $75, so that is what I shot for.

      As far as my final coffin, I don’t want one. I’d rather my wife pay for a nice piece of furniture to remember me by rather than a nice piece of furniture to bury me in.

  3. Don’t fear, there is no sinister purpose behind my online drivel Bill, your mind is still your own…..for now…. Have fun with the plane. It’s refreshing to hear someone being open minded to try something a little different from their normal routine.

    Don’t go full commando yet, I know I’m not, my woodworking underpants are still firmly in place. Life’s to short not hit the “on” switch sometimes!

    Cheers for the kind feedback on my efforts.

    • billlattpa says:

      Luckily the plane body is in great shape as well as the cap iron. To me, the cap iron is always the scariest proposition with the older wood planes because it’s my opinion that they are harder to restore than the cutting iron.
      The way I see it, this is a style of plane that was in use for many, many years. There has to be a reason for it. And the fact that it was recommended by a legend doesn’t hurt.

  4. Kinderhook88 says:

    I’ve become a huge Graham Haydon fan as well, for what that’s worth. And congratulations on the coffin plane, I’m a little jealous.

    • billlattpa says:

      Be careful, soon you’ll be calling dinner “High Tea”. Yes, Graham has become my woodworking addiction, and damn him I’m buying into everything he says.

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