D.L. Barrett & Sons Plow Plane: A Total Gloat

During the last 12 months I’ve taken on a lot of extra freelance work. The money probably should be going into my children’s college fund, but instead I decided to spend a chunk of it on a traditional beech plow plane from D.L. Barrett & Sons in Barrie, Ontario.

Dan Barrett is a 25-year veteran of the trades and has been teaching woodworking and making handplanes for a long time. His sons, Kyle and Jeremy, are both involved in the business. Kyle has been building planes while Jeremy has been doing some machining.

I first stumbled on this family business while judging the toolmaking contest run by WoodCentral and sponsored by Lee Valley Tools. Kyle, who was 18 at the time, built a Mathieson bridle plow plane to enter in the contest. In my opinion, the plane stole the show.

Not only was it stunning to look at, it worked extraordinarily well. Some tools have a break-in period where the user and the tool circle each other like sharks. The results are inconsistent. The adjustments are difficult. The tool feels out of place in your hands.

Not so with this plane. When I picked it up during the contest, it was like I had owned it my entire life. With two taps of a mallet I set the iron and began making a beautiful groove in a maple board in the Lee Valley boardroom where we were judging the contest.

We awarded the plane first place in the craftsmanship division, but in my comments I declared the plane to be the “first among equals.”

After the contest I was stunned to learn that the maker was just 18 years old. I sent him an e-mail and asked him to make me a bridle plow. I didn’t ask the price because I didn’t really care.

A couple weeks ago the Barrett family dropped the finished plane off at my office while they were on their way down to Florida for a vacation. The plane they delivered – my plane – is somehow even better than the one in the contest.

Here you can see the iron, skate and depth stop of the plow plane.

The plane comes with a full set of eight A2 irons (1/8″ up to 5/8″) and they are gorgeous pieces of work in and of themselves. Perfectly tapered. The faces are all flat.

The plane’s stock is a single hunk of quartersawn beech with an exquisitely shaped tote. The fence is also beech with a piece of boxwood attached via a sliding dovetail. The fence slides on two ebony stems and locks down with the metal bridle. This bridle mechanism is, in my opinion, superior to a screw-arm plow. With screw-arm plows it’s difficult to get the fence parallel to the skate.

This week I finally got an opportunity to sharpen up the irons and start using the plane. And once again, it’s like I’ve owned this tool forever.

I’ll be writing about this plane (and its maker) for the next issue of The Fine Tool Journal, so I don’t want to spoil all the surprises. But if you’re looking for another maker of fine traditional hand planes, I definitely recommend you consider D.L. Barrett & Sons.

— Christopher Schwarz

Here’s a shot of the exquisite bead and astragal on the plane’s fence.

The bridle locks the fence squarely to the ebony stems every time.

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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7 Responses to D.L. Barrett & Sons Plow Plane: A Total Gloat

  1. Mike says:

    Firt the Anderson square and now this.

    My highest compliments to the Barretts. It’s a good thing I don’t have a plow addiction…

    Take care, Mike

  2. Chuck Nickerson says:

    WAS (Wives Against Schwarz) has felt a disturbance in the force. My wife is going to kill you. I’ll keep her from KY in November, but after that, you’re on your own.

  3. That plane is too pretty to use! : )
    It’s an incredible piece of craftsmanship.

  4. Don in Clayton says:

    Chris, Where do you store all these nice tools and when will you be away?????????????

  5. Don in Clayton says:

    Chris, just kidding! I have plane envy, as well as skill envy!!! Kudo’s to the young man who made this tool!

  6. dave brown says:

    Congratulations on that plane Chris, it’s gorgeous. The fact that it works as well as it looks is icing on the cake.

  7. david says:

    That’s a pricey way to cut a groove, alright, but it’s a dang sight cheaper than the ultimate in plow planes – a center wheel plow from Ohio Tools or Sandusky. Kind of wonder when someone’s going to reproduce those as a working tool (Jim Leamy produces them, among others, but as show pieces for the shelf. To my knowledge, they aren’t intended as working tools).

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