Aside from a few passionate craftsman today, planemaking has be relinquished to a similar destiny as violin-making--a mystic voodoo, steeped in misnomer and misconception.
18th and early 19th century planemaking was born of necessity. Carpenters and furniture makers needed to streamline their processes, so built tools to speed along their tasks. Most will agree that 18th century British planes, represent a quality and consistency that set an example for today's ambitions.
In a near full-circle way, the demise of early 20th century commercial toolmakers, quality tool creation was left to small, highly specialized companies, who could reproduce tool designs from yester-century, again allowing woodworkers to opt for the zen of hand tool creation, setting modern methods aside.
A challenge for the modern maker is availability of metal parts required, and the traditionally used thick quartersawn beech. European beech seems to be more readily available and is similar, but many if not most US planemakers would prefer American Beech, if for no other reason than it's domestic, therefore increasing the satisfaction of being entirely American sourced and made.
Being a passionate woodworker myself and user of many hand tools, around a decade ago while talking to Larry Williams and Old Street Tool, he expressed his frustration of not being able to source quality American Beech, so I set out to remedy, custom-sawed some, and eventually provided it to Larry (which was Clark & WIlliams) at the time, and have periodically been sawing quartered beech ever since.
Obtaining the proper log for this endeavor takes diligence and patience. It requires a large and high-quality log with minimal defects.
It then needs carefully quartersawn (riftsawn won't get it) and then there's the arduous task of drying it properly: too slow and it black stains, usually entire through, and too fast and it will check and crack, again....the whole way through. I have developed a method that gives a high-degree of success with minimal waste.
In early 2017, I sourced a BIG high-grade beech, quartered it, brought it through the drying process, dried down to 8% or so and milled to billets which are ready for sale to planemakers who seek to make traditional and timeless tools. There are sets of same-board billets, making it possible for your tools to all match! This material is ready to go and offered in our online store. So, planemakers go ahead and rejoice!