Tools of the Trade - Planes and Planemaking

In his own collection of planes and other handmade carpenter’s tools purchased at antique stores, yard sales, and auctions or traded with other collectors, Warren’s avocational interest in cabinetmaking merged with his professional interest in material culture and folklife. Planes marked with the maker’s name, location, and often the date they were made were perfectly suited to historic-geographic studies of origin and diffusion and cultural variation with which Warren was trained as a literary folklorist. By the 1980s, his equivocation in the older theoretical paradigm is evident in two opposing theories of the origin of planemaking in the United States: 1) that the “cultural hearth,” or area of origin, of planemaking was a relatively small area in southeastern Massachusetts and northeastern Rhode Island and 2) that planemaking was introduced independently from the British Isles to many parts of the country.

Tools of the Trade

“The planemakers in Indiana came from the same countries and states, generally speaking, as did other settlers in Indiana, and those states are the mid-Atlantic states mostly. And this despite the fact that planemaking was normally learned by serving a long apprenticeship. The ages of the planemakers at the time they moved to Indiana show that they probably served apprenticeships learning to be planemakers “back East.” The average age at which the 10 whose ages can be found moved to Indiana is 20. When they had completed their apprenticeships they moved out to Indiana looking for places to establish themselves.”

-Warren E. Roberts