Sunday, May 6, 2012

Italian Planemakers

The planemaker must have been a very common trade, mainly in the XIXth century, then it gradually disappeared in the first half of XXth century,  while woodworking machines increased their diffusion. United States, United Kingdom, France and Holland are countries where the industrial plane production is well evidenced by the high number of planes it is possible to find still nowadays and detailed info about planemakers, available  thanks to collectors too.
But, who were the Italian planemakers?
Often, Italian woodworkers, mainly in the South of Italy, used to make themselves wooden tools or, if they purchased them, these came from France and Germany. I would be able to tell about several English or American planemakers as well as someone  German, but if you asked me about Italian ones, I think would have some difficult.
Guido Masoero helped me in this search. He is descendent from a family of wooden tool makers, mainly planes. His grandfather, Antonio Masoero (1872-1964) founded the U.M.A.T. (Utensili Masoero Antonio Torino), may be in the first years of XXth century. 
The factory was in Turin and the tradition continued by his sons Luigi and Eugenio.
 Unfortunately, a bomb destroyed forever the factory in july 1943 and only a 1934 price list survived in Guido's hands. His uncle, Eugenio, continued to build planes until 80's. Here are the last planes he made for fun.

This 1934 catalogue Guido kindly shared, has 15 pages and a complete plane set is listed as well as some saw, workbenches and other few tools.

Many bench planes have an unusual method to set iron and chipbreaker. This is not screwed to iron but it is  placed between the wedge and plane abutements.
I could not say if there are advantages or disadvantages by using this configuration, even because I did not try this system before.
Together with common ones, there are several special planes which captured my attention; is the case of a panel raiser plane with handle and three blades: the first one is for rebating, the second is the nicker and the third one task is to form the moulding along the inner edges. Never seen one like this. Fantastico!

How much was such a beauty cost in 1934? The price was variable in reference to wood used (leccio=holm oak, pomo=apple) and the blade mounted into.
D.V.C.= Double iron with short screw
D.V.L. =Double iron with long screw 
In 1934 the Lira had the best purchase power between WWI and WWII. With 30 lire it was possible to purchase a shoes pair. A bread piece cost 1.50 lire. So our plane today would cost about 50-80 Euro, a realistic (cheap too) price. 

Turning the catalogue pages, other special models don't lack, as a tonguing and grooving plane, like that I showed in the previous post.

To be noticed is the open construction, simply to realize but that requires to pay attention to right blade insertion in order to maintain the correct geometries.
This brief U.M.A.T. tour finish with a gelosie plane (dado plane). The "gelosie" are  timber blinds with elements inserted in grooves cutting in the stiles. 

This grooves are cut across the grain (in oblique direction) and the plane needs nickers for scoring the wood before the blade cutting.
The groove width was variable between 8 and 12 mm.

 I thank you Guido Masoero for giving me the opportunity of telling about the U.M.A.T. history and sharing these images from his catalogue. The U.M.A.T. planes were well built, as well as the British or  American wooden first choice planes. 
Guido Masoero wrote this history in his heart and the love for woodworking never left him. He is a well-known wood turner and has a net site where you can admire his more recent works: 

Download the complete U.M.A.T. plane catalogue (6,95 MB)


  1. Great posting Giuliano. I really enjoyed the historic significance to early Italian Planemakers. The quality of the hand planes is extremely high for the price that was being charged for them. If only we could turn the clock back 100 years so that more people could understand how great these fine hand tools really worked. My father completed is Carpentry and Joinery Aprenticeship in Scotland under the guidence of a Master Tradesman. Throughout his apprenticeship he was only allowed to use wooden soled hand planes of all description including moulding planes. He was told to forget those fancy steel soled planes, as wood on wood surface always left a superior finish.


    1. Ciao Stewie,
      I agree about wooden planes and me too I have some of them I find superior to metal planes. I like to have a wooden body in my hands from which to get long shaves. Your father's story explicate your skills for woodworking as well as toolmaker expertise.