The plane was found in grave 26 of the Anglo-Saxon
cemetery at Sarre in 1863; it is briefly described and figured in the
excavation reports, 1 though its real nature was first
recognized by Baldwin Brown.2 The plane was on the left side
of the body, together with iron keys. A bronze balance and scale-pans
and a set of nineteen weights lay at the left foot, and elsewhere was a
shield boss, a spearhead, a bronze buckle and a purse mount. The
grave-goods indicate the burial of a man in the sixth century.
The plane consists of two parts of different materials.
The base-plate is of bronze, 6.05 in. long and 1.3
in. wide. Near each end is a vertical stop to hold the stock or
body-piece of the plane. The front stop is cast in one piece with the
base-plate, but the rear stop is folded back over the base-plate,
hammered tight against it, and then bent up at right-angles. One-third
back from the front edge is a rectangular slot, 0.8 by 0.4 in., bevelled
along the rear side for the cutting iron.
The stock has a cellular structure longitudinally
and is denser in the lower part. It is, therefore, bony in nature, and
its size suggests that it is too large to be made from a limb bone but
was cut from the beam of a large red deer’s antler. The stock is 5.15
in. long, 1.2 in. wide and 1.2 in.
The underneath surface and the ends are carefully made flat and squared,
so that the stock fits tightly into the base-plate.
The slot for the cutting iron and its wedge, and for the
discharge of shavings in front of the iron, is cut to fit accurately
over the slot in the base-plate. It is 2.1 in. long at the top, 0.75 in.
wide for the cutting iron, narrowing to 0.6 in. wide in front. The
difference in width is hardly sufficient to allow for a shoulder on each
side to engage the wedge holding the cutting iron in position. Probably
this was done by an iron bar fixed across the slot, but, unfortunately,
this part of the stock is broken away on both sides.
The back part of the stock is pierced from side to side by
an oval hole, 1.3 in. long and 0.35 in. high, for holding the plane when
in use. The hole comfortably takes the end of the thumb on one side and
two fingers on the other, enabling the plane to be lightly but firmly
held between the finger tips. The back end of the stock is rounded to
conform with the end of the hole.
1 Arch. Cant., VI,
162; VII, p1. XIII.
2 The Arts in
Early England, IV, 415, p1. XCVII, 2 (wrongly