Excerpted from The Chronicle Vol. 30 no. 1, March 1977
by Ivan C. Risley
Several tool collections contain a small “plane-like” item that seems only to confuse the owner as to its purpose. This tool always includes a V-shaped blade and in most cases a handle on one end.
The one the author has was shown in the June 1970 Chronicle, page 31, Figure 19, (Figure 1 and 2). Only one other collector at that time acknowledged owning a similar one. He indicated that his was almost identical in design; however, it had a device on the front for adjusting the depth of cut. He could offer no help as to identification of the tool’s purpose.
Since 1970, a few variations of the tool have been located. In Figure 3 the tool is only about six inches long and has the familiar “V” blade with handle on the rear. Figures 4 and 5 show one that resembles a molding plane 9-1/2 inches long, 3-1/2 inches high and 1-3/6 inches high, with blade 7 /8- inch across the top of the “V.”
All the specimens pictured have several features in common. They include:
1. A “V” blade with a 90-degree included angle.
2. Handles usually on rear of body.
3. No guide fence.
4. Most blades sharpened with bevel up.
The most definitive information was received from Roger Smith, Massachusetts, who submitted an excerpt from a book, Patternmaking, Methods, Materials, and Equipment, by International Correspondence School Staff, published by International Textbook Company, Pennsylvania. On page 26, paragraph 55, it states:
“Leather Fillets – Leather makes the best material for fillets, as such fillets can be applied to any form of corner, no matter whether straight or curved, or no matter how irregular the curve may be; also, the leather is light, durable and neat. Leather fillets may be made by cutting shavings from leather with a plane of the form shown in Figure 6; but it is best to buy the fillets ready-cut from some firm that makes a business of supplying them, since a much more uniform product may be obtained.”
An actual example of Figure 6 is known to exist in another tool collection.
Even through these fillet planes were available, the comment that commercial fillets were more desirable may partially account for the scarcity of them and any references concerning them. Figure 7 illustrates the sizes and shapes of leather fillets.
Leather is quite difficult to cut and considerable force is required to propel the knife through it. This fact probably was instrumental in the basic design incorporating the handle at the rear, thus allowing a full arm force to be exerted against the blade. Since leather and wood were a little difficult to use, it was of no surprise that when the process of using wax was developed it became the most universally used fillet material.