Red Rose Reproductions
Working as tool and die maker for some twenty years, Dan Schwank made tools, jigs and fittings for industrial manufacturing processes. Over the last eight years however, he has built a business that makes tools that go directly into the hands of the user.
Based in Pennsylvania, USA and trading as Red Rose Reproductions, Dan handcrafts immaculately finished wooden bodied handplanes, including the irons they are fitted with.
It was Dan’s father-in-law that introduced him to woodworking by offering, as a gift, to buy the materials for a cabinet that he would then help him to make. Later on, attending classes with period furniture maker Gene Landon also spurred an interest in hand tools. However when acquiring tools he ‘ran into a roadblock’ when it came to buying moulding planes, so he started to make his own.
The spill plane is a flagship product and a has unique connection with pre-industrial times. ‘It’s a little bit of a backwards tool in that the shaving is what you use’, Dan explained. The spiral shavings that the spill plane creates were used to transfer flame, much like a match. When others saw the first few he made they also wanted one and before long Dan had orders for more.
The Red Rose range now includes hollows and rounds, side bead and other moulding planes, not to mention a raised panel plane, winding sticks and a bench hook. On top of that Dan also makes period furniture to order. The spill planes can also be ordered in kit form.
Quartersawn American beech is used for the handplanes because of its similarity to the traditional choice of European beech for plane bodies. Beech is not commonly used for furniture making, explained Dan, but has several characteristics which make it suitable. ‘It has the right density and acclimates quickly, going from winter to summer and summer to winter…and beech has a high wear characteristic, it will take crisp detail and wear very well.'
While he machines wood for the bodies with a planer and jointer – ‘that’s just for the rough work’ – Dan finishes all his handplanes by hand.
Blades are also produced in-house from O1 tool steel. ‘I have a machinist who does the machine work, then I do my own shaping, heat treating, tempering, flattening and sharpening,’ he said.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in hand tool woodworking which seems to reflect Dan’s own journey. ‘People like the quiet, the real hands-on. A machine is one thing, but when you’re doing it by hand you have to be more in tune with your tools and your wood.’
Learn more about about Dan Schwank’s tools from redrosereproductions.com