The multi-plane is truly the muscle-driven equivalent of the router. Its handle is of wood, but that’s where its resemblance to traditional hand planes ends. It is a highly machined, complex assemblage of adjustment screws, stops, fences, depth gauge, and interchangeable cutters, all of which enable it to plane grooves, rabbets, dadoes, sash moldings, reeds, concave and convex curves, and even stair nosing. A turn-of-the-century model was sold with more than fifty cutters supplied, and another forty-plus available as options.
Clearly, this is one plane that could – and still can – do a lot of different jobs. The multi-plane looks a bit like Henry Ford’s answer to the antique plow plane. And those who elect to buy and use one today are more than a bit like people who collect other antiques, be they Model Ts or whatever. Multi-planes are expensive (the better part of’$500 is a typical price for reproduction models).
Several English companies continue to make multi-planes. I’ve included this tool here because, in a sense, it exemplifies the best of the old ways and the new. The body of the plane is flanked by an adjustable fence, but its chassis is iron, as is the fence. What gives the plane its flexibility is the variety of cutters, which are easily inserted into the body.
Combination Planes. This one is something of a crossbreed, being a near relation of both the metal-bodied plow plane and the multi-plane. The combination plane cuts rabbets and grooves with the grain, and its interchangeable cutters allow it to cut beads as well. But its primary distinction from the plow plane is that it has an additional cutter mounted near the toe.
Called the spur, this vertically mounted knife cuts the grain ahead of the plane cutter, which means that a combination plane can cut across (as well as with) the grain. The spur prevents the cutter from tearing out when crossplaning.