The use of intermittent boxing was one of the sleepers of tool Collecting. I am sure that those who collected Philadelphia makers planes were aware that some of the makers used what we call intermittent boxing, but it was apparently not a big deal. In my 25 years of collecting I had never heard it discussed.
The Rees’s who revised “British Planemakers From 1700″, included in Chapter 4, page 28 the following on Birmingham planemakers”:
“Planemaking in Birmingham started with George Darby, who in 1750 founded a business which was to continue for seventy years. Planes made by Darby and the other early Birmingham planemakers exhibit some unusual design features. Perhaps the most notable is a propensity to make boxing from lignum vitae. It has been suggested that this practice developed to make use of waste that was available from other trades, particularly engine building where lignum was used for bearings.
“Another most unusual feature is intermittent boxing recorded on planes by G. Darby, Moodey, Worchester and J. Davis.”
After becoming aware of this practice I asked all of the leading dealers in England if they had any planes, molding, with intermittent boxing. To a person they said they had never seen it in molding planes but had seen it on panel raisers.
It is now obvious that the procedure did happen both in Birmingham and Philadelphia where scraps of lignum were available from other trades. If the scraps were large enough they could box in the normal way, which to me was, work wise, much simpler.
The examples on display have two to four inserts of lignum vitae and not necessarily the same size of inserts in a specific plane.. It seems to me that providing a slot and securing the boxing would have been more time consuming than making a continuous groove for full length boxing.
So why did they make molding planes with intermittent boxing? Was the cost of boxwood so expensive that salvaging lignum was less expensive? Could it have been a marketing tool? I have thought about the marketing angle and can’t seem to come up with a statement for why an intermittent boxed plane would be better than full length boxing.