Issue 14 T.O.C. – Agnes Chang – “A Visit with a Master Planemaker in Taiwan”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Fourteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come. 

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Taiwan exists in a unique, and often contentious, crossroads in world affairs, with influence wielded by China and Japan over the centuries. Taiwanese woodworking tradition has been shaped by these political dynamics, with elements of these nations’ very different woodworking traditions brought together. This blending is best embodied in traditional Taiwanese handplanes, with strong elements of both Japanese (pulled) and Chinese (pushed) planes incorporated.

These tools have fascinated our 2021 Craft Research Grant recipient, Agnes Chang. Upon being awarded her grant, she took her research to Taiwan to meet and document the last of that nation’s handplane makers. In Issue Fourteen, she shares what she learned on her visit. 

“To make a handplane, you need a handplane,” she begins, describing the process from start to finish by which Master Lee, one of the most highly sought makers in Taiwan, produces these tools. She notes, “Planes fitted by Master Lee were easy to adjust, didn’t vibrate, and wouldn’t work themselves out of alignment.” Chang brings us vividly through each step of the process, from wood selection and grain orientation to final adjustment. Throughout the process, she weaves in historical information as well as Master Lee’s story, and his perspective on the future of his vanishing craft. 

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