Issue 9 T.O.C. – “The Legacy of Cesar Chelor” – Steve Voigt

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

Please note that the subscription window which includes Issue Nine is open now through August 28th.



“The Legacy of Cesar Chelor” – Steve Voigt


Born in the early 18th century, Cesar Chelor lived in Wrentham, Massachusetts, working as the enslaved apprentice to the first documented planemaker in the colonies, Francis Nicholson. In that time of immense civil and cultural upheaval, Chelor’s skill and ingenuity at the trade elevated him into the upper echelon of period toolmakers. 

For Issue Nine, author and planemaker Steve Voigt takes a fresh look at the legacy of Cesar Chelor, as well as that of Nicholson. Drawing from historic records, as well as the astonishingly large number of Chelor’s planes that survive to this day, Voigt recreates several of these tools: a panel raiser, Yankee plow, and stick and rabbet planes. His examinations of the tools, as well as the man behind them, offer an insightful perspective of the true impact of Chelor’s work in early America. 

“It seems his significance in early American planemaking is unrivaled,” Voigt writes, noting that the productivity of the Nicholson shop was directly due to Chelor’s prodigious output. “In fact,” he notes, “it seems likely that Chelor was by far the most prolific planemaker of the 18th century.” His accomplishments in work and in life despite the dehumanizing system under which he suffered reflect “so much of what is great – and what is tragic – in the early history of the American people.”


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