The Roller-Plane by August Vogel (1861)

The history of technical development in the 19th century is marked not only by new developments and inventions, but also by countless ideas and suggestions for the improvement of traditional tools. While some of these ideas actually turned out to be useful, the vast majority of them turned out to be only curiosities in technology history. This was usually the case when non-specialist scholars ventured into fields that were only accessible to them through theoretical access, but whose basic practical principles were not sufficiently clear to them.

An interesting example of this is the "roller-plane" presented in Dingler's polytechnic journal by Dr. August Vogel in 1860.

Rollenhobel Vogel (Dingler) 1860

Vogel was an agricultural scientist in Munich, his real field was chemistry. The most important material in agricultural engineering at that time was wood, so perhaps this is why he was thinking about making work with a plane easier.

His idea: To eliminate the frictional resistance of the plane sole with the help of rollers. His construction was relatively simple: two cast-iron rollers were inserted into the plane body on metal plates attached to both sides of the plane. He had some copies of his plane made in a Munich workshop and made them available to carpenters for testing, with quite positive assessments, as he writes.

But already in this first article he notes that a plane body made of cast iron would be better suited, since the shrinking of the wood could possibly cause a blocking of the rollers. In 1861, he had a mechanic named Falter in Munich make such cast-iron models and reported on them again in the polytechnic journal. He also proudly points to a laudatory commentary by the leading German technologist of his time, Karl Karmarsch (born 1803 in Vienna, died 1879 in Hanover and then director of the polytechnic school in Hanover).

Weiss & Sohn, 699 Rollenhobel 1861 XLII

Not only Karmarsch found the idea interesting, Johann Baptist Weiss in Vienna had also become aware of this construction.


Weiss relied very much on innovation around 1860, he developed a new parallel-fence for adjustable planes and a new plough plane. In his "Atlas of Austrian Tools for Woodworkers", published in 1861, Vogel's roller plane also appears with the number 699. There is also a double plane with adjustable mouth after an older patent by Christian Weiland (a precursor to the later Reformhobel by Georg Ott).

For all the creativity and cleverness that August Vogel showed in his construction, he has ignored a fundamental principle of planing: For a plane to work perfectly, the sole needs contact with the workpiece, right in front of the iron. The closer the plane's mouth, the closer the contact pressure appears in front of the cutting edge of the iron, the better. Even a slightly more opened mouth can cause tear outs on the workpiece. The roller plane completely eliminates this contact, making tear-out-free work virtually impossible.

August Vogel's construction did not have the success he had hoped for. But he shares this fate with many of his fellow inventors of the time.

Rollenhobel Artikel Dingler 1860
Rollenhobel Artikel Dingler 1861