John L. Foster Lignum Vitae and Rosewood Handled Smooth Plane
John L Foster (1830-1878) was a shipwright in East Boston. A handful of his planes have surfaced over the years. Dana Story, author of a number of books on the history of ship building in Essex, Mass, recorded an interesting factoid.
In Essex, Massachusetts, a major ship building town along the Atlantic coast, the most skilled plane maker amongst the shipwrights would take a number of exotic wood billets into the under construction forecastle. Out of sight of the owners (who reportedly knew full well what was going on), the plane maker would produced planes for the various workers in the yard. That would explain why so many planes of the ship building designs are made of rosewood, mahogany, lignum vitae and boxwood.