Tools of the Trades – Fall show

In a week, it is time for the fall “Tools of the Trades” at the Pickering Recreation Complex.

SUNDAY, October 5th – 10am to 3pm.

Time again to spend a couple of hours mulling over some vintage tools – although with the number of tools now in my workshop, I may have to start selling tools soon! I’ll be looking for unusual or rare block planes, and likely some tool catalogs. If you are a new to woodworking, looking to buy a set of starter tools for a reasonable price, there is no better show in Canada. There is always a good selection of vintage Stanley, British planes (Record), wooden planes, and a few Millers Falls and Sargents.


Is it a clone or a doppelgänger?

When I chose the term clone for my previous posts, I thought long and hard about whether or not it was the best term. A clone is an object  that can be regarded as identical to another object. Most cloned planes were identical, albeit with different re-seller markings. Planes produced that are basically copies of other companies planes – I like to think they are more like doppelgängers – they are similar, but may have some structural or cosmetic differences.

Take for example the block planes sold by Keen Kutter – in the period 1906-1912 the planes they sold were made by the Ohio Tool Company, from 1913 to 1942 they were made by Stanley. The KK9½ was a clone of Ohio Tool No.9½, but later became a clone of Stanley’s No.9½, and renumbered K9½. Ironically, the Ohio Tool No.9½ was actually a doppelgänger of the Stanley No.9½ – it had similar blade depth and lateral adjustment mechanisms to that of Stanley, only retaining Ohio Tool’s unique round “handi” finger holds and mouth adjustment lever. However the modifications were enough to allow it to be mistaken for a Stanley 9½. In this case there is no evolution between the different types of plane. (A type study is often performed in order to provide a timeline of a particular planes evolution, which can be used for dating planes). How did the KK9½ differ from the No.9½? The were exact copies, the only modifications being the trademark on the cutter and KK9½ embossed on the plane body, usually forward of front knob. Cloning was an efficient way for a hardware company such as Simmons to offer a large catalog of tools, without having to have the manufacturing facilities to make them.


The Ohio 9½ block plane circa 1910

Examples of doppelgängers abound - consider  the No.120 produced by Record – a plane copied from the Stanley No.120, but with minor modifications. This is not surprising considering it wasn’t until 1931 that Record began manufacturing planes. The planes have a similar form, the core difference being the mechanism used in blade depth adjustment (the Stanley No.120 always used a lever, whilst the Record No.120 used a block-and-screw). Planes that were produced without some form of patent protection were easy for other companies to copy, and there were no real restrictions on using the numbering system of Stanley.


The No.120 doppelgängers

The Stanley No.18 knuckle joint block plane is another form of clone. The Stanley No.A18 is a clone of the No.18 – the only difference being that the A18 has a body made of aluminum to reduce weight.

The $1 Stanley rust bucket – an exploration

At a flea market in Maine, I was looking for rusty plane blades for my experiments on rust removal (VERY challenging to find it seems). I came across a pile of rusty things, most too large to do anything with – but I bought a rusty plane for $1. The only thing I was certain was that it was a Stanley excelsior of some sort.


The plane is coated in a layer of rust, to the extent that the rust has prized off the japanning. There are no parts missing from the plane, although there are some nicks, and rough edges. The adjustable mouth has seized to the plane body. The plane is 7″ in length, and has the characteristic “excelsior” hump towards the rear of the plane – all the hallmarks of the Stanley No.15.


Plane markings for identification

On further investigation, the plane has three identifying markings (readable through the rust): patent markings and the STANLEY trademark on the lateral adjustment lever (76, 84, 88, 88), an “S” owner’s mark on the side of the plane, and an “S” foundry mark on the bed, posterior to  the mouth (so faint I couldn’t photograph it properly). Using the block plane dating table on the Virginia Toolworks website, it is likely this plane dates from between 1889 and 1897.


Exploration of the rust

The task now? Disassemble it and dunk it completely in Evaporust to remove the rust – then likely a repainting of the japanned areas, and lapping of the areas that should be “shiny”. It will never be a perfect specimen, but it might function again.

Finding tools in Maine and visiting Liberty Tool

Back from 12 days vacation and tool hunting. We drove across the Adirondacks, through the Green Mountains of Vermont and White Mountains of New Hampshire to Maine. First stop in Maine was Liberty Tool in the small town of Liberty. I had high hopes for finding *something*, however to be honest, it wasn’t the nexus of tool hunting that I had expected. There are a lot of tools there, that is for certain, however for the seasoned tool “collector” seeking a good selection of vintage tools, it just isn’t there. There is an abundance of “generic” vintage tools, in various states of dis-repair. There are plenty of mechanics tools, but some things are quite worn (e.g. files), but having said that – inexpensive. There are bunch of files, and piles of screw-drivers – there is a *lot* of stuff there. Part of the allure may be the hunt. The place is kind-of overwhelming, there are drawers of things, bottles of other. Behind the counter there are a few of the more expensive pieces. I spent maybe an hour inside looking about – here are some photos of the ground floor (there aren’t many tools on the upper two floors).

An abundance of hammers, and mallets, and saws.


A bunch of bench planes, both metal and wood, drills – and odds-and-ends out the ying-yang.


What did I find? I found an extremely nice (complete) hand-grinder made by the Modern Grinder Mfg Co., and a Stanley No.120 block plane with a 6-star lever cap. The grinder is nice, but I guess I should have checked the size of the wheel needed – this one takes max 5″ wheels, and they are harder to come by. Nevertheless, might work well for buffing with a felt wheel (For $14 it was too good a bargain to pass up) . I wasn’t expecting a slew of rare block planes, but there were really only a few generic ones, and I wasn’t after bench planes, nor wooden planes. Just down the road from Liberty Tool, is Frapoli’s Place – who honestly has a better grouping of well-conditioned woodworking tools. I found a nice Millers Falls No.57 block plane.


The hand-grinder and the Stanley No.120

We traipsed around a bit of southern Maine, but tool pickings were slim – my best pick at a flea market – a Stanley excelsior No.15 block plane for $1 – rusted, and maybe beyond repair, but it has all it’s parts I’ll give it a shot. We spent a couple of hours at the Maine Antique Festival, but that was also empty from a tool point of view – a few bits of overpriced pieces, although we picked up some nice silverware. The conclusion on picking for tools? The good stuff ends up in tool auctions, or you have to know someone, who knows someone (who likely knows someone).


Millers Falls No.57 and the rusted $1 Stanley No.15

So we did visit a place that is guaranteed to have tools – the Lie-Nielsen shop in Warren. We arrived at 4.30pm, with 30 minutes until closing. I couldn’t *not* buy something while there, and the 10% in-store discount didn’t hurt. I ended up with the small iron scraping plane, and the LN 60½ low-angle, adjustable mouth block plane. Tom Lie-Nielsen even came into the showroom while we were there – should have got him to autograph the box or something. The nice thing about the store – you can actually play with the tools before you buy – something that is missing in Lee Valley stores. What Lee Valley needs is a feature store dedicated to its core woodworking tools where one can play with the tools, and there is a full-time woodworker there to help people select the right tools – if the store were in Ottawa they could attach a tool museum to it as well, judging by the catalog covers, Lee Valley must have a great tool collection. Well, enough picking – time to do some organization before the next Tools of the Trades show in October.


Out picking!

Fewer posts for the next while. Off for vacation and picking in Maine. Hope to visit Liberty Tool Co., the Maine Antique Festival, and Lie Nielsen. Should be loads of fun, maybe I’ll blog from along the way if I can figure out how to use the WordPress for iPad app! Maybe a couple of special block planes, or that Millers Falls or Sargent tool that just speaks to me.

The Ohio Tool Co. No.9½ block plane

I recently acquired an Ohio Tool Company No.9½ from Jim Bode Tools. Block planes from Ohio Tool are not that easy to come by, and while it seems like the designation 9½ would stigmatize it, it has some rather interesting features which set it apart from the Stanley 9½ and its kin. As the patents ran out on the Stanley planes, Ohio Tools began manufacturing several of their models. The plane has a maroon paint finish on both the body and the lever cap. There is rumour that these maroon planes emanated from the ‘Thistle’ brand of the Auburn Tool Co., which merged with Ohio Tool Co. in 1893. The trademark on the planes blade is marked “Ohio Tool Co.”, Auburn N.Y., so it is likely the plane was manufactured there under the auspices of the Ohio Tool Co.


Fig 1: The Ohio 9½

One of the most identifiable features is the swivelling lateral blade adjustment mechanism. I first saw this on a Keen Kutter KK60, which makes sense, as Ohio Tools manufactured planes for The Simmons Hardware Company. Other Ohio planes, including the No.220 sported the swivelling mechanism in their early renditions. This is an early version of the No.9½, circa 1901 – later versions from a 1910 catalog moved to the more traditional Stanley type “curved lever” lateral blade adjustment mechanism.


Fig 2: All the parts

The mechanism is quite unique amongst block planes. It made its appearance in a patent received in 1901 (No.680,055) – although employing a lever with a flat end instead of the rounded one found in this plane. Fig.3 shows the plan and profile of the mechanism from the patent. Depth-adjustment of the blade is achieved by means of a rack-and-pinion mechanism. The rack is attached to the bottom of the blade (Fig.3 – b), and the pinion section which engages it is attached to the lever (Fig.3 – d). Raising the lever lowers the blades, whilst depressing the lever raises the blade. Lateral adjustment is by means of a carriage (Fig.3 – g) which pivots around a central point (Fig.3 – h) upon a support structure (Fig.3 – m). The same lever used for depth adjustment (which is attached to the carriage) can be moved from side to side to achieve lateral adjustment.


Fig 3: Extracts from the patent showing both depth and lateral adjustment mechanisms.

Basically, in operation lengthwise adjustment of the blade is achieved by moving the lever vertically, while moving the lever crosswise moves the carriage upon its pivot and lateral adjustment is effected. At the same time a second patent (No.680,056) was also received for a similar mechanism, however the rack-and-pinion style depth adjustment mechanism had been replaced with a more commonly seen slide actuated by a screw. By the time this No.9½ had gone into production, the rack had been integrated into the blade as a series of rectangular holes, the number of teeth in the pinion had been reduced to from 3 to 2, and the lever had been modified to an “acorn” finial type. The first two of these modifications likely were driven by cost, and a simplification of the manufacturing process. The modification of the end of the lever may have been occasioned by the need to move laterally, something the flat lever in the original patent could achieve – but not in a comfortable manner.


Fig 4: Blade adjustment mechanisms

The other two interesting features are the simple lever for adjusting the size of the mouth, and the circular “handi” grip on the sides of the plane.


Fig 5: Other fun features

By 1910, ten years before the demise of Ohio Tools, the 0103, 0120, 0140 still sported the pivoting lateral adjustment using a rack-and-pinion. It appears the 060, 060½, 065, and 065½ all used pivoting adjustment, however using the “sled” and adjustment screw.


Manufactured: circa 1901-1905?
Patent No.: 680,055 (Aug. 6, 1901)
Length: 6″, catalog, actual 6¼”
Width: 1-7/8″
Blade: 1-5/8″
Construction: cast
Finish: paint (maroon)
Trimmings: paint (maroon)
Adjustable mouth: Yes
Depth adjustment: Yes (rack-and-pinion + lever)
Lateral adjustment: Yes (pivoting carriage)
Markings: 09½ on heel of the body


Fig 6: No.9½ in profile.

NB: Apart from the Catalog No.23 of 1910, there is very little written about Ohio Tools in the open literature.

The Antique Trader Tools Price Guide (2nd ed.) of 2007 cites the price of a No.9½ in fine condition with 100% japanning as US$303. But with the market what it is today, who knows what the validity of these prices really is.

Update on the Nest Protect – smoke/CO detector

In the spring I installed a second Nest Protect in the basement, just shortly before they were recalled for problems with the hand-waving to hush algorithm. Everything worked fine… until earlier this week. I bought a new dehumidifier and had it running in the middle of the basement to check it out. It’s a Frigidaire, and pushes the dehumidified air out through top of the machine. 15 minutes into running the machine, the Nest goes off… and not an advanced warning yellow, full blown RED status for smoke. It goes crazy, and I hush it – clearly there is no smoke, but I figure the slightly warm air from the dehumidifier has set the smoke alarm off. I took the dehumidifier outside and ran it there for a day, dehumidifying the city, *just* to make sure it worked okay. Okay, so I call up Nest and they say that’s how it is suppose to react, and I should move the Nest to the stairwell, due to the low (finished) basement height etc. So I did that – shortly after which it told me its batteries were low. Okay, so I bought new ones, but at C$15 for 4, Energizer Ultimate Lithium aren’t exactly cheap – C$25 to replace the batteries every time this thing has a hissy fit? Okay – all good, or SO ONE WOULD THINK. At 4am the following morning it alerts all the devices I have it hooked up to that the sensor has failed. After all this hassle, you can guess what’s happening to this puppy – it’s going back to Nest for a refund. Yes, I could have cleaned the sensor – but I shouldn’t have to go through the hassle – thats too low a maintainability factor.

I’m keeping the 120V version, because it seems to work okay – there is just too much technology and power consumption for the battery version to operate efficiently. Back to old-school smoke detectors. I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to technology (and I do it for a living) – and I gave it a chance – but I don’t think the battery version is 100% consumer ready. Why does the voice and auditory alarm drain the battery so quickly… maybe the battery version doesn’t need voice? As for the Nest Thermostat – well I won’t be buying one of those either – not because I don’t think it’s a good product but because of one feature – it doesn’t allow me to switch off (on the thermostat) my air-conditioner in summer. I only run it when it’s really hot/humid and otherwise I prefer to have it turned off. When they add this ability, I’ll consider getting one. Sorry Nest.