The block planes of Record.

When one thinks of metal planes from the U.K., it is hard to ignore those made by Record. The British company C. & J. Hampton Ltd. registered the trademark “Record” in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1931 that the company began manufacturing planes, based on the the patterns of Stanley. As such, there is nothing inherently innovative about these block planes – their main selling point may have been the “TUNGSTEN STEEL cutting irons” (high-speed steel). These blades made of tungsten carbide were supposedly harder, more resistant to wear, and produced a keener cutting edge. The Tungsten also prevented grain growth in the steel, producing a small grain size, and making the steel more resistant to shock.



One of the interesting things about Record planes is their colour – painted surfaces on the body or lever cap are usually blue. The blue used in the original colour specification was known as “BS110 Roundel Blue”, yet it apparently varied in shade over the years, from a dark blue pre-war to light blue in later years. Record produced a number of block plane models, like many other plane manufacturers of the same era. This is quite astounding considering the smaller British market. Conversely Millers Falls, who started manufacturing planes a little earlier than Record, had a much larger repertoire. The numbering of the Record block planes suggests a direct correlation with the Stanley numbering system. There are some slight differences in the mechanisms used on some planes, but the planes are doppelgängers.

No.09½ – adjustable (lateral, depth), 6″ (1934-2004)
No.015 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 7″ (1934-1943)
No.016 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 6″ (1934-1943)
No.017 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 7″, nickel-plated lever cap (1934-1943)
No.018 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 6″, nickel-plated lever cap (1934-1967)
No.019 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 7″, nickel-plated lever cap (1934-1943)
No.0101 – non-adjustable, 3½” (1935-1943)
No.0102 – non-adjustable, 5½” (1932-1974)
No.0110 – non-adjustable, 7″ (1931-1994)
No.0120 - adjustable (depth), 7″ (1931-1982)
No.0130 – double-end non-adjustable, 8″ (1931-1982)
No.0220 – adjustable (depth), 7″ (1931-1994)
No.0230 – adjustable (lateral, depth), 6″, nickel-plated lever cap (1932-1943)


The initial four block planes increased to 13 by the late 1930’s, but wartime restrictions saw six of those models disappear (although some appeared in catalogs up until 1962). By the mid-1980’s there were three block planes left, augmented by the addition of a fourth:

No.60½ adjustable (lateral, depth), 6″, low-angle (1982-2004)


Tools of the Trades – Fall 2014 show roundup

There was excitement in the air, as usually precedes a tool show – but I have to say I was somewhat disappointed this show. It was probably because I didn’t exactly find anything truly bizarre or something that made me go “WOW”. I cruised   around the stalls for a couple of hours but ended up with a few block planes and a MF hand drill. Like always there were some tools in abundance – but seems like few were selling. This time I noticed quite a few vises – including vintage Record woodworking vises, and an abundance of Millers Falls hand drills. There were some reasonably nice infills, and a few Victor block planes that I had my eye on – but didn’t end up buying any. For the starter-collector/user there is always a lot of stuff.

Here are some snap-shots of the show.

ToT14_pics1 ToT14_pics2

I ended up buying four block planes: a Record 220, a Birmingham Plane Co. plane, a Keen Kutter K120, and a Stanley 120 (in excellent condition).


Stanley 120, Keen Kutter K120, Record 220, and Birmingham Plane Co. block planes

.. and a yet to be determined model Millers Falls hand drill. Oh and a very rusty Stanley 102 which was basically free when I bought the Keen Kutter – it will become fodder for the de-rusting experiments (which will progress soon).


The MF hand drill.



The block planes of Birmingham

The Birmingham Plane Company (also known as Birmingham Plane Mfg. Co.), located in Birmingham Connecticut, manufactured planes from  1884-1900, although the company existed from 1855 to 1891. In 1891 the company changed its name to the Derby Plane Co., and continued manufacturing until 1900, although many of the blades continued to carry the Birmingham markings. They made a variety of planes, yet little is known of the company beyond the interesting all-metal planes they made.

They produced five block planes:

  • Iron block plane: 3-1/4″, 4″, 5-3/8″
  • Adjustable iron block plane: 5-5/16″, 7″

I managed to pick up the 5-3/8″ plane at the Tools of the Trades this past weekend. Not in super exceptional example from the perspective of Japanning, but solid, and containing no cracks or other structural problems – which is always good considering the plane is over 100 years old.


The 5-3/8″ Birmingham block plane

The blade has the following marking : “B PLANE”, and otherwise the plane has no other markings. The body retains some Japanning, but the lever cap is almost bare. The blade depth adjustment mechanism is a simple lever pivoting on post, with two teeth that mesh with grooves on the rear of the blade, moving the blade up and down.


Blade support and depth adjustment, the BPLANE marking on the blade.


Parts of the plane

What is unique about this plane are its flared sides, which may have been designed this way to help the user maintain a grip on the block plane. The sides of the plane are bevelled 85º from the base of the plane. The plane also has a lever cap with a prominent hump.


Frontal view showing the flared sides, and profile showing the humped lever cap

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.