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.

stanley15_profile

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.

stanley15_markings

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.

stanley15_rust

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.

LT_coll1

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

LT_coll2

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.

libertyT_buys

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).

other_buys

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.

ohio9_5_view

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.

ohio9_5_xplo

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.

ohio9_5_patent

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.

ohio9_5_adjmech

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.

ohio9_5_features

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.

SPECS

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

ohio9_5_profile

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.

What does #9½ mean?

Ever wonder where tool companies got the numbers they associated with planes from? Did they make them up? Where did the nomenclature of a No.9½ come from? Or 9¼ or 9¾ for that matter. The first “block” plane Stanley numbered, the #9, likely was given that number due to its development after the bench planes 1-8. Although technically a miter-type plane, the No.9 was actually 10″ in length. The 9½ was 6″ in length. So there doesn’t seem to be real rhyme nor rhythm for the numbering  scheme, other than the fact that it was sequential.

The Stanley No.9½ in the guise of the Excelsior block plane was introduced in 1873, at the same time as the No.9¾ Excelsior – which really only differed by having a Rosewood detachable rear handle. The No.15, appeared in 1876, being 1″ longer than the No.9½ – as did its sidekick, the No.15½ sporting the same detachable rear handle as the No.9¾. One would like to believe there was a pattern here, but that would imply a “whole” number for the core plane, and a ½ or ¾ appended for some improvement, be it a handle, or different finishing. The No.9¼ when introduced in 1947 had less features than the No.9½.

  • 9¼ (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) – adjustable mouth
  • 9½ (6″, 1¾” blade)
  • 9¾ (6″, 1¾” blade) + detachable rear handle

We see a similar situation with Stanley’s low-angle (12º) block planes, although here the indication of ½ implies a reduction in features (i.e. quality):

  • 60 (6″, 1½” blade, 1-3/8″ after 1914)  nickel plated trim
  • 60½ (6″, 1½” blade) – japanned trim
  • 61 (6″, 1-3/8″ blade) – adjustable mouth, + rosewood front knob

Another interesting group of block planes are the No.18’s. Whilst they used prefixes to denote a change in the material used to form the plane body, the No. 18¼ again signified a reduction in features:

  • 18 (6″, 1¾” blade, 1-5/8″ after 1909) knuckle-joint lever cap
  • A18 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) aluminum version
  • S18 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) pressed steel version
  • 18¼ (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) – adjustable mouth
  • 19 (7″, 1-5/8″ blade)

Leonard Bailey had a similar numbering system for his Victor series block plane (introduced in 1875), and there is somewhat of a progression in the schema (No.0 is the base model).

  • 0 (7″, 1¾” blade) japanned
  • 0½ (7″, 1¾” blade) + blade adjustment
  • 00 (7″, 1¾” blade) + nickel-plated
  • 000 (7″, 1¾” blade) + nickel-plated, blade adjustment

Bailey had a similar schema, where the No.1 is the base model).

  • 1 (6″, 1¾” blade) adjustable mouth, adjustable blade, polished
  • 1¼ (6″, 1¾” blade) + detachable rear handle
  • 1½ (6″, 1¾” blade) + detachable rear handle, nickel-plated
  • 1¾ (6″, 1¾” blade) + nickel-plated

NB: In the examples above, bold denotes a base model, a – denotes a feature lost (or downgrade in the case of finishing), and + denotes a feature gained, (or upgrade in the case of finishing).

What is interesting is how so many other manufacturers copied not only Stanley’s plane, but also their nomenclature, including the Ohio Tool Company. Holdouts include Sargent, whose block planes started at 1XX, and Millers Falls whose numbering seemed all over the place. For example, the MF No.9½ was actually a scrub-plane, the MF equivalent of the Stanley No.9½ was the No.16, and the MF equivalent of the Stanley No.15 was the No.17. Somewhat wacky, but maybe that was to make them stand-out as they were latecomers to the plane-making game (and their bench planes did not conform either). When it comes to numbering planes, maybe Sargent had the best approach – here’s an example of the Sargent No.306 and its derivatives (with reference to the Sargent catalog of 1910):

  • 306 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) adjustable mouth, adjustable blade, polished trimmings
  • 1306 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) + nickel-plated trimmings
  • 4306 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) + knuckle-joint lever cap
  • 5306 (6″, 1-5/8″ blade) + knuckle-joint lever cap, nickel-plated trimmings

Numbering of block planes may seem like a trivial thing to think about, but it goes to show how a simple modification to a block plane sprouted a new number, and led to the profusion of block planes on offer. Why did manufacturers develop such a variety of different block planes? Would not have one or two done the same job? Stay tuned.

 

Les Rabots – a brief review of a French book on planes.

I recently had the chance to browse through an excellent book on planes – although browse is the operative word here – I can’t read French, and that’s the caveat with this particular book, it’s all in French. But if you can look beyond that, there is some exceptional information in this book. The book Les Rabots is written by Pierre Bouillot and Xavier Chatellard – rabot being the French word for plane.

les_rabots

The cover of the book “Les Rabots”

It is a seminal work, partially because of the breadth of information about European planes. There are some catalogs on European plane manufacturers floating around the place – but they are hard to come by. I blame two world wars for helping to decimate the amount of historical ephemera (and tools) that is left in Europe. The book starts with a discussion of classical planes with an emphasis on Roman planes, and goes on to discuss the plane-making industry, from a French perspective. We sometimes forget that Europeans were making wooden planes, and infill planes, by way of the Romans, way before Stanley introduced the metal planes in the 19th century. There is a breadth of information on the developments in French plane making in the 18th and 19th century, and an insight into some unusual plane designs.

There are four main sections in this 300+ page book:

  1. L’historie – the history and manufacture of planes, with a large section on French planes.
  2. La technique – ways of using the planes.
  3. La typologie – the topology of planes, e.g. metal planes.
  4. La collection – trademarks of plane makers.
pic3

Sample pages from L’historie and La typologie

Les Rabots also contains a large compendium of manufacturers trademarks, which concentrates on French plane makers, but also plane makers from all over Europe, and North America. The concentration is French plane-makers – but the major work done in planes, was likely concentrated on France and Germany.

blog_pic2

Examples of the manufacturers trademarks.

The book contains in-depth information likely available no where else. There are sections on auxiliary planing devices such as shooting boards, and cut-away diagrams of various plane types, showing their typology.

blog_pic1

Examples of plane cut-aways.

At $200 on Abebooks, it’s not going to be for everyone (it is available amazon.fr for €85), but the sort of information in this book, is likely unavailable anywhere else. It would be great to see an English translation sometime in the future.