A horned plane from E. A. Berg

Late last year I  had the fortune of purchasing a horned wooden smoothing plane from Swedish manufacturer E.A. Berg (Eskilstuna) on eBay. The plane is in exceptional condition.

Looking in a circa 1940’s catalog, it seems that the plane fits the “Putshyvlar” category with a double blade. The plane is 240mm in length, with a width of 55mm, and a blade width of 45mm.

Planes from E.A.Berg are interesting because the wooden bodies are usually made by a third-party European supplier (typically Danish, or German).

The interesting thing about this plane it the fact that the horn in the front is detachable. Was it always meant to be? It attaches to the body using a dovetail type fit.

The plane is 9-5/8″ in length, and 2-3/16″ wide. The wood seems to be a fruitwood, incredibly grain-free, with a beautiful patina.

The main iron is tapered, and is 1¾” wide. The blade is marked “Erik Anton Berg Eskilstuna Garanti“. The trademark on the blade is a Wels catfish (Sirulus Glanis), which pre-dated the “shark logo”, and is recognizable by the dovetailed tail. For a full discussion of the catfish/shark logo, check out this exceptional article by Kim Malmberg.

The chip breaker is much smaller than the iron. The chip breaker  is stamped with an ornate trademark displaying images of the various gold medals (“Guldmedaljer”) won at the  World Exhibition in Stockholm in 1897, and Paris in 1900. According to the years mentioned on the accompanying chipbreaker, this logotype variation could have been in use post 1900, but before the shark-like fish was added..

The stamp on the plane “VAREMÆRKE” means trademark. The wooden body is made by a maker with a unknown trademark from Aalborg, Denmark.

All in all a nice plane.



Re-siding the shed

The shed in my backyard is over 10 years old now, and I have been slowly renovating it over the last couple of years. The original siding was inexpensive pine (6″, rabbeted)  that I attached directly to the plywood carcass, i.e. no furring strips. The siding was stained years ago, and just looked tired, and I wanted to allow it to breath better, so I decided to replace it with something that will last the remainder of the shed’s life. So I ordered some 6″ rabbeted siding from Quebec company Maibec. The old siding went to a good home, to be re-cycled into a new shed. One benefit of this siding is that it comes pre-painted – factory painted lumber is great because it has been added in an environment-controlled facility, and is painted all-six-sides. Another benefit is that there is a whole bunch of matching trim. Even the nails to attach the siding come colour-matched.

A half complete wall.

Maibec have a bunch of different options, and a bunch of different systems, and I have to say the material is a pleasure to work with. The siding is kiln-dried spruce-fir, as opposed to generic siding that is a hodge-podge of species, and often warped. I used 1×3 furring strips, aligned with the 2×6 walls, so 14-16″ apart. The siding is attached using ring shank nails, and Maibec provide a special plastic hammer-cap to prevent marring the nails. They also provide a multitude of perforated ventilation strips for the top and bottom of walls to allow for ventilation behind the siding, and preventing pests from entering.

Ventilation strips

It is not inexpensive (likely C$6 a square foot all in for materials), but there are inherent labour savings from not having to paint the siding, and deal with warped siding.

Framing a picture

Sometimes when we travel we go to art galleries. I’m not a big fan of modern art, but I do have a soft spot for those large historical landscapes, the ones that are 6’×8′ or larger. However the one thing that I always find fascinating, but most people likely ignore, are the frames. These masterpieces are usually just used to support the picture, but they should be on show by themselves. The frame makes the picture. Their intricate hand-carved details, and gilded surfaces, like the paintings they frame are a slice of history we may never build in the same way again.

Block planes: Stanley No.18 (and No.19) (i)

The Stanley No.18, and No.19, first appeared in the 1888 Stanley catalog as “Improved Block Planes”. They were essentially the No.9½ and No.15 with knuckle lever caps, with nickel platted trimmings. The knuckle lever was the result of an 1886 patent (No.355,031). The planes had the requisite “excelsior” style rear-biased cheek. When first released they had the following characteristics (this discussion is geared towards the No.18, but the evolution of the No.19 is similar).:

  • Excelsior body shape.
  • Lateral adjustment lever.
  • Bailey depth adjustment mechanism.
  • Blades with rounded heads (as opposed to tapered)
  • Adjustable mouths.

Common to all types are three forms of adjustment mechanisms: blade lateral, blade depth, and mouth adjustment. Block planes don’t exactly have the same type studies as bench planes.

Fig 1: The original No.18 from the 1888 catalog.

The “Type 1” planes were only manufactured for a one-year period. The planes have an excelsior-style plane body, and are differentiated by having a lateral adjustment lever with an “integral upward projecting rib”, to shift the blade from side-to-side. This lever was the result of a patent assigned to J.A. Traut in 1888 (Patent No. 376,455).

Patent No. 376,455

This form of the No.18 incorporated an adjustable throat, however no mechanism for performing the adjustment – the front brass finger rest would need to be loosened and the sliding plate adjusted manually, before being tightened again.

In 1889, the Type 1 was modified with the incorporation of a new lateral adjustment lever, replacing the “integral projecting rib”, with a circular disk. This change was based on two patents issued to Traut: No. 306,877, issued on October 21, 1884, and Patent No. 386,509 for a “Lateral Lever with Rotary Disk”, issued July 24, 1888.

There were a number of changes in the catalog of 1898 associated with improvements in features (Fig.2):

  • The addition of the “Hand-y” indentations to the sides of the plane. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • A modification of the No.18’s body so that the sides have a centred “hump” profile, as opposed to the classic Excelsior shape. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • The addition of eccentric throat adjustment lever. (Patent No.515,063, 1894)

Fig 2: The No.18 with improved features from the 1898 catalog.

Of course the problem with catalogs is that they didn’t come out every year, so that changes were sometimes offered prior to their appearance in a catalog, or may not have appeared in a catalog at all. For example, Stanley was still producing a No.18 with the Excelsior body, eccentric lever, and original lever cap, in the 1898 catalog – a sort of “souped-up” Excelsior (Fig.3).

Fig 3: The updated “excelsior” No.18 from the 1898 catalog.

There have however been appearances of the No.18’s with Excelsior bodies that have a Hand-y, as shown below.

Excelsior with Hand-y (linked from jimbodetools.com)



Tools of the Trades show round-up (spring 2018)

I honestly don’t think I have ever seen as many people at the TotT recently. It was almost hard to move inside, people were everywhere, at least for the first 90 minutes or so. There was a good selection of tools, however I’ll have to be honest and say that I didn’t find much of anything that really appealed to me. I ended up with a booklet on Stanley’s combination planes, and an early Stanley No.18 block plane. I am either looking for block planes that are hard to find, or European tools (and the only ones you can really find are Eskilstuna chisels sets that are still a bit too rich for my taste). My goal is to eventually replicate some of the European wooden planes (largely the ones from the Nordic countries), but I digress…

Ironically there were an abundance of combination planes, mostly Stanley’s: 55’s, 45’s etc. – and I didn’t see too many people lugging them about. A bunch of vises, lots of axes, chisels, and of course bench planes galore (and moulding planes too, by the bucket load). I don’t need too many more bench planes (block planes *don’t count*), and I generally don’t buy saws. There are some super cool bench planes there….

The one cool thing I saw was a 6 foot Starrett caliper which some guy was trying to sell… if I had known he would take $125, I would have scooped it up! But I was a tad too late. There was also a blacksmith there, and he looked to have some really cool stuff (see pic below), from handmade holdfasts, to saws, and dividers.

It was a fun couple of hours, but sometimes the fall show is a little better than the spring show. Next we’re off to the Christie Antiques Show in May (not for tools), and then if I’m lucky maybe I’ll scrounge up some tools on our summer trip to Scotland.