Too many things = collection

This is a question I ask myself a lot. Is it when going into your workshop seems overwhelming? Maybe it’s impossible to have too many tools. Maybe the problem is collecting. Ahhh… that’s it.

c   o   l   l   e   c   t   i   n   g

It”s such a simple thing. You start with one block plane. You get a second. before you know it you have ten of them, and you think, hey, why not start a collection. Then you have 20. 30. 40. You start to think of sub-categories – a nice collection of pressed-steel block planes? Maybe block planes from Sargent? Maybe aluminum block planes. Partially collecting provides a sense of preserving the past, and is there anything wrong with that? It happens in other things. Books? Why *not* collect mysteries set in Ancient Rome? Or books on tools. Cookbooks? Everyone has their own thing. I’m sure there are people that collect French copper pans.

The question of course is to define what “too many tools” is. Is 90 block planes to many? What about a couple of hundred No.4 smoothers, or a thousand different hammers? But collecting isn’t just about the physical object, it is also about exploring toolmakers, tool studies, tool design and aesthetics, and looking at how tools have evolved. As time progresses, collecting may become harder, as your collection fills up, and rare pieces become harder to find (or more costly). A tool collection is a living entity, implements which can be used – not every piece in a collection has to be a museum piece.

Or if you can’t get over the collecting bug, then maybe join the worlds largest tool collecting organization, the Mid-West Tool  Collectors Association. I think I might just join myself.




Fixing a European wooden plane (i) – analysis

The European jointer plane I bought for $20 has some issues. Foremost is the fact that the rear portion of the sole is de-laminating. Likely not that unusual, considering  the style of the “V” joint used, which is simpler than other European methods of laminating a sole to the body of a plane.

Below is view of the wound on the side of the plane, Due to the angle of the grooves (which seems about 70°), it produces a wavy pattern on the side of the plane. This can lead to damage along the ends of the grooves (which can be seen below).

The second issue has to do with some cracks which show up in the ends of the plane. Wooden planes are of course subject to drying, and wood contraction, like any wooden structure. This could have occurred due to a quick construction, or it being stored in a dry environment. Either way, the cracks do not seem to pose a huge problem for the plane, as they have not surfaced. For a tool that is likely 100 years old, this isn’t terrible.

There are no cracks in the throat of the plane. This part of the plane is just grimy.

The third major issue has to do with the plane’s handle, which for one is slightly off-centre (a sign of reduced quality?), and has a slight vertical warp, likely due to the cracking present in the handle.

The handle is joined to the body of the plane with two (rusted) screws. Is this a sign of reduced quality?

Last but not least, the plane blade is covered in corrosion.

Deciphering an Austrian wooden plane

Last fall I bought a 60cm wooden jointer plane made by Johann Weiss & Son, from Vienna (Austria). It is challenging finding wooden planes made in Europe, and for C$20, it was a bargain.

The date at which this company was founded seem a little vague. After reading the literature, it seems as though the factory was founded in the 1820s by Bavarian cabinetmaker Johann Baptist Weiss, who emigrated to Vienna in 1809. The plane is a “Doppel-Rauhbankhobel mit Griff” – jointer plane (1909).

In the 1861 catalog, this plane was marked as a No.474, with a double-blade, and depth adjustment mechanism. This plane is likely constructed of beech, and has a laminated sole, which is laminated using a “V” shaped series of diagonal groves. The plane is stamped with the companies logo

The trademark on the blade is an Austrian eagle above a C-clamp surrounded by the company name. Apparently, prior to taking over iron manufacturer Franz Wertheim in 1911, plane irons were supplied by the firm Herman, and therefore have HERMAN stamped on the iron. This blade lacks that marking, so I would imagine it was manufactured after 1911. The art for the trademark on the blade seems to have been modified in 1897.

There are some cracks in the handle (which is also slightly warped), and there is de-lamination of the sole at one end, but I will try and re-glue it (a future post). This plane is likely constructed of beech, and has a laminated sole, which is laminated using a “V” shaped series of diagonal groves( as shown below).




Evolution of the knuckle lever-cap (iii)

Of the knuckle lever-caps, two were designed very similar to Stanley, from the perspective of appearance: Record and Millers Falls. The first of these is that of Record (U.K.), which produced a knuckle lever cap similar to that of Stanley, but with a different mechanism on their No.018, 019, and 0230 block planes, The No.018 was manufactured from 1934 to 1967, the No.019 from 1934 to 1943, and the No.0230 from 1932 to 1943.

The cam mechanism is almost identical to that of Stanley.

Millers Falls also produced a few knuckle-lever block planes: the No.47 (1929-1948), and the No.36, and No.37 (1929-1961), the latter two analogous to the Stanley No.18, and No.19 respectively. From the visual perspective, there is nothing which separates this knuckle lever cap from that of Stanley, or Record.

The difference lies in the cam mechanism which exists under the lever cap. There are three core differences:

  • Unlike the Stanley KLC which uses one cam-point, the Millers Falls uses two points which contact the blade when the cam mechanism is activated.
  • The mechanism has three parts, as opposed to the four of Stanley. The cam lever is joined to the base plate by means of a pivot which moves along a grove.
  • The point of contact with the underside of the palm-rest is also different, in the Millers Falls plane it sits to the rear of the lever cap.



Evolution of the knuckle lever-cap (ii)

The problems with the original knuckle lever were alleviated with a re-design. The design was presented in patent No. 1,053,270, granted on Feb.18, 1913, and became the standard knuckle lever-cap going forth. Interestingly, Stanley also submitted two other patents for knuckle levers caps, that were granted on the same day: patent No.1,053,274 and 1,053,356. A fourth patent, No. 1,069,669 was issued on August 12, 1913. None were ever implemented on a block plane. Here is a drawing of the knuckle lever-cap showing the improved cam lever mechanism under the lever cap.

Fig.1: The enhanced knuckle lever cap

The original simple two-piece lever cap was replaced with a four-piece lever cap. The lever cap is affixed to the plane via a “cap screw”, as in most other block planes. The cap screw is attached to a threaded boss projecting upwards from the “frog” of the plane. The two main components of the lever cap are the “base plate” and palm rest. The lower “base plate” has a forward edge which engages with the forward edge of the blade. The base plate is attached to the upper hollow convexed palm rest by means of a pivot pin. The image below are some schematics from the patent document, illustrating how the knuckles lever cap sits on the plane, and its two positions.

Fig. 2: A longitudinal section through a block plane showing the improved Stanley knuckle mechanism.

The portion of the base plate which continues under the palm rest has a key-hole slot, and towards the rear end is provided with a second slot through which the cam-lever mechanism extends. The locking mechanism for the lever cap is comprised of two parts. The first part is a lever which has a cam at the lower portion, and is shouldered at the upper end. This lever is attached via a pivot pin to the tail end of the base plate, and to a bearing bracket on the underside of the palm rest by means of a set of  links secured by pivot pins.

Fig 3: The lever cap showing both positions.

With the blade situated in the optimal position, the base plate is seated over the head of the cap screw. With the enlarged portion of the key-hole slot positioned over the head of the cap screw, the lever is moved upwards to bring the cap screw into the narrow portion of the key-hole slot. At this point the palm rest is in the raised position (dashed lines in Fig.2 & 3). The palm rest is now moved downwards towards the blade. This movement of the palm rest will cause the locking mechanism to move the lower cam forward and into “frictional” contact with the blade. This action will cause the blade  to be clamped in its seat.

Fig 4: A close-up of the clamping mechanism

One of the issues with the original design for the knuckle lever cap was the palm rest disengaging from the cap screw. The keyhole slot in this design prevents this from happening, however to prevent the cap loosening, there is a secondary mechanism. When the lever cap is locked into place, the palm rest moves its aperture over the head of the cap screw (see photo below), so that the sides of the palm rest form what the patent terms “an annular locking shoulder engaging the abutment formed by the head of the cap screw”. Here is a view of a “Sweetheart” version of the knuckle lever cap locked in place. With this design, there was no way for the lever cap to slip once locked.

Fig.5: Sweet-heart knuckle lever cap

The interesting thing about Patent No.1,053,270 is that it outlines more than  one improvement for clamping mechanisms within the lever cap, however only one seems to have been implemented.


Evolution of the knuckle lever-cap (i)

The Stanley No.18 is one of those beautiful block planes, partially due to the polished knuckle-joint lever cap. The history of the knuckle lever-cap dates back to Patent No.355,031 issued in 1886. Invented by Samuel D. Sargent, for the Stanley Rule and Level Company, the patent was issued for improvements in “…the manner of holding the cutter bit within the stock”. More specifically, the patent was for a lever cap which can be “clamped by fewer and more direct motions“.

What Stanley proceeded to do was put the lever cap on the No.9½, and the No.15, effectively producing the No.18, and 19 planes. These planes then first appeared in the catalog of 1888. The planes had the requisite “excelsior” style rear-biased cheek.

The first version of the lever cap was comprised of two parts. The upper portion, or clamping lever,  was designed to sit in the palm of the hand, and has a two-pronged fork-like connector near the “knuckle” joint which engages the “headed screw” projecting from a threaded hole in the plane stock. Engaging the screw and pushing down on the knuckle would engage the lower portion of the lever cap, or “holding cap” (wedge). The clamping lever is connected to the holding cap by means of a pintle. When the clamping lever is depressed, the lever fulcrums on the underside of the screw head, and presses the holding-cap down upon the blade.

However, this design is severely flawed in that it usually does not engage effectively, and if the screw is not adjusted properly, can pop open.  If treated harshly, the prongs can also break off. These caps generally have the patent date “PAT. DEC.28.86” embossed on the lower portion of the lever cap. The knuckle lever was replaced with a four-piece lever cap that slips over the lever cap retaining screw, and the “spoon” portion of the lever cap then places pressure on the blade when it is snapped into place. A comparison of the two lever caps is shown below.

The original knuckle lever cap versus the redesigned version.


The Rapier pressed-steel smoothing plane

Sometimes one finds things by accident. That was the was for this Rapier pressed-steel smoothing plane. The Rapier series of planes was manufactured by the Anglo Scottish Tool Company Ltd., of Team Valley, Gateshead 11 in England. The planes produces by this company are considered to be budget planes. They generally had components that would be considered somewhat rougher than similar tools from Stanley or Record. They are generally heavier than their Stanley cousins, and usually have handles made of “shockproof plastic” (not Bakelite).

The company produced a range of bench planes (No.400 & 450 Smooth, No.500 Jack, No.600 Fore, and No.700 Jointer), block planes, and plough planes in the 1950s and 1960s. The company’ logo has a rapier in it, X, but beyond that not much is written about the company. There is a photo of the factory in Gateshead Team Valley.

The plane is a pressed steel bench plane, one of a number of these smoothing planes manufactured over the years by different companies. It has the classic Rapier red colour scheme, and nickel-plated lever cap.

The thickness of the pressed steel is 9/80″, roughly twice the thickness of the pressed steel Stanley No.104 “Liberty Bell”, which is 1/20″ (0.8/16″).

The plane is based on two UK patents : No.634,026 of March 15, 1950, and No.631,568 of Nov. 4, 1949. (it seems these are the only patents filed by the Anglo Scottish Tool Company). The plane is described  in detail in patent No.631,568:

this plane has a body which is formed from a steel pressing, in place of the more usual iron or steel casting

The plane body is constructed of two main parts: a pressed steel plane body, and a thick frog (or rather support plate) which is welded to the sides of the body. The front knob and rear handle are constructed of plastic, and attached via stems which are welded to the upper surface of the sole. The handles are attached to the stems using capping nuts. The lever cap is also constructed of pressed steel, and is nickel plated.

The lever cap, and the support plate used to rest the blade on.

Two of the most interesting aspects of this plane is the lever cap, and accompanying blade adjustment mechanism. The depth adjustment mechanism is very similar to the Norris-style adjuster. In the photographs below-left, one can see the cap iron with the plane iron fastened behind it. The plane iron has an elongated opening, which registers with the keyhole slot in the cap iron and is held in place with a bolt. This bolt is hollow to register with the pin of the blade adjustment mechanism. The photograph below-right shows the support plate, with the moveable adjustment pin projecting through the opening in the plate. The second patent No.634,026 relates to the cutting/backing iron arrangement.


The support plate

The blade adjustment mechanism provides both depth adjustment, longitudinally into and from the throat, and laterally across the throat. On the back side of the supporting plane there is a pivotally mounted block, through which passes a rotatable adjusting screw. The adjusting screw has a finger knob at the upper end to allow adjustment of the blade, and at the lower end is threaded into a nut assembly comprising a support plate, and the pin which engages with the blade/backing iron assembly. In this way, the adjusting screw can be pivoted laterally to move the blade laterally, or rotated to move the blade longitudinally.

The blade adjustment mechanism