Stanley vs. Veritas block planes

Surprisingly, another block plane possesses  elements of the No.60½A  – and it is manufactured by Veritas – the Standard block plane. Look similar? There are two notable aspects of the similarity. One is the use of the circular “Hand-y”, although this was not unique to Stanley. The Ohio Tool Co. first introduced the use of circular depressions in the side of the planes body, in complete contrast to Stanley’s elliptical Hand-y. The second aspect is the body itself, which has a very similar profile.


The Stanley 60½A versus the Veritas Standard block plane

It was easy for Veritas to adopt the circular Hand-y, as the Stanley patent filed in 1979 made no mention of the use of a circular depression, and nor could they considering they were not the first to use it. Not did they patent the peculiar shape of the plane.

A novel Stanley block plane

Picked up a rare Stanley block plane from the U.K. – a No. 60½A. These were manufactured in the U.K. in the 1980s, and distributed predominantly in the Commonwealth (not sold in the U.S.). This plane shows one of the few attempts at innovative design in block planes between the 1960s and the late 1990s.


The No. 60½A, was subject to a UK patent (No.2046650A), received in 1980. The patent dealt with the unique lateral adjustment lever, and not with the more unique lever cap cam-clamping mechanism.


Plan and profile view from UK patent No.2046650A

The No. 60½A, is unique in a number of ways. Firstly the profile of the plane diverts from the standard block plane profile, with a less normalized curve (looks more like a gentle undulating hill). The body also has a circular “Hand-y”, similar to the block planes of the Ohio Tool Co. The blade lateral adjustment mechanism can be pivoted from side to side using the rear tabs.


Plane in profile, and the blade adjustment mechanism

The second unique feature, and the one which is likely weirdest from a design perspective is the lever cap mechanism. The lever cap feels quite light, I would almost say it was constructed of aluminum. The brass tab used to cam- lock the lever cap in place – in the vertical position it locks the lever cap in place, when pushed forward it unlocks the lever cap. No other manufacturer has ever used this form of cam-lock.


Lever cap locking mechanism: locked (left) and unlocked

The plane is hefty, weighing in at 650g (≈23oz), and is extremely comfortable to use. It has a throat adjustment mechanism, but the eccentric lever is attached to the body of the plane, and cannot be removed. Overall, I like the aesthetics of this plane, even though it does seem somewhat “clunky”. The eccentric lever lacks the “finesse” of older planes, and even the brass knobs of the throat and depth adjustment mechanisms seem somewhat awkward.


Throat adjustment eccentric lever, and depth adjustment mechanism.

It almost has a retro feel to it.

Old tool packages

Many tool companies sold their planes, and other tools in boxes. Not like the boxes that tools are packaged in nowadays. These are *cool* boxes. They were mostly made out of pasteboard, of the full-lid-lift-top variety. The most interesting features are the ID labels at the ends of the boxes. Often colour-coded based on the type of tool, or the manufacturer.


The boxes were formed by folding the pasteboard and covering with a layer of paper. The boxes were often orange, as in the case of Stanley, or red for Millers Falls. Stanley introduced the orange boxes around 1900, with dark green labels with white text. The earliest of these boxes had a picture of the tool on them, which disappeared around WWI.


These days its hard to find original tools still in their boxes, except for “new” old stock, or tools from a collection. Often I imagine the boxes were just thrown away, or used for other purposes. The periodical “The Iron Age” (1893) mentions that “empty pasteboard boxes will form very practical and welcome receptacles for nails and different hardware”. Nowadays tools, when they come in boxes, are in utilitarian corrugated cardboard boxes. Nothing at all interesting, I have to think something has been lost along the way.

Just for interests sake, here are two boxes, one from Veritas, the other from Lie-Nielsen. Nothing super-exciting about these boxes.


Tools of the Trades – Fall 2016 review

The first two hours of the tool show are always busy, like swarming bees, tool aficionados looking for good deals. Plenty on offer again, depending on your tasks. Quite a large assortment of vises, of many sorts, including Record, and pattern makers vises.


Also very popular this show was Swedish chisels, often in complete sets – not for the faint-of-heart though, as they are quite expensive (but still likely cheaper, and in better condition than you will find anywhere).


Vintage and newer Japanese tools, especially planes. Very nice looking tools, but extremely expensive.


Lots of hammers as well.


The usual assortment of planes, planes and more planes. Have to say, some were a bargain. One dealer had an assortment of No.4s to No.7s on sale from $40-$100. Easy to pick up a set of 3 planes for $200 – excellent value.


And of course the usual assortment of the tools. I was looking for a frame saw, which I had no success with. I did end up with a couple of rasps (which are hard to find, large because they are often recycled into other tools), a couple of chisels (one of them the Beaver in the previous post), and two Stanley block planes.



Beaver chisels from Sweden

This chisel is from the Eskilstuna Municipality in Sweden. They are commonly found in Canada, and it is speculated that they were made by E.A. Berg.


Sidenote – beavers were hunted to extinction in Sweden by 1870. They were re-introduced starting in 1922.


Milled tooth files – Anyone seen this before?

Picked up this mill-toothed file (really a kind of float) at Tools of the Trades last Sunday. A very nice float, for $10… looks like it is brand new. This one has curved milled teeth, which has a shearing cut that minimizes tear-out. The tool-makers trademark is a 5-pronged trident of sorts?, Made in England. Anyone seen this maker?


Book Review: The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees

It is rare to find a book dedicated to one type of tree: the ash, but Robert Penn has done the tree justice in his book The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees (Particular Books, 2015). Ash is not that well known in the realms of wood, often overlooked by the likes of oak. In North America it is completely overshadowed by the ubiquitous maple.


Penn explores the use of ash by felling a 90ft high, 130 year old ash and seeing what could be produced from its lumber. The book chronicles his journey within Britain and overseas to find craftsmen who work with ash. Over the course of a year he describes how a number of objects are made and the artisans who make them. Early in the book Penn says that a “zero-waste policy” would steer the project, “to exalt the worth of a single tree”. Did he achieve this? I think so. At the and of the year his tree has yielded 45 different objects are made from a writer’s desk to panelling and kitchen worktops, chopping boards, bowls, spatulas, arrow shafts, tent pegs, a paddle, the list goes on.

The book is extremely well written, with chapters dedicated to a number of objects. The book is a mixture of insight into the working of  artisans such as Robin Wood (Britain’s best known wood turner), and historical discussion. For example, one learns that for 1000 years from AD 500, every person drank and ate every day from a wooden vessel turned on a lathe – the wooden bowl was one of their few possessions – and from 1100-1400 these were made predominantly of ash. There is a chapter about one of Ireland’s native games, hurling, and another that explores the difference between baseball bats made out of ash and maple.  If you are considering taking up woodworking, this book also provides a good insight into the physical characteristics of both trees in general, and ash in particular. Not every item made uses wood from Penn’s tree, sometimes because the tree is not young enough, which is deviates from the adage of “old growth is best for everything”. Sometimes, because threats facing the ash, like the Ash Borer, which often prohibits  transport of wood.

It is heartwarming to read a book dedicated to one type of tree, and the hope is that it will engender a more enlightened view of trees in general. The only thing missing is a few more illustrations. There are a some, but it would have been nice to have a 2-page sketch of all the things crafted out of the tree (maybe on the back of the cover, or a poster?).

Robert Penn, The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees, Particular Books, 2015 (ISBN: 978-1846148422)