A Birmingham No.102 block plane

So I bought three planes from one of my favourite purveyors of fine tools Antiques of a Mechanical Nature. One was a plane from the Birmingham Plane Co. which operated from 1885-1900 in Birmingham, Connecticut (see previous post for more information on Birmingham planes). This is a Birmingham No.102, which is recognizable by the characteristic splayed, and curved side walls of the plane body. It is very similar to the unmarked Birmingham block plane discussed previously.


The plane uses a pivoting lever to allow for depth adjustment of the blade, and a unique under-mounted cam lever to keep the lever cap, and blade in place.


This plane was obviously well used, as the blade has been well worn down, although it still sports the signature “BPLANE” markings. The teeth on the pivot lever are also worn, one of the caveats of this design.


This is the same as the block plane I talked about in the post on Birmingham Plane Co. planes. The only difference being the level cap, which in that case is of the screw-down variety, which would likely place this as an earlier variant.

A beautiful gardening tool

It’s rare to find a garden tool that’s designed from an aesthetics point of view. Many years ago Lee Valley sold gardening tools designed by  a Canadian company. They were made from die-cast recycled aluminum, and manufactured by Allen Simpson Marketing & Design, Ltd. These tools are beautifully streamlined, and ergonomically designed. Here is a garden fork.


Here is the manufacturers stamp on the back of the back of the fork. The company made 2 ,3, and 4-tined forks, as well as hand shovels,



Woodworker Handbooks: the list

Here is the list of Woodworker Handbooks published by Evans Brothers Limited, starting in the late 1940s.

  • Practical Veneering  by Charles H. Hayward
  • Tools for Woodwork  by Charles H. Hayward
  • Woodwork Joints by Charles H. Hayward
  • Cabinet Making for Beginners by Charles H. Hayward
  • Carpentry for Beginners by Charles H. Hayward
  • Staining and Polishing by Charles H. Hayward
  • Practical Upholstery by C. Howes
  • Light Machines for Woodwork by Charles H. Hayward
  • Plastics for the Home Craftsman by Rodney Hooper
  • The Practical Wood Turner by F. Pain
  • English Period Furniture by by Charles H. Hayward
  • The Junior Woodworker by Charles H. Hayward

Note that a similar series of  books was published earlier in the 1920s and 30s by Evans Brothers, with the author as William Fairham. They have been reprinted by The Toolemera Press.

The block planes of superheroes (iv) – Miller Falls

Millers Falls were a late player into the realm of steel block planes, actually a later player into the plane-game as a whole. Although they were not without merit, and didn’t simply copy the designs of others such as Stanley. In both their steel block planes, they introduced an air of streamlining which is most noticeable in the lever caps. They used the same bevelled holes as “hand-y” finger grips, as Stanley. As mentioned, the nickel-plated lever caps really stand out, and would not exactly be trivial to stamp from metal, and are thus drop-forged.

(These planes are in pristine condition, likely never used).


The No.206, with a 20º bedding angle, was introduced circa 1940, and remained in circulation until 1959, when it was replaced by the No.206B. The lever cap was drop forged, so not pressed steel like some of the other steel block planes.


The plane suffers somewhat from a small usability issue – the shape of the lever cap interferes with the manipulation of the lever-cap thumbscrew (this problem still exists in the No.206B, but to a lesser extent). Conversely, the fact that this thumbscrew is low means that t does not poke up into the users palm. The frog on the No.206 is almost in the form of an arch, with two feet at either end that are spot welded to the plane base. This holds both the machine screw to retain the lever cap, and the depth adjustment mechanism.


From a cost perspective, the No.206 sold for $4.00 in the No. 49 catalog (1949), versus the more standard No.16 or No.56, which sold for $3.80.


Following the cancellation of the No.206, Millers Falls introduced the No.206B, with the only perceivable differences being the reduction of the bedding angle from 20º to 12º, and modification of the depth adjustment mechanism.


In contrast to the No.206, the No.206B has a one-piece moulded frog, which is also spot welded to the planes body. This is likely due to reduced complexity, and the low-angle stature of the plane.


Shelton pre-production smoother?

Summer a few years back I bought a weird looking plane whilst on holidays in the Finger Lakes, NY. It doesn’t have many markings, which makes it one of the most challenging planes to identify. It is a No. 04 smoothing plane with an iron body, aluminum lever cap, hardwood handles. It is 9″ in length, and 2″ in width, and has “P4” marked on the body behind the frog.


It seems to be based on US Patent# 1,914,609, Filed Feb.19, 1932, received June 20, 1933.


The patent shows a circular knurled knob, whereas this plane has the knob which is more of a curvilinear square. This knob has three characters, H, K, and 1 stamped on it.


Both the plane body and the lever cap have “PAT PDG”. Actual planes made after the patent have lever caps made of steel.


Easy Art Deco style crown moulding

One of the things you soon come to realize with a house is that no room is square. This is particularly true of old houses, but also of new builds. Every corner might be a couple of degrees out of whack. Now in an old house, add 90+ years of settle, and ceilings aren’t exactly flat either. So when it comes to putting up crown moulding it can be a NIGHTMARE. I’ve done it once with a typical curved moulding in my dining room… but I never really liked the moulding. It always seemed too blah. So I ripped it out, and replaced it this week with an Art Deco inspired moulding, and by was it ever easy. The trick to this moulding is that it is layers of 1″ (¾”)  thick poplar board, giving the crown moulding a step-edge  effect.


The best thing is that there is no need to calculate angles for horrific mitres in the corners.


The only issue is that the dining room ceiling is slightly warped, so I will have to deal with some moulding to ceiling gaps, but when all said and done, I am incredibly happy with the results. Here is the template for the moulding.


P.S. The red walls are disappearing soon, being painted a light Scandinavian style white.

The block planes of superheroes (iii) – Stanley

Stanley produced two steel block planes: the No.118, and the No.S18. (Technically, Stanley also produced the “Stanley-Handyman”, H101 trimming plane, and H102 block plane, in the 1960s, but I think these planes are junk).

Stanley No.118

The No.118 was advertised as the “School block plane“, it seemed to be geared towards manual training classes. The entire plane is made of steel, with the blade sitting at 12º. Depth adjustment is by means of screw adjustment, and like many planes of this genera there is no throat adjustment. The “Hand-y” grip, like that of the Sargent was a [bevelled] hole on the side of the plane body. It was produced from 1933-1973.


The No.118 was unique in that it used a thin metal plate, held in place by the front knob, to mark the plane as a No.118. The stud used to maintain the position of the lever cap was fixed in place (i.e. welded to the frog before it is spot welded (see CONSTRUCTION section at the end of this post).


Name plate and fixed pin

The nickel-plated lever cap is held in place by a machine screw with a large pancake shaped knurled knob. The blade depth adjustment mechanism is of the sled-type, manipulated by a machine screw, typical of low-angle block planes. What is interesting about this is that even the sled is constructed using a piece of folded steel.


Lever cap and depth adjustment mechanism showing folded steel sled


The Stanley No.S18 is the indestructible version of the No.18, built between 1925 and 1941. It had a 20º blade angle. This may have been the most expensive pressed-steel block plane to manufacture, because it was likely the most complex, owing to throat, blade depth, and lateral adjustment mechanisms. It really is just an indestructible version of the No.18. Its demise may have been precipitated by the onset of WW2.


This is one of the few all-steel block planes hat has both a throat adjustment mechanism, and a lateral adjustment lever. Due to the fact that the body is so thin, the plane’s throat piece doesn’t fit into the sole, but rather sits atop the body of the plane. The problem with this is that the throat piece is curved, and as the mouth closes, a gap forms behind the throat plate (which can clog with waste).


The throat adjustment mechanism uses  an eccentric cam that’s unique to this plane. The cam pivots directly below the knob with the arc-shaped slot swinging over a small, projecting pin that’s peened onto the sliding section, moving the throat piece. The No.S18 had a unique lever cap, which added to the complexity of this “low-cost” plane.



Stanley opted for two different methods of constructing their pressed steel block planes.  The No. S18 used one stamped piece to hold the lever cap machine screw, and another to hold the depth adjustment mechanism. Both are riveted in place, using at least 10 rivets. The No.118 alternatively uses a one-piece frog, and appears to be spot-welded to the plane body.


Plane sub-structure: S18 vs. 118

On the S18, the fore finger-rest and rear thumb-screw thread are attached to the plane body by spot-welding (look closely under the plane and you can see the tell-tale rings).


One would think that these planes were cheaper, but this was not always the case. In Stanley’s catalog from 1934, (Catalog No.34), the No.18 was being sold for $2.85, whereas the No.S18 was being sold for $3.45, a 20% premium for being indestructible (and likely somewhat less usable). It might be that it actually cost more to construct the No.S18.