Another weirder aluminum plane – “THE BOSTON”

“The BOSTON” is all that we know about this plane, apart from the “No.2” emblazoned on the toe of the plane, and the fact that it had a sibling – the No.2A, with a more conventional lever cap. What makes this plane weird *is* the lever cap. Again, little or no information on the net. As “THE BOSTON” appears on at least three planes, I would suspect it is the name of the company that manufactured these planes, but searching yields few results. The closest might be “THE BOSTON METALS COMPANY” – a company which was a member of the Drop Forging Association, at least up until the last 1950s.


The body is aluminum, painted blue on the inside. The aluminum block which retains the depth adjustment screw is coloured black, and there are black flakes on the lever cap and front knob, implying they were originally coloured black as well.  The recessed part of the horn is likely designed to fit the portion of the hand between the index finger and the thumb, with the fingers wrapping around the right portion of the plane, and the thumb the left. Most of the plane is composed of cast aluminum excepting the screws (and associated threads), and thumbscrew. Other than the weird horn-like protrusion, the lever cap uses a traditional thumb-screw to apply tension to the blade.


Below are details for the base and depth adjustment mechanism – the latter which also doubles as the lateral adjustment mechanism. The depth adjustment mechanism works through a thumbscrew, which screws into a rectangular block, which pivots on the plane body (in the cylindrical depression shown in the top-left photograph below) – allowing for lateral adjustment.




Length: 6 7/8″
Width: 2″
Blade width: 1 5/8″
Weight: 550g (1 lb, 4 oz)
Material: cast aluminum
Markings: “THE BOSTON″, “No.2”

In addition it seems that “THE BOSTON” also created a small thumb-type block plane, also of cast aluminum.

NB: Other aluminum planes include one made by “Foster” (1 KINSEY BUFFALO NY).

When I don’t like trees

I love working with wood – and I love trees. But there is a point when a tree threatens your abode that you just have to say enough is enough. We have a 70ft silver maple in the backyard, and a elm tree in the front (it’s a city tree). Add an ice storm – one of the worst Southern Ontario has seen. The result? The silver maple has lost a lot of its crown (thankfully due to dutiful trimming over the years the damage was mostly squashed plants). The elm tree – which has *not* been that healthy in the past few years – has had its canopy shredded. It managed to take out two power-lines and narrowly missed the neighbours car – he moved it not 5 minutes before. The city wants to “save it” because it’s an elm. I would prefer to have a safe house and plant 1000 trees somewhere else. Cities need to understand that large old trees can’t always be saved – and a tree shouldn’t be saved just because there are only a few left. Ironically an arborist spent four hours trimming dead wood from it last week – so it could have been worse. Thankfully the offending hazardous branches were trimmed today – after 48 hours of no power and worry about more power lines coming down.


Thick ice and freshly cut logs.


The elm tree after the “trimming”.

Special thanks to Toronto Hydro for working to get the city going again – we all appreciate it!

A Christmas to remember, that’s for sure. Need fire wood? There’s plenty lining the streets of Toronto.

A weird aluminum plane

One of the weirdest block planes about is the UTIL Plane, from Chicago. Weird because the body and lever cap are made of cast aluminum, and there is next to no information about this plane. Stanley manufactured some aluminum planes between the wars, the most prominent block plane being the No.A18, an aluminum version of the No.18 (1925-1934) – and then only the body was aluminum, the remaining parts are nickel-plated as per the No.18. This plane might be from that period, or the early 1950s, with the use of aluminum in design elements.


Apart from the information on the lever cap, this plane has no information, however it is extremely light. Why was it created? Simplicity? Ease of manufacture? Planing balsa wood? So this is more of a photographic essay than anything else. Consisting of only four components, the body, blade, the lever cap and the lever cap screw – the minimalist design exudes simplicity. The lever cap holds the blade in place by means of wedging itself into protrusions on either side of the plane body. Tightening the lever cap screw holds it in place. The front knob has been replaced by a curved ramp-like protrusion, and the Hand-y finger rests on the sides of the plane have strange, almost rectangular cut-outs.


It is kind of an awkward plane to hold, and because it is light, much more exertion must be put into using it – but it does cut. The only block plane I have found that is weirder is “The Boston” No. 2, another aluminum plane. Stay tuned.

P.S. If anyone has any info, or if I dig up any more I will post it.

The Millers Falls No. 104 hand drill

At “Tools of the Trades” I picked up another “Buck Rogers” era tool from Millers Falls – the No.104 hand-drill. The 104, in addition to the No.308 were introduced in the late 1940s. The 104 is the smaller of the two drills, with a maximum jaw size of 1/4″, versus 3/8″ for the 308. Interestingly, prior to the introduction of this version of the 104, there was another No.104, with the standard iron frame, hardwood head and a crank handle with a wierd urn-shaped body cap. An evolution of sorts then, iron to aluminum, hardwood to plastic. The new drill was designed by Francesco Collura – he also designed the Millers Falls “Buck Rogers” hacksaw.


The design patent for the drill (No. 140,811), “ornamental design for a hand drill”, was issued in 1945. A single-speed hand drill, it was somewhat unique in having an enclosed gear mechanism, effectively keeping out sawdust and dirt. The frame and gear cover are made of die-cast aluminum, making the drill incredibly light. According to the catalog entry (shown below), “the steel spindle runs  in an ‘Oilite’ bushing”. Oilite is a porous bronze or iron alloy (introduced in 1930) impregnated with an oil lubricant. The first photograph below shows the pristine condition of the gear inside the cover, the second photo shows the gear casing on the frame. The mechanism is maintained by putting oil in the hole used to hold down the gear cover.

mf104_gear mf104_bushing

The handles are “unbreakable” red plastic (likely Tenite),  the frame and gear cover are gray baked enamel, the chuck nickel plated. The enamel coating, is the one part of the drill that often suffers from wear, becoming pitted. The nickel plating on the chuck often flakes off. Here’s the entry from Millers Falls Catalog #49.


The drills were sold with eight fluted drill points, however more often than not these disappear over the years.  I tried the drill with a 15/64″ bit drilling into oak, and it just doesn’t have the power of a Millers Falls 2A, probably due to the lack of leverage due to the short handle, and a single pinion. The No. 104 is fine for drilling small holes, but anything beyond 1/8″ can be challenging.


Below is the catalog entry for the No.308, showing the detail of the cast iron drive gear.


This may be a candidate for restoration (I bought it for $12) – if I can deal with the gray paint on the body, and the flaked chrome plating on the chuck.

The clone wars (part iii) – A tale of three planes

The fun part of rhykenology is the puzzle solving. I was looking through one of my “block plane parts” boxes. I came across one I had discarded. Here’s the top of the blade.


This is a case of *very little information* available – online anyways. The blade says:


It seems this plane was made by Capewell Horse Nail Co., hence the crossed horseshoe on the blade. The company originated in 1881 for the purpose of manufacturing horse shoe mails using machines. Here is a later company logo.


Interestingly, it is almost an exact clone of a PEXTO plane made by Peck, Stowe, and Wilcox (plane in the background) – which by chance I had in my collection. A little bit more digging reveals that Peck, Stow & Wilcox manufactured planes for Capewell.


Dig even further, and I notice that the “WORTH” block plane I have is extremely similar to the PEXTO as well. WORTH was a trademark used by Bigelow & Dowse Hardware Co. Boston, made for them circa 1925-1945 by none other than Peck, Stow and Wilcox. Here are the three planes in components view:


The only real differences exist in the shape of the top of the blade and the lever cap screw on the WORTH plane.

Digital resources are very scarce on clones – it is often challenging to find information, short of examining the planes themselves, and snippets from catalog pages. Eventually I’ll get around to restoring these planes, well at least the CAPEWELL and PEXTO, because the WORTH is quite nice.

The clone wars (part ii)

One of the interesting things is that these clones usually have some form of identifying mark somewhere on the body of the plane – usually hidden. Here is a prime example : The 3704 actually has the imprint “306-16” on the body under the blade – implying it is a No. 306. Not also on these planes that the Sargent equivalent Hand-y grip depressions are less elliptical than the ones on the Sargent planes. The lever cap has both 306 and 307 on it.



Sometimes the trademark used on the blade can be used to identify the approximate manufacture date. Here is the trademark on the blade from the No. 3732. Next to it is the original wavy CRAFTSMAN trademark from 1927, implying that the plane is likely an early model Craftsman.

cm_3732 craftsman_1927logo

Compare this to the trademark of the No.3704. The “BL” which appears on both blades is likely an identification marker which tags the plane as being sourced from Sargent.


Now consider a Dunlap No. 3701. Looking at the plane, it is a little over 7″ in length. On initial inspection it looks like a Sargent No.217, although the 217 is 7 1/2″ in length. When dismantling the plane, there is an imprint on the body below the blade, 217-16, implying that it is likely a No.217 – especially as many 217’s are not 7 1/2″ in length.


Here’s a Sargent No.217 for comparison:


Here’s a Fulton – which looks somewhat like a later model Sargent No.107. The “Fulton” brand was the most frequently mentioned tool brand in the Sears catalogs of the pre-Craftsman era.


Should you buy a clone? Why not, there’s nothing wrong with them. Everybody likes to collect Stanley, but just because Stanley sold lots of planes doesn’t mean they were the only ones on the market (or the best). Montgomery Ward also used clones in their Lakeside and Ward Master lines. Stanley made planes for the Keen Kutter line of E. C. Simmons Hardware, as did Sargent (again identifiable by the mouth adjustment mechanism).

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 12.06.44 AM

Sargent also made planes for Great Neck (Great Neck Plane Co.), and Winchester (Winchester Repeating Arms Co.).

The clone wars (part i)

When I’m at a tool swap, I often look at planes which are avoided by many people – the cloned planes. There were generally three types of planes produced by manufacturers. The first type is their main product line, the second type is the “economy-grade” tool line sold under a different name – Stanley had Handyman and Defiance (for “farm and home”), and Millers Falls had Mohawk-Shelburne.  The third type are cloned planes – planes made by plane manufacturers for other companies, usually catalog companies such as Sears, Roebuck & Co.. A good example are the Sargent planes made for Sears, namely Craftsman, and Dunlap. Craftsman was the Sears “premium” line, Dunlap the economy tools (appearing circa 1941) – both made by other companies. Were these planes of a lesser quality, but often had an equivalent model in the manufacturers own line of plane. Sargent made planes for Sears until the early 1960s. Later planes were often made by Stanley.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 3.54.07 PM

For example consider the block planes from the Craftsman catalog (circa 1960), specifically the 3704 and 3732. Both can be uniquely identified as Sargent planes because of their unique throat mouthpiece with “cammed adjuster“, patented in 1904 (Patent #220,834).

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 11.18.13 AM

The No. 3705 plane above, the “Handy Planer”, was equivalent to Sargent’s “Little Shaver”, the last plane made by Sargent. The Craftsman 3732 closely resembles the Sargent No.5607. Here is a photo of the Craftsman 3732:


And a picture of the Sargent No.5607 for comparison.


The Craftsman 3704 is a little stranger in that it is 6 7/16″ (≈6 1/2″) in length. Later versions of the 3704 may have been made by Stanley, as the throat adjustment mechanism changes to the lever used by Stanley. Most block planes in the Sargent literature are either 6″, 7″, or 7 1/2″, no mention is made of a plane of this size. Another strange feature is that on the specimen I have, the blade depth adjustment mechanism sits on an incline rather than vertically. This could be one of the few examples of a clone which was adjusted for some reason. The only Sargent plane with this feature appears in Heckel’s “Sargent Planes Identification and Value Guide”, as an illustration under the No.307 (which was 7″ in length). Here is a photo of the Craftsman 3704:


And a picture of the comparable Sargent 306: