“Buck Rogers” planes (part 2)

The smooth and sleek lines of the Millers Falls No.709 – a product of the streamline moderne era of the 1950s.


Fig 1: Millers Falls No.709

Millers Falls described the 709 and 714 as “The Finest Planes in the World”. The brochure that Millers Falls distributed outlined eight major characteristics.


Fig 2: Back of the advertising sheet for No.709 and 714.

The core components of the plane body are discussed below (leaving out the iron and finish):

1. BED – Cast iron, with substantial weight forward of the throat, and 25% more strength in the throat region. “freer chip and shaving clearance”.


Fig 3: The toe of the No.709

The bed of the plane is made of cast iron, with the 709 weighing in at 3 7/8 lbs. Unlike similar planes, like the Stanley #4, there is substantial weight forward of the throat. The overall weight is marginally more than an equivalent Stanley #4, but the weight is likely distributed differently, with less weight in the knob and tote (plastic), and the frog (aluminum), than the hardwood and cast iron used in the Stanley. The toe of the plane bed below the knob (Fig.3a) is hollow, with the circular depressions on either side of the plane (Fig.3c) being the ends of a rod which holds the thread for the screw which secures the knob to the plane (Fig.3b).

2. FROG – Aluminum hollow die casting, providing a stronger, more rigid support for the handle, and encasing both blade adjusting mechanisms. The bedding is 3-4 times longer than any other plane and is anchored by three screws giving increased strength and rigidity.


Fig 4: The frog of the No.709

The frog is complex, enclosing both the lateral, and blade length adjustment, and the rear handle assembly. This does provide for a very rigid structure, however to adjust the frog requires removing the Tenite handle (not that the frog should need to be adjusted that often).

4. LEVER CAPRoller clamping mechanism in combination with three-point bearing locks the iron to the frog to “entirely eliminate” vibration or chatter. “Clamping and unclamping is almost effortless”.

The lever cap is the unique Millers Falls double-jointed, 3-point design (Patent No.1,822,520). The point of this is to provide a clamping action which not only clamps the lower and upper ends, but also in the middle so it is clamped throughout its length – eliminating any bowing and chattering action during operation.


Fig 5: The double-jointed lever cap

5. DEPTH ADJUSTMENTFinger-tip control secured through much larger knurled adjustment knob, and “powerful” linkage.


Fig 6: The depth adjustment mechanism and thumbscrew

The depth adjustment knob is extremely large, and ergonomically designed (Fig.6b). The knob moves a screw which pivots the adjustment mechanism inside the frog (Fig.6a), moving the blade up and down.

6. LATERAL ADJUSTMENT“New accessibility and with ore comfortable and greater ease of operation”.


Fig 7: The lateral adjustment lever

The lateral adjustment mechanism is a simple pivoting lever which adjusts the blade from side to side (Fig.7).

7. HANDLES“Guaranteed unbreakable in use”, the handles are made of Tennessee Eastman Tenite #2. It provides a “pleasant touch” and “surer, more comfortable grip”. The inside of the bed and frog are finished in gray, baked-on enamel. The lever, cap, and knurled adjusting nut are polished, nickel-plated.


Fig 8: Holding the rear handle or tote

The handles and knobs of the planes were made of Tennessee Eastman Tenite #2, a cellulose acetate butyrate molding composition. This hard, “unbreakable” plastic was used by Millers Falls in many of its “Buck Rogers” era tools. Aesthetically, the shine of the metallic surfaces, the streamlining, and the red handles gave the planes a unique feel. The red handle is comfortable, although there is limited space between the handle and the frog, as shown in Fig.8a because the lateral adjustment lever almost touches the handle. Fig. 8b shows an alternative way of holding the plane.

The No.714 is similarly constructed. How functional are these planes? Stay tuned, I’ll do some testing sometime in the future.

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