“If something exists, somebody somewhere collects it” (Anonymous)
Why do humans collect things? In part it is a way to preserve the past – tools and objects offer a door into the past, and tell us a lot about the people who created them. It is nice to believe that we could live without materialistic things in our lives, but you can’t live in a cold climate without clothes, you can’t plant crops without agricultural tools, and you can’t cut down trees to build shelter without an axe. Collecting tools may stem from Paleolithic times, when those with the best collection of tools for hunting, building shelter, and processing hides, had a greater likelihood of surviving.
When I started buying vintage tools, I didn’t plan on collecting anything. But then… one day I realized that the design of block planes really peaked my interest. So why do most people collect? Some people collect tools with a particular function – wooden planes, block planes, squares, or hammers (see the Hammer Museum in Haines Alaska). Others collect tools from a particular region, e.g. Britain, France, by a particular patent or time period. Probably the most common collections are those related to particular company, or brand, the best known of which is Stanley. Some people collect only “Bailey” planes, others “Bedrock” planes. Still others collect tools from a particular type (e.g. No.4), or type-study (the evolution of a type). I collect block planes because of their diversity – the myriad of mechanisms for blade depth adjustment, lateral adjustment, lever caps etc. And their intrinsic beauty. From a company perspective, I like to collect Millers Falls, Sargent, and Hobbies block planes.
At last count? Well over 50. Some need some restoration, others just a clean. The hardest part of collecting comes when you start to hit the more rarer planes – Defiance block planes from the Bailey Tool Company, Victor block planes, Ohio, Preston, Sargent planes (Type 1 306/307, Type 1 4306/4307), Birmingham and Metallic Plane Co. There just aren’t many of these planes about, and those that do come up are expensive. It is possible that fewer were made, or only in a brief period of years. For example, the Metallic Plane Co. from Auburn NY was in operation from 1867-1880, and produced five block planes – No.6, 6 1/2, 7, 8 and 9. Their price tag is usually in the $400-600 range, so challenging to buy – if you can find them. Many of these planes likely disappeared over time. But the search is part of the fun of collecting.