A steel block plane from Shelton

On Saturday I attended the Lee Valley vintage plane sale at their new Toronto store. There were a *lot* of wooden planes, mostly moulding planes, and some some others – at bargain prices. I spent a grand total of $15 – $10 on a 7″ “block” sized coffin smoother, and $5 on a steel Shelton block plane.


Fig 1: The Shelton No.18

The Shelton is an odd piece, and mimics the Stanley No.118 steel block plane (with a number of 18). The Shelton Plane & Tool Mfg Co. was founded in 1862, in Shelton, Connecticut, and originally made baskets. They started production of planes in the early 1930’s coinciding with two patents granted in 1933. The patent for the block plane was awarded in 1947 (Patent No. 2,423,713), so the block plane itself could have been in production from the early 1940s (assumed by the patent pending mark on the blade).


Fig 2: Patent for the Shelton block plane

The plane’s body is made of two  pieces of pressed steel, the body, and the rigid support sub-structure which holds the depth adjustment mechanism, and the pin for securing the lever cap. The inside of the body and lever cap were painted black originally. The knurled thumbwheel for blade depth adjustment (Fig.1(26)), lever cap thumbwheel knob (31), and auxiliary hand grip (40) are all made of cast aluminum. The holes on the side of the plane to improve grip through the placement of a thumb and finger are straight (not bevelled as in the Stanley No.118).


Fig 3: The pressed steel structure

The knob on the front of the plane is made of aluminum, and has a tenuous connection to the sole of the plane – i.e. it stays in position when pressure is applied, but easily detaches. Due to the obvious differences in materials, soldering it was not an option (it could likely be epoxied in place though).


Fig 4: Shelton 18 vs. Stanley 118

An obvious copy of the Stanley No.118, the plane does differ in certain ways. The Stanley blade is bedded on a 12° angle, whereas the Shelton has a 15° bed. The blade adjustment mechanism is also completely different, as per the patent, with the only difference from the patent being that in the production run, the securing screw for the blade, with its unusual laterally bent grip has been replaced by a stud. On the No.118, the knobs and thumbwheels are plated brass, on the No.18 they are aluminum. The lever cap on the 118 is painted, the one on the 118 is plated (although traditionally black paint was the finish on the No.118’s). Interestingly, there does not seem to be a patent for the Stanley 118 which was released in 1933, and although there are differences the planes are *very* similar.

Shelton No.18 (1940s-1950s)
Plane length: 6″ sides, (6 3/8″ centre toe to heel)
Width: 1 7/8″
Blade width: 1 5/8″
Blade angle: 15º
 430g (15 oz.)
Material: pressed steel
Depth adjustment: thumbscrew
Lateral adjustment: n/a
Throat adjustment: n/a
Patent: 2,423,713


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