The transitional planes are a crossbreed of sorts. Half way between a wooden plane and a metal plane, these hybrids possess a wooden body, usually made of beech, and a metal blade holding/adjustment mechanism. They were manufactured in the latter portion of the 19th century, allowing for the smooth movement of wood against wood together with the ease of blade adjustment offered by the metal planes. Stanley’s transitional planes first made their appearance in the mid 1860s with their characteristic boat-shaped iron castings – the blade could be secured and adjusted using the same Bailey mechanism as the all-metal planes, a spring-lever cap, and knurled screw respectively. These Bailey-type transitionals spawned copies from Sargent, Union, Ohio Tool Co., Sigley and Winchester.
Transitionals are not the most sought after planes in the world, and are therefore often quiet inexpensive ($25-50). Some people think they are only worth hurling onto an open fire. To be honest, I don’t really like the look of many transitional planes either- aesthetically they just lack something. There are however two exceptions – The Stanley “Liberty Bell” transitionals, and the Gage Tool Co. transitionals.
Stanley’s Liberty Bells
The Stanley “Liberty Bells” were a series of transitional planes produced by Stanley during the period 1877-1918. They belong to the same lineage as the metal “Liberty Bells”, using the same blade adjustment mechanism. It’s easy to tell if the transitional is a Liberty Bell – the lever cap has a “76” cast into it – made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ringing of the Liberty Bell in 1776.
There were five planes in the series: No.122 (smooth, 8″), No.135 (smooth, 10″), No.127 (jack, 15″), No.129 (fore, 20″) and No.132 (jointer, 26″). These planes may have been phased out due to the pending purchase of Gage Tool Co.
The Gage Transitionals
The Gage Tool Co. (1883-1919), of Vineland (New Jersey), produced a unique transitional, with a self-setting feature. John Porcius Gage founded this company and owned it until 1917 when it was sold to Philip Leavens. In 1919 it was sold to Stanley Rule & Level Co. who continued to use its name, until it discontinued the planes in 1934. In 1920 Stanley transferred the self-setting mechanism of the Gage planes to a line of self-setting metallic planes – likely in an effort to compete against Sargent’s self-setting mechanism.
These are a set of self-setting transitionals. Made of beech, these planes are unique in that the frog/throat assembly can be adjusted up when the sole of the plane needs to be trued up. Stanley continued manufacturing the wooden transitional’s until 1935. There were five planes in the Gage series: No.835 (smooth, 10″, 2″ blade), No.822 (smooth, 10″, 1¾” blade), No.826 (14″), No.828 (18″) and No.830 (22″). J.P. Gage had plane patents on 4 August 1885, 13 April 1886 and 8 November 1892. The 30 January 1883 patent of David A. Ridges was also used. Stanley also manufactured Gage-style planes for other companies after 1920, including for the Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Company (or H.S.B. & Co.) – which are marked with the O.V.B. (Our Very Best) logo (with the same numbering system).
The problem with transitionals is that they are often in a mediocre condition. This is a situation experienced with many wooden planes – metal planes have a tendency to rust, and wooden planes are no less susceptible to environmental changes. There are some contemporary “hybrids” that meld a wooden body with metal blade adjustment mechanisms. These are variants of the horned planes found in Germany and Scandinavia – using mechanisms such as the Primus blade adjustment mechanism.