The block planes of Birmingham

The Birmingham Plane Company (also known as Birmingham Plane Mfg. Co.), located in Birmingham Connecticut, manufactured planes from  1884-1900, although the company existed from 1855 to 1891. In 1891 the company changed its name to the Derby Plane Co., and continued manufacturing until 1900, although many of the blades continued to carry the Birmingham markings. They made a variety of planes, yet little is known of the company beyond the interesting all-metal planes they made.

They produced five block planes:

  • Iron block plane: 3-1/4″, 4″, 5-3/8″
  • Adjustable iron block plane: 5-5/16″, 7″

I managed to pick up the 5-3/8″ plane at the Tools of the Trades this past weekend. Not in super exceptional example from the perspective of Japanning, but solid, and containing no cracks or other structural problems – which is always good considering the plane is over 100 years old.


The 5-3/8″ Birmingham block plane

The blade has the following marking : “B PLANE”, and otherwise the plane has no other markings (ED. on closer inspection with a magnifying glass, there is a faint 102 on the heel of the plane) . The body retains some Japanning, but the lever cap is almost bare. The blade depth adjustment mechanism is a simple lever pivoting on post, with two teeth that mesh with grooves on the rear of the blade, moving the blade up and down.


Blade support and depth adjustment, the BPLANE marking on the blade.


Parts of the plane

What is unique about this plane are its flared sides, which may have been designed this way to help the user maintain a grip on the block plane. The sides of the plane are bevelled 85º from the base of the plane. The plane also has a lever cap with a prominent hump.


Frontal view showing the flared sides, and profile showing the humped lever cap


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