The block planes of superheroes (vi) – Hobbies

The oddities of Hobbies of the U.K. produced three all-steel block planes. Likely these planes were produced due to their low cost.

Hobbies No.1A

The Hobbies No.1A is a very simple thumb-block plane, likely designed for the hobbyist looking to plane balsa wood for model making, or very small work. This is the thinnest, all-stamped steel block plane likely to be found, and is likely perfect for use on balsa wood (and nothing else!).


The plane is constructed of three separate pieces of pressed steel. The body has two steel prongs on the rear, upon which the blade rests. The lever cap is a compression-type fitting made of the upper two pieces of pressed steel, and attached to the plane body by means of a steel pin.



The Hobbies No.6 is a more robust block plane, with no adjustment mechanisms. This simple plane basically has three parts (apart from the blade) – the body, lever cap, and butterfly nut. The lever cap is drop-forged however, so the only pressed steel components are the plane body, and frog.


The frog of this plane has an awkward shape, attached to the plane body by means of two rivets. The base of the plane shows the other side of the rivets.



Hobbies No.8

The Hobbies No.8 is almost a carbon copy of the No.6, however it has adjustment mechanisms for both blade depth, and lateral adjustment. Like the No.6, the lever cap is drop forged, and the lever cap is held down using a butterfly nut.


Both the blade depth and lateral adjustment mechanisms exist as one mechanism, are unique, and attached to the frog by means of a pin. It is made of pressed steel. Both levers moved together allow for lateral adjustment, however the upper lever when moved from side-to-side allows for depth adjustment.


The blade for this plane is held in place by a pin on the adjustment mechanism which fits in an associated hole in the blade.



Book: Woodwork Joints by Charles Hayward

If you want a concise guide to woodworking joints, then there is only one book: Woodwork Joints, by Charles H Hayward. First published in 1950, this book is part of the Woodworker Handbooks, published by Evans Brothers Limited.


The books ten chapters cover most joints: edge joints, mortise-and-tenon joints, halved and bridle joints, mitred and scribed joints, housed and dowelled joints, dovetails, joints for plywood, splice/scarf/fishplate and showcase joints, and mechanical joints. Here are a couple of excerpts from the books. First the start of Chapter IV on halved and bridle joints.


Next two pages from the section on making dovetails.


This book covers every possible joint needed to do woodworking.

You can find a copy of this book for about $10 on Abebooks.

The block planes of superheroes (v) – Shelton

I’ve described  the Shelton No.18 on a previous blog post ,so I won’t go over the details again.


The fact that it appeared in the mid 1940s suggests that it was attempting to offer a low-cost alternative to cast block planes, like its predecessor. A case in point is the use of aluminum for the finger, lever cap, and depth adjustment knobs. Such parts are easy to cast in aluminum, as opposed to being milled.


This however sometimes leads to problems of joining parts, such as where the finger knob attaches to the plane body – this often detaches. Unlike the other pressed-steel block planes which have a pressed-steel lever cap, the Shelton No.18 has a cast steel lever cap, giving the plane more heft.


The hand-y  on this plane is also cheaper, being only circular holes, without apparent bevelling.


Also unlike the frogs of many of its brethren, the Shelton No.18 has a rather flimsy structure, spot-welded to the plane body.


A Birmingham No.102 block plane

So I bought three planes from one of my favourite purveyors of fine tools Antiques of a Mechanical Nature. One was a plane from the Birmingham Plane Co. which operated from 1885-1900 in Birmingham, Connecticut (see previous post for more information on Birmingham planes). This is a Birmingham No.102, which is recognizable by the characteristic splayed, and curved side walls of the plane body. It is very similar to the unmarked Birmingham block plane discussed previously.


The plane uses a pivoting lever to allow for depth adjustment of the blade, and a unique under-mounted cam lever to keep the lever cap, and blade in place.


This plane was obviously well used, as the blade has been well worn down, although it still sports the signature “BPLANE” markings. The teeth on the pivot lever are also worn, one of the caveats of this design.


This is the same as the block plane I talked about in the post on Birmingham Plane Co. planes. The only difference being the level cap, which in that case is of the screw-down variety, which would likely place this as an earlier variant.

A beautiful gardening tool

It’s rare to find a garden tool that’s designed from an aesthetics point of view. Many years ago Lee Valley sold gardening tools designed by  a Canadian company. They were made from die-cast recycled aluminum, and manufactured by Allen Simpson Marketing & Design, Ltd. These tools are beautifully streamlined, and ergonomically designed. Here is a garden fork.


Here is the manufacturers stamp on the back of the back of the fork. The company made 2 ,3, and 4-tined forks, as well as hand shovels,



Woodworker Handbooks: the list

Here is the list of Woodworker Handbooks published by Evans Brothers Limited, starting in the late 1940s.

  • Practical Veneering  by Charles H. Hayward
  • Tools for Woodwork  by Charles H. Hayward
  • Woodwork Joints by Charles H. Hayward
  • Cabinet Making for Beginners by Charles H. Hayward
  • Carpentry for Beginners by Charles H. Hayward
  • Staining and Polishing by Charles H. Hayward
  • Practical Upholstery by C. Howes
  • Light Machines for Woodwork by Charles H. Hayward
  • Plastics for the Home Craftsman by Rodney Hooper
  • The Practical Wood Turner by F. Pain
  • English Period Furniture by by Charles H. Hayward
  • The Junior Woodworker by Charles H. Hayward

Note that a similar series of  books was published earlier in the 1920s and 30s by Evans Brothers, with the author as William Fairham. They have been reprinted by The Toolemera Press.

The block planes of superheroes (iv) – Miller Falls

Millers Falls were a late player into the realm of steel block planes, actually a later player into the plane-game as a whole. Although they were not without merit, and didn’t simply copy the designs of others such as Stanley. In both their steel block planes, they introduced an air of streamlining which is most noticeable in the lever caps. They used the same bevelled holes as “hand-y” finger grips, as Stanley. As mentioned, the nickel-plated lever caps really stand out, and would not exactly be trivial to stamp from metal, and are thus drop-forged.

(These planes are in pristine condition, likely never used).


The No.206, with a 20º bedding angle, was introduced circa 1940, and remained in circulation until 1959, when it was replaced by the No.206B. The lever cap was drop forged, so not pressed steel like some of the other steel block planes.


The plane suffers somewhat from a small usability issue – the shape of the lever cap interferes with the manipulation of the lever-cap thumbscrew (this problem still exists in the No.206B, but to a lesser extent). Conversely, the fact that this thumbscrew is low means that t does not poke up into the users palm. The frog on the No.206 is almost in the form of an arch, with two feet at either end that are spot welded to the plane base. This holds both the machine screw to retain the lever cap, and the depth adjustment mechanism.


From a cost perspective, the No.206 sold for $4.00 in the No. 49 catalog (1949), versus the more standard No.16 or No.56, which sold for $3.80.


Following the cancellation of the No.206, Millers Falls introduced the No.206B, with the only perceivable differences being the reduction of the bedding angle from 20º to 12º, and modification of the depth adjustment mechanism.


In contrast to the No.206, the No.206B has a one-piece moulded frog, which is also spot welded to the planes body. This is likely due to reduced complexity, and the low-angle stature of the plane.