A while back I bought a very unique transitional bench plane, a Sargent No.3426. This 26″ long jointer plane is a V.B.M., or “VERY BEST MADE” marked plane. This was a marketing slogan used by Sargent on bench planes between the years 1908 to 1918, so it is really quite easy to date the plane. There were 16 forms of transitional planes built between 1891 and 1941. The Sargent transitional planes had a cast iron top casting, and a body, handle and knob made of beech. The castings were Japanned, and the wooden parts shellacked. The lever caps on this plane have a very distinctive arrow feather pattern.
Now this plane is unique because it has three wooden inserts on the sole: an ebony insert in from of the mouth of the plane, and a what seems like a rosewood insert at the toe and heel of the plane – all areas that would typically suffer from wear. So either it came from the factory this way, as a sort of one-off, or somewhere someone customized it for some reason. The problem is that the plane looks like it has never been used… there are no signs of wear on the sole of the plane. The plane doesn’t even have the traditional “dirty” look one would expect after 100 years… almost like it came out of the box sometime recently.
These planes are very aesthetically pleasing, mainly because the lever caps have a very distinctive arrow feather pattern cast into them. The other thing about this plane is that the blade has been replaced with a Samurai brand laminated steel blade (which is slightly narrower than it should be). Someone has also shaped the handle to make it somewhat more ergonomic.
What I’ll do with the plane? Just replace the blade with a Veritas reproduction to add some extra oomph to the place and then use it for those long jointing activities.