Block planes: Stanley No. 9¼

The Stanley No.9¼ block plane was a late entry into the Stanley catalog, appearing in 1947, and disappearing in 1982. This is one of many block planes Stanley seemed to produce in this period. This plane is 6″ in length, has a 1-5/8″ wide cutter, and a  bed angle of 20°, with both blade depth and lateral adjustment mechanisms. Unlike many of its contemporaries, such as the No.9½, this plane does not have an adjustable throat, but does provide a brass front knob (really a thumb rest). In fact, aside from the adjustable mouth, it is a carbon copy of the No.9½. Construction of the plane did not vary much over its lifespan, with the major difference being the change in colour from japanned black to painted, dark blue to red.





The Record No.077/077A bull-nose

The No.77 block plane is the cousin of the No.76, but was only manufactured from 1933 to 1943. It is likely derived from the Preston No. 1355, and lacks the receding nose of the No.076, but adds a blade adjustment mechanism in the form of a milled nut. Due to its limited manufacturing years, it’s somewhat of a rare plane, production stopping midway through WW2. A sibling to the No.77, the No.77A was manufactured from 1933 to 1994. It retained the blade adjustment mechanism, but differed by having an adjustable mouth.

The nose is attached to the plane body with a single centred machine screw, and can be removed completely to form a chisel plane.

In addition, there are two steel “distance” shims between the detachable nose and the plane body, held in place by two pins. One is 1/64″ thick, and the other is 1/32″ thick, allowing the plane throat to be modified to four distinct opening sizes for fine or coarse work.

The blade adjustment mechanism has a knurled knob and engages the blade which has a slot cut in it.

There are a number of variants of this plane, which deviant from the original, as the plane evolved through manufacturing.

  • Type 1: Markings of “007A” on the bottom heal of one side, and “RECORD BRITISH” on the lever cap (surrounded by blue paint).
  • Type 2: Markings of “Record No 077 / 077A, Made In England” on the bottom heal of one side, and “RECORD” on the lever cap. The small inset triangular region to the rear bottom of both sides has been removed.
  • Type 3: The original wavy form lever cap is replaced with the singular curve, also found on the No.076. Again I think this is likely due to a reduced manufacturing cost. The downside to this was that the original maintained a portion of the lever cap at the bottom (maybe ¾” in length) which held down the lever cap, although only the front point actually made contact (see the third figure above). This allowed more room for shavings, room which was reduced with the new lever cap. Similar markings to the Type 2, except no markings on the lever cap.
  • Type 4: No markings on the plane. The front of the plane “nose” has changed from a gentle curve to an edge, somewhat negating the “bull-nose” concept.

This makes the plane I have somewhere between a Type 1 and Type 2. Note that the Clifton 770 is  somewhat of a clone of the Record No.077, and the Edward Preston No.1355. Clifton, as well as Veritas are two modern manufacturers of bullnose planes.


The Record No.076 bull-nose

The bull-nose plane is one of those funny little planes, and often comes in one of two forms, the fixed nose, and the removal nose. Does the planes nose really look like a bull’s nose? Some of them do I guess, especially those whose nose has a pronounced curve. What is the bullnose for? Generally it’s a form of rebate plane used for rebate refinement, and fine fitting. The Record No.076 is a classic bullnose rabbet plane, 4″ in length, introduced in 1933, and manufactured until 1976. It is likely based on the No.1347 manufactured by Edward Preston & Sons, which is not surprising, since the Preston planes were sold off in the 1930s to Sheffield firm of C. & J. Hampton, who would later merge with the Record Tool Company.

The No.076 has the advantage of having a receding nose, which is open to allow shaving to escape. It is made of cast iron and sports the traditional blue paint of Record.

The downside is that it does not have an adjustable blade. The blade can be manually adjusted by slackening the knurled thumbscrew under the lever.  These planes were nicely designed from the perspective of how the lever cap fits onto the plane body. Due to the low pitch of the plane, the plane is bevel-up.

The blade is made of tungsten steel, but is a little on the thin side from the perspective of modern blades. The plane is about 29mm or 1-1/8″ in width. and is very simple, with only three parts (well four if you count the thumbscrew).

There seem to be a number of versions of this plane. The one in my collection is likely the earliest version. The next version is almost identical, but the triangular region on the rear sides of the plane (painted blue), no longer exists, likely to reduce manufacturing costs. Markings in the form of “”Record No 076 Made in England” are found on the side, bottom rear. The last version saw a streamlining of the lever cap to one continuous curve.


The tiniest of Veritas planes

The ingenuity of Veritas (and Lee Valley) never disappoints. They recently unveiled a superb little pocket plane, the likes of which has not been seen since Lie Nielsen introduced their violin makers plane, which is slightly smaller. This is the sort of plane that is always handy to do those small tasks, or maybe even for constructing musical instruments, or models.

Veritas has two versions of this plane. The first is the standard cast steel version, and the second one is the one shown here, the 40th Anniversary [limited] edition made with a stainless-steel body with a satin finish, and a nickel-plated lever cap. The plane has a clamp based lever cap with a nicely knurled thumbscrew, and a tiny Norris-stye blade adjustment mechanism which allows for both lateral and depth adjustment. The lever cap of this version is made of a zinc alloy, and nickel plated.

Despite the small size of the plane, it is super comfortable to use. The plane has a “handy” finger depression on either side, which are elliptical, as opposed to the standard circles used in the Veritas block planes. The lever cap has a nice curving, almost aerodynamic flow, and covers the blade adjustment mechanism completely. This prevents inadvertent engagement of the knurled knob of the Norris adjustment.

This means that the plane fits nicely in the palm of ones hand, with the thumb and middle finger in the side depressions, and the index finger in the small, almost partial moon shaped depression on the toe of the plane. It’s a minuscule 3-5/8″ in length, with a 7/8″ wide blade which is bedded at 15° with a 20° bevel angle. It’s light too, at 270g (9½oz). The blade is PM-V11 steel. The potential downside is that mouth opening may still be too wide for many a user, but this can be fix by creating a shim.  I found it produced very fine shavings.

It’s a slick little plane, and would likely make a great present for any woodworker.


A horned plane from E. A. Berg

Late last year I  had the fortune of purchasing a horned wooden smoothing plane from Swedish manufacturer E.A. Berg (Eskilstuna) on eBay. The plane is in exceptional condition.

Looking in a circa 1940’s catalog, it seems that the plane fits the “Putshyvlar” category with a double blade. The plane is 240mm in length, with a width of 55mm, and a blade width of 45mm.

Planes from E.A.Berg are interesting because the wooden bodies are usually made by a third-party European supplier (typically Danish, or German).

The interesting thing about this plane it the fact that the horn in the front is detachable. Was it always meant to be? It attaches to the body using a dovetail type fit.

The plane is 9-5/8″ in length, and 2-3/16″ wide. The wood seems to be a fruitwood, incredibly grain-free, with a beautiful patina.

The main iron is tapered, and is 1¾” wide. The blade is marked “Erik Anton Berg Eskilstuna Garanti“. The trademark on the blade is a Wels catfish (Sirulus Glanis), which pre-dated the “shark logo”, and is recognizable by the dovetailed tail. For a full discussion of the catfish/shark logo, check out this exceptional article by Kim Malmberg.

The chip breaker is much smaller than the iron. The chip breaker  is stamped with an ornate trademark displaying images of the various gold medals (“Guldmedaljer”) won at the  World Exhibition in Stockholm in 1897, and Paris in 1900. According to the years mentioned on the accompanying chipbreaker, this logotype variation could have been in use post 1900, but before the shark-like fish was added..

The stamp on the plane “VAREMÆRKE” means trademark. The wooden body is made by a maker with a unknown trademark from Aalborg, Denmark.

All in all a nice plane.


Block planes: Stanley No.18 (and No.19) (i)

The Stanley No.18, and No.19, first appeared in the 1888 Stanley catalog as “Improved Block Planes”. They were essentially the No.9½ and No.15 with knuckle lever caps, with nickel platted trimmings. The knuckle lever was the result of an 1886 patent (No.355,031). The planes had the requisite “excelsior” style rear-biased cheek. When first released they had the following characteristics (this discussion is geared towards the No.18, but the evolution of the No.19 is similar).:

  • Excelsior body shape.
  • Lateral adjustment lever.
  • Bailey depth adjustment mechanism.
  • Blades with rounded heads (as opposed to tapered)
  • Adjustable mouths.

Common to all types are three forms of adjustment mechanisms: blade lateral, blade depth, and mouth adjustment. Block planes don’t exactly have the same type studies as bench planes.

Fig 1: The original No.18 from the 1888 catalog.

The “Type 1” planes were only manufactured for a one-year period. The planes have an excelsior-style plane body, and are differentiated by having a lateral adjustment lever with an “integral upward projecting rib”, to shift the blade from side-to-side. This lever was the result of a patent assigned to J.A. Traut in 1888 (Patent No. 376,455).

Patent No. 376,455

This form of the No.18 incorporated an adjustable throat, however no mechanism for performing the adjustment – the front brass finger rest would need to be loosened and the sliding plate adjusted manually, before being tightened again.

In 1889, the Type 1 was modified with the incorporation of a new lateral adjustment lever, replacing the “integral projecting rib”, with a circular disk. This change was based on two patents issued to Traut: No. 306,877, issued on October 21, 1884, and Patent No. 386,509 for a “Lateral Lever with Rotary Disk”, issued July 24, 1888.

There were a number of changes in the catalog of 1898 associated with improvements in features (Fig.2):

  • The addition of the “Hand-y” indentations to the sides of the plane. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • A modification of the No.18’s body so that the sides have a centred “hump” profile, as opposed to the classic Excelsior shape. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • The addition of eccentric throat adjustment lever. (Patent No.515,063, 1894)

Fig 2: The No.18 with improved features from the 1898 catalog.

Of course the problem with catalogs is that they didn’t come out every year, so that changes were sometimes offered prior to their appearance in a catalog, or may not have appeared in a catalog at all. For example, Stanley was still producing a No.18 with the Excelsior body, eccentric lever, and original lever cap, in the 1898 catalog – a sort of “souped-up” Excelsior (Fig.3).

Fig 3: The updated “excelsior” No.18 from the 1898 catalog.

There have however been appearances of the No.18’s with Excelsior bodies that have a Hand-y, as shown below.

Excelsior with Hand-y (linked from



Evolution of the knuckle lever-cap (iv)

There were of course other companies that produced their own knuckle lever caps. Sargent produced a series of planes with knuckle lever caps (for both itself, and for companies such as Sears), although the quality of the mechanism seems lower than that of Stanley. The Sargent knuckle lever-cap is a two-piece cap, reminiscent of Stanley’s original knuckle-lever cap. The lever cap is held in place using a cap screw and a key-hole slot in the base plate.

The Sargent knuckle lever cap

The base plate and palm rest are joined at a pivot, which is also the location of the cam mechanism, attached to the palm rest. It is quite a weak mechanism.

Union produced the No.138 and No.139 block planes with a “Knuckle Joint Lever”, as did Keen Kutter, producing the K18, equivalent to the Stanley No.18 with a “knuckle joint” lever. Although the Keen Kutter was most likely made by Ohio Tool Co., which made a No.18, and No.19. The Union knuckle lever cap is very similar to the Sargent.

The Union knuckle lever cap

Another oddity is the Hobbies No.11 from the UK. It has an odd triangular-shaped lower portion of the cap, and is actually quite solid in construction (heavy).

The Hobbie knuckle lever cap

Both these planes use a form of cam-type knuckle lever cap.

The Hobbies knuckle lever cap, and the underside of the Union knuckle lever cap

Surprisingly, there aren’t any contemporary plane manufacturers who have designed a modern  knuckle joint lever cap, preferring in most cases to use a screw-based lever cap.