Genealogy of a wooden plane – Veit

Probably about 10 years ago I bought a lot of four wooden planes on eBay. One was marked from plane manufacturer John Veit, so let’s explore its genealogy a little. It’s a 22″ (fore?) plane, made of either beech or applewood, with plane makers mark on the toe. It has a double-iron. John Veit was a plane maker from Philadelphia (whose address is clearly marked on the plane), from around 1860 to about 1904.

veitplane0

Smaller plane makers like this probably didn’t have their own catalogs, and therefore often sold through dealers. One such catalog was J.B.Shannon – the planes of John Veit appeared in the 1873 “Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of Carpenters’ Tools“, as “Veit’s City Made Warranted Bench Planes”.

veitplane4

 

The blade and cap iron are from W. Greave & Sons. William Greaves was a cutlery manufacturer, anf razorsmith in Sheffield, who started in 1787, with his sons joining the company in 1817. In 1823, the Greaves family built the Sheaf Works, the first integrated steel works in Sheffield. They were manufacturing table knives, razors and edge tools. The company was dissolved in 1850, and steel and tool side of the business was bought by Thomas Turton & Sons, who continued using the Greaves & Sons’ mark. The cap iron is stamped “SHEAF WORKS”.

So how did an English plane blade and iron get onto an American made plane body? Well it turns out Greaves & Sons exported a good amount of their production to America, and the Sheffield directories actually listed them as “American merchants”.

NOTES:

Carl Bopp, “Made in Philada: No. 4”, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, March (2004)

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Exploring British planemakers

If you are looking at exploring British planemakers, I previously mentioned W.L. Goodman’s “British Planemakers from 1700” as a good resource. I have a copy of the 2nd ed. (1978) and on the weekend I managed to buy a battered copy of the 3rd ed. (1993) for $20. A bargain considering third editions run at US$350 online. The first edition (1968) is almost impossible to find. The 3rd edition, expanded by Jane and Mark Rees is a massive 514 pages, compared to the 182 pages of the 2nd edition.

goodmanBooks

The book contains a extensive amount of new information – planemakers history, and makers marks, and trademarks. Below is an example of a page from the 3rd edition. It contains 1650 makers and dealers, as opposed to the 880 in the second edition. There are ample versions of the 2nd ed. at reasonable prices, but the 3rd ed. is out of print, so if you find this copy somewhere for a reasonable price, snap it up!

goodman_3rdEG

Book info:

  • William Louis Goodman, British Planemakers from 1700, D. McKay Co. (1969)
  • W.L. Goodman, British Planemakers from 1700 (2nd ed.), Arnold and Walker (1978)
  • W.L. Goodman (author), Jane and Mark Rees (rev.), British Planemakers from 1700, (3rd ed.), Astragal Press (1993)

Not all (British) tool companies made wooden planes

Sometimes an online listing contains information which isn’t exactly correct. I’m talking about planes that are advertised as being from a particular manufacturer, but solely on the marking on the plane iron. The problem is that not all wooden planes have makers stamps, and so the easiest conclusion is that the plane body was made by the manufacturer of the blade. But that’s not always the case. Some companies made lots of edge tools, like chisels, and irons for planes, but not plane bodies.

A good example is Moulson Brothers of Sheffield (1824-1912). There are often planes for sale that are touted as being made by Moulson Brothers, who were  according to The Gazetteer and General Directory of Sheffield (1852), “edgetool, joiners’ tool, brace and bit, skate, saw manufacturers and merchants”. However as cited in British Planemakers from 1700, Moulson Brothers were never plane-makers or dealers, but they were plane-iron makers. Their trademark symbol was a “star on a shield”, or a Maltese cross (which was seemingly commonly used by manufacturers ). So there is little evidence to suggest they made plane bodies to go with the irons, and it never appeared on their advertising.

NB: What we likely need is a searchable database where people could look up planes based on their markings – both plane body and iron.

 

The provenance of wooden planes

Oft times I get enquires about makers of planes, most notably wooden planes. Sometimes it is a simple enquiry about where to learn more about a plane-maker. The problem is that this is often quite a hard task, especially for wooden planes.  Vintage wooden planes on the market are generally either from the UK, or North America (European wooden planes are harder to find on the market, except for places like Germany). The biggest problem with wooden planes is that they were often manufactured in local regions, and didn’t require any special equipment to manufacture, unlike their metal cousins. Metal planes are often well documented, partially because they come from fewer, often larger manufacturers. The other difference is that metal planes tend to exist for a lot longer. Wooden planes wear down, and if heavily used the plane body would have been discarded at some point, and the plane blade reused in a new body.

Prior to the 20th century, there was also very little in the way of tool literature (apart from catalogs), and so many of these plane makers remain undocumented except for basic information obtained from the makers stamp on the plane, and possibly the iron. In many cases though,  the iron was in fact produced by a larger iron manufacturer. If a plane can only be identified by its iron, i.e. the body has no markings, then the chances are that the plane was made somewhere local, and used a iron from a large edge-tool manufacturer. Only the largest toolmakers would have had access to their own metal foundries. So buying a wooden plane identified as Sorby solely by its blade? Chances are it’s not a Sorby (the upside is that if you are interested in blades, they are often cheaper to buy plane-and-all). Sorby did produce a beechwood series of planes, the “Northern Planes”, and another series under the “Kangaroo” brand.

So how best to determine where a wooden plane comes from? For British planes there is Goodman’s epitome “British Planemakers from 1700“, which lists hundreds of manufacturers, and is a good source of determining if a plane is at least British in origin. But it doesn’t provide any real information on any of the planemakers. In some cases that can only be gauged by visiting an archive/library in the local area. For vintage wooden planes made in the US, there seems to be substantially more information. One of the most comprehensive guides is  A Field Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, by Thomas L. Elliott, (Astragal Press, 5th ed. 2018). There is also more localized information. For example New York State was home to numerous wooden plane makers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Books like “Planemakers and other Edge Tool Enterprises in New York State in the Nineteenth Century” make finding plane makers easier. In the US there are also numerous tool catalogs for larger companies like Greenfield Tool Company.

 

 

 

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.