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.


A very strange block plane indeed – a Siegley No.18

A couple of years back I posted about two No.18 block planes which seemed oddly configured. One was very odd, because it didn’t fit any time frame for the No.18. No markings, no nothing… or so I thought. On the back side of the blade was a trademark for SIEGLEY, almost shrouded by the depth adjustment grooves. This is the trademark of the Siegley Tool Co.  The company was founded in New York, and was active 1878-1905, before it was sold to, you guessed it, Stanley. Also on the back of the blade was the mark “SBS” which supposedly means Stanley and Siegley, and “B” indicates a block plane. But honestly there isn’t too much information out there on Siegley.

So this is what the Siegley No.18  looks like (and I’ll call it a No.18 because I have seen a catalog with Siegley block planes all having similar Stanley nomenclature):

The trimmings all appear nickel plated. The two things that had me flummoxed were: (i) the lack of a trademark on the lever cap (I just couldn’t find any Stanley lever caps  without trademarks), and (ii) the weird eccentric lever mechanism. This does look similar to the Stanley patent for the eccentric lever, but again I could find no examples of Stanley planes that used this. Of course the other thing about this plane is that the parts just did not fit together. The centred hump of the plane body, and Hand-y make it circa 1898 from Stanley’s perspective, and the lever cap fits because it existed until the improved version  replaced it in 1914. But the eccentric lever *seemed* like something from pre-1898, maybe something closer to Stanleys patent date of 1894? A first trial?

So it’s entirely possible that this plane is post 1905, making use of the new body shape/Hand-y and knuckle lever cap from Stanley, and the eccentric lever from Siegley, which may have been of knock-off of Stanley’s patent. A similar mechanism is shown in this article from the Early American Industries Association, describing some knuckle-lever planes from the Stanley Model Shop (i.e. not production models).



The Stanley No.55 – too complex?

The Stanley No.55 combination plane can be called many things. The Swiss army knife of moulding planes, perhaps? Produced from 1897 to the early 1960s, the No.55 had the ability to produce any moulding imaginable, and really was designed as a replacement for the wooden moulding plane, with its single profile. Due to this limitation, dozens of them were typically required in the workshop. The No.55 came with a single, adjustable body, and multiple different cutters – it’s hard not to want one for the workshop, even if it is not  used very often. It sported adjustable fences, depth stops, and slitter spurs. The plane was introduced with 52 cutters, and this increased to 55 much later in its manufacturing history (there were also more than 40 specialty cutters which could be ordered). Stanley in their 1898 catalog  marketed the No.55 as the “Stanley Patent Universal Plane”, and said it “can be used for all lines of work covered by a full assortment of so-called Fancy Planes“.

It was really a combination tool – Stanley said it could function as a (i) moulding plane; (ii) match, sash, beading, reeding, fluting, hollow, round, plow, rabbet and filletster plane; (iii) dado plane; (iv) slitting plane, and (v) chamfer plane. The No.55 and its brethren did manage to replace wooden moulding planes for a number of decades, however their fate was likely  sealed with the emergence of electric routers, and moulding machines. It was of course not the first “combination plane”, that honour goes to the No.45, “a planing mill within itself”. The No.45 had fewer parts, e.g. it only had one fence, the No.55 had two, a left and a right fence. Even earlier than the No.45 was the No.41 Miller’s Patent Combined (combined plow filletster and matching plane), or any number of others – No. 42, 43, 44, 46, 47…

However its usefulness is somewhat debatable. Patrick Leach says he “hated it“, and calls it a monstrosity. It’s hard to know how many people actually use it to any great extent. The notion of adjustable it nice, but the benefits of a wooden moulding plane is that the parts are fixed – a fixed profile, and a fixed depth – and so you can pick up a plane and use it. For a combination plane, having to change cutters, and make adjustments means that there is a lot of tinkering involved. This gets challenging when replicating a wooden moulding that requires a combination of 2 or 3 cutters on a combination plane. There is also the issue of weight – the entire kit in the 1914 catalog was cited as being 15¼ lbs. Last but not least is the tools complexity – the No.55 had the most parts of any Stanley combination plane.

Maybe Stanley knew how easy it would be to misplace parts, and therefore made good business from parts? You can buy a vintage No.55 for anywhere between US$400-600, Jim Bode Tools has a bunch of them. Veritas is the first plane manufacturer in decades to introduce a new version of the combination plane, but I do wonder what the market is for a new rendition. For those interested, there is a nice comparison of the Veritas combination plane, and a Stanley No.46 for cutting dados by Derek Cohen.


Tools of the Trades – It’s a week to show day!

On Sunday April 8th, it’s time again for Tools of the Trades, undoubtedly the best vintage tool show in Canada. Next  Sunday (April 8th), at the Pickering Recreation Complex: (10am to 3pm). If you are looking for tools to use, restore, or even collect, then this is the place for you. There are always an abundance of wooden moulding planes, metal bench planes from Stanley, Record, Millers Falls.

There are vintage saws, pliers, vises, and measuring tools… and weird Buck Rogers type, futuristic, red Millers Falls tools. Likely a good bunch of vintage chisels, and even Swedish chisels.

Too many things = collection

This is a question I ask myself a lot. Is it when going into your workshop seems overwhelming? Maybe it’s impossible to have too many tools. Maybe the problem is collecting. Ahhh… that’s it.

c   o   l   l   e   c   t   i   n   g

It”s such a simple thing. You start with one block plane. You get a second. before you know it you have ten of them, and you think, hey, why not start a collection. Then you have 20. 30. 40. You start to think of sub-categories – a nice collection of pressed-steel block planes? Maybe block planes from Sargent? Maybe aluminum block planes. Partially collecting provides a sense of preserving the past, and is there anything wrong with that? It happens in other things. Books? Why *not* collect mysteries set in Ancient Rome? Or books on tools. Cookbooks? Everyone has their own thing. I’m sure there are people that collect French copper pans.

The question of course is to define what “too many tools” is. Is 90 block planes to many? What about a couple of hundred No.4 smoothers, or a thousand different hammers? But collecting isn’t just about the physical object, it is also about exploring toolmakers, tool studies, tool design and aesthetics, and looking at how tools have evolved. As time progresses, collecting may become harder, as your collection fills up, and rare pieces become harder to find (or more costly). A tool collection is a living entity, implements which can be used – not every piece in a collection has to be a museum piece.

Or if you can’t get over the collecting bug, then maybe join the worlds largest tool collecting organization, the Mid-West Tool  Collectors Association. I think I might just join myself.



Fixing a European wooden plane (i) – analysis

The European jointer plane I bought for $20 has some issues. Foremost is the fact that the rear portion of the sole is de-laminating. Likely not that unusual, considering  the style of the “V” joint used, which is simpler than other European methods of laminating a sole to the body of a plane.

Below is view of the wound on the side of the plane, Due to the angle of the grooves (which seems about 70°), it produces a wavy pattern on the side of the plane. This can lead to damage along the ends of the grooves (which can be seen below).

The second issue has to do with some cracks which show up in the ends of the plane. Wooden planes are of course subject to drying, and wood contraction, like any wooden structure. This could have occurred due to a quick construction, or it being stored in a dry environment. Either way, the cracks do not seem to pose a huge problem for the plane, as they have not surfaced. For a tool that is likely 100 years old, this isn’t terrible.

There are no cracks in the throat of the plane. This part of the plane is just grimy.

The third major issue has to do with the plane’s handle, which for one is slightly off-centre (a sign of reduced quality?), and has a slight vertical warp, likely due to the cracking present in the handle.

The handle is joined to the body of the plane with two (rusted) screws. Is this a sign of reduced quality?

Last but not least, the plane blade is covered in corrosion.

Deciphering an Austrian wooden plane

Last fall I bought a 60cm wooden jointer plane made by Johann Weiss & Son, from Vienna (Austria). It is challenging finding wooden planes made in Europe, and for C$20, it was a bargain.

The date at which this company was founded seem a little vague. After reading the literature, it seems as though the factory was founded in the 1820s by Bavarian cabinetmaker Johann Baptist Weiss, who emigrated to Vienna in 1809. The plane is a “Doppel-Rauhbankhobel mit Griff” – jointer plane (1909).

In the 1861 catalog, this plane was marked as a No.474, with a double-blade, and depth adjustment mechanism. This plane is likely constructed of beech, and has a laminated sole, which is laminated using a “V” shaped series of diagonal groves. The plane is stamped with the companies logo

The trademark on the blade is an Austrian eagle above a C-clamp surrounded by the company name. Apparently, prior to taking over iron manufacturer Franz Wertheim in 1911, plane irons were supplied by the firm Herman, and therefore have HERMAN stamped on the iron. This blade lacks that marking, so I would imagine it was manufactured after 1911. The art for the trademark on the blade seems to have been modified in 1897.

There are some cracks in the handle (which is also slightly warped), and there is de-lamination of the sole at one end, but I will try and re-glue it (a future post). This plane is likely constructed of beech, and has a laminated sole, which is laminated using a “V” shaped series of diagonal groves( as shown below).