CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL MITRE PLANES
Ornamental custom made continental mitre planes were made as early as the 16th century renaissance era and seem to have disappeared in the late 18th century.
Curved front totes on these early mitres were probably derived/inspired by the horn at the toe of early Continental wooden bench planes, and still offered on some new German planes. E.C. Emmerich is a prominent German maker of new wooden planes featuring a horn, which makes pulling the plane, as an alternative to pushing, easier.
The no-nonsense, clean and simple English mitre plane design first appeared around 1780. So there was likely some overlap between the end of ornate European mitres, and the introduction of the English box mitre. Yet stylistically and functionally, a great chasm existed between the two plane designs. Functionally, the blade angle was lowered from ~30 degrees to ~20 degrees. As a result of this lower blade angle, the mouth was moved forward from close to the middle of the body, to around a third of the length of the sole, as measured from the toe of the plane. The Continental mitre, with tenons through the sole, also had that sole proud of the body. Early English mitre planes, in contrast, had a sole flush with the body, and the former tenons could then be dovetails on the perimeter of the sole. Forming dovetails on the edge of the edge of the sole was a less laborious operation as compared with drilling out the sole for multiple tenons. English mitres could now be used on their sides for shooting mitre joints. Dovetailing the sole was also a considerably more robust construction method when compared with simply brazing the body to the sole, a common practice in making early European metal planes.
By the 1770s and ’80s, the production capabilities created by the industrial revolution made it possible for a craftsperson to readily purchase strips of iron for the sides of the planes, and obtain tools such as files and chisels for making them–see the Malade shop inventory above. Other tools included metal cutting chisels, hand drills, and metal burnishers. Earlier makers of metal planes on the European continent (before c.1760) did not have these advantages, which is why they are found in even lower quantities. Some of the preceding information was drawn from the 2010 blogs of Joel Moskowitz on mitre planes, and that is appreciated.
Gabriel mitres emerged with the now familiar box-like form, with wrought iron sides dovetailed to a two piece steel sole. Other English planemakers, contemporaries such as John Green and John Sym, as well as succeeding generations, adopted this general pattern for the mitre plane. Mitre planes were the only generally available metal plane, followed by the rabbet plane by Robert Towell around 1815-1825, then Stewart Spiers and others introduced a range of metallic infill bench planes in the 1840s and 1850s. A notable exception to this would be metal instrument makers planes, which first appeared during the Renaissance era, and made more or less continuously until the present.In the 18th century, what we now know as mitre planes were simply called “iron planes.” The 1793 shop inventory for the French harpsichord maker Pascal Taskin made references for “iron planes.” Gabriel’s business record book for 1800 made the first English reference of “mitre planes,” albeit for wooden mitre planes with a mouth closing block or stop.
Gabriel still used the term “iron plane” to notate his iron mitre plane in the 1800 ledger. Subsequent usage of the term mitre plane can be found in the Sheffield tool dealer J. Wilkes catalog of c. 1829:
707. Strait block 2 1/4″ 3 0………………..4 6 (Double)
708. Mitre do. with stop and iron reversed…….9 0
709. Iron do. steel faced…………………………25 0
From “British Planemakers from 1700″ 3rd Edition, by Jane and Mark Rees. Page 111.
Early English mitre planes were expensive!
The “Strait block” (strike block) plane was around 14 inches long and configured with the bevel of the cutting iron facing down with a bed angle ~40 degrees. Historically, the strike block plane had a single iron, but by 1829, a chipbreaker, or “double” iron was available for a higher price. Strike block planes, which had parallel sides at 90 degrees, were primarily used for end grain, often with a shooting board. Original examples are extremely elusive, however modern replicas are available.
Christopher Gabriel (b.1746 in Cornwall) started making planes in London by 1770, and he continued making them until his death in 1809. His sons continued making planes as late as 1822. During the 1790s, after Christopher’s sons took over, the firm diversified into making beds and chairs, as well as parts for pianos. A few years later, the family continued as a large wood supplier in London, and they remained in business until well into the 20th century.
The mitre plane, as it entered the marketplace around 1780, had arrived in its mature form, as created by Christopher Gabriel, John Sym, and John Green. Overall proportions, construction, and features of the mitre plane remained remarkably stable throughout its production period, which finally ended in obsolescence with the onset of World War One. Despite that general obsolescence, old-fashioned piano makers such as Steinway used the mitre plane for specialized tasks, like crowning the keybed, into the early 21th century. “…A miter plane is a design rendered obsolete by mechanization early in this century.” –Maurice Fraser 1993
From Gabriel’s early years, a full range of woodworking tools were supplied, but wooden planes always remained his core business. Mitre planes were not stocked in anything but small numbers, and while relatively new and innovative in the English box mitre format, they were not a primary focus of the Gabriel enterprise.
In this book about Gabriel, Rees examined 6 mitre planes:
“Perhaps the most interesting feature of these planes is that five of the six are marked with what appear to be serial numbers – 415, 492, 700, 701, and 720. This feature has not been noted on the mitre planes made by other contemporary makers such as John Sym of Westminster (1753-1803), and the Ponders, the Gabriels’ successors in the plane-making business.” Another signed Gabriel mitre plane with 309 stamped on the bridge, was featured in a blog by Joel Moskowitz. Moskowitz estimated that there are around a dozen Gabriel mitre planes remaining extant, and that based upon the low volume of mitre components in Gabriel inventory records, mitre plane production was quite limited. I believe that there are more than a dozen, especially when one adds in all of the unmarked mitres having Gabriel characteristics, but it seems unlikely as many as 720 were made. If these numbers were actually serial numbers, then there should be a lot more of these planes around, as infill mitre planes show obvious intrinsic value, and would not have been thrown away generally by people who might encounter one over the last 200 years. [c. 2012]
Update 2019: After a few more years of observing Gabriel mitre planes, I have arrived at a new tally of 10 stamped and numbered examples. Of course the number of examples are inadequate, but this is what’s available. Numbers span a total of 500, ranging from the lowest at 220 and the highest at 720. The numbers are: 220, 270, 309, 372, 394, 415, 492, 700, 701, and 720. Gabriel nos. 220, 270, 394, and 700 are available to me for direct study, while nos. 309, 372, 492, and 701 I have observed through multiple photographs. The infill woods used are beech, mahogany, rosewood, and walnut. I could not find any pattern of wood chosen relative to the sequence of numbers. Three of the low numbered, or early planes have pinned infills: 220, 270, and 372, while the remainder are screwed in at the front and back. Nos. 220, 270, and 394 have exactly the same shaped front infill, with identical mouldings at the back. Gabriel nos. 309 and 372 both have a plain beechwood front infill, with no moulding at the back. The higher numbered, or late planes, 700, 701, and a similar unmarked example have thick bridges ~3/16″ with a bevel along the crescent recess at the front. 700 and 701 also have a reeded front infill attached with a cheesehead screw through the front plate. The unmarked example also has a reeded front infill and cheesehead screw. All of the other earlier examples have thinner bridges, closer to 1/8″ thick, without the bevel along the curved front edge. No. 220 has a weak GABRIEL stamp on the bridge, with the numbers etched instead of stamped. The next two numbers, 270 and 309, have GABRIEL stamped on the rear of the front infill. Metal (hardness) used for tool stamps would have advanced during Gabriel’s metal plane production (1780-1822) which may explain the weak stamp on #220, and the stamps on the wooden front infill for numbers 270 and 309. Subsequent Gabriel mitres had strong GABRIEL stamps into the iron bridge, which would suggest utilization of a harder steel for the name-stamping punch. So there is some limited indication that Gabriel mitre build details are linked in clusters with the ascending numbers. That would be consistent with production in batches over the passage of time.
This Gabriel reeding plane is of a general type that would have been used to make reeded mouldings. More specifically, the type of plane that was probably used to cut the Gabriel infills was a multiple reed plane. “The development of the reeding plane required improvements in the construction of moulding planes in that they have many quirks, all of which need to be boxed if the plane is to be accurate and long- lasting. In some cases full boxing became the preferred option. The Gabriel firm seemed to be at the forefront of these developments…[c. 1780].” From “British Planemakers from 1700,” by W.L. Goodman, third edition by Jane and Mark Rees.
MOON MITRE PLANES
Thomas Moon (born before 1770; died ~1821), and later, son John Thomas Moon (1791-1841) made planes from ~1795 to at least 1841. After John Thomas’ death, his wife Ann ran the retail operation located on 4 Little Queen St. from 1841 to 1851. Along with John Moseley & Son, the Moon business was one of the few tool warehouses in London that presented their tools in a true retail setting.
ROBERT TOWELL MITRE PLANES
Because little has been known about Robert Towell (Born March 28, 1790–died November 17, 1871), generally, I have included the following information on his life:
Initially, during the 1816-1820 period,Towell lived and probably worked in the Marylebone district of London. At some point, after 1820 and before 1851, Towell moved to Shoreditch, and remained there until his death in 1871. Here is a description of Shoreditch during the period of Robert Towell’s productive years, circa 1810 to 1855:
“In Shoreditch artisans operated from small workshops where they lived. Tailors, ironworkers, leather workers such as saddlers and cordwainers (shoe and boot makers) were all common. Printing and furniture makers were another two predominant industries in this area, particularly in the later period. The furniture industry boomed in the south Hackney area when the Regents Canal was completed in 1820, as this eased the transport of heavy goods and materials. The furniture trade provided work for many small specialist trades such as french polishing and veneering, likewise with printing there was work for bookbinders and stationers.
By Victorian times, although the industrial revolution had resulted in most industry moving from areas around the City walls to places where land was cheaper and goods could be produced on a large scale, some craftsmen had escaped the threat of mass production. These were people working in the finishing trades and with high value artefacts. Being close to fashionable markets, Shoreditch was ideally placed and traditionally the area had a pool of semi-skilled labour. The furniture trade’s centre was Shoreditch and it flourished partly because of the Regents Canal, built in 1820, which was utilised for transporting the heavy hardwoods needed. Piano makers and showrooms abounded too. By 1901 there were over five thousand piano, cabinet and other furniture makers in Hackney and they had spread out from Shoreditch as far as Homerton.” From http://www.bonsonhistory.co.uk/html/hoxton___shoreditch.html
Born in 1790, Towell would have commenced work around 1810, but until late career, Towell likely confined his efforts to traditional box mitre planes and rebate planes. Because of the 1851 and 1861 UK entries for Robert Towell, which listed him as an “Iron Planemaker,” this gives indication that Towell worked a few more years than generally assumed. So Towell would have worked until circa 1855, as a conservative estimate, rather than up to sometime before 1850. And that would place him as having worked contemporaneously with iron planemakers such as Spiers, Kerr, J. Syme, Cox, Badger, and others. It is likely that Towell’s innovations shown above–iron smoother plane, iron panel plane, lever cap, and experimental mitre plane– were introduced in the 1850s. This would have been around the same time that other makers began making lever caps and iron bench planes. Influence between makers was manifested in the 1850s; for example, the lever cap was adopted relatively quickly and widely.
I. Smith mitre plane:
I. Smith also made iron rabbet planes. Nigel Lampert in “Through Much Tribulation Stewart Spiers and the Planemakers of Ayr” estimated I. Smith’s rabbet planes to have been made during the 1840s and ’50s.
In “Antique Woodworking Tools” by David Russell, an “I. SMITH ” iron was used in a Richard Nelson (122 Edgeware Road, London c.1831-1852) Handrail moulding plane. The handrail plane is no. 550, on page 181, and a photograph of the iron’s stamp is no. 193 on page 513. Perhaps this is the same maker; its possible that the mitre and rebate planes were made around Sheffield rather than London. No location for I. Smith was made on either the plane iron or the mitre and rabbet planes.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the letter J had become commonplace in the English language, and not as much interchangeable with I. ” J was introduced into English for the consonant in the 17th century (it had been rare as a vowel), but it was not universally considered a distinct letter in the alphabetic order until the 19th century.” From “History of the Latin Script,” wikipedia. For that reason, I take the the “I SMITH” stamped on the bridge literally, and I am less inclined to think that we are looking for a James or John Smith. Nevertheless, a John E. Smith (b.~1861) was listed as a planemaker in his 1881 (Marylebone), 1911, and 1939 UK census entries . James Smith (b. ~1828 in Birmingham) was another listed planemaker in the 1881 UK census in Brighton. Justinian Smith, of 17 Horse St., Bath working years 1805-1825 had a different mark with a stag’s head. A J. Smith has been noted in Dudley, near Birmingham, during the late 19th/early 20th centuries; this working period is somewhat late. And his stamp read: J. SMITH DUDLEY. Also considered was Joseph Smith, author of “Key to the Various Manufactories of Sheffield.” a tool catalogue published in 1816. Joseph Smith was the engraver of the catalogue, which was used by various salesmen to represent several Sheffield maker’s product lines to customers. So Smith was not necessarily the maker of these tools, but this does not rule him out either. In the large profusely illustrated catalogue–there are only wood bodied planes–no metal planes. There was a Joseph Smith at 51 Carver St., Sheffield working from before 1821 to after 1837, but again, the mark was different: SMITH and SONS WARRANTIED.
In the 19th century, Isaac was by far the most common boy’s name staring with I in England. Ian was rare, Ivor was popular in the 20th century, and Israel, Isaiah, and Ibrahim, etc. were not generally common then.
EARLY LISTINGS FOR LONDON PLANEMAKERS
In the London City directories, by the late 1870s, the section for planemakers changed to ‘planing mills,’ etc.
STEWART SPIERS MITRE PLANES
Stewart Spiers (1820-1899) made his planes in Ayr, Scotland, on the west coast. Spiers played a major role in developing and popularizing wood infilled metal planes, including panel, smoothing, thumb, shoulder, chariot, and improved mitres. Although, its fair to state that Spiers was not necessarily the original inventor of these forms, with the possible exception of the improved mitre plane.
Some speculation exists around who made the planes with the unique inverted cupid’s bow. Some think the examples marked “SPIER AYR” were made by William, Stewart Spiers’ father, while others believe that they were made by Stewart’s nephew. I am inclined to think that all planes with this bridge design were made by the same person, and that would likely be George Rutherford. In his book“Through Much Tribulation: Stewart Spiers and the Planemakers of Ayr,” Nigel Lampert discounted the notion of more than one Spiers making planes in Ayr:
“Its has been suggested elsewhere that the use of alternative spellings might indicate that more than one planemaker was responsible for early planes usually assumed to be by Stewart Spiers’. However, there is absolutely no hint or evidence that another planemaker named Speir ever existed in Ayr (or indeed elsewhere) during this period, and given that some early mitre planes marked ‘Speir’ are also marked ‘Ayr’ as well, and an early block smoothing plane is known stamped with both ‘Speir’ and ‘Spiers Ayr’, it is a reasonable assumption that the Spiers family used and/or responded to a number of spellings of their name.”
George Rutherford was born in New York around 1824 or 1825, but his family was from Scotland. The Rutherford family returned to Ayr, Scotland sometime before 1845. George’s mother ran a drapery business at 124 High St., Ayr, and his planes were made at that address as well. George Rutherford made planes from approximately 1845 to 1863, at which time he had the opportunity to enter the grocery business, eventually becoming the business owner. Along with Stewart Spiers, George Rutherford was most likely the only other maker of iron planes in Ayr, Scotland. In his book about “Stewart Spiers and the Planemakers of Ayr,” author Nigel Lampert suggested that Rutherford made some of his iron planes for Stewart Spiers. Certainly, some of the mitre planes show great similarity, with the exception of the inverted cupid’s bow bridge. Perhaps the reason for the similarities had to do with Stewart Spiers’ requirement for conformity with his own mitre plane product. A very small amount of Rutherford cast panel planes and smooth planes have also surfaced.. These show little similarity to the building practice of Spiers’ dovetailed planes.
The inverted cupid’s bow bridge on the mitre planes was inscribed at least four ways: SPIERS AYR; SPEIR; SPEIR AYR and G. RUTHERFORD. While some of the mitres are nearly identical with Stewart Spiers planes of the period, with the exception of the bridge, significant differences exist on other mitre plane examples.
After examination, Bill Carter found that this plane differed from standard Spiers mitre planes of the period in the following ways:
“…In my mind this Speir plane has absolutely nothing to do with Spiers, I think it is earlier and it is entirely different to the later made Spiers. The bridge has a beautiful cupid bow which is identical to the Rutherford makers in Nigel’s book. Again, very little is known about Rutherford as a maker.
These are the differences I have found between Speir and Spiers of Ayr:
Speir plane: The brass sides if the plane and bridge are much thicker. 2) The bridge is fixed either side with three pin brass pins, they could be tenons. 3) The cupid’s bow bridge is identical to a G. Rutherford plane and so are the overall dimensions of the plane itself. …6) The joint at the mouth appears to be like a bird’s mouth, not a tongue and groove. 7) The spelling Speir completely different, Speirs if Ayr always appears on his planes, it always has an S on the end (this is a really big difference between the two makers). 8) Brass and steel construction on his first type of dovetailed mitre plane. Spiers of Ayr did no use these materials on his first type of mitre plane. 9) The infill is solid rosewood, not made up of two pieces. 10) The front infill is a different shape.” From http://www.billcarterwoodworkingplanemaker.co.uk/new-infills/
Controversy surrounds the subject of improved mitre planes, with some favoring them as an actual improvement over box mitres, while others refute their usefulness on any count. Contested applications would include shooting mitres as well as general smoothing, primarily on various hardwoods. Improved mitre planes were the type that Stewart Spiers was most likely to have invented from scratch. Overall configuration–20 degree bed angle iron bevel up–was derived from the traditional box mitre plane. For the rest, Spiers borrowed from the new bench planes when coming up with his design: the front bun and general side profile came from his early panel plane, the lever cap came from his early mitre plane (and others), and the rear tote was adapted and modified from his unhandled early improved smooth plane. Collectors seek these planes out because of their rarity and uniqueness. It doesn’t hurt that Norris made a limited few improved mitres and those have become something of a holy grail with aficionados. Norris planes have always held a certain mystique, and that has captured the imagination of some collectors.
The vast majority of antique improved mitre planes, however, are the Spiers examples, which were made from the 1850s right up to the onset of World War One. Improved mitres were always a relatively low production/specialist type plane for Spiers, but because they were made for ~60 years, they’re rare, but not the rarest. Several modern planemakers produce improved mitre planes, and the small market that created this demand consists of current traditional woodworkers as well as collectors. For example, Wayne Anderson and Gerd Fritsche are both planemakers who produce improved mitre planes currently. New improved mitre plane products give today’s woodworkers a chance to experience these low angle bevel up planes for themselves.
The following two photos show a Spiers no. 5 improved mitre plane made in the early 20th century, as late as the onset of WWI. It shows a large SPIERS AYR stamp and a completely flat-topped lever cap screw, typical of c. 1910 or so. Truly the end of an era; there were no Spiers mitre planes manufactured after the Great War. Also discontinued at that time were the chariot and thumb planes. Photos by Aled Dafis (photobucket).
Spiers no. 5 improved pattern mitre plane circa 1890s. This example differs from the previous short lever cap by having a large acme thread on the cusped double screw. –And an original iron with straight sides rather than dog-eared.
GEORGE BUCK tool supplier to the piano trade as well as others.
George Buck ad in “Modern Practical Joinery” by George Ellis, 1908. They offered bow drills, planes, tuning, voicing, and regulating tools to the piano trade. In planes, they carried the revered Norris line, but they put their own attractive mark on their tool merchandise. George Buck has carried other infill plane makes during their long tenure in business, including Towell, Spiers, Holland, Slater, and Miller. I have a signed George Buck tuning hammer with a previous mark filed off, quite probably R. Reynolds, who provided Buck with most of his specialized piano tools.
George Buck was one of several businesses run by various family members of the Buck clan:
For those of you who have read this page previously, regarding the following two BUCK mitre planes, one from the 1860s and the other made after 1880, you will realize that I have changed my opinion regarding the maker of these planes. What is learning, if one’s thinking cannot evolve? I used to think that these mitres were made by Thomas Norris, but I now believe that they were made by John Holland. The 1860s Buck mitre has some markings on the bridge, which I did not notice before. And the post 1880 Buck mitre has “J H” in very small letters near the nib of the original iron. I also missed this before, and I was distracted by the fact that both of these planes have clear definitive BUCK stamps on the bridge.
When John Holland would have made the Buck 245 Tottenham Court Road plane in the 1860s, he would have been just starting in his career. It makes sense that Holland would try to take credit for the plane, because most people starting out in a career have something to prove. That may be why the later Buck planes, that were unmistakably from the same maker, did not have such prominent markings. Subsequent mitre planes coming from John Holland, and rebadged as BUCK, more often than not, had identification relegated to J H initials on the cutting irons. If any at all.
In addition to the convex shape of the bridge, the cupid’s bow is not deeply cut as one would expect to see from Robert Towell. This cupid’s bow is identical to the later 247 and 242 Tottenham Court Road marked bridges shown on this page for comparison. Letters for “BUCK” are more spaced apart than Towell’s stamp, and the address is done with fine incuse letters with a slant, in Gothic. Holland/Buck used this stamp from the 1860s to ~1890, when Norris/Buck switched to “BUCK Tot. Court Rd.” in small upright Gothic letters. A variation of this post 1885–90 stamp read “BUCK Tottm. Ct. Rd.” These later stamps seem to be applied by the Buck the dealer, rather than the maker, as they are sometimes found not perfectly straight. The slanted Gothic lettering stamp was used during the tenure with Holland, from the late 245 Tottenham Court Road address, throughout the 247 Tot. Ct. Rd. period from 1867 to 1879, and into the 1880s at 242 Tot.Ct. Rd.
Considering that Buck bought in planes from Towell, Spiers, Slater, Holland, Miller, and Norris, which of these makers can be eliminated as the possible maker? Since the two Buck planes with a convex cupid’s bow bridge were dovetailed, only Spiers, Holland, and Norris dovetailed their mitre planes. Towell dovetailed his planes as well, but his productive years (1810-1855) were too early for consideration here. These planes were made ~ 1860s to 1890. Miller did not make any mitre planes, and his planes were all cast iron or gunmetal. Slater may have made a very small number of cast iron mitre planes, appearing either unmarked, or rebadged, such as for Tyzack. Buck did rebadge and sell Spiers planes, and two examples can be seen below. They do not appear to be different from Spiers signed planes in any way. This is to be expected, as it would be unlikely for a plane maker to sell their planes at a lower price, wholesale to the trade, with any special new designs or modifications unless required by the dealer. Holland would be the remaining possible maker of these dovetailed mitre planes, other than Norris, and there’s a dearth of Holland’s examples available for comparison. What makes these two planes unusual, even unique, is that they seem to be limited to the Buck dealer stamp, and do not appear elsewhere with the original planemaker’s stamp. Of course a maker-stamped mitre might show in the future, and if it does, it could give a more definitive answer as to who made all the Buck mitres with cupid’s bow and curved bridges, from the 1860s and into the 1880s. While these Buck mitres are rare, a fair number of this vintage and type have shown up over the years.
Working years for Holland ranged from 1861 to 1892, which encompassed the time in the 1860s when the earlier plane was made. While Norris advertised that he was established in 1860, it was realistically more as a tool dealer rather than maker. After consideration, I now think that these planes were most likely made by John Holland rather than Thomas Norris. A definitive Norris no. 10 mitre plane is shown rebadged as a BUCK further down this page. There are no differences between the BUCK and a Norris no.10 other than the stamp on the bridge..
Below you can see the curved bridges of both Norris and Holland. The influence of Holland on Norris is obvious. And that applies to the two previous Buck mitre planes as well.
BUCK THUMB PLANES
Distinctly English thumb planes were never produced in quantity; chariot planes were the most similar English plane in design and function, but chariots were made in greater quantities by a larger number of planemakers. Both chariot and thumb planes had thick bevel up irons on a wooden infill bed, around 20 degrees, with a 3 to 5 inch body respectively, and easily used with one hand. Given these similarities, the relative popularity of the 19th century chariot plane almost eclipsed the thumb plane. Scottish style chariots, from the mid-19th century, with their mouth 1/3rd of the way back from the toe, could have provided inspiration for early makers of the thumb plane. Working in the early to mid-19th century, Kerr may have been the first innovator of thumb planes, and Stewart Spiers likely commenced making them around that same time or a few years later. John Holland also made thumb planes and his working years were 1861 to 1892. The last historical manufacturer of the thumb plane was Thomas Norris (late 19th century to ~1940), and Norris made more of this type than anyone else in the trade. Thomas Norris and John Holland both lived on York St. in Lambeth, 71 and 93 respectively, and they were there concurrently between 1872 and 1890. It would have allowed plenty of time for an exchange of ideas between these two planemakers.
American block planes were the closest domestic equivalent to the English thumb plane, but their introduction circa 1873 postdated the thumb planes by at least 20 years. English influence from the thumb plane on Leonard Bailey was apparent in the side profile of his Excelsior pattern block plane.
In contrast to the English thumb planes, the Bailey/Stanley block planes caught on like wildfire, and were made in prolific quanties and variations from the 1870s until World War Two. On average, American block planes ranged from 6 to 7 inches long, compared with English thumb planes, generally around 5 inches long. While similarities existed between these two types, differences were also present: thumb planes had a much thicker iron on a wooden infill bed, and they were largely a handmade product. American block planes were mass produced: much less expensive, in many cases adjustable, and had a thinner iron bedded on the iron casting.
Since so few English planemakers made thumbplanes, examples are difficult to find. This lack of antique English thumb planes has created demand, so a number of current planemakers are producing new thumb planes. Interest in thumb planes today quite possibly equals that of the 19th and 20th centuries.
“The Metal Thumb Plane, English type …is 5 in. long, and …1 1/4 in. wide [cutter]; it has a long cutter, which answers for a handle, and is secured with a gun-metal screw lever. It is, I believe, a specialty of Mr. George Buck, whose address will be found in the advertisement pages of this book.” From “Modern Practical Joinery,” by George Ellis, 1908.
Here are some sources regarding the sale of Badger’s shop at 93 York Road, Lambeth. Research was posted on pinterest by A. R. Clarence. I posted it because so little is known about Holland or Badger:
“Sheffield Daily Telegraph March 19th 1870:
To Saw and Tool Makers–An old established business of twenty years’ standing to be disposed of, in consequence of the Death of the Proprieter–apply Mrs. Badger York Road Lambeth London.”
“South London Chronicle December 10th 1870:
Re: Badger, deceased 93 York Road Lambeth–Toolmaker’s Stock; also the lease and fixtures of the above desirable, excellently fitted. Business Premises, with workshop at the rear held for the expired term of 14 years at the annual rental of 44 GBP.
Mr. Mallet will sell by auction on the premises as the above on the 10th the remaining genuine stock of Carpenters’ Joiners’, Cabinetmakers’, and Wheelwrights’, Tools, Engineer’s files, cutlery, iron cramps etc. in addition to the lease.”
The following quote comes from Maurice Fraser (1928-2016), a well known woodworking teacher at the Crafts Students League of the YMCA in New York, on the 1989 David Stanley auction price of a custom Norris mitre plane. Leslie Ward (1901-1980) was the head harpsichord maker for Arnold Dolmetsch, (1858-1940), a leader in the original instrument revival movement. Ward commissioned this mitre plane to his own specifications:
” … [Norris survived] the 1930s Depression, and was even exumed, briefly after World War Two. To postwar craftsmen, then, the varied Norris line of planes, even the somewhat debased, “austerity-years” versions of the late 1940s, remained the tools of choice. Norris, thus, finally advanced beyond merely first among equals. The company became the ‘Last of the Mohicans.’
Its rare with historical artifacts such as these, that we are afforded any knowlege of the person behind the tool. …Dolmetch (1858-1940) was the most powerful force in the phenomenal 20th-century revival of historical musical instrument manufacturing. The Dolmetsch factory in Haslemer, Surrey, England, occupies the site where those still-famous harpsichords, lutes, viols and recorders first saw light again, under the hands of such craftsmen as Ward and others… Ward remained head of the harpsichord and clavichord division until his retirement in 1966.
…[The auction is a] marketplace at its most emotional; an arena of contradiction where, in the heat of battle cool reason is often overcome.
The successful bidder, Max Ott, is a long time professional woodworker, tool collector and currently the owner and manager of a cabinet shop in London. The proud new owner, soberly, is reserving the tool for private use in his home workshop. …The extravagant 1989 price for Ward’s Norris mitre plane is an odd mix of reverence and irrationality. Today, the astronomical pricing of what is perceived as art is little questioned, even though what is art is ever more difficult to ascertain. …Commercially, the mitre plane has always been a loser: it promotes quality unhurried–not quantity, requisite in the press of the late machine age.”
Maurice Fraser New York, N.Y. 1989