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A full range of bench planes were utilized from the beginning of the piano industry until increased mechanization made their use obsolete, or at least, less common. These included smoothing, jack, and jointer planes in transitional, metallic, and wooden forms. Wooden forms were used first, until Leonard Bailey, Stanley, and others introduced their line of metallic bench planes after the Civil War. New York City piano makers and their workers, however, had a need for several specialized planes, which were supplied by New York tool makers, such as Napoleon and Julius Erlandsen, Joseph Popping, Lauritz Brandt, and George Thorested. These included box mitres, shoulder, bullnose, and miniature forms, and were known as New York City infill planes.
The famous and sought-after Erlandsen mitre plane, is shown below: it helped enable dedicated workers to build many pianos before the days of mass-production panel sanders, thickness planers, and after that for those working for the smaller piano makers. In my opinion there is no other specialized plane that can be characterized as a “piano plane” to the same extent as the Erlandsen mitre. Even recently, surrounded by increased mechanization, this type of plane has remained in use in the Steinway factory to create the crown in the middle of the keybed of their grand pianos. These planes were patterned after the English box mitres, and earlier planes from the European mainland, primarily France, Germany, and Italy, with a low angle blade for cutting end grain and the irregular, difficult grains of some exotic hardwoods. The tall sides of the plane, set square to the sole, enable the tool to be used on its side to shoot mitres and angles, and could also be used with a shooting board. It is actually a very large block plane, and Leonard Bailey/Stanley introduced the #9 (their version of a mitre plane) before the production of their other block planes. These were also sold as “smooth planes,” as in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog entry shown further down on this page, so there were many uses.
Before this group of New York toolmakers could produce an adequate amount of specialized planes for the piano industry, English mitre, rebate, and other infill planes were imported. But these planes were expensive, especially with the added cost of shipping them to the United States, so sufficient quantities were not available at a reasonable price. Also, the size of English mitre planes at the time averaged ten or eleven inches, somewhat larger than what was sought by the U.S. pianomakers.
A major difference between the Erlandsen box mitre planes and the older English box mitre planes was that the main iron body of the Erlandsen plane was cast in a single piece compared to the English practice, where the sides of the plane were dovetailed to the sole, which was a more expensive and laborious process. Napoleon Erlandsen, who was an expert machinist, was able to maintain quality and save expense by using this efficient approach. The front of the sole was cast in a separate piece, though, which provided the user with an adjustable mouth, as well as making the mouth (aperture for the blade) easier to manufacture. A small mouth was necessary for fine cutting and avoiding grain tear-out in this type of low angle plane. These were simple planes that worked very well, and never incorporated the adjustment mechanisms that Stanley/Bailey used in their planes, but the specialized New York infill planes were often the tools of choice for the piano making workers on the East coast of the United States.
N. Erlandsen mitre plane and Stanley No. 9 cabinet makers block plane (or pianomaker’s mitre plane). The New York/Erlandsen type was introduced first, c. 1840 and 50s, and the the Stanley #9 was developed by Leonard Bailey before he worked for Stanley, in the late 1850s into the 1860s. A side handle for the #9 is not shown here. Both miters are cast iron, and have an adjustable mouth. The sole of the No. 9 is 1/8th of an inch longer than the Erlandsen, which was listed as no. 113B in the 1885 Hammacher Schlemmer catalog shown later on this page. N. Erlandsen signed this plane on the small elevated area of the front toe.
Stanley Catalog, 1934. The #97 chisel plane is shown further down on this page. Number nines were described as 10″ long, but the example above, ~1900, with an 1892 blade, is 9″. After the turn of the century, the sole was shortened; this was probably driven by customer demand as well as to compete more closely with Erlandsen. In the example above. the shorter sole was attained by diminishing the size of the front and rear extensions. No. 97 chisel plane shown further down on this page is 9-1/2″, not 10″.
Lauritz Brandt was born September 6, 1807, in Denmark, and died June 28, 1890 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Brandt arrived in the U.S. in 1836, at the age of 29. After settling in and establishing himself, Brandt opened and ran a machine shop in N.Y. from 1842 to 1880 at several locations over the years.
A talented machinist and planemaker, Lauritz Brandt, innovated and developed the New York style mitre and rebate planes. His planes were distinct from those made by the English makers of the time, including Robert Towell and Stewart Spiers. Brandt mitre planes were immediately distinguishable from English models by having a convex plate at the front of the body, while English mitres had a flat plate. Brandt’s early mitre planes had wedges and bridges, but after 1844, he introduced lever caps and adjustable mouths to many of his mitre planes. Brandt’s introduction of these planes to the burgeoning New York piano industry of the time, allowed individual piano factory workers as well as piano manufacturers to purchase planes at lower prices when compared to imported English mitre and rebate planes which were used previously. English mitre planes were typically 8″ to 11″ long, with irons ranging from 1 5/8″ to 2 1/4″ wide. Brandt’s mitre planes ranged from 6 1/4″ to 10″ long, with irons between 1 7/16″ to 2″ wide.
In 1839, Lauritz married Anna Kerrn. Because Lauritz and Anna had no children, Lauritz likely sought someone to mentor outside of his family. To an undetermined extent, Brandt advised George Thorested, a young, recent immigrant from Norway. When that relationship ended in the late 1850s, he sought another talented individual to take over the piano tool trade. That person turned out to be Napoleon Erlandsen, who emigrated from Denmark to New York in 1860, and set up shop alongside Lauritz Brandt in 1863.
William Perris’ Ward Map of Southern Manhattan shows 222 and 220 1/2 Fifth St. as adjacent to each other. So Brandt moved next door in around 1851. Planes and bow drills made by Brandt were stamped with the 220 1/2 Fifth St. address. Later Fifth St. addresses: 417 5th St (1865-1869–shared with Napoleon Erlandsen), and 615 East 5th St. (1868-1875–also shared with Napoleon Erlandsen), were renumberings rather than actual moves. The 600 block of Fifth St. at present, is still one block east of Avenue B.
In around 1868, Brandt’s 417 Fifth St. address was changed again to 615 Fifth St. One year after information was taken for the 1880 N.Y.C. Directory, Lauritz Brandt moved back to Denmark, where he spent the last 9 years of his life.
In the early 1860s, Brandt began to mentor Napoleon Erlandsen, and the two of them shared the same address for a decade. Brandt’s most familiar address was 220 1/2 5th St. (1851-1860), which was inscribed on the lever caps of many of his planes as well as inside the handles of his bow drills. It is not clear if Brandt actually produced pianomakers’ tools after 1860, as he made a moderate fortune from selling his Denmark factory which produced the Bruce Type-casting machine in 1859. Bruce’s Type-casting machine was patented in 1838 and 1843.
In “New York City Makers of Pianomaker’s Planes,” by John G. Wells, from the December 2011 issue of the EAIA Chronicle, Torben Bentsen provided a translation of this obituary:
Brandt, Lars (Lauritz) Johannsen Peter. September 6, 1807-June 28, 1890, Inventor. Born in Svendendorg. Parents: Christian Olsen and Anna Dorothea Olsdatter. The mother later married Blacksmith Eric Rasmussen in Faaborg, with whom Brandt learned the trade of a blacksmith. When in his twenties, he went to Copenhagen, later Sweden and Russia, where in Petrograd, he got lucrative work in precision engineering. In 1831, he traveled to Germany and around 1840 to New York, where he gained employment in David Bruce’s typecasting company. Here he constructed the first practical usable type setting machine. During a multiyear stay in Europe he got his machine marketed in Germany with the company E. Haenel, who did however not mention Brandt’s name. From here and from Denmark the machine was distributed to other countries. In 1848 Brandt founded a factory for the machine and other items. In 1859 he sold the factory to another Dane and lived from his fortune. In 1881 he moved to Copenhagen where he passed away. [He married Anna Kerrn in 1839; she passed away in 1869].
I was unable to find Lauritz Brandt in the New York City Directories after 1843-1844 (13 Chambers), and before 1847-1848 (222 Fifth St.). This may have just been a lapse in coverage in the New York Public Library’s particular collection of City Directories, but more likely it was because Brandt was out of the country setting up manufacturing of the Bruce Typecasting machine.
Brandt was hired by Bruce to build an example from Bruce’s first version, which was similar. Brandt went ahead and produced Bruce’s No. 1 patent Typecasting machine in Denmark on his own behalf. Bruce’s U. S. patents did not apply in Europe.
Even before Brandt sold his Denmark typecasting factory in 1859, which made his fortune, he had money. In December, 1854, Lauritz Brandt posted bond for two individuals held in custody.
This plane differs from the English mitres by having a convex front piece to to the body box. At just under 10 inches long, its one of the largest NY mitre planes. Some copper based brazing material is barely visible inside the front corners, which leads me to believe that Brandt was relatively new to dovetailing at this point.
Note that Brandt was dovetailing the top or sides of the plane to the sole in a similar manner as the British and Scottish plane makers, such as those made by Norris or Spiers. Brandt was the first to introduce the adjustable mouth to this type of plane, but this a copy of an earlier model with a fixed mouth. In the mid 1840s, Brandt pioneered the use of lever caps for the N.Y. mitre plane. This was around the same time as Stuart Spiers in Ayr, Scotland and Fenn in London began installing lever caps as an option, replacing the bridge and captive wedge in their planes.
This dates from the very beginning of A.J. Wilkinson, circa 1842-1844, as the “& Co.” part of the name was not yet added.
A Boston connection indicates that from the beginning of the New York plane makers, Boston piano factory workers were served as well as the New York based workers. Employees within Boston piano factories such as Chickering and Hallet & Davis, prominent in the 1840s, would have had the opportunity to purchase this Brandt mitre plane. If they could afford it. In many cases, the factory itself would purchase the planes. Throughout the 1840s and ’50s, Chickering was the leading maker of pianos in the United States.
Here is a detailed map showing 209 Bowery St. drawn by William Perris, which was published in 1852, and I have added a brief chronology of the various proprietors over the years.
Before Charles Tollner moved his warerooms to 209 Bowery. Tollner had his tool and hardware business located at 221 Bowery St,. just north of Rivington St., from 1848 through 1856.
George Anderson’s mitre plane was also marked by Tollner. Charles Tollner was a tool merchant, whose business later evolved into Hammacher Schlemmer. Tollner was not a maker of tools.
Another Brandt mitre, showing a domed-shaped lever cap screw, and a brass plate forming the back portion of the front infill. This brass plate was introduced by Brandt, and adopted by Thorested, with several examples by Erlandsen, in their smaller mitre planes.
A few bevel down smoothers in a box mitre body have been found at around 5″, but this plane has a 1 1/2″ bevel up iron set at 20 degrees. One or two ‘toy’ New York finger planes at 3″ have been found as well, but these were one-off examples rather than a genre. This plane has a Brandt angled-shoulder lever cap with screw through pivot rod. And it has an adjustable mouth. It also has a double knurled lever cap screw, similar to Thorested’s. Body is cast iron, and it is well done. While Thorested has generally been credited with introducing cast iron bodies for New York piano planes, rather than dovetailed, its not inconceivable that Brandt may have made some cast planes as well. His years of production were 1842 to 1860, and possibly much later, as he worked and held New York addresses until 1880. Perhaps Brandt made this mitre while sharing his shop with Napoleon Erlandsen in the 1860s.
Lever cap screw shows two different knurling styles on each perimeter ridge, which is indicative of Brandt. This mitre has a cheesehead screw for the strike button, just like the Brandt/Tollner plane shown above.
I have observed at least two other examples of this Brandt cast iron mitre plane. One of them is in the collection of James Claussen.
Unmarked iron rabbet plane with sides pinned together over a rosewood infill, consisting of two pieces, one in front, and the other in back, behind and underneath the sloped steel cutter seat. A steel triangular shaped spacer or keeper was placed directly in front of the rosewood wedge, and the top of the steel cutter seat can be seen behind the wedge and iron. The plane has a very thick sole, 1/4″ in fact, and the escapement has the combined rectangle and circle which was used by Brandt, Thorested, and the Erlandsens. This particular plane had a smaller circle, though, which was positioned more on the top corner of the rectangle rather than more out in front of the rectangle, with the bottom of the circle creating a front ‘shelf’ before the actual mouth, as seen on most Erlandsen and Thorested rabbets. I’ve seen a Brandt rabbet plane with a virtually identical shaped escapement that was photographed in Wells’ December 2011 EAIA article on N.Y. pianomaker’s planes. All of these features indicate that this plane was likely made by Lauritz Brandt, although it can’t be said with 100% certainty. Thorested and Erlandsen also made a limited number of rabbets with sides pinned together over a rosewood infill, but with a slightly different escapement as described above. Some Thorested non-adjustable planes, however, did had a similar escapement like this one. Blade angle on this one is somewhat steeper than is what is typically seen on the New York rabbet planes.
Having a steel cutter seat ensured that the angle for the full length of the iron would stay stable over time, and not be subject to shrinkage of the infill wood. This applied specifically to examples of rabbets where the blade was not resting on—and supported by—the top of the rear wall of the plane. Towell and Spiers rabbets, upon which this plane was partially based, could be susceptible to having the rear part of the cutter seat eventually dry out and shrink to a slightly lower angle than that of the front section. The front portion of the cutter seat would be held to tolerance by the supporting metal components: the sloped upper sole, and the two sides of the the escapement, both behind the mouth.
All of Thorested’s pianomakers planes show the strong influence of Lauritz Brandt, especially the earlier ones. Similarities in design features abound generally, but this can also continue down to the smallest details. The fact that they worked within close proximity in Manhattan, as well as both of them having been native to Scandinavia gives strong indication that Brandt mentored the younger Thorested. Thorested was the first among the New York planemakers to develop a cast iron body for the mitre plane; Thorested’s earlier mitres, however, were made of iron sides dovetailed to a steel or iron sole, in a traditional style similar to that of his elder colleague Lauritz Brandt. With the exception, of course, that these planes had adjustable mouths, in contrast to the English mitres. Its fairly likely that Thorested made planes at other owner’s machine shops before establishing his own workshop at 23 Hamersley St. in 1854. Its also likely that one of these other shops would have been Brandt’s at 220 1/2 Fifth St. After 1861, Hamersley St. became Houston St., a fairly major thoroughfare running east to west in southern Manhattan. This shop was established during Thorested’s working arrangement with John Nystrom, which involved manufacturing the Nystrom calculator. Profits and possible financial backing from making the calculator were the likely source of funding for establishing this workshop, but those profits would have been relatively modest, given that an estimated 100 were made in total. And part of that production was given to William J. Young in Philadelphia. From history-computer.com:
In late 1840s the young Swedish immigrant in USA John William Nystrom, who lived in Philadelphia, invented a calculating device, which was presented and received a First Premium at the Franklin Institute Exhibition in 1849. Later Nystrom received a patent for his calculating machine (US patent №7961, March 4, 1851). In an article of Scientific American the device was hailed as the most important one ever brought before the public. Despite all of the accolades however, it was never widely accepted, and no more than 100 devices were ever produced. This may have been because the cost (there were $10, $15, and $20 models, a huge sum in 1850s), or because the instrument was never well advertised or marketed.
In 1855, Thorested’s machine shop address changed to 5 Hamersley St., as entered in Trow’s 1855, 1856 and 1857 New York City business directories:
1858-1859 was the final entry for George Thorested in the N.Y.C. Directories. The listing was finally correct.
The location of the saw mill on Hamersley was no. 25 in 1852, so the building on the corner would have been 23 Hamersley. Since this was the terminus of Hamersley St., no. 23 Hamersley was likely changed to no. 5 Hamersley St. The south side of Hamersley consisted of even numbers. With an iron foundry on the same block of Hamersley St., it was no wonder that George Thorested found his way to making cast iron planes.
Both mitre and rabbet planes made by Thorested are scarce, because his period of tool production was cut short, and limited to the 1850s. I would estimate that the cast iron mitres and rabbet planes with a double casting, were made after Thorested had his own shop in 1854. The earlier dovetailed mitres and pinned rabbets would have required a number of files and a few other hand tools, which could have easily been carried around to various machine shops during Thorested’s first years in the U.S. –Whereas the necessary time for experimentation and room for casting equipment would have best been done in his own space.
Nevertheless, George Thorested was still making dovetailed mitre planes as late as 1855, as at least two dovetailed Thorested mitre planes were marked with the 5 Hamersley St. address. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Thorested made some dovetailed planes concurrently alongside some of his cast iron planes. Moreover, in a similar line of reasoning, Lauritz Brandt could have made his small 6 inch cast iron mitre plane during the same time period as his later dovetailed planes, also in the late 1850s. What is clear, however, is that Brandt’s and Thorested’s early dovetailed planes, constructed with iron sides and steel soles, generally preceded their cast iron planes.
Cast iron planes of any kind were uncommon during this 1850s period, which many consider the zenith of wooden planemaking. Hazard Knowles registered the first patent for a cast iron bench plane in 1827, but relatively few Knowles planes and Knowles copies were produced. It wasn’t until the late 1860s that the cast iron plane was produced en masse, by Stanley and their Bailey-designed planes.
Little has been known about Thorested, and he remains a mysterious figure to the present day. George Thorested was single, and no evidence of extended family in America has been uncovered. I also did not find Thorested in U.S. census records. His last residence was located at 279 East 10th St., in Manhattan. George Thorested died on August 6, 1858 in Manhattan, at the age of 37 from “inflammation of the lungs.” He was interred at Greenwood cemetery in Brooklyn the next day.
On October 29th, 1858, in New York City, George Thorested’s court probate record was made.
Thorested’s lever caps typically had a long neck with parallel sides and shoulders at 90 degrees. An alignment rod for the adjustable sole can barely be seen on the front of the plane body, over the front sole extension.
It is unclear what the relationship between Meyer & Eiffler and Charles Tollner was, but there must have been some because they were both at the same address, and they both sold infill planes. The 1866 Directory entry is a late one, and the Brandt and Thorested planes would have been made in the 1850s. Meyer & Eiffler also sold a line of padlocks.
Thorested mitre plane, with long and narrow body, 1 1/2″ mouth, and moderately chamfered lever cap. Lever cap screw is iron rather than brass. Besides the “T” shaped lever caps, another characteristic of Thorested’s mitres is that the lever cap fulcrum rod is generally placed 2/3rds of the way back from the toe of his planes. On the Erlandsen mitres, the lever cap fulcrum is placed just about at the middle of the plane bodies.
Thorested’s small mitre is 5/8″ shorter than a Stanley No. 19 block plane, but Thorested’s was discontinued a good 30 years before the No. 19 was introduced in 1888. Besides, the solid feel and accuracy of the Thorested mitre bears little comparison to the Stanley, save that they both have bevel up irons and adjustable mouths. This mitre has excellent fit and finish, and attention to detail, noting the heavily chamfered lever cap, and tight mouth. On the side, you can see the screw-through lever cap cross pin, and if you look closely at the top of the side, there are a couple pin head size casting voids that were filled with copper brazing material by Thorested. With a rounded over shape, like the bowler hat of the mid-19th century, this lever cap screw shows the influence of Lauritz Brandt.
This Thorested rabbet plane was made between 1854 and 1858, and was sold by Meyer & Eiffler, 209 Bowery St. N.Y. Threaded rosewood plugs for adjustment screw holes not shown in this photo. Deeply recessed adjustment screws for adjustable mouth, even though not easily visible, are clocked.
The Thorested/Meyer& Eiffler rabbet plane was made from two cast iron offset body halves which have been pinned together–the right body half holds the sloped cutter seat. A seam between the two body halves can be seen faintly along the top of this plane, about 3/4ths of the way over to the right side. An adjustable throat could be set with two clocked cheese head screws deeply recessed at the bottom of the two holes at the front top of the plane. These holes were threaded, and this plane came with two threaded rosewood plugs, which are not shown in this photo. Alignment was maintained by two studs on the top of the adjustable sole, which were held in place by two elongated corresponding slots on the bottom of the front portion of the plane. Most of these features point to George Thorested as the maker of this New York pianomakers plane. It was marked “Meyer & Eiffler, 209 Bowery St., N.Y.,” which was the same address as Hammacher Schlemmer from 1853 to 1904. Meyer & Eiffler was a small hardware concern which sold a wire gauge, various padlocks, and a limited number of New York pianomakers mitre planes as well.
Thorested’s rabbet with two cast iron halves led the way towards Erlandsen’s design for a rabbet plane, which was a relatively complex single iron casting, requiring cores.
Thorested plane (c 1851-1858) made of iron stock and steel sole; its pinned together. Tollner plane (Thorested), cast iron in two halves pinned together. Same model as the Meyer & Eiffler rabbet shown above.
Mystery New York Mitre Plane. Thorested?
It’s not entirely clear who made this attractive cast-iron 9-inch New York mitre plane shown below, which displays iron, bronze, and brass in contrast with the rosewood. Here are some collector-oriented details about the niceties of this plane, which I will compare with other N.Y. piano plane makers. Much of the information used here to compare the various mitre planes can be found in this excellent article: “New York City Makers of Pianomakers’ Planes” published in the December 2011 issue of the The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, written by John G. Wells.
- Exquisite machining was done on the brass lever cap screw, with two concentric rings separated by a concave area in the face, a dimple in the middle, and two knurled rings on its outer edge. While not unlike Erlandsen lever cap screws, this one is more detailed.
- The front infill, with a concave moulding in front of the mouth, is made of one piece of solid rosewood, instead of having a lesser wood glued underneath the rosewood and a third convex vertical piece in front of the mouth, as seen on Erlandsen mitre planes.
- Gunmetal (bronze) was used for the lever cap instead of iron, which was typically used by the known N.Y. makers, with some exceptions. Underneath the bronze lever cap there is a clearly delineated 1/8th -inch thickening surrounding the threads of the lever cap screw, but it is not the same as the 3/16-inch inverted cone on the Erlandsen mitres.
- The lever cap, with a long neck and parallel sides, is shaped differently than Erlandsen’s or Thorested’s. But the cross pin for the lever cap is threaded into one side, like Thorested or Brandt’s mitre planes. Since Brandt used dovetailing in the construction of his planes, Brandt can be ruled out, and it doesn’t look anything like the Popping mitres. The W. Butcher 2-inch iron was pretty much the widest offered in the largest N.Y. mitres, and Thorested was known for using W. Butcher irons among others.
- In order to clear the long lever cap neck for the blade as it wears down, a concave area was made on the front of the pad. Cheese-heads machine screws are used for adjusting the front sole piece beneath the infill, as do Thorested”s planes, while Erlandsen’s have round head machine screws.
- On the front sole extension is a 3/32″ step down, the same as in N. Erlandsen’s mitres; Thorested’s step down was only 1/16″.
- On the front end of the body of the plane there is a noticeably more convex curve than what is typically seen on an Erlandsen, but some of Thorested’s mitre planes do have front and rear curves this pronounced, or even more so. Other important details characteristic of Thorested such as a guide pin for the adjustable front sole piece, are missing however.
- This plane could have been made in an upstart N.Y. machine shop, but if that was the case, it was an excellent one. What do you think?
Some Erlandsen History
Napoleon Erlandsen, 28, a “Smith,” arrived in New York City Harbor on 19 March, 1860. He was a passenger on the “Teutonia.”
Napoleon Erlandsen, a Danish immigrant (born Copenhagen, Denmark, March, 1831), moved to New York in 1860, and began making tools for the piano trade around 1863. He married Louisa Aubinger (1841-1928), a first generation German–American, in 1864, and they had two sons: Oscar (1865-1943) who became a noted civil engineer, and Julius (December 5, 1866–October 20, 1956), who accompanied Napoleon in business. Napoleon was a skilled machinist, designer and woodworker, and he developed a tool making business that supplied Hammacher Schlemmer, Alfred Dolge, American Felt Co., C. F. Goepel, and Schley, as well as other piano tool and supply retailers outside the U.S. He developed a full line of tools for tuners, action regulators, case makers, bellymen, and other allied tradesmen.
His son, Julius, joined him in the early 1880s, and they worked together until about 1894, when Napoleon retired. Napoleon was severely injured in a streetcar accident and died as a result of his injuries on July 19th, 1900. Julius continued the business until at least 1940, according to the US federal census.
1894 article in the “Music Trades Review.” This revealed that Julius Erlandsen was in now control of the company, innovating, and receiving credit for it. Its just one example of the wide range of products that the Erlandsen machine shop supplied for the piano industry.
Julius Erlandsen worked out of his 172 Centre St. shop for 38 years. When Julius left 172 Centre St. in 1931, he was not done; he would continue to work as long as 22 more years.
“…Mr. Erlandsen is an expert judge of and worker in steel, and the fine tempering of the steel used in the production of his tuning hammers is done by himself.” Music Trades Review, 1919.
Julius Erlandsen also held at least 7 patents, which can be seen here. These patents included two for an extension tuning hammer, and others were for machinery, including a rotary cutter, and a wire mattress stretcher.
Erlandsen machine shop addresses: 519 East 5th St (1864-1865); 417 5th St (1865-1869–shared with mentor Lauritz Brandt); 615 East 5th St. (1868-1875–also shared with Lauritz Brandt); 87 Elizabeth St (1875-1880); 107 Rivington St. (1880-1893); 172 Center St. (1893-1931); 93 84th St. Jackson Heights, Long Island City, residence and work (1932~1940).
The 19th century was not the zenith of the piano industry in the United States. Piano production reached a peak in 1909, with 364,565 new pianos sold that year, according to the National Piano Manufacturers Association. Business continued to be good until 1929. This is why Julius Erlandsen was able to continue as a machinist making piano tools until at least 1940, and possibly as late as 1953, when the Piano Supply Department was divested from Hammacher Schlemmer & Co., N.Y.
The last year of entry for Erlandsen’s 172 Centre St address was 1931. Julius likely was forced to downsize, and move essential equipment to his residence due to the loss of sales during the worst of the Great Depression. Most of Erlandsen’s 1930s tool production would have been for Hammacher Schlemmer. By this time, based on extant Erlandsen tools from the period, I believe that he was primarily producing tuning, voicing, regulating, and stringing tools. Mueller ‘improved, hammer, version 2, is one example of Julius’ late production. Plane and bow drill production had been greatly diminished if not curtailed during the 1930s. Erlandsen’s bow drill and tuning hammers were included in Goddard’s no. 80 trade list, circa 1938-9. Its the last offering of these tools that I have found.
Julius Erlandsen was living in the Queens borough of New York City at the time of the 1940 census. He listed his vocation as a machinist, specifically making piano tools. Julius also declared that he worked a full 40 hour week previous to the census interview, and that he worked a full 52 weeks in 1939.
Based on the limited volume of piano supplies produced during the Great Depression, I’d speculate that Julius was working alone or with one assistant.
Julius Erlandsen was the most prolific of all the New York piano toolmakers, when all of his specialized tools were taken into consideration.
After World War Two, the participation of Hammacher Schlemmer within the piano supply industry was fairly inconsequential. The few H. S. piano tools that were made during the period between 1946 and 1953 consisted of stationary tuning hammers, and a few other basics.
Julius Erlandsen used cross-hatch knurling on some of his earlier tuning hammers.
A handful of small production runs would have been all that was was necessary for Hammacher Schlemmer’s requirements in their Piano Supply Division between 1946 and 1953, something that a reasonably healthy older man, like Julius Erlandsen, could probably accommodate.
Julius Erlandsen’s obituary in the New York Times on Oct 24, 1956, just a few weeks away from his 90th birthday. He was born on December 5th, 1866 (from familysearch.org).
Erlandsen Mitre Planes
Hammacher Schlemmer’s line of Erlandsen mitre planes in their 1885 piano supply catalogue. Width given is that of the cutters rather than the plane bodies.
Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, January 1,1885: ”Iron smooth plane” showing line of Erlandsen mitre planes. Nickel plating (photo below), a prestige feature, added substantially to the cost, but did not hold up in the places where the hand made contact with the plane body. In this illustration, the pad has a cutout allowing for further blade wear, as on the ‘mystery’ 9-inch mitre shown earlier. It is a variation uncommonly found. The illustration also shows the triangular step-down on the front toe extension instead of the earlier version below this one, where the step-down follows the rounded contour of the plane body. Possibly done as a result of a newer machining process that didn’t require hand touch up, as needed before.
If the rounded step was discontinued with the introduction of the triangular step by 1884 or earlier, then it would indicate that the bulk of Erlandsen mitre plane production was relatively early, before 1885. Less Erlandsen mitres have been found with the triangular step.
While Napoleon Erlandsen’s mitre planes show more production uniformity than Brandt or Thorested, this example is different, and shows the early development of Erlandsen’s plane making process. The number 152 appears to be roughly acid-etched on the lever cap, possibly a piano factory inventory number.
Shown above, this mitre has definite Erlandsen characteristics: such as the cone-like projection underneath the lever cap, the profile of the body casting, the details of the adjustable mouth, and the lever cap screw. While similar to other lever caps screws made by Erlandsen, save the threaded steel screw column peined flat instead of rounded, it is 1/8″ larger. Front portion with the adjustable sole is longer than typical, and so is the infill, which has the convex moulding in front of the throat. And the pad on the iron is huge, with a large cutout for the neck of the lever cap, which is shortened compared to other Erlandsens.
Prices and illustration remained the same as 1885. H. S. & Co.’s 1896 and 1903 prices for Erlandsen mitres were as follows: 112: $6.75; 112A: $3.25; 113: $7.25; 113A: $3.60; 113B: $7.75. Plain steel mitre prices were reduced.
Either plane was old inventory, with a later stamp, or the rounded step was not discontinued entirely. Upper side of toe is machined at an angle, and lever cap screw is iron or steel.
Dominic Micalizzi, an early collector of N.Y. piano tools wrote about his early finds of New York piano planes, including planes of Erlandsen, Brandt, and Popping in the “CRAFTS Tool Shed Quarterly,” dated March 1983.