Sunday, September 23, 2018

Characteristics of wooden moulding planes Part 1

We seen earlier that the explosion of various ever changing, moulding profiles, created a need for mass produced moulding planes. These planes having a 200 plus years of production, went thru a few changes throughout their manufactures.
We can then used these changes to attempt to date their productions.
Yes, I said attempt,  because just like Stanley and others Type studies, not all changes were followed by everyone and some old timer features lingered on with smaller rurals makers.

Nonetheless, we can used some of these features to come to a reasonable time line and their place of origins.

For a simple looking tool, there is a lot of small details that make or break these wondrous tools.
Get the details right, and they works a treat, get them wrong and you have simply a hunk of wood with a metal blade, not a working tool.

Construction style

There were typically two styles, throughout history.
First came the open mortise style, attributed to the Romans, but lately often referred to as the French Roubo planes, because it shows up on plates in his books.
This style is still to this day, made in Continental Europe.

From Roubo
Notice the side finial on the wedge and the snick iron

Typical French plane, 19th century. See the different color on the sole?
They often used Cormier wood as boxing, whereas in the British tradition, 
they used Boxwood (from Turkey, mostly)

The pin holes are wormhole's, 
Typical in Continental planes. Guessing since they used a lot of fruit wood?

The other style is attributed to the British planemakers and featured a close mortise to capture the wedge.  This is the style most often found, here in North America

Unlike the open sided mortise in the Roman/Roubo style, 
the British style featured a close mortise for the wedge.
All the required shapes are excavated from a solid block of wood, 
nothing is added after, such as in the French types

Type of wood used

Traditionally, Beech was the wood used, but there were regionals exceptions
English, Americans and Canadians planemakers used primarily Beech.
But the earlier ones made in the Colonies  (North America) were often made using Yellow Birch. Roughly 1760-1800.
And notably, Canadian planes of this early era, tend to have tighter grain (older growth wood)
as compared to their British and American cousins

Continental makers (Europe) tend to used fruit wood: Apple, Pears, Persimon etc.
The French used lots of Cormier wood, a fine tight grain fruit wood (Sorbus Domestica)
They also used it for boxing moulding planes soles instead of using Boxwood.

Length of plane

It does not take long before all these moulding planes start to accumulated, it would be nice if they were all of the same length, for ease of storage...
It took until the early 19th century before they started to standardize to a length of 9-1/2 inch long.
Therefore when you come accross a longer plane, it is probably older.
A 10 inch moulding plane for example would indicate, at first glance, an 18th century example.
Just remember that some features lingered on with some makers. Sadly, some have been truncated in the past in order that they all fit together nicely...
But luckily for us, enough details should remained to help us identify it correctly

From L-R
12 inch, 10 inch, 9-1/2 inch and 9-7/16 inch long
Imagine trying to store those in your tool chest or plane till.
And add a few more in between for good measure, yes, its annoying 

The 4 planes I picked
The longest one is interesting because the hand hole grip in the stock is a feature
 normally seen on Roman planes. The front round hole was to put in a dowel to act as a pull handle. Sometimes these front holes have been added later by some users, but on this one, it look original. 
And so appears to be the wedge which has a definitively round shape
It does have a very faint makers mark (Maltese cross??). Unidentified by me so far
Notice also the wedge shapes and the different bedding angle for these planes

An original Roman plane, made of bone, why it survived so well, and has a riveted metal sole.
Presumably, the wooden wedge is missing
Pic from online...

The cutter(s)

The vast majority will be found having a tool steel bit forged welded to a softer carbon steel blank or wrought iron. Some Americans plane makers were known to make the entire  blade of tool steel. They stand out from the crowd, by having a shinier blade, which is a lot more ridgid.
Sometimes, the whole profile is divided in two separate cutters. Mostly found on English planes.

Sometimes will you find the blade maker stamp on these narrow tangs, the British, notably, used some markings in their earlier planes. Just like their bigger cousin, the bench planes, rarely did the planemakers made their blades, sourcing them from ironmongers or directly from the forge or manufacturer.
Knowing which planemakers used whose blades, help us identify which ones have original blades.

R. HILDICK  1780-1820
Used in these planemakers
STEWART (This blade was found in my Stewart plane)

Yes, that blade is from a Mathieson plane, 
and I am not sure if ALL his blades were ALWAYS stamped??
That one predate & SONS

Williams Butch 
Predate Williams & Samuel Butcher. 
These two were brothers.
Started in 1819, by 1822 he began to melt cast steel.
W. BUTCH WARRANTED CAST STEEL is stamped on most of  his blades
Obviously, the small tang may have prevented the full stamp, 
or it is before he started melting cast steel?

Often times the stamp will be found improperly struck or truncated altogether

On this blade tang, the top line is truncated, but we can make up the manufacturer

A different blade from same plane maker. (James Kellogg Amherst Mass. 1836-1886) 
Not easy to center properly a two line stamp on that narrow tang. 

Hard to see but this is severely truncated (more than half) Humphreysville MFC Co Warranted cast steel stamp.
No, the tang was not shorthened, simply poorly stamped

Humphreysville Manufactory Co history is a tad convoluted, I'll try to get it straight:
It was an American company located in Seymour Connecticut since 1806.
They were manufacturing mostly auger bits until a fire destroyed the factory and it was rebuilt in 1852 (In a brick building).  That is when they started to make other edge tools, plane irons and chisels.
And the name?? Seymour was called Humphreysville until 1850, but they kept the old name

You will sometimes come across Roman numeral scratches marks on the blade tang.
That was a system the maker used to keep track of which blade/wedge/body were matched during manufacture. No two planes being exactly the same.
You will sometimes find corresponding pencil marks on the wedge and body.  Being pencilled in, they often disappeared thru the years :-(

A quick look at the sole and how well the blade profile match it, goes a long way to eliminate miss matched examples.  Unlike bench planes, these moulding planes never saw as much usage, hence, they rarely, if ever, would had their blade used up and replaced in their working life.

Good match

Good match

Mismatched, wrong blade

Since striking moulding is usually done on straight grain material, and in preparation a Rabbet plane removed the majority of the material, the cutter(s) do not have to be super sharp and they will stay sharper longer. The cutting surface left is further polished (burnished) by rubbing wood shavings along its profile.
A similar operation still done by turners on the lathe.

The wedge

Most makers carried on the traditions they learned from their masters, as part of their apprenticeship.
Nonetheless, regional differences shows up, and enough examples have comes to light to correlate the specific shape of the finial to a given maker.

Another feature which shows up early, was to make a small relief cut under the wedge finial in order to tap the blade tang without hitting the finial (too much)

Two early American moulding planes, notice relieved wedge
Bottom one is Joe Fuller
pic from Best thing

In addition, the shape went from a mostly circular shape to an ellipse, most of the numerous one
to be found, would have the later ellipse shaped finial, being from the middle 19 th century

The Elliptical shape from the later 19th century.
With the advent of machinery, wedges tended to become all alike.
There were of course, still regional differences

On this Auburn No 177 3/4 in Dado plane, you can see both styles.
The front spur(s) cutter wedge has a more roundish shape, while the main blade wedge has a definite elliptical shape 

This plane is 10-1/4 inch long and has a definite round wedge finial
Samuel Holbeck, London 1730-1770
Auction pic 

Continental European planemakers seems to have never adopted the round style and continued to this day to make rather blockish wedge. Ugly but perfectly functional.

ECE Rabbet plane (German)
Typical blockish wedge shape on Continental planes

Unfortunately, since the wedge can be detached from the plane, they tend to go Missing In Action (MIA) or are sometimes to be found like a dog chew it (NO was not Rudy :-), being wood and abused with a hammer, they break and get replaced.

If you are lucky, the blade, the wedge and the plane bed will all have the matching Roman numerals marks. Yeah, if you are lucky... But if it does, its a confirmed match

And, don't read that too loud, but sometimes, us collector (and users) will easily misplaced the wedges and have them swapped.
Don't panic, you did took pictures of it as received first, right? :-)

Makers marks, Hardware dealers marks  and Owner marks

The preferred location for stamping their brand was at the top front end of the plane, the toe.
It was quickly discovered that the end grain would take a better imprint, crisper, than on the long grain on the sides.
The type and shape of the imprint changed thru the years.

 (ZB) Zig-Zag border

Stamped on a maple body
pic from Pinterest, but guessing from Peter Follansbee

(Inc) Incluse border


The font used was mostly Roman and the size was pretty well uniform
Earlier ones are seen with Upper case first initials and Lower case for the remainders of the name

Script or Cursive font
MELVILLE (in large script font)
Thomas Melville, Aberdeen Scotland -1820-
I brought this plane back from my first TD to RAF Kinloss, Scotland in the 80s 
That plane body has a thick coating obscuring the marks and the wood grain

Location of maker
Either a street address, or just a town name

A ROBERTSON is an owner name
This is a side rabbet plane

and has a Goat head -1880
Similar goat head as used by COX LUCKMAN, (1843-1862) 
then & SON (1894-)
N Steward and Maxey are previous owners

Hardware store dealers, or tool distributors.
Some imprints were not from the maker but simply stamped with the distributor name on it.
Others, carry both stamps.
When a hardware store dealer stamp is found, if you happen to found out when they were operating, where, you have a bonus clue

Richard Melhuish & Sons were a retail business that operated in Fetter lane, Holborn in London UK 
Melhuish planes were made primarily by Thomas Norris or Stewart Spiers
1828-194x? Saw a 1933 Ad.

Ad from 1892

Ad from Aug 1933

Other have simply, owners stamps on them, often repeated on a few locations.
The style of owner stamps details, lag those of the makers stamps changes.

Finally, both makers and hardware store dealers used also paper labels on some planes.

Mid 20th century
Label on a coffin smoother, this example, but they also used similar decals
 on some of their moulding planes, the BB series

Being paper of water transfer decals, they do not tend to survived long IF the plane was used much

This was getting too consuming and long, I split it in two parts.
Next part, the spring angle and the finishing details on the body.

If anyone want to add to it, omission or additions, please let me know

Bob, who has bigger piles of planes accumulating upstairs, hum, better get on with it :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A tale of trees

That tortuous Silver Birch tree that was behind my existing deck, and in the way of my larger new one, is now finally gone... for good. Or is it??

At time of purchase in 2011, the building inspection found some issues with the deck.

We always do a home inspection when buying / selling houses, well worth the price IF you get a reputable one.  Knowing that this deck is nearing its useful life, we decided that we would simply address the issues to extend its life a few years, while we attend to other renovations inside.
And that tree behind the deck came in handy to fix the deck
It was one of the first thing we did, to make it secure, in time for our first party at the home :-)

The tree behind it made it great to pull back the deck from the house.
Notice the two stumps, that trio was cut earlier by previous owner

In order to replace the rotten ledger board against the house, which was also only spiked with rusty nails, as was the norm back when this deck was built, 70s.

Temporary braces on, deck was pulled back just enough to be able to detached it from house and replaced with a proper PT piece lagged bolted to house framing and flashed with drip edge, as per today's code. We proceed in two sections for ease of work.

Having rescued the deck for a few years, we could then proceed with our renovations inside and have the deck handled our friends safely :-)

My friend Ray, we served in the RCAF together

That tree was useful, as a bird feeder, and it did provided some shade on the deck.
Heather wanted to keep this tree, incorporated it in the new deck she said.
We could never agreed on that, so it went on for a while...

In the winter she made me cleared a path to go feed the bird feeder

It did made a good platform for bird photography.
Set my camera WIFI on, controlled from my iPad on the couch with Rudy on my lap,
 I could view and snap pics 

How such pics were possible

But still the debate about this tree went on for a few years. After she passed I was torn about cutting down "Her" tree.

The new deck will extend past the tree

A good friend of Heather and I, David Morris, suggested that I transplant a part of it before cutting it down, this way it will live on.
I mulled that for a while and thought he was right, dilemma solved. Thanks David
A year ago, we did just that, transplanted a sapling from it, and made sure that it was well established before cutting down the tree behind the deck.

That sapling with a little statuette.
Heather's angel holding Rudy

This year, we cut down about 11 trees of various types and sizes around my lot in order to put a fence in to let Rudy be free ranging in the yard. The street in front of my house is a rural secondary highway, HWY 201, I am worry about Rudy running across it chasing squirrels. We get a fair share of traffic on it, it goes to the local shopping mall and the Wing. Not to mention High speed Rice Rockets (Japanese high performance bikes) zooming by in the summer months. Speed limit is 80 KPH but, you would never know at time... 

So, then the tree came down

But like others around my yard which were cut about two month's ago, some are showing signs of life again, they just wont die...

That small oak tree in the middle was cut
Now you see it

Now you don't...

2 months later...

We then made a small controlled fire on top of it to dry up the stump and kill life on it

Later that nite. 
Have not seen any signs of life around it since. About 3 weeks ago

Similarly, that tree behind the deck just keep sprouting new shoots, as fast as I cut them.

We then gave him a similar treatment, except that I first started to dug around it to expose the roots in prevision for pulling it out shortly with the help of a friend.
Overkill? Perhaps, but its in the way of digging post holes and I don't want it to keep growing under my new deck.

Started to dug around and exposed the root ball. 
No wonder there was quite a hill there...

Later on Jean did another controlled fire on top of it

Then started to follow the roots to get them out

My friend Doug, shows up and cut most of the roots away. 
The plan was to cut all the exposed roots using a combination
 of a chain saw and a recip saw, then pull it out using his truck

Digging under, we can start to wooble it

Finally, flipped over by us, no truck pulling was required

The under side of the root ball, most of the solid growth was side ways, not downward.

We rolled it up his truck using a ladder

The final mess Im left with :-)

Took the rest of the day off yesterday, I'm still aching, but relieved it went easier than I thought, just like Doug said :-)

So there you have it, why my blog has been quiet for awhile, I'm a tad busy in the yard still.
The plan is to get ready for next year with our deck plans.

Bob, who keep forgetting I am not 20 anymore, I feel a tad sore everywhere, but real men (read stubborn old goats) keep on trucking. One down, and more to go...