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.
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.
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
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 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
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?
On this blade tang, the top line is truncated, but we can make up the manufacturer
HUMPHREYSVILLE MFC. Co
WARRANTED CAST STEEL
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
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.
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.
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
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
and from blacksmith Peter Ross?
(Inc) Incluse border
THOs L. APPELTON (inc)
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
297 HACKNEY Rd
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.
MARPLES PLANES BB
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 :-)