In my last blog post I talked about two Stanley block planes with rosewood buttons on their knuckle joint lever caps. In this post I'm going to discuss two more block planes from the Stanley Model Shop that are variations on that theme. And these two planes appear to have been made at least a decade earlier than the two I featured in my last post.
Figure 1. Stanley Model Shop Block Plane, c. 1875-1879
The first one (See Figure 1) has all the characteristics of a Stanley #9½ block plane, Type 5, which would put its dates of manufacture between 1875 and 1879<1>. It’s 6 ¼ inches long, 1-7/8ths inches wide and has a 1-5/8ths inch wide cutter. “L. Bailey’s Patent Aug.6.67 Aug 31,58 EX’d.” is stamped on the cutter in an oval shape and helps to date the plane to somewhere between 1875 and 1879 (See Figure 2)<2>.
Figure 2. Cutter Showing Patent Dates That Help Date This Plane
The unique and interesting feature of this plane is its lever cap. The lever cap is cast iron and similar in shape to those seen on Stanley bench planes. The front of the lever cap is japanned and has a recessed arched area on the front with the typical key hole. The edges of the casting are polished on the front while the back and sides of the lever cap are also japanned (See Figure 3).
Figure 3. Lever Cap from Stanley Model Shop block Plane With Model Shop Number 53 On The Rosewood Button
A 1-3/8ths inch by 5/8ths inch piece of tempered spring steel acting as a flat spring is pinned to the back of the lever cap with a single rivet (See Figure 4). An eccentric cast iron lever that bears against the flat spring is pinned into a slot in the upper end of the lever cap.
Figure 4. Back of Lever Cap Showing Piece of Spring Steel Attached with a Single Rivet
The 1-7/8ths inch rosewood button on the lever cap is screwed onto a coarsely threaded post on the eccentric lever. Pushing down on the rosewood button pushes the eccentric lever against the flat steel spring and locks the cutter tightly in place. The plane is in unused condition with Model Shop #53 painted on the toe of the plane and on the rosewood button (See Figure 5).
Figure 5. Lever Cap with Rosewood Button Removed Showing Coarsely Threaded Cast Iron Post
Fine machining marks are still visible on the sides and sole of the plane and there are no blemishes in the japanning. The rosewood button on this attractive block plane provides a very comfortable resting spot for the heel of your hand when you’re holding the plane in the working position. Despite its attractive appearance, producing the lever caps on this block plane would have been expensive and the Stanley Production Committee decided to put this plane back on the shelf in the Model Shop.
Figure 6. Disassembled Stanley Model Shop Block Plane #53
The second plane, #58 from the Model Shop, is a steel bodied block plane. It has a lever cap very similar to the one seen on plane #53. The lever cap on plane #58 is polished cast iron with a ¾ inch by 1-3/8ths inch piece of spring steel with an arched top riveted to the back of the lever cap with two small rivets(See Figure 13). The rosewood button on this plane is attached to the small eccentric cast iron lever by three wood screws (See Figure 14). The 1- 5/8ths inch wide cutter has the trademark which dates the plane to about 1876<1> T.he body of this plane is made from folded steel (See Figure 7).
Figure 7. Rolled Steel Block Plane #58 From Stanley Model Shop
Justus Traut and Henry Richards had applied for a patent on June 15th, 1875 describing the production of planes with a “wrought metal stock” and were granted patent No. 168,431, on October 5th, of that same year (See Figure 8). This plane is made using that method. It has a folded steel body that is 6-7/16ths inches long and 1-13/16ths inches wide. The two side walls are held together by a threaded rod. The cutter adjusting mechanism is welded to the back portion of the plane.
Figure 8. Justus A. Traut and Henry Richards Patent No. 168,431 for a Steel Body Plane
The adjustment mechanism is a modification of the mechanism shown in patent #176,152 which was also granted to Traut and Richards on April 18, 1876 (See Figure 9 and footnote 3) .
Figure 9. Disassembled Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58 Showing Cutter Adjustment Mechanism Base on Traut and Richards Patent No. 176,152, April 16, 1876
This adjustment mechanism was used by Stanley on a number of their planes for many years.<3> While this plane never made it into production, Traut and Richard’s folded steel plane body and cutter adjustment mechanism were put to use in the #104 Liberty Bell smooth plane and the #105 Liberty Bell jack plane which were introduced by Stanley at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and remained in production until 1918. It may be that this block plane was meant to be a companion to the #104 and #105 Liberty Bell Planes (See Figure 10).
Figure 10. Stanley # 104 and #105 Steel Liberty Bell Planes with Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58
Even though the Model Shop numbers on the body of the plane and on the rosewood button on the lever cap appear to match, the lever cap doesn’t stay in place very well when slid under the rod which holds the two side walls together and compresses the flat spring on the back of the lever cap. The lever cap has a keyhole, which suggests that there was thought given to using a lever cap screw to hold the lever cap in place, but it obviously didn’t get done. The #58 is very clear on the body of this plane, but portions of the "8" are missing on the lever cap.
Figure 11. Logo Stamped on the Cutter of Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58
It's hard to say with absolute certainty that this plane body and the lever cap belong together, but the light wear marks on the cutter correspond to those on the lever cap, and the style of the "8" on the body of the plane matches the partial "8" on the rosewood button on the lever cap suggesting that the two parts have been together since they were made. The cutter is stamped April 18, 1876, the date of Traut and Richard's Patent No. 176,152, which dates this plane to 1875-1876.
Figure 12. Lever Cap from Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58
Figure 13. Back of Lever Cap from Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58
Figure 14.Threaded Post for Front Knob on Stanley Model shop Block Plane #58
A second piece of steel with a coarsely threaded upright rod is welded to the front portion of the plane to hold the front knob and also provides a rib on the front edge of the mouth of the plane (See Figure 14). The lever cap will stay in place when the spring is compressed, but would tend to slide back out when any pressure was applied to the cutter. So this block plane was also relegated to a shelf back in the Model Shop. But, it may have been pulled back off the shelf and possibly served as the inspiration for the Stanley #118 steel frame block plane. Introduced in 1933, fifty-seven years after the #58 Model Shop Steel Block Plane was made. Stanley advertised that the #118 block plane was unbreakable and encouraged it’s use in school shops. The similarities between the body of these two planes is striking (See Figure 15).
Figure 15. Stanley Model Shop Steel Block Plane #58 and Stanley #118 Steel Block Plane Introduced by Stanley in 1933
The rosewood button lever caps on these two planes with their eccentric clamping lever were produced several years earlier than the two shown in my last post. In some ways they could be viewed as the precursors to the “knuckle joint lever cap” which was based on S.D. Sargent’s patent No. 355,031. The knuckle joint lever cap was first introduced by Stanley on the #18 block plane in 1888 more than 10 years after these two block planes were made. No doubt, Justus Traut and Henry Richards were intimately involved with the production of these two Model Shop block planes. For me, a big part of the allure of Model Shop planes is that they can give us a bit of a peek at some of the thought processes of the early inventors at Stanley.
by Paul Van Pernis
<1> Wells, John, & Schoellhamer, Jack, “One Hundred Years of Bailey’s Excelsior Block Plane, The No 9 ½ Family” can be found in Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools, by John Walter, Second Edition, 1996, pp. 686-701.
<2> Dood, Kendall J., “Pursuing the Essence of Inventions: Reissuing Patents in the 19th Century”, Society for the History of Technology, Technology and Culture, Vol. 32, No.4, Special Issue: Patents and Inventions, October 1991, pp.999-1017. “An Act Concerning Patents for Useful Inventions” was passed by Congress in July of 1832 stating “Whenever any patent…shall be invalid or inoperative, by reason that any of the terms or conditions prescribed in have not, by inadvertence, accident, or mistake, and without any fraudulent or deceptive intention, been complied with on the part of the , it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State, upon surrender to him of such patent, to cause a new patent to be granted to the said inventor for the same invention for the residue of the period then unexpired for which the original patent was granted.” The reissue 8 years into Patent #67398 gave Bailey and Stanley patent protection for this portion of Bailey's patent for remaining 6 years of the patent.
<3> The adjustment mechanism on this plane was used on the #103 block plane, the #104 “Liberty Bell” smooth plane, the #105 “Liberty Bell” jack plane, the #120 block planes and the Type 1 #140 Rabbet and Block Plane. With slight variation, this adjusting mechanism was also used on the #122, #127, #129, 3132, and #135 wood bottom series of “Liberty Bell Planes”. Images below show the Patent Drawings for Traut and Richard's Patent No. 176,152 date April 18, 1876.
Traut & Richards Patent #176,152 Cutter Adjustment Mechanism Patent
Traut & Richards Patent #176,152 Cutter Adjustment Mechanism Patent