top of page

The 46th Brown International Antique Tool Auction by John Wells

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Held on Saturday, March 28th, 2015, this was the second Brown International Antique Tool auction that was managed and put on by its new owner Jim Gehring. Jim and his very able crew are now old timers and ready to roll out the goods with the best of them. Thanks to Cami Foley for all the fine photographs featured in this blog post.

Prices realized in this article include a 13% buyer's premium. A 3% discount is available for cash or a good check. All photos are courtesy of Brown Auction Services.

Top Contenders

The Birdsill Holly smooth plane in Lot 535 had a cast iron body with a simple wrap around band tightened by a robust thumb screw to hold the cutter tight against the frog. The plane's sole had circular recesses that were intended to serve the same function of reducing friction as grooves. The simple hardwood tote, circular in cross section and slightly swollen in the middle, fit the hand nicely. It was in Good condition and brought $2,147.

Birdsill Holly Smooth Plane

Birdsill Holly Smooth Plane, Lot 535

Lot 662 was a plane by Harris of San Drancisco, CA. It was marked on the heel "Pat Appl'd For", but no patent has been found. It was a pattern maker's cast iron plane with an adjustable cutter mechanism based on the Chaplin's patent. It also had a replaceable wooden sole that could be fashioned to the desired cross section by the user. The plane was shown at an annual PAST tool meet in San Diego many years ago. It was not for sale but I was allowed to photograph it. Later it was sold in Brown's 30th auction, Lot 676. The plane in this auction, Lot 662 was in Good condition and brought $2,034.

Adjustable Pattern Maker's Plane

Adjustable Pattern Maker's Plane, Lot 662

The Sandusky No. 140 center wheel plow plane, Lot 39, in Brazilian Rosewood was a beautiful plane. The wedge and tops of the arms had a little minor damage through use, and it lacks the locking screw for the center wheel. It was in Good+ condition and sold on a bid of $1,921.

Sandusky #140 Center Wheel Plow Plane

Sandusky #140 Center Wheel Plow Plane, Lot 39

The Ohio No. 110 center wheel plow plane, Lot 217, in Boxwood throughout, was a beauty. It had a few small chips in the locking nuts and a closed crack in one of them. It was in Good+ condition and sold for $1,808.

Ohio Tool Co. No 110 Center Wheel Plow Plane

Ohio Tool Co. No 110 Center Wheel Plow Plane, Lot 217

The L.&I.J. White plow plane, Lot 219, in medium brown Honduras Mahogany, had four ivory tips on the ends of the arms and very light chipping on a few of the threads. It was a rare plane, was in Fine condition and brought $1,469.

L. & I.J. White Plow Plane

L. & I.J. White Plow Plane, Lot 219

The Millers No. 42 bronze type 4 plow plane, Lot 233, had the filletster bed, bronze wrap around fence, and the cast iron straight fence; but it did not have any cutters. It was in Good condition and sold for $1102.

Miller's Patent #42 Plow Plane

Miller's Patent #42 Plow Plane, Lot 233

The Zoar Community, a group of German Religious Separatists, formed in 1817, settled in Zoar, Ohio. They functioned as a communal society through 1898 when they dissolved. The cast iron bench planes they made mostly for their own use had a large box like enclosure over the mouth and usually had corrugated soles. They have a very heavy look and although they have a very interesting history in the opinion of some they are less attractive in appearance than the cast iron planes made by Hazard Knowles and patented on August 24, 1827. Zoar planes are all very rare, but a few have been offered in prior Brown auctions where they have brought substantial sums: in Bronw's 26th auction, in April of 2005, a Zoar bench plane with a corrugated sole was purchased by an absentee bidder; a Zoar anvil was sold in 2011 in Brown's 38th auction, and another Zoar bench plane was sold in Brown's 4oth auction in March of 2012. The Zoar 16 inch bench plane in this auction, Lot 526, had a corrugated sole, was in Good condition and was a good value at $3,842.

Zoar Bench Plane

Miller's Patent #42 Plow Plane, Lot 526

Lot 314, the 24 inch early 19th century wooden gravity type inclinometer level, was invented by Philo Curtis in Utica, NY. Although it was marked "P.C. Curtis Patent", no patent has been found. Its brass face plate was bent, but otherwise it was in Good condition. This previously unknown inclinometer brought $2,599.

Philo Curtis Inclinometer Level

Philo Curtis Inclinometer Level, Lot 314

The Stanley log caliper in Lot 499 was never assigned a model number nor listed in a Stanley catalog. After seeing photographs of Stanley's receiving facilty for shipments of rosewood, beech, hickory and other woods it is clear they needed a tool like the one in Lot 499 to use in their own business. The example in this auction was made of hickory; its hickory shaft had a table with zillions of hand stamped tables of numbers used to convert log diameters and lengths into board feet of sawn planks and it had huge solid brass jaws that could measure a 36 inch diameter log. It was in fine condition and sold for $2,486.

Stanley Log Calipers

Stanley Log Calipers, Lot 499

The Jones "Most Improved Microscope", Lot 605, was manufactured by the Dollond family of scientific instrument makers of London in the early part of the 19th century. This example was 19 inches high when assembled. It was in the original fitted wooden box with several eyepieces and other accessories. Several of the little spacer blocks in the box need to be re-glued and the lock on the box needs a key. This stunning example was in Fine condition and sold on a bid of $1,808.

Jones "Most Improved Microscope"

Jones "Most Improved Microscope", Lot 605

Lot 450, the Universal Roofing Square patented in 1899 by John Van Namee of Streator, Illinois, was a charming assemblage consisting of a 17 inch long maple body and four arms. This contraption made it possible to lay out lengths and angles needed to pre-cut all of the members of a sloped roof with intersection of wings of different widths and heights. It was one of two known examples, was in Good+ condition, and sold for $1,695. All of the same layout work could be done by a qualified carpenter using a typical two foot framing square having roofing or rafter tables.

Universal Roofing Square

Universal Roofing Square, Lot 450

The final little gem, Lot 302, in this group was a 3½ inch long steel soled brass infill plane made in 1987 by the most highly gifted of all plane smiths, Robert Baker. It was in immaculate condition and sold for $1,305.

Robert Baker Brass and Steel Infill Plane

Robert Baker Brass and Steel Infill Plane, Lot 302

Unusual Items

Two items on the cover of the 46th auction catalog rank as unusual: Lot 267 the strange bronze 11 inch smooth plane bearing the Mark"Morin", and Lot 292, a cast bronze miter or smoothing plane, previously unidentified.

The very rare Morin plane, Lot 267, was recently featured on the website "Working by Hand" posted June 11, 2014, where it was called "a weird bronze plane" and was described as having a 2 inch wide cutter that was only supported at the mouth and at the top of the handle. A frog could have provided solid support between those teo points or at least part way there and would have dampened cutter chatter. There was mention of a companion block plane in the listing; it was less than 2 inches wide by 7 inches long, but no clue was offered as to where more information could be found. The Morin smoothing plane in this auction was in Fine condition and sold for $536.75. Apparently a Morin smoother was offered in Tony Murland's 2013 auction with an estimated value of £80 to £120 pounds.

Morin Bronze Plane

Morin Bronze Plane, Lot 267

Lot 292 was apparently the cast bronze body of a Scott's miter or end grain plane with a later and inappropriate replacement infill. The plane was invented, designed and sold by William C. Scott, 204 Clinton Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. The proper body and infill can be seen in Roger K. Smith's Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume II, page 112, figure 164a and b. The cast bronze body in this auction was in Fine condition regardless of the improper infill and wedge, and was a good value at $310.75. It is very rare and could have been brought into collectible condition with a properly shaped toe insert and wedge.

Scottish Infill Plane

Scott's Infill Plane, Lot 292

The 47th International Antique Tool Auction

We are looking forward with great expectation to the 47th International Antique Tool Auction and Dealers Sale which promises to be filled with a tantalizing selection of rare and unusual tools. It will be held on October 30th and October 31st at the Radisson Inn, Camp Hill, PA. Jim Gehring known for his tremendous knowledge of levels and inclinometers as well as an impressive range of similar collectibles and for being the owner and manger of The Fine Tool Journal and now of the Brown International Auction services will be at the helm. Clarence Blanchard and mike Jenkins will be available if called upon for Special Collections and for consultation on special items.

John G. Wells


bottom of page