View Full Version : Mystery Plane

George Penfold
07-12-2011, 4:21 PM
Just purchased an old plane and wondered if any of you guys knew anything about it, as I have no idea of the maker or age.


Brian Kent
07-12-2011, 5:15 PM
I wonder if it is a home-made job.

george wilson
07-12-2011, 6:20 PM
Not home made looking,but that ugly handle looks like a replacement made by a user.

michael a nelson
07-12-2011, 6:32 PM
looks homemade to me somebody with a mill

george wilson
07-12-2011, 6:43 PM
That is a cast iron plane. Doubtful if it could be home made. It just doesn't look home made except for the handle.

Bill Houghton
07-12-2011, 6:55 PM
I suppose it's possible it was patternmaker-made. It certainly doesn't look like something somebody knocked out in the shed in the backyard. That dovetail handle-retaining slot is an interesting idea. Here in the colonies, we have various old tool collecting societies; I wonder if you have the equivalent, or if your local historical society/authority could refer you to someone or some group that might recognize it.

Richard Line
07-12-2011, 6:59 PM
My guess is that it is an early iron plane, probably (in my opinion) prior to the Bailey style planes. But then I'm not very learned in this area, just read a bit.

Deane Allinson
07-12-2011, 7:04 PM
I guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My first impression was "that is an interesting handle". It looks like the handle could withstand some serious pressure.

Mel Miller
07-12-2011, 7:04 PM
Early style for an iron bodied plane. Simple design with no adjuster. Likely made by somebody with foundry access for their own use. Doesn't match any of the early manufacturers that I'm aware of. Unknown planes turn up fairly regularly.


george wilson
07-12-2011, 7:20 PM
I have seen 1 off tools that foundry makers did make for their own use. This plane just has,I don't know how to word it,a sort of "minimal engineering" sort of construction to it-like the minimal amount of support for the back of the iron- that makes me think it was commercial. I think someone going to the trouble to make one plane for himself,and not being concerned about the extra money a bit more cast iron would cost,would have made a little more beefed up design. At the same time,the rather well thought out way that the cap hooks into the body smacks of a professional designer being involved.. Hope this line of thought makes sense.

Also,why would an individual put that little round "boss" that is just in front of the mouth? I think it was put there as 1 point to rest the body on upside down in a jig while milling the sole flat. Where was the other rest? Possibly the dovetail that holds the handle was milled in first,then used as another point to hold the plane body while being milled. If the body has places to hold it in a jig,that speaks of production. If the plane just didn't sell well,it could be one of a very few surviving,or a lone survivor. Lots of stuff was melted down during wars for weapons making.

James Taglienti
07-12-2011, 7:22 PM
Just a nice early iron plane, probably manufactured judging by the "frog" and the dovetailed tote receiver, the blank post before the mouth may have been some half baked oiler plan that never happened. I doubt it was a one off

Surely not a "fairly regular" plane.

michael a nelson
07-12-2011, 9:35 PM
i see you have found another good use for the festool domino

Mark Dorman
07-12-2011, 9:38 PM
I like the tote as well.
Not trying to derail the post but what caught my eye is the Rebone ruler. Are those degree marks on the center pivot?

I guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My first impression was "that is an interesting handle". It looks like the handle could withstand some serious pressure.

Mel Miller
07-12-2011, 10:01 PM
Here's another owner made plane. Quite a bit newer that the OPs plane. Showed up at an antique show Friday, and I bought it just because it's somewhat interesting. Has "W R M" stamped. Interesting adjuster, and the plane would likely work OK with a thicker iron.


george wilson
07-12-2011, 10:11 PM
Now,that 2nd. plane has the look of an owner made one. For one thing,it has the worm off of an adjustable wrench. Also,the parts in general are too clumsy looking to have been professionally designed. Would be pretty painful to use much. I doubt you'd see nuts sticking out the sides of a commercial plane,which would prevent its use for shooting.

James,why in Earth would anyone ever put oil in the plane? That was never an oiler. Nothing there to oil,unless you think it was to run down onto the wood,which no one would want! No,that's a datum surface for locating the plane on for milling or grinding the sole. Remember,I was a toolmaker for many years.

Mel Miller
07-12-2011, 11:06 PM
Besides using corrugations to help a plane slide over the wood surface, other things were tried. I know of at least 2 different oilers that were built into the front knob of planes,and another plane that had a cavity for soapstone.

Early planes like the OPs often had the bottom finished by planing on a metal planer, leaving distinct lines. Others appeared to have been simply finished on a belt sander.

Mel :)

george wilson
07-12-2011, 11:52 PM
And just how much oil do you think that little teat could hold? Or,was a big glass drip feed oiler supposed to screw into it?

Planing is a viable finish option,but the plane would still need to be properly located in a parallel position for planing or milling .

James Taglienti
07-13-2011, 12:11 AM
I dont know - oilers were supposedly an addon in the early days when the old crabby craftsmen ;) didnt like the feel of iron planes... Ive seen one with an oiler right there before, as on this plane also oiler knobs that drizzled it through the toe, even one with a sacrificial soapstone insert that doubled as the leading edge of the mouth- though i dont doubt your theory but i dont thinkmi have seen another iron plane with a datum there or anywhere for that matter

George Penfold
07-13-2011, 4:11 AM
I like the tote as well.
Not trying to derail the post but what caught my eye is the Rebone ruler. Are those degree marks on the center pivot?

Yes the centre pivot has degrees marked on it.

george wilson
07-13-2011, 9:15 AM
Sorry,you two. You must produce pictures!! The old craftsmen weren't any crabbier than they are today!!:) The probably thought,if they were lucky enough to get an iron plane,that it was a big improvement. Does oil=the feel of wood? I'd better go feel some wood. :) WHY get oil on your wood? What about when you go to put finish on it? Maybe for rough timber construction???? BTW,are you sure it wasn't for tallow?:)

Next time I'm planing railroad ties,I'll throw some oil on them,but not on anything better.:)

I never was a tool collector,only buying tools that were useful to me,nor a tool historian,though I did study a lot of tools over the years. Mostly made tools that the research was supplied by the curator of tools. However,I am a good machinist,and know what I speak of on things like Datum points.

Must make the call that is used here: "No pictures,didn't happen". Even if you can show me a plane oiler, That small teat still is a locating device.

By the way,whoever made the clunky hand plane above was energetic,for sure. But,with no knowledge of ergonomics. And,that wrench adjusting worm gear would provide an incredibly coarse adjustment for the blade. Doubt it ever worked. And WHY did he put screws and metal parts on the squared off grip (ouch) right where your palm would go? Clearly a home made job without engineering skill behind it.

David Weaver
07-13-2011, 9:56 AM
I can't believe it would be anything other than a commercial plane or an attempt at a commercial plane (perhaps a run of planes at a foundry for a hardware store brand or wanna-be that never caught on).

Any individual craftsman making a plane for themselves would never make a bedding are like the one shown.

Don't know if the tote is original, but it may have been made in that form to appeal to people who would've been coming over from wooden planes with that style of closed handle.

it looks to me like it was designed to be made cheaply and minimize the amount of work it would take to make the bedding area usable.

george wilson
07-13-2011, 10:04 AM
Did you see the other plane in the thread,David ? Now,THAT'S a home made plane.

David Weaver
07-13-2011, 10:20 AM
Yeah, i did. It's interesting, for sure. It looks like the kind of plane someone would come up with if they shut the door to their shop, used only scraps that they had and didn't look around at any other planes.

Jim Koepke
07-13-2011, 11:34 AM
Is everyone missing an important point in all this?

The OP is in the United Kingdom.

Just like there were a lot of odd ball planes made here in the states, it is imaginable there were just as many struggling and failing attempts on the other side of the pond.


george wilson
07-13-2011, 11:46 AM
Probably a lot more,as they got an earlier start on the industrial revolution,and were more industrialized than us earlier on. That plane is obviously a failed effort,but it does take a certain amount of knowledge of patternmaking and engineering design background to see it.

Mel Miller
07-13-2011, 11:53 AM
George: Your attitude can get a little tiresome, but here are pictures and documentation of some plane oiling devices.
2 pages copied from Roger Smith's book - the "bible" on patented planes, and 2 pictures of a patented oiler knob that I personally owned. Note the list of 7 patents related to plane oiling devices. The patented (not homemade) knob I owned is on a Stanley bench plane and I believe is in the D'Elia Museum. I don't have pictures on hand of the soapstone application, but have seen one in person.

Mel :)

george wilson
07-13-2011, 12:06 PM
O.K.,Mel,I concede that the oiler did exist. I already conceded that I was never a collector or tool historian. What I studied at length was 18th.C. tools,as that was the period I worked in. But who wants oil on their wood? Only application I can see would be for construction work where no painting or varnishing or staining would be done. Not the kind of work I ever wanted to get into,though as a teenager,I was forced to help build 2 houses in Alaska,and a garage in Va.,and a lot of repair work on my present house. . I'll concede on the soapstone,too. It makes more sense than the oiler. Some of these "inventions" were a bit of a stretch. Obviously this one was a failure,too,since they are apparently rare.

I will have to confess that I am a spectacular failure in the "crack pot inventions" category.:) The only one I can think of right now is the "cannon in the helmet" one. Guaranteed to deafen,blind and possibly give whiplash to the user. Generally,my mind tends to store only useful information because I think logically.

However,I will maintain that the OP's plane was a commercial failure. With the background I have in tool making and design and machining,from my point of view it also becomes a little tiresome when others cannot see the difference between a home made venture,and a commercial one,even when I point out the logical reasons why. Am I also to concede that the little teat on the OP's plane was an oiler? I think not. Even with the size of your oiler,I wonder how long the oil would have lasted. I'd think it would have just been handier to swipe the sole with a candle kept in the pocket,than to carry oil around and be re loading that little oil reservoir.

Wes Grass
07-13-2011, 1:21 PM
""cannon in the helmet""

LOL. I remember that one too.

Any chance the boss in front of the mouth on the cast plane could have been for an adjustable mouth that never got put in?

george wilson
07-13-2011, 1:26 PM
It is really too small for anything but a datum surface. For an adjustable throat,it would never have been put so close to the throat. Would have to have been more in the center of the front of the plane.

David Weaver
07-13-2011, 2:28 PM
i suspect to find out what that thing is, we'd have to talk to whoever designed the thing or whoever cast it.

Could it be left over from the casting process? Presuming it would be on the bottom of the casting ,I don't know what point it would serve, but...

...I know one thing for sure, that oiler was destined to be a failure unless there is some magic long-wearing but evaporating oil we don't know about.

george wilson
07-13-2011, 3:27 PM
Sorry if I came off as arrogant on this thread. I am totally in a whole bunch of pain in my knees and back. That doesn't help. Pain clinic is moving,so no help from them,either.

Really,though,I spent the greatest part of my life at this work,and I can tell a commercially made,engineered casting from a home brewed one plain as day.

As for your oiler plane,Mel,I am going to invent a plane with a hollow front tote that can be filled with whiskey. I'll bet it would far outsell ANY oiler plane. The old foreman might wonder why his men are sucking on their planes. Actually,the front tote could be made from brown glass by Avon. When the carpenter retires,he could unscrew the glass tote,and have a rare Avon bottle to supplement his retirement income.:)

Chris Griggs
07-13-2011, 3:33 PM
As for your oiler plane,Mel,I am going to invent a plane with a hollow front tote that can be filled with whiskey. I'll bet it would far outsell ANY oiler plane. The old foreman might wonder why his men are sucking on their planes. Actually,the front tote could be made from brown glass by Avon. When the carpenter retires,he could unscrew the glass tote,and have a rare Avon bottle to supplement his retirement income.:)

I'll take it, how much??? Just one question. Is any whiskey included with the purchase of the plane?

george wilson
07-13-2011, 3:42 PM
I'll be generous and include 1 oz. in the massive reservoir knob.:) 2 maintenance men from Wmsbg were painting the company house I used to live in. I'm not much of a drinker,but the 1 bottle of cranberry schnapps that was a gift to me kept getting lower and lower. I did not want to get anyone fired,so when I confronted them,I told them i'd say nothing about it,but was aware of it. One older man was all indignant. I knew it wasn't him. It was the somewhat younger guy(late 40's) with the bright red nose!! Alky for sure.

David Weaver
07-13-2011, 3:45 PM
I want one with a hollow tote.

that big maple plane you showed could probably stow a fifth in the body with a flip-top tote.

george wilson
07-13-2011, 5:15 PM
I can see it now. The carpenters sucking on their planes. The one guy who had the real oiler plane decided it must be the thing to do,so he followed suit. Made him a bit sick,but did cure his constipation problems.:)

Zander Kale
07-13-2011, 6:02 PM
Google "plane oiler patent" and you find lots of hits.
Take a look at this C. C. Harlow (http://www.supertool.com/etcetera/deadends/harlow.htm) plane.

James Taglienti
07-13-2011, 9:05 PM
Nobody really knows why folks used oilers some say it was the wood to iron switch like i said before. But if you were to fill the knob with linseed oil or even whatever stain you were planning on using later, wouldnt it just vanish later aftr real finishing? Also maybe the layer of wood with the oil on it would be removed right away? Probaby would bleed through, i dont know.
They sure are rare. Maybe they sold poorly for a reason.

george wilson
07-13-2011, 9:19 PM
What about the linseed oil solidifying inside your plane's reservoir? I would think they'd have to have used non drying oil. Yes,the oil could soak in,so I think construction work might have been the only application.
I don't see why it would just be simpler to carry a candle to wipe on the sole,rather than have a perhaps leaky,certainly more bulky oil can to always be filling that small reservoir?

The planes were just someone's idea of an impractical "improvement."

I think a better accessory to a plane might have been a pair of dumb bells to make a person strong enough to push his plane in the first place.:) I never saw the need to lube my plane many years ago,when we only used metal planes. I didn't notice a source for wooden planes till about 1965,when I got my first Woodcraft catalog. That catalog,very different to today's,was terribly exciting at the time. They were in Boston back then.

I got a set of 12 of the smaller size Pfiel carving tools for $24.00! Still have them. Got my Marples chisels,too. Got a woodworker's square by Marples that had the brass inside edge of the mahogany beam DOVETAILED to the wood. Now they just screw it on. Still have everything.