The 45th Brown International Antique Tool Auction by John G. Wells
This was the first Brown International Antique Tool Auction that was managed and put on by Jim Gehring, the new owner of Brown Auction Services. Although Clarence Blanchard and Mike Jenkins lent a helping hand, this was Jim Gehring’s solo flight.
Prices realized in this article include a 13% buyer’s premium. A 3% discount for cash or a good check. All photos are courtesy of Brown Auction Services.
The Stars of the Show
The solid ivory slide arm plow plane in lot 493 was in mint unused condition and sold for $41,810. It was clearly the star of this show. Not only is ivory a precious material, but it holds a place of honor in the tool world. Finding a plow plane made entirely of ivory is unusual and the plane is often reserved for special use as a special presentation piece.
Details of such a plane’s construction can often provide clues to its maker’s identity and date of manufacture. The key detail for this plane is the long diamond shaped escutcheon at the head of the arm to fence fastener. Other important details include: the absence of mortises for the arm supports, the forward extension of the fence and the handsome design of its front termination, the shape and construction of the brass collar at the ends of the arms, the “X” shaped ivory wedges in the arm ends, as well as the construction of the iron depth stop including the shape of its controlling turn screw. Searching through Rosebrook & Fisher’s book, Wooden Plow Planes, the only maker I saw using this detail (pp. 1, and 204) was A. Alford who worked in New York City from 1812 to 1817. He later continued his trade working from 1849 until 1853 under the name of A.&A. Alford Plane Company, Riverton, CT. (also see Thomas L. Elliott, American Wooden Planes, p. 17, and Nelson, Directory of American Toolmakers, p.20). When that company was succeeded by the Phoenix Plane Company in 1864, he joined them. The Phoenix Plane Company was sold to L.C. Stephens & Company and in 1901, that firm moved to Pine Meadows and became the Chapin Stephens Company. Competition from the makers of metal planes took its toll and in 1929 the firm was dissolved. Stanley acquired the Chapin Stephens line of rules but not the wooden plane business.
The second star goes to Henry W. Porter for the first American ratcheting bit brace to be patented. Porter was granted patent No. 17,769 0n July 7, 1857. The only known example of this unique and rare brace, lot 349, was in Fine condition and sold for $15,820. The brace is best viewed from the back as shown in Nagyszalanczy, Tools Rare and Ingenious on page 71 where you can see the ratchet mechanism and the direction selection lever. The brace has an auxiliary removable support inserted between the pad and the chuck which makes it possible to turn the chuck using only the pad. With the support removed the brace can be used in the typical rotary fashion. The patent drawing is shown in Ronald W. Pearson’s, The American Patented Brace, p. 43, or can be downloaded from your favorite patent search site.
Deluxe Plow Planes
Lot 498, the Greenfield Tool Company Rosewood Screw Arm Plow Plane, catalog No. 542 had ivory nuts, ivory locking washers and four ivory arm tips. It was in almost Fine condition and brought $5198. Construction of the Geenfield Tool Company factory began in 1851. At their peak, the company employed 60 t0 70 employees and produced 10-20,000 planes annually. Again, difficulty competing with makers of metallic planes forced the company into insolvency and on January 8th, 1883 they closed down.
The D.R. Barton Rosewood Screw Arm Plow Plane, catalog No.53, in auction lot 502 was made in Rochester, New York. It was in Good+ condition and went for $2712. This plane had “1832”, the firm’s founding date in the maker’s stamp on the toe. It also had laminated ivory and rosewood threaded nuts, rosewood locking washers, four ivory arm tips and came with eight original irons in a pocketed cloth roll. In 1873 at D.R. Barton’s peak, the U.S. Census Report showed they had 193 3mployees and capitalization of $200,000. In 1873 the company published a 65 page illustrated catalog showing the wooden planes and edge tools they offered. Their top of the line rosewood handled screw arm plow plane, No. 41, could be ordered with four ivory tips but they only offered plow planes with ivory nuts and/or threaded ivory washers in the W.W. Mack catalog. The D.R. Barton catalog included the story of W.W. Mack who became a partner in 1866, the successor of the D.R. Barton Company in 1875.
Lot 505, a Sandusky Tool Company catalog No. 141 boxwood self regulating three arm plow plane with 6 ivory tips was the nicest plow plane in the auction. It was in Fine condition and a very good value at $3,616. Sandusky was founded in 1869. They were one of the largest plane makers in this country and continued making planes until they closed in 1925. Their closure was brought about by several unprofitable years and the partial destruction of the factory by a tornado. This was a beautiful plane: the purchaser got a superb tool and a terrific value.
Interesting Metallic Planes
The Bailey Tool Company, No. B 71/2 inch non adjustable block plane, lot 523, having “Bailey Tool Comp” cast in its sole, in fine condition sold for $3616. This plane has a very unusual and distinctive wrap around lever cap.
Selden Bailey, who was president of the Bailey Tool Company but not a relation of Leonard Bailey, realized that his company was in financial difficulties and asked Leonard Bailey for help. Leonard Bailey suggested that the Bailey Tool Company improve their marketing by having “Bailey Tool Company” cast into the lever caps of some of their bench planes and into the sole of some of their block planes.
An Ohio 01C, a No. 1 size smooth plane with a corrugated sole, lot 534 in Good+ condition brought $3,390. This is a charming little plane and the only No. 1 size plane made with a corrugated sole. It is 5 1/2 inches long and has a 1 1/4 inch wide cutter. The Auburn Tool Company and the Ohio Tool Company merged on November 14, 1893 under the name of the Ohio Tool Company. See the Ohio Tool Company catalog, No.23 reprinted by the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association.
The Union Manufacturing Company No. 0 smooth plane, lot 645 was in Good+ condition and sold for $3,390. It is a No. 1 size plane, 5 1/2 inches long with a 1 1/4 inch cutter that has a Carleton and Trask adjustment, patent No. 763,721 dated June28, 1904. Although the plane has No. O cast on its bed, it really should have been No. XO with the X indicating the Carleton and Trask adjustment as was done on other Union planes ( see Patented American Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Vol.I, p. 257 by Roger K. Smith). The Union Manufacturing Company was located in New Britain, CT. They were in business from1900 until 1920 at which time they were purchased by Stanley. See the 1905 Union Plane Catalog reprinted in Roger K. Smith’s, Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Vol. I, pp. 301-312 and the Union pocket catalog of about the same date reprinted by the Ohio Tool Collector’s Association, June, 1981.
A Leonard Bailey Victor No. 12 1/4 pocket block plane, lot644 with a nickel plated finish and with the inside of the bed painted a Tuscan Red was rated Fine, and sold for $4,746. Bailey painted the inside of many of the top Victor planes, usually those that were nickel plated with Vermillion Red which is a lighter and brighter shade of red; it was a mark of distinction. You can see examples of these two colors on Google.
The Stanley No. 1 smooth plane in lot 685 had a Sweetheart trademark and 98% of the japanning. It was in Fine condition and sold for $960.50.
The Stanley No. 9 miter plane, lot No. 281, with the side handle (hot dog) and the original box was in Fine condition. It sold for $3,616.
The extremely rare Stanley No. 10 1/4 C, lot 563, having a corrugated sole, 92% of the japanning, a tilting handle and front knob, and built in nickers brought $1,243.
The Stanley No. 11 bull nose rabbet plane in lot 574 was rated Good+ except for the 50% japanning. This example sold for $1,582. Although this plane waas made in the U.S. it was only sold in England and primarily to the home hobby trade. The unusual adjustment mechanism was based on the early 1876 adjustment fot the Liberty Bell Planes. The only listing of it that I know was in the “Catalogue of American Tools”, published by Charles Churchill & Company, London, England, November 8th, 1881. There is also a wonderful engraving of it with a supporting description in a popular book, Every Man His Own Mechanic, published by Lock and Company, London, circa 1880.
The Stanley N0. 212 veneer scraper in lot 688 had 96% of the japanning, a script logo on the plane and a “V” logo (1910-1918) on the blade. It was in Fine condition and brought $565.
Other Interesting Items
The G. Cuppers inclinometer in lot 118, patent No. 51,564, dated December 199, 1865, is one of only two known examples. It has a 360 degree dial, is a little less than 7 inches in diameter, supported between two decorative knee braces. It retained 98% of the original japanning, in Fine condition and is the one used in the article published in the Fine Tool Journal. It sold for &1,921.
The J.W. Byas hammer with a fist, lot 408, had a long iron handle receiver decorated with punch carving. It was in Fine condition and brought $1,582. It was made in 1985 in Vermont, Missouri. The end of the wooden handle is capped with a forged tapered iron sleeve and a hand holding a barbell. You can see it in Nagyszalanczy, Tools Rare and Ingenious, page 203, where it is called a “Hammer with a Fist”. The best part of this is that the forged barbell is loosely grasped by the forged fingers of the hand. It is floating freely and rattles around; it was very fine forging indeed.
Lot 333, the Daniel Cheney patented adjustable wrench and the original patent papers bearing all of the original signatures, seals, and ribbons, sold for $3616. The 1897 patent describes an adjustable wrench having a ratchet rack faced body with a sliding jaw that has a lever activated gripper. The gripper can engage and lock onto any item held between the wrench’s fixed and sliding jaw. Cheney was awarded two patents; No. 581,267, dated April, 27, 1897, and No. 611,771, dated October 4, 1898. The later patent was said to cover enhancements. Having a 19th century adjustable wrench is one thing but having one with the sealed and signed patent papers is a huge step up.