Variations on Stanley’s Corner Rounding Planes from The Model Shop
Stanley introduced the #144 corner rounding plane in 1925. They advertised these planes as “designed for rounding corners on wall board battens, casings, shelving, etc.”¹ The design patent, #68,402 for this plane was granted to Edmund Schade on October 6, 1925. When doing tool research and looking at patents we’re usually looking at what are called “utility patents”. Utility patents are issued to protect the functionality of a particular item while “design patents” are legal protection granted to the ornamental design of a functional item.² So Schade’s patent covered only the design of these planes with the shape and elliptical holes in front of and behind the cutter since there were no patentable functional improvements associated with this plane. The Stanley corner rounding planes are 7 and 9/16ths of an inch long, 2 and ½ inches high, and 5/8ths of an inch wide. Stanley produced the #144 Corner Rounding Plane in three different radius sizes, 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch. See Figure 1)
The sole of these planes was milled to produce the desired curved radius. The radius the plane would cut was stamped on the sole of the plane just behind the cutter and on the cutter. (See Figure 4)
Stanley’s “Sweethart” logo is stamped on the cutter on all but the very earliest versions of this plane (See Figures 3, and 5).
Of the two known types of this plane, the early versions were made with “No. 144”, “PAT APPLD FOR” and “MADE.IN.USA.” cast into the frame. On later versions “PAT APPLD FOR” was replaced with “PAT 10-6-25”.
The left side of the plane has the Stanley logo cast into the side and nice background stippling on the body of the plane. The cutter fits snugly into a milled slot in the body of the plane and is held in plane by a pan head screw. Because the plane was not a smashing success for Stanley it was manufactured for only 18 years, from 1925-1943.
But, let’s move on to the more interesting offspring of these corner rounding planes that came from the Stanley Model Shop. The first variation is a #144 corner rounding plane that has been modified to cut a ¼ inch bead. This was accomplished by taking a standard #144 beading plane and milling the sole of the plane to the profile of the ¼ inch bead. This resulted in shortening the height of the plane to 2 and 3/8ths inches.
A cutter was then ground to cut the beading profile. There is no logo or cutter size stamped on the cutter. There are two known versions of this plane. The first one was purchased at an auction and was reported in the Stanley Tool Collector News in 1995.³ In October of 1998, I was able to acquire the second example of this plane from an individual who had acquired a fair number of tools from the Model Shop. The guys in the Model Shop may have been toying with the idea of adding a set of beading planes using this design. But, they were never offered in any Stanley catalog and this Stanley Model Shop version of a beading plane went back on the shelf.
But the creative minds in the Model Shop weren’t done. They made a second modification to the #144 corner rounding plane in an effort to create a pair of “table planes” (See Figure 9). Table planes were designed to cut the moldings used on drop leaf tables and were made in matched pairs(See Figure 8). One of the table planes cuts a profile of a quarter circle with a small fillet on the table top , while the other cuts a quarter circle hollow on the drop leaf portion of the table. Both of the table planes are applied to the edge of the stock when in use. These planes are also sometimes called “rule joint” planes due to the resemblance of the profile they produce to the joint seen in old wooden folding rules. Wooden plane makers had made these planes in various sizes for at least a century when the workmen in the Model Shop decide to make these planes.
Whereas the Model Shop beading planes were made by grinding a different profile on the sole of a corner rounding plane, these table planes required more modification. The height of each casting was increased from 2 ½ inches to 2 and 7/8ths inches, and two distinct profiles had to be produced on the sole of each plane when they were cast. The quarter round plane used on the table top cuts a ½ inch quarter circle with a ¼inch fillet.The cutter on this plane is 15/16ths of an inch wide, fits snugly in a slot milled into the body of the plane and is held in place by a single pan head screw. The cutter was ground to precisely match the profile of the sole of the plane.
The hollow plane used on the table leaf cuts a ½ inch hollow The profile of this plane made for a tool that was heavy on the bottom of the plane so the casting was designed with gaps in the casting to help reduce the weight.
After the hollow plane was cast, it must have become apparent that it needed a taller fence to provide more stability when the plane was in use.. The mechanics in the Model Shop solved this problem by pinning a 1/8th inch nickel-plated brass strip to the sole of the plane, making the total height of the plane 3 inches. The cutter on this plane is ½ inch wide and also has a precisely ground profile to match the profile of the plane. The cutter is held in place in the same fashion as on the quarter round plane. ”
No. 144″ and PAT APPL’D FOR” were ground off the castings before the planes were japanned leaving only MADE.IN.USA. on the inside of each casting.
Both planes are beautifully made and look like they’ve had no more than a few trial runs on a piece of wood. They feel good in your hands, they’re well-balanced and look like they’d work very well. But, alas, they too were relegated to a shelf in the Model Shop. A good piece of evidence as to why these planes were never put into production came with the planes in 2002, when I was able to purchase them from the same individual who sold me the #144 beading plane. When the planes were removed from the Model Shop there was a sample of a drop leaf table joint that was with the planes. In pencil, written on the sample was “Made with a power shaper in the machine room”. The corner rounding planes were made from 1925-1943 and these planes were probably made during that time period as well.
Power tools in sizes and at prices available to small work shops and individuals were rapidly being developed during those years and the Stanley Production Committee likely decided that there wouldn’t be a big enough market for either the beading plane or the table joint planes. I’m unaware of any other set of these table planes, but I do wonder if there are more #144 corner rounding planes with different profiles out there somewhere!
1. Stanley #34 Catalog July 1, 1926, p. 92
2. Design patents have the letter “D” in front of the number granted to the patent. The first design patent was awarded to George Bruce in 1842 for the design of a new font. The designs of computer icons, beverage containers(the iconic Coke bottle) and even the shape of your phone will be covered by a design patent. An object with a design that is substantially similar to one in a design patent cannot be made, copied or imported into the U.S. according to current patent law. Design patents granted prior to December 18, 2013 were valid for 14 years, while those granted after December 18, 2013 are valid for 15 years.
3. Jacobs, Walter, “Stanley’s No. 144 Beading Plane”, Stanley Tool Collector News, Volume 6, Number 16, Winter 1995, p. 9. The author states in his article that the plane was part of a collection from a retired Stanley executive who was an avid tool collector.
Paul Van Pernis