The 48th Brown Tool Auction was held at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania on April 2, 2016. Prices realized in this article include a 13% buyer’s premium. A 3% discount was available for cash or a good check. The condition of the items was taken from the auction catalog and does not reflect the author’s opinion. Numbers shown in parentheses [ ] indicate the bid estimates printed in the catalog. All photographs are courtesy of Brown Auction Services. Photography by Cami Foley.
Selected Auction Items:
The Beech Ultimatum Brace in lot 121 was much rarer and more valuable than a comparable ebony brace even though ebony is a more valuable wood species; at least twenty ebony braces were made for every beech brace. This brace is also a little longer than the b race in lot 117. It was rated Good + [$275-$550]. It opened at $75 and sold for $186.45 in the room.
The Stanley Veneer Scraper, Stanley No. 212, in lot 173, having the script trademark(1910-19140, with light surface rust, not pitting, and 90% of the japanning was rated Good+ for condition [$400-$800]. It opened $565 and sold for $638.45 to an absentee bidder ($565 opening bid plus 13% buyer’s premium).
Lot 193, the boxwood four-fold Wantage Rod, by J. Buck, ca. 1850, was marked in firkins (one-quarter of a barrel of beer) and kilderkins (one half of a barrel of beer). It was boxwood, had brass tips and was rated Good+ [$250-$500]. It opened at $160 and sold to an absentee bidder for $180.80 ($160 opening bid plus 13% buyer’s premium).
The Stanley six-foot No.7366 advertising tape measure, lot 195, called “Bundles for Britain” (A U.S. based organization providing non-military aid to British World War II citizens), was in an immaculate brass case and had only a couple of small nicks in the tape. It was rated Good+ [$125-$250]. It opened at $120 and sold for $180.80 in the room.
The superb ebony try square with German silver trim and escutcheon and a level vial in the stock, in lot 206, (labeled lot 675 in the auction centerfold) was 9½ inches high, had an unruled blade and was rated Good+ [$400-$800]. It is a beautiful tool. It opened at $610 and sold for $689.30 to an absentee bidder ($610 opening bid plus 13% buyer’s premium).
The Millers Falls No. 4, four-inch triangular level in lot 248 is among the rarest collectible levels. It has the original vial, nearly 100% of the original japanning and was rated G00d+ for condition [$300-$600]. It opened at $350 and sold for $536.75 in the room.
The Type 1 Miller’s Patent Plow Plane in lot 430, Stanley #43, (See Walter Jacob, Stanley No. 41, 42, 43, 44 Miller’s Patent Plow Planes type Study in John Walter’s Antique and Collectible Stanley Tools, pp. 717-725; Roger K. Smith, Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America II, pp. 202-206) had the important curled up hook at the top of the body casting where it enters the rosewood handle. It came with a complete set of the original cutters in a reproduction wooden box and had almost 100% of the original japanning. It was rated Fine, noting only one very fine crack near the lower pin on the plane’s tote [$5,000-$8,000]. It opened at $3,100 and sold on a bid of $3,955 in the room.
The Stanley No 42, Type 4 in Lot 431 (see references for lot 430) Miller’s Patent bronze plow plane has a wrap around fence, a filletster bed and a japanned cast iron straight fence, the later lacking the two fence clamping screws. It included a complete set of eight original plow cutters and a tonguing cutter in a wooden box. The tote has a couple of cracks and a small chip and is fastened with three pins, two of which may be later additions. It was rated Good+ [$1500-$2500]. It opened at $175 and was an excellent value selling for $847.50 in the room.
The rarely seen 9 inch version of the Challenge bench plane in lot 432, patented by Arthur Goldsborough and manufactured by Tower & Lyon (patent No. 284,732, September 11,1883; see Roger K. Smith’s Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume II, p. 168, fig. 255) was rated Good for condition and had a small bit of light pitting on the metal and the typical light wear and touch up of the original finish on the handle and the front knob. [$1500-$2500]. It opened at $550 and sold on a bid in the room for $1582.
The very rare James Silcock, 1¾ inch bronze bodied filletster plane in lot 433 lacked the usually attached metallic plane identifying it as a British patented plane (There were a number of concurrent French patents). It came with a set of nine original marked cutters in a reproduction wooden box and was a beautiful plane in fine condition [$2500-$5000]. it opened at $800 and sold to an absentee bidder for $904 9$800 opening bid plus 13% buyer’s premium). It was an exceptional value.
The Walker Plow plane (Patent No. 318,331, May 19, 1885) Type 3, in lot 434 came complete with eight sliding plates that make up the body and adjustable sole of the plane and is the only known example to come in the original wooden box (see Roger K. Smith’s Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume II, pp. 54-56). It included 14 of the original cutters and was from the collection of Aron Hower, the great-grandson of the inventor. It was rated G00d+ for condition [$3000-$6000]. It opened at $1700 and sold on a bid in the room for $5,424.
The very rare (three currently known) Henry B. Price plane, lot 435, having a frog that can be set at four different pitches, i.e. 45 degrees or common pitch for soft wood, and 50, 55, and 60 degrees also known as York, Middle and half pitch for hard woods. Henry B. Price’s patent No. 216,698 was granted June 17, 1879. The example offered in this auction has a laminated front grip as shown on the patent drawing rather than a front knob. There is a small chip missing from the rear end of the left sideboard but otherwise it was rated Good+ [$3000-$6000]. It opened on an absentee bid of $1,200 and sold to that same absentee bidder for $1356 ( opening bid of $1200 plus the 13% buyer’s premium). Another example of this plane having a front knob rather than the laminated grip and rated Good+ sold in the 28th Brown Auction on April 8, 2006, for $7,700 including the premium. Not to embroider rarity with abundance, but, I received my copy of The Tool Shed, the March 2016 issue of the journal of Crafts of New Jersey on Monday March 14th. To my surprise there was an article on the H.B. Price adjustable pitch plane on pages 6 and 7. It had been purchased from Craig’s list by a young man who wanted to acquire a set of low-cost tools for a course he was taking at the North Bennett Street School in Boston. He saw a picture of the Price plane on the cover of The Fine Tool Journal and was lucky enough to find Andy D’Elia who appreciated the rarity and value of the plane and purchased it at a fair market price for his Antique Tool Museum in Scotland, Connecticut. Now the young man can afford a good set of tools for his planned trade.
The Miller’s Patent 1872 combination plow plane, lot 436, (No. 50 in the Russell & Erwin Catalog) patent No. 131,376, granted September 17, 1872(see Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America Vol. II, pp. 202-203) was the brightest star of this show and was shown on the front cover of the auction catalog. This little gem had 50% of the copper wash on its original cast iron finish. The photograph fell a little short of bringing out the beauty of the sculptural modeling of the planes fence as seen in PTAMPIA II, p. 203. It had one of the original cutters and was rated Fine [$8000-15,000]. It opened at $4,100 and was hammered down in the room for $7,232. It was an exceptional value.
The 22 inch long rosewood jointer lot 494, was made by Henry G. Stilley who started working in San Francisco as a shipwright in 1864 and moved across the Bay to Oakland in 1877 where they were still making and repairing wooden boats for fishing and shipping. He worked there until 1900. This example had a 1¾ inch Buck Brothers cutter and a strike button in a hexagonal plate in front of the mouth. It was marked “H.G. Stilley Maker”, which was a new mark. See T.L. Elliott, American Wooden Planes, 4th edition. It had a couple of minor chips at the heel and was rated Fine [$200-$400]. It opened at $450 and closed at $508.50 from an absentee bidder (opening bid of $450 plus 13% premium).
Robert “Bob” Baker, the world’s finest plane smith passed away in 2010, far too young for such a talented man. One of his admirers, Kari Hultman, has a fun web post on Bob. Two of his most important pieces were offered as full size reproductions in this auction: lot 526 his reproduction of Falconer’s Coach Maker’s plow plane and lot 533 his reproduction of the H. Chapin no. 239¼ Bridle plow plane. Lot 526, the Thomas Falconer Coach Maker’s plow plane, Society of Arts, 1846, was made of solid ebony with a red mahogany wedge and a spring steel fence.(See John Moody, The American Cabinet Maker’s Plow Plane, p. 97, fig. 121, Proudfoot & walker, Woodworking Tools, p. 32, fig. 24, and Holtzappel, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, Vol. 2, p. 979, note “AJ”). It was in a custom-made display case from the John “Jock” Moody collection and was rated Mint for condition. [$1000-$2000]. It opened at $1650 and was an excellent value selling at $2712 to an absentee bidder.
Lot 533, The H. Chapin No. 239¼ Bridle plow plane, based on the Chapin-Rust March 18, 1868 patent No. 76,051 was made of apple wood with lignum vitae arms and a cast iron and brass adjustment (Kenneth D. Roberts, Wooden Planes in 19th Century America, Vol. II, p.231 and color page 252M, Roger K. Smith, Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Vol. II, p. 65 plate 13). It was a beautiful plane in Mint condition [$1500-$2000] It opened at $1,650 and was a very good value selling at $2034 in the room.
The L.L. Davis No. 45 cast iron 15 inch jack plane in lot 590 has a moveable frog to adjust the throat size, patent NO. 167,311, dated August 31, 1875. (see Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Vol. II, page 135). You will need a magnifying glass to see the scallops in the plane’s cross rib above the screws for the frog. The plane has a little shallow pitting on its sole, a small chip in the tote, lacks one small screw, and was rated Good+ [$1000-$2000]. It opened at $350 and sold for $452 to an absentee bidder.
by John G. Wells