Justus Traut’s Early Adjustable #110 Block Planes
As I told you in my last post, Stanley Rule & Level Company introduced the #110 non-adjustable block plane sometime in 1874. The plane was derived from Justus Traut’s patent No. 159,865 granted on February 16, 1875. Traut had sent in his patent application on November 13, 1874 at about the time Stanley started advertising the #110 block plane for sale. Traut’s patent shows a plane with the design characteristics of the first production model #110 block plane and a cutter adjustment mechanism. The cutter adjustment mechanism was the major claim Traut made in his patent (See Figure 1).
Stanley was already selling the#110 non-adjustable block plane when Traut sent in his patent application. The #110 non-adjustable block plane was based on Birdsill Holly’s block plane as noted in my last web post which is available at http://eaiainfo.org/2016/12/26/copy-cat-blocks-and-one-from-the-model-shop/. Holly never patented his block plane and Traut was free to essentially copy Holly’s design and sell the block plane without any fear of complaints or legal threats from Holly. So Traut’s patent claim did indeed apply to the cutter adjustment mechanism described in the patent. However, this cutter adjustment mechanism was never used on a production model of this plane. I suspect that there may be one out there somewhere from the Stanley Model Shop with Traut’s cutter adjustment as shown in his patent, and if so, I’d love to hear about it and see some pictures! Figure 2 shows the image found in the 1874 Stanley catalog of the #110 non-adjustable block plane. It is interesting to note that the image is of a Type 2 #110 block plane and not the Type 1 version as seen in the patent drawings. This suggests that the Type 1 version was made for a very short time, possibly only one casting run, and that Stanley may have been producing these planes in early 1874 and started selling them several months before Traut applied for his patent.
Figure 3 is an example of a Type 1 Stanley #110 block plane. The tapered boat shaped body is 7 3/8” long and 1 15/16” wide at the mouth. The “shoe buckle” lever cap is held captive by a steel rod that passes through the right sidewall of the plane (when viewed from the heel of the plane) and is screwed into a threaded hole on the left sidewall.
The lever cap has a delightful filigree design on its upper surface. The lever cap adjusting screw is a steel screw with four wings (some examples are seen with a brass four wing adjusting screw). When the lever cap adjusting screw is tightened it secures the cutter in place and simultaneously applies pressure to the leading edge of the cutter via the front edge of the lever cap. The unmarked cutter with its semi-circular top is 1 and 5/8ths inches wide and is supported on a cross-rib cast in the bed of the plane (See Figure 4). A fruit wood front knob is friction fit into a raised cylindrical receiver which is cast onto the toe of the plane A raised lug rests on the heel of the plane and extends just a bit beyond the end of the plane bed.
The gently flared side walls include raised vertical ribs to aid in gripping the plane. The lever cap and both the inside and outside of the body are japanned. There are no marks on the plane or its cutter which would identify it as a Stanley product. This version of the #110 block plane was probably in production for less than six months.
By mid-1875, the boat-shaped body was replaced by a plane with parallel sides (See Figure 5). This is the version of the plane shown in the 1874 Stanley catalog. The “shoe buckle” lever cap remains but the winged lever cap adjusting screw has been replaced by a coarsely knurled brass adjusting screw. The vertical ridges on the side walls are gone and replaced by reinforced ribs on the upper edge of the side walls. The cross-rib cutter support has been replaced by two wedge-shaped ribs that run parallel to the long axis of the plane (See Figure 6).
The plane is slightly shorter at 7 and 5/16ths of an inch in length and slightly wider at 2 and 1/16ths of an inch. The cutter is still 1 and 5/8ths inches wide and has a semicircular top, but “Stanley Rule & Level Co.” has been stamped on the upper end.(See Figure 7). The raised lug on the heel of the plane is also slightly shorter than on the Type 1 version.
Leonard Bailey left the employ of the Stanley Rule & Level Company on June 1st, 1875 to start his own competing plane manufacturing company. All the plane patents he’d licensed to Stanley in 1869 remained by contract with Stanley, so Justus Traut and the men in his workshop were free to make any improvements or modifications to Bailey’s planes or their own planes without fear of any arguments from Bailey, and they didn’t waste any time doing so! The plane shown in Figure 8 is from the Stanley Model Shop and is one of Traut’s attempts to create an adjustable Stanley #110 block plane. This appealing plane is in superb condition. The japanning is bright, the cutter has never been honed, and the sole of the plane looks as if it has never been run across a piece of wood. Curiously, it has Model Shop #51 painted on the toe and Model Shop #52 painted on the lever cap (See Figures 9 & 10).
In my experience, Stanley Model Shop planes are labeled with only one number while this one has two consecutive numbers. We know that the Holly Block Plane I discussed in my last post carries Model Shop #47. We also know based on an article in The Fine Tool Journal that block planes #48 and #49 exist. The Model Shop tool #50’s whereabouts is not known and it might be a model of the plane shown in Traut’s patent drawing (Again, I’d love to see this one!). So, it is a mystery as to why this plane got two consecutive numbers instead of one, but the lever cap appears to have always been together with the body of the plane.
This plane has all of the same dimensions and characteristics of the Type 2 Stanley #110 block plane except for the ingenious cutter adjustment mechanism that’s been added to the heel of this plane (See Figure 11) and the use of a slotted cutter from a Bailey #9 ½ block plane. The style of the lever cap adjusting screw and the early Bailey cutter help to date this plane to mid-1875 to early 1876 which supports the premise that Traut and his workmen immediately started experimenting on adjustment mechanisms for the #110 block plane as soon as Bailey left Stanley. The front knob is missing and in fact there are no wear marks inside the cast cylinder on the toe of the plane which suggest that this plane may have never been fitted with a front knob. The cutter adjustment mechanism consists of a large 1½ inch diameter steel wheel which rotates freely on a partially threaded filletster head machine screw that is threaded into the sole of the plane (see Figure 12). This steel wheel has a coarse thread cut into its finely ribbed edge. This coarse thread engages a cylindrical gear that is supported on a pin placed between the two wedge-shaped ribs that support the plane’s cutter. A small groove has been filed into the right sideboard of the plane to allow the insertion of the pin and the cylindrical gear.
When the wheel is turned teeth on the gear are engaged in the coarse thread on the edge of the wheel while another of the gear’s teeth engages one of the slots cut into the back of the plane’s cutter. This combined motion of the wheel and the gear will either advance or withdraw the cutter (See Figures 13 and 14).
It’s a very elegant cutter adjustment design and works very well, but would have required a significant amount of precision machining and in the end offered no significant advantage over the cutter adjustment that was already in use on Bailey’s 9 ½ series block planes. There is no known patent associated with this cutter adjustment mechanism and it never made it into production. Instead, this fascinating plane was relegated to the shelves in the Model Shop until it made its way into a tool auction many years ago.
There is one more #110 block plane from the Model Shop that didn’t find its way into my collection but also demonstrates another interesting attempt at a cutter adjustment mechanism. It is shown in Figure 15 and is discussed in Clarence Blanchard’s Fine Tool Journal article I mentioned above. Although the Model Shop number is unreadable, the lever cap adjusting screw is a four wing screw (made of brass) which suggest that this plane probably predates the one discussed above.
The cutter adjustment mechanism consists of an “L” shaped bar and a vertically positioned wheel at the heel of the plane. The short arm of the “L” engages one of the slots cut into the back of the cutter. The long arm of the “L” is attached to the wheel that is fixed vertically to the heel of the plane. As the wheel is turned, the bar moves up or down moving the cutter in or out of the mouth of the plane. This too is an interesting method of cutter adjustment, but there is no known associated patent and this plane also spent most of its life in the Model Shop until it too found its way into a tool auction.
All of these cutter adjustment ideas were “food for thought” in Traut’s workshop. It is conceivable that these two planes were experiments in designing a cutter adjustment mechanism but were discarded in favor of the mechanism shown and described in Traut’s patent. Justus Traut appears to have been intent on producing an adjustable block plane of his own to rival Bailey’s #9 ½ so that he too could reap the economic benefits associated with an adjustable block plane. Traut persisted and next time I’ll tell you how later in 1876 his Stanley #110 non-adjustable block plane was adapted to become the Stanley #120 “adjustable” block plane.
by Paul Van Pernis
 Some of the early versions of this plane for a very short time (early to mid-1875) had a lever cap adjusting screw that consisted of two pieces, a filletster head machine screw and a circular brass disk locked onto the filletster head screw. See adjacent photograph.
 Other cutter seen on these early versions of the #110 block plane have a semicircular trademark stamped in them which reads “Stanley Rule & Level Co.” The Stanley #110 continued to evolve. For further information look up the excellent type study put together by John G. Wells entitled “Early Models of the Stanley No. 110 Block Plane: 1874-1887”. It was first published in The Gristmill, Number 81, December 1995, pp. 10-14.
 Blanchard, Clarence, “Birdsill Holly and the Stanley Rule & Level Co.”, The Fine Tool Journal, Volume 57, No. 2, Fall 2007, pp. 20-23.
 The numbering system used over the years in the Stanley Model Shop is a mystery. At times, it appears logical and sequential, at other times it appears totally random. I look forward to the day when someone can make sense of it all!
 Sales figures for 1876 indicate that Stanley sold 7,000 #9 ½ and 1,406 #9 ¾ Bailey block planes in 1876. Royalties were paid to Bailey based on the number of planes sold so Traut would have had a strong financial incentive to create a plane that could compete with Bailey’s so his royalty payments would increase.