Metal Mouths and Faucet Handles
From its inception the Stanley Rule & Level Company was very attentive to its customers needs and desires. Their salesmen were instructed to listen carefully to comments and suggestions from their customers about the tools they manufactured and bring that information back to the foremen in the shop. Because of the nature of the “inside contracting system” the shop foremen were anxious to meet the needs of their customers. A new or improved tool that appealed to Stanley’s customers meant more income for the shop foreman, his employees as well as the company . Based on the large number of variations of Stanley’s “transitional” wood bottom planes from the Stanley Model Shop that have turned up, the skilled mechanics at Stanley invested a lot of time and effort on improving these planes. Stanley manufactured and sold eighteen different models of their transitional wood body planes during the 74 years they were offered in their catalogs. Between 1869 and 1943, multiple patents were granted to Stanley employees relating to “improvements” in these transitional planes. Some of those “improvements” were incorporated into the Stanley transitional plane line, but others never made it into production. Those “improved” planes that didn’t make the grade were relegated to the shelves in the Stanley Model Shop. Fortunately, for plane collectors, many of these “improved” transitional planes have escaped from the Model Shop and have found their way into the tool collecting world. I’ve shown you a few of those planes in previous posts and I hope you will enjoy looking at a couple of more.
Holding the cutter and cap iron tightly in position to prevent “chatter” was a problem with transitional wood bottom planes. In addition, scratches, gouges, and damage to the beech wood soles of transitional planes were common problems as well. Often, much of this damage occurred near the mouth of the plane. Resurfacing the sole of the plane to restore a smooth surface was not difficult but would result in an increase in the size of the mouth of the plane. Justus A. Traut submitted a patent application on December 28th, 1901, and on October 7th, 1902, was granted patent No. 710,542 which attempted to solve some of these problems. The rather complex patent drawings shown in Figures 1 and 2 were accompanied with multiple pages of descriptive patent text to illustrate and explain Traut’s ideas.
In summary, the patent describes the body of the plane body as being made of “any suitable wood adapted to the purpose” with a throat cut into the body designed to accept the “operative mechanism” which is described in the patent as an “adjustable supporting frame” for the cutter, lever cap, cutter adjustment screw, and the lateral adjuster.
The “operative mechanism” also included a metal sole with a narrow mouth opening for the cutter. The patent drawing shows the “operative mechanism” held in place in the throat of the plane body by two wood screws. If the sole of the plane were resurfaced, this “operative mechanism” which included the metal mouth could be moved upward by loosening the two screws in the throat of the plane that attach the “operative mechanism” and cutter frame to the body of the plane. This would keep the metal portion of the sole flush with the wooden sole of the plane body. Traut wrote in his patent with a flourish of elegant prose that…“the opposing forces thus set up tend to the establishment of perfect equilibrium between the parts and result in a bench plane possessing the greatest stability and practicability and in which chattering of the plane iron is practically destroyed or overcome due to the inherent tension at which the frame is always held.” Traut was trying in this patent to eliminate cutter chatter and at the same time provide a means for maintaining the narrow throat width for the cutter. I’m not sure that his design completely achieved the goal of eliminating cutter chatter, but it certainly created an improved method of holding the cutter compared to what was then being used on Stanley wood bottom transitional planes. And, it simultaneously solved the problem of the cutter mouth being opened if the sole of the plane was resurfaced.
The Model Shop plane shown in Figure 3 is identical to the plane shown in the patent drawings and is likely the plane used to produce those drawings. There is no doubt that it was made by Traut and the men in his shop. It is assembled on the body of a #27 Stanley transitional jack plane. The beech bottom is 15 inches long and 2 and 11/16ths inches wide. While the cutter, cap iron, and lever cap on a standard #27 transitional plane are 2 and 1/16ths inches wide, the cutter, cap iron, and lever cap on this plane are narrower at 1 and 15/16ths of an inch wide. The cutter, cap iron, and lever cap are narrower on the Model Shop version of this plane to allow for the metal “operative mechanism” and the narrower width of the metal mouth. The Model Shop number “211” is painted on the front tote, on the upper surface of the toe, on the toe of the plane, and on the lever cap. The stamp on the toe, the Stanley logo stamped on the cutter, the single patent date of 7-24-88 on the lateral cutter adjusting lever, and the “B” casting mark on the bottom side of the frame of the plane are typical of Stanley planes made from 1900-1904 (See Figures 4 and 5).
Traut applied for the patent on this plane on December 28, 1901, so it’s very likely that this plane was produced during the last three months of 1901. Figure 6 shows the “operative mechanism” and cutter support frame removed from the plane. Interestingly, this mechanism is attached to the body of the plane with two pan head machine screws that are threaded into the wood throat of the plane rather than the wood screws shown in the patent drawings. I would think the machine screws wouldn’t have held as well as a wood screw had this plane ever been put to use, so the use of the machine screws on this plane is puzzling.
Figure 7 shows the sole of the plane with the metal portion of the sole and the cutter mouth. Note how the metal mouth fits snugly into the sole. While there are a few storage scratches and stains on the sole, the plane is in unused condition.
The “operative mechanism” and the metal cutter frame incorporating the metal mouth look like they would have worked very well and would have lived up to the claims Traut made in his patent. Figure 8 shows the “operative mechanism” and cutter frame inserted into the plane with the cutter, cap iron, and lever cap removed.
But despite the “improvements”, Stanley never put this plane into production. One of the major selling points of the Stanley transitional planes was their lower cost. Figure 9 is taken from a Stanley 1902 pocket catalog and illustrates the difference in cost between Stanley’s cast iron bench planes and their transitional planes. The transitional planes were priced fifty cents to two dollars less than a comparable cast iron plane.
The cost of casting and machining the “operative mechanism” and cutter frame on this Model Shop plane would likely have made these planes as expensive, if not more expensive than their cast iron counterparts. So, this nicely designed and interesting plane never got beyond the prototype stage and was relegated to a shelf in the Model Shop.
This next Model Shop transitional plane is shown in Figure 10 and also has a metal sole plate and mouth that extends through the body of the plane, but differs from the first plane in the nature of its cutter adjustment mechanism. This plane is 8 and 3/8ths inches long and 2 and ½ inches wide at the mouth. The cutter, cap iron, and lever cap are 1 and 11/16ths of an inch wide, equal in size to the cutter, cap iron, and lever cap used on a conventional #22 size Stanley transitional smooth plane. To accommodate the metal sole plate, the metal mouth, and the “faucet handle” cutter adjustment mechanism the wooden body of the plane is about ¼ inch longer in length and ¼ inch wider at the mouth than a conventional #22 size Stanley smooth plane. The cast iron frame that sits atop the wooden plane body has also been modified slightly to accommodate the cutter adjustment mechanism and the metal mouth and sole plate (See Figure 11).
There is no Stanley stamp on the toe. The trademark on the cutter for this plane (See Figure 12) is consistent with the years 1910-1920, and Model Shop number “3162” is rather crudely painted in white on the side of the plane (See Figure 10). This is one of four transitional planes of this configuration known. Two of the others were 15-inch long Stanley wood bottom transitional jack planes. The frame and cutter adjustment mechanism is nickel-plated on one example and on the other it is japanned. These planes carry the Model Shop numbers “3159” and “3160” painted with white paint on their sides in the same rather crude fashion as found on this plane. The fourth plane is a Stanley No. 35 size transitional smooth plane with the faucet handle adjuster and red japanning. Model Shop number “3161” is painted on the rear tote of this plane. It appears the men in the Model Shop were trying out this adjustment mechanism on a variety of transitional planes with a variety of different finishes. Who knows, there may be even more of these transitional Model Shop planes with faucet handle adjusters and metal mouths out there somewhere. If you have one, please let me know.
This little smooth plane captured my attention when it came up for auction for a couple of reasons. The first is the “faucet handle” cutter adjustment screw. This has been seen on a few other Stanley planes and was used in the Model Shop version of the Stanley #97 Cabinet Maker’s Edge Plane. For a good look at that plane check out Walter Jacob’s article in “The Chronicle”, Volume 69, Number 3, September 2016, pp. 128-129.
The “faucet handle” cutter adjuster appears to have been an attempt to correct the problem that plane users had trying to turn the conventional round brass horizontal cutter adjusting screw in the confined space between the planes frog and the back portion of the frame casting on the smaller sized transitional planes or other planes with a low cutter angle. Additionally, the cutter adjustment mechanism that utilizes this “faucet handle” is different from what’s seen on Stanley’s conventional wood bottom transitional planes. Turning the “faucet handle” moves a cast iron plate which rides in machined ways on the frog. The cutter fits over a raised tab on this cast iron plate and the entire plate moves when the ‘faucet handle” adjuster is turned thus moving the cutter in or out of the mouth of the plane.
This cutter adjustment mechanism which is shown in Figure 14 is an adaptation of Traut’s cutter adjustment mechanism illustrated in his patent No. 645,220 dated March 13,1900 (See Figure 15). While the cutter adjustment mechanism on this Model Shop transitional plane is similar to what is shown in the patent drawings, the sliding plate has been adapted to work on the cutter support framework that is similar to what is shown in Traut’s patent No.710,542 that was used on the first plane shown in this post.
The second interesting feature of this plane is that the adjustable metal mouth frame is secured to the cast iron frame rather than being attached to the wooden body of the plane (See Figure 14). If the sole of the plane were to be resurfaced, the screws holding the metal mouth in place can be loosened and the metal mouth can be easily raised to remain flush with the sole of the plane. Figure 16 shows the metal mouth mechanism removed from the throat of the plane and shows how simple it would have been to adjust the metal mouth mechanism.
The cast iron frame that supports the metal mouth mechanism is screwed to the upper surface of the plane’s wood body with a wood screw through the front knob and two round head wood screws placed through the frame just behind the mouth opening. Rarely, Model Shop tools are accompanied by their Model Shop tags and this is one of those rare instances where the tag was still present with the plane. The tag shown in Figure 17 allows us to know exactly when this little plane entered the Model Shop, May 25, 1916.
So, with that documentation, we know that the men in the Model Shop continued to experiment with modifications to Stanley’s transitional planes years after Traut was granted patent No. 710,542 and eight years after his death.
The plane is also in beautiful condition with just a few scratches and stains on the sole (See Figure 18). The cutter adjustment mechanism and the metal mouth make a lot of sense and it appears that this plane would also have worked very well. But, again, most likely because of the additional expense of casting and machining the frame and cutter support mechanism, Stanley put this one back on the shelf in the Model Shop one hundred and one years ago! Thankfully, these interesting planes were at some point “liberated” and have found their way into the tool collecting world for those of us who find them intriguing glimpses into the history of American woodworking plane development.
By Paul Van Pernis
 The Stanley transitional planes included the following catalog numbers: 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 27½, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, and 37. The number of Stanley transitional planes swells to twenty-three if you include the 122, 127, 129, 132, and 135 in the Liberty Bell series of planes.
 Transitional planes are wood bottom planes with a cast iron frame attached to the upper surface of the wood bottom. The frame supports the frog, and the rear tote and front knob are attached to the frame as well. The name “transitional” is a misnomer as they are not a chronologic bridge between the classic wooden bodied bench plane and a cast iron bench plane. Rather, they are simply a wood bottom plane with a cast iron frame mounted on the upper surface of the plane that incorporates the adjustment feature found on the similarly sized cast iron planes by the same manufacturer. Roger Smith does an excellent job of explaining the development of these planes in Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume I, pp. 25-39. For general information regarding Stanley transitional planes go to Patrick Leach’s Blood & Gore at http://www.supertool.com/StanleyBG/stan4.htm.
 Here’s the link to the previous post. http://eaiainfo.org/2015/03/14/stanley-model-sh…od-bottom-planes/.
 See Roger Smith’s type study of “Bailey-Stanley Wood Bottom Plane Types in Patented and metallic Transitional Planes in America Volume I, pp. 275-278.
 The plane discussed in this post was Lot #504 in the 42nd International Antique Tool Auction of Saturday, April 6th, 2013. The two jack planes described above were sold as Lot #342 in the 39th International Antique Tool Auction of Saturday, October 29th, 2011. The Stanley #35 size transitional smoothing plane with the faucet handle adjuster and red japanning on the cast iron was Lot #627 in the 41st International Antique Tool Auction on November 3, 2012. It also came with a Model Shop tag dated 5/25/1916. I am aware of one other Model Shop plane with a “faucet handle” cutter adjustment screw. It was sold as Lot #343 in the 39th International antique Tool Auction on Saturday October 29th, 2011.
 Justus A. Traut was born in Potsdam, Germany on June 12, 1839. In 1904, a celebration was held at Stanley commemorating his 50th year with the company. He died on March 9, 1908 just shy of his 69th birthday. So, he wouldn’t have been around to work on this Model Shop plane.