Traut’s Model Shop Chamfer Planes – Part 1
Justus A. Traut, worked for the Stanley Rule & Level Company for over 50 years, and churned out patent after patent from the time his first patent was issued on June 20th, 1865, until November 3, 1908, when his last patent was issued posthumously, almost eight months after his death. Traut was just one of the brilliant inside contractors who worked at Stanley. Although he was touted during his lifetime as being the “The Patent King of the United States”, it’s likely that many of his patents were the result of ideas and innovations developed by the mechanics working in his shop at Stanley. Traut was adept at refining those ideas and innovations and then submitting a patent. It was only on rare occasions that he shared credit for his patents with others.
Stanley Rule & level Company and their inside contractors were very responsive to the needs of their customers. They listened carefully to suggestions from the users of their tools and kept a close watch on the developing styles and trends in furniture, architecture, and building construction. The Eastlake and American Queen Anne styles of architecture and furniture were very popular in the United States between 1870 and 1910. Houses were filled with wainscoting, fancy wooden trim, elaborate staircases, window treatments, fireplace surrounds, and mantels. The furniture followed suit with lots of spindles, chamfers, beading, inlays, and elaborate decorative details. Justus Traut was no doubt aware of these trends and responded by submitting a patent application on February 25th, 1885, for a chamfer plane. Granted on April 21, 1885, Traut’s Patent No. 316,079 states, “My plane is principally designed for use in making chamfer moldings on the corners of pieces of wood-work for various uses.” A chamfer can be defined as a transitional edge between two faces of an object. It is a bevel created at a 45º angle to two adjoining right-angle faces. Chamfers are used as a decorative detail or as a means to “ease” sharp edges both for safety and to prevent damage to the edges.
Traut’s patent included drawings of two versions of the chamfer plane. The first set of drawings shown in Figure 1 illustrates a plane that is essentially identical to the Stanley #72 chamfer plane produced and sold by Stanley starting in 1885. Bear will me, and I’ll come back and discuss this version of Traut’s chamfer plane in detail in Part II of this blog post along with another interesting and somewhat mysterious chamfer plane from the Stanley Model Shop.
For the moment I’d like to focus on the plane shown in the second set of patent drawings (See Figure 2). This drawing depicts a two-handled “spokeshave style” version of the chamfer plane. Recently this spokeshave style version of Traut’s chamfer plane along with the accompanying original patent papers came to auction (See Figure 3).
Likely Traut himself, or one of the mechanics in his shop, personally made this tool. It’s exciting, at least for me, to hold in my hands a tool that Traut no doubt held in his hands. Traut assigned this patent to the Stanley Rule& Level Company as soon as he was granted the patent. The patent is signed by Martin Van Buren Montgomery who was the commissioner of patents in 1885 and also by the then “acting” Secretary of the Interior who’s name I can’t read on the patent. I haven’t been able to uncover who this was in my research, so if you know who this gentleman was, please let me know. (Thanks to reader Gary Hammond who informed me that the “acting” Secretary of the interior was H.L. Muldrow).
This delightful little spokeshave style chamfer plane is only 4½ inches long and 9 inches wide across the width of the handles. The japanning on the outside of the plane body and the nicely curved handles are in excellent condition. The Stanley Model Shop number “776” is painted on the end of the right handle and on the lever cap. It is not a “patent model” because the U.S. Patent office stopped requiring the submission of patent models in 1880 (See Figure 4). So this plane would not have been sent to the Patent Office in Washington, but would have remained at the Stanley factory .
In his patent, Traut describes the front portion of his chamfer plane as the “sliding stock” and the rear portion of the body of the plane as a “gage” with “an angular groove b, extending longitudinally through it’s under face” These are shown in the patent drawing in Figure 2. above as “A” and “E”(See Figure 5 below).
The two pieces are brought together when the raised machined rib on the back of “sliding stock A” is slipped into the machined groove on the front of “gage E”.
The 1½ inch diameter shouldered depth of cut set screw is used to hold the two pieces together and to adjust the depth of cut of the chamfer. When the set screw is tightened, the front “sliding stock” is held firmly in place on the rear “gage” portion of the plane. The large size of the depth of cut set screw required the addition of a groove in the “gage” portion of the plane to prevent the set screw from hitting the casting of the rear “gage” portion of the plane. (See Figure 7).
Once the depth of cut of the chamfer is set by adjusting the “sliding stock A”, the set screw is tightened and the spokeshave style chamfer plane is set squarely over the corner that is to be chamfered (See Figure 8).
Traut stated in the patent, when the plane is moved over the wood, …. “shaving after shaving is removed until the ‘gage E’ stops further cutting by resting firmly for its whole length upon the stock being chamfered.” The result is a chamfered corner.
The cutter is 1¼inches wide and has a nice oval logo stamped on the upper end of the cutter (See Figure 9). No cap iron is used with the cutter. The diminutive japanned lever cap is 1 and 5/8ths inches long and only 1 and 5/16th inches wide. The lever cap adjusting screw is brass and is identical to those seen on the Miller’s Patent Plow planes produced by Stanley between 1875 and 1884. The cutter is held in position by tightening the lever cap against the cutter. The plane fits nicely in my hands and feels like it would have worked quite well using either a push or pull stroke across the work piece. This little plane is in almost pristine condition and it is clear that this spokeshave style chamfer plane was never put to use nor put into production. One can imagine that Traut envisioned this chamfer plane being added to the extensive line of spoke shaves that Stanley was already manufacturing. Its small size would have made it handy to use and its simple construction would have made the cost of manufacturing it quite reasonable. But, that never happened. Instead, this plane along with the original patent papers spent its days quietly resting on a shelf in the Stanley Model Shop until it thankfully found its way into the tool collecting world.
There is a Part II to this blog post that contains information about the Stanley #72 chamfer plane and a “mystery” Stanley Model Shop chamfer plane. The image below shows the first production model of the Stanley #72 chamfer plane and an intriguing Stanley Model Shop chamfer plane that seems to predate those shown in Traut’s 1885 patent. So, stayed tuned for Part II of Traut’s Model Shop Chamfer Planes.
by Paul Van Pernis
 For more information on Justus A. Traut, see Smith, Roger K., Patented Transitional & Metallic Planes in America, Volume II, 1992, pp. 207-213. A complete list of his patents can be found at http://www.datamp.org/patents/search/xrefPerson.php?id=124.
 Lot 397, 50th International Antique Tool Auction, March 25th, 2017.
 The first U.S. patent law was passed in 1790, and the granting of U.S. Patents was controlled by the Secretary of State until 1849, when Congress transferred U.S. Patent Office to the Department of the Interior. In 1925, the responsibility for issuing patents was transferred to the Department of Commerce, where it remains today.
 In the US, patent models were required from 1790 to 1880. The United States Congress abolished the legal requirement for them in 1870, but the U.S. Patent Office kept the requirement until 1880.
 This logo, has been noted on some Stanley #102 and #110 block planes of similar vintage.
 See the excellent type study entitled “Stanley #41,42,43,44 Miller’s Patent Plow Planes” by Walter Jacob in Antique and Collectible Stanley Tools, 2nd edition, 1996, by John Walter, pp. 717-725.