Leonard Bailey’s Last Vertical Post?
Leonard Bailey appears to have begun experimenting with and manufacturing vertical post planes sometime in 1860. These planes are called “vertical post” planes because of the two vertically positioned threaded rods located behind the rocking frog. The rocking frog is held in place by a pin that is inserted through the sidewalls of the plane and the frog. As shown in the schematic drawing ( See Figure 1), the first threaded rod is screwed through a threaded hole in the frog casting. As this short threaded rod is tightened it applies pressure to a flat leaf spring that rests in two grooves cast into the bed of the plane. Tightening this screw against the leaf spring creates back pressure on the frog. The second threaded rod fits through an open collar on the rear of the frog casting and is screwed into a threaded hole in the plane’s bed.
The cutting iron is adjusted by pivoting the frog and cutting iron together around an axis parallel to the mouth of the plane with the use of this threaded rod and the large brass adjusting screw. The large brass adjusting screw is threaded onto the second rod. When turned, the brass adjusting screw changes the angle of the rocking frog and thus moves the cutting iron in our out of the mouth of the plane. Figure 2 is an image of the rocking frog and cutter adjustment mechanism on a Bailey vertical post plane. The large brass adjusting screw clearly identifies Bailey as the maker, his location in Boston and his August 7th, 1855 and August 31, 1858 patent dates (See Figure 2 and Figure 10).
On the production versions of these vertical post planes, both the rear tote and front knob are attached in the same way. They are slipped over a threaded rod that is screwed into the plane bed and they are held in place by a cylindrical brass barrel nut inserted into a shouldered hole in the rosewood front knob or rear tote (See Figure 3) .
At the time it was introduced, the Bailey vertical post plane was a quantum step forward in plane design. Vertical post planes are lighter, more responsive, and less expensive to make than the split frame planes Bailey was producing previously. They utilize the same basic principles used on the split frame plane, but now the plane body is a single casting and the pivoting frog fits inside the body. This significant design change required less precision in manufacturing, and made it possible for less skilled workers to assemble the planes. The vertical post plane has all of the visual and construction characteristics of the modern carpenter’s plane except for Bailey’s third and most effective cutter adjustment mechanism for which he received a patent on August 6th, 1867. After Bailey was granted this patent, he appears to have quickly halted production of his vertical post planes.
Early versions of the vertical post planes were made with a cam lock lever cap without a spring and were fitted with a tapered double iron, usually by Moulson (Cutting irons from other manufacturers are seen on Bailey’s vertical post planes). In later years Bailey added a “banjo spring” to the back side of the lever cap on his vertical post planes. The spring rests in a recess in the back of the lever cap and is held in place by a single rivet (See Figure 4). In 1867 or 1868, when Bailey began producing planes with his third cutting iron adjustment mechanism and patented thin parallel irons based on his August 6th, 1867 patent (i.e. Boston Bailey Type 1 Planes), he still had unfinished castings and parts for vertical post planes that he wanted to sell and decided to offer them with his new patented thin parallel irons. So he made up the remaining castings for his vertical post planes with a smaller mouth opening suitable for the thin parallel irons. When he machined the castings for these planes he cut the mouth opening slightly smaller and installed the frog a little further forward so the thin irons fit in the planes leaving an appropriately tight mouth opening. A traditional tapered iron is too thick to fit though the mouth opening in these planes (See Figures 5).
He used lever caps with banjo springs on a few of these planes when he ran short of lever caps without springs. Although rare, a fair number of these vertical post planes with the smaller mouth and Bailey’s thin parallel cutter have survived. Bailey offered the vertical post plane is sizes No. 1 through No. 8. The No. 1 size is 5½ inches in length and has a 1¼ inch wide cutting iron (See Figure 6) and the No. 8 size is 24 inches long with a 2 and 5/8ths inch wide cutting iron.
An example of a vertical post No. 5 size jack plane in virtually unused condition with a banjo spring lever cap is shown in Figure 7. Interestingly, no example of a No. 2 sized, 7 inch long vertical post plane has to date been found.
When Bailey sold his business to the Stanley Rule & Level Company in 1869, his vertical post planes had been replaced by his planes with his patented adjuster that became the industry standard. But, his existing stock of vertical post planes was also part of the deal. Stanley appears to have sold off the remaining vertical post planes shortly after acquiring Bailey’s business. However, an intriguing Bailey #3 size vertical post plane that is slightly different from the earlier versions of the Bailey vertical post planes came to light in 2011. It apparently resided in the Stanley Model Shop for most of its life and is in unused condition. The Model Shop number “368” is painted on the toe of the plane in two spots. Like Bailey’s earlier production models of his No. 3 size vertical post plane, this one is 8 7/8ths inches long, 2 1/8th inches wide and has 1¾ inch wide thick tapered cutter. Because of the thick tapered cutter, it also has the wider mouth seen on the early versions of Bailey’s vertical post planes. Figure 8 shows this plane along side a production version of Bailey’s No. 3 size vertical post plane.
While clearly a Bailey vertical post plane, this “model shop” version differs from the usual Bailey vertical post planes in several respects (See Figure 9 below):
- The lever cap is a later version with a square spring.
- The rear tote is a slightly different shape and is more characteristic of the rear totes seen on the Bailey planes made at Stanley starting in about 1874.
- The front knob is a little taller and lacks the bead at its base that is present on earlier version of the vertical post planes.
- The front knob is attached with a ¼ inch diameter flat head machine screw as opposed to the standard version of the Bailey vertical post plane where the front knob is held in place with a brass barrel nut screwed onto a 3/16th inch diameter threaded rod.(See Figure 3 above) Using the larger diameter flat head machine screw would have required drilling and tapping a larger hole in the low post on the toe of the plane bed.
- The cutting iron is unmarked and is a thick tapered cutting iron. The cap iron is also unmarked.
- And probably most interestingly, the large brass cutting iron adjusting screw is stamped L. BAILEY & CO., BOSTON, which to my knowledge, has not been seen on any other vertical post planes (See Figure 10).
This unique stamp on the cutting iron adjusting knob suggests that the plane was made by Bailey in Boston just prior to the sale of his plane business to Stanley. But the front knob with its flat head screw, the rear tote, and the later style lever cap suggest that this plane was possibly assembled by Leonard Bailey after he joined Stanley Rule & Level Company in 1869. Bailey constantly strove to improve his planes not only in terms of their function, but also in terms of ease of manufacture, so this may be what he had in mind with this vertical post plane. It’s very conceivable that he brought this plane with him when he went to work for Stanley.
Maybe he hoped that Stanley might want to continue production of his vertical post planes. Or was this plane made at a later date by a workman at Stanley after Bailey left the employ of the Stanley rule & Level Company in 1874? Could Stanley have been considering re-introducing the Bailey vertical post plane at some point? All of these are possibilities, but without more information one can only speculate on the story behind this mysterious and unique vertical post plane from the Stanley Model Shop. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
By Paul Van Pernis
If your interested in more information about Leonard Bailey, an in-depth book co-authored by John G. Wells and Paul Van Pernis about Leonard Bailey and his woodworking planes will be released in a few months.
 When this plane was “liberated” from the Stanley Model Shop is not known, but the plane came to auction in the 38th International Antique Tool Auction on April 2, 2011, as lot #296.