Colonial Homestead: A Midwest Tool Mecca

Colonial Homestead Featured Image

In almost every woodworking class I teach in Covington, Ky., there’s at least one student who has driven through Ohio to get there who has stopped at Colonial Homestead in Millersburg. Every one of them tells me it’s among the most awe-inspiring stores for vintage tools they’ve ever seen (along with Hulls Cove Tool Barn in Bar Harbor, Maine).

Until last week, I simply had to trust them; now I know they were all right. My tool knowledge is for the most part limited to “user tools” rather than collectibles, so I don’t know if there are truly rare finds to be had – but I have to think, with such a wide array, there must be.

The entrance to the treasure trove that is Colonial Homestead in Millersburg, Ohio.

Below is but a glimpse at what’s inside. If you ever find yourself in the Amish region of northeast Ohio, make a point of stopping by to see for yourself. And don’t miss the antique furniture display; the store’s owner, Dan Raber, has a good eye for that, too.

But my favorite find was this Nicholson bench in the wild (I published a reprint of Peter Nicholson’s “Mechanic’s Companion,” in which the bench was, to the best of my knowledge, first published, so I’ve a soft spot for the form).

by Megan Fitzpatrick

Rule Collectors Rule!

Kerby Bros Makers Cordage Rule

The first yearly antique tool auctions bring tool collectors out of their winter hibernation as surely as the vernal equinox marks the coming of Spring. One of the highlights of this “Rite of Spring” is Martin Donnelly’s “Live Free or Die” spring tool auction.  This long-standing tradition rekindles friendships young and old, provides a chance to find some tools for one’s collection and is a great opportunity to see and examine the “best of the best” tools offered in the auction. At the May 2018 Donnelly auction a special “Rule Collector’s Showcase” took place at the Friday night “Gala Preview Sale”.  Eleven rule collectors from across America were on hand exhibiting diverse and interesting measuring instruments from their personal collections.  Scott Lynk coordinated this event and described how it became a reality. “At the fall Donnelly Tool Auction last year, a group of rule collectors got together as we have been doing for many years at past Donnelly auctions.  We often bring new rules we’ve found to show and tell, and we share our research information.  A discussion started about the possibility of having a rule exhibition at the next Spring Donnelly auction.  I spoke to Martin about our idea and he responded enthusiastically.  Over the winter I contacted people I thought might be interested in participating in the event and the response was overwhelming.  Eleven people responded back.  Tonight, as I look around the room and see the exhibits, I’m amazed at the beautiful rules and squares on display.” The exhibitors on hand for the showcase were very knowledgeable about the rules they displayed and could be seen interacting with the many people in attendance. One person in attendance commented, “There is much knowledge on display here tonight!”

The exhibitors included:

Scott Lynk's Rule Display
Figure 1. Scott Lynk’s Rule Display at the Rule Collector’s Showcase

           Scott Lynk of Vergennes, Vermont is an avid rule collector and author of the book, Stanley “Special” & Custom Rules. Scott has researched, written and published many articles on his favorite subject, Stanley rules. Scott’s current interest and research interest is the “special” rules produced by Stanley Rule & Level Company. Scott displayed 25 rules including some of his recently acquired Stanley special rules. Scott commented, “My display shows Stanley Model Shop and special rules.  Some of the rules were marked ‘SPECIAL’ by the company, while others have been determined to be special by observation in relationship to the general line of Stanley Rules.  These rules are usually not observed in Stanley catalogs.”

Stanley Special Caliper Rule No. 136 1/2 Marked in Braille on Both Sides of the Rule
Figure 2. A Stanley “Special” Caliper Rule No. 136 1/2 Marked in Braille
on Both Sides of the Rule

           Tom Whalen, from Marshfield, Massachusetts is co-author of the book, “From Logs to Lumber”, on log and caliper rule makers who worked in New England.  Tom’s display included 40 examples of board and log rules representing New England log rule makers from 1831 to the late 1940’s.  Tom was excited to see all his rules on exhibit. “I usually only have a few on display in my house at any one time because of space.  My rules are huge compared to the other exhibitors’ and mine don’t fold up.”

Tom Whalen's Log Scale Display
Figure 3. Tom Whalen’s Log Scale Display

One rule in his collection that got lots of attention was an R.B. Haselton ¼ scale replica of Haselton’s standard size cubic measuring log caliper. The rule, only 12½ inches long is stamped with over 3000 figures so small that Tom had a magnifying glass on hand so people could get a good look at the rule (See Figure 4). Tom commented that, “This rule represents the best of rulemaking.  There are over 3000 blacked figures each ⅛ of an inch tall laid out and perfectly hand stamped around the perimeter of the board.  The figures are barely recognizable to the naked eye.  Haselton’s skill were certainly up to the task.”

1/4 Scale Replica of Haselton's Log Measuring Caliper Rule
Figure 4. 1/4th Scale Replica of Haselton’s Log Measuring Caliper Rule

            Ted Ingraham who hails from Ferrisburg, Vermont, displayed a wonderful collection of early 17th and 18th century carpenter’s framing squares.  Ted is an authority on framing squares and has done extensive research on the topic.

Ted Ingraham's Framing Square Display
Figure 5. Ted Ingraham’s Framing Square Display

His display (See Figure 5.) detailed the evolution of the framing square from the early 17th century thru the early 20th century including several examples from the Eagle Square Company of South Shaftsbury, Vermont. The Stanley Rule & Level Company acquired the Eagle Square Company in 1916.  Most of the squares in Ted’s display were dated, with the earliest one is dated 1737 along with the maker’s initials.

Early Framing Square with the Date 1737 and the Maker's Initials, "S T"
Figure 6. Early Framing Square with the Date 1737 and the Maker’s Initials

He also displayed an early 17th century English framing square in which the full inches and half inches are laid out on the main body of the square with no markings on the tongue (the short arm of the framing square) of the square which was common on squares from that time period. This square is marked with “dog bones” which refers to the shape of the number “1” digits on the square (See Figure 7. ). The “1” has an arching serif on the top and bottom of the bar. This form of the digit fell out of use in the 1650’s so Ted believes this helps date the square to the first half of the 17th century.

17th Century Framing Square with Dog Bone Figures Representing the Numeral "One"
Figure 7. 17th Century Framing Square with “Dog Bone”
Figures Representing the Numeral “One”

            John Harkness of Salem, Massachusetts has been a rule collector for over 35 years and is well known for his discernment in acquiring rules of only the best quality.  When John’s rule collector friends find a rule in absolute mint condition, they refer to the rule as “Harkness quality”. John’s theme for his exhibit was “Lumber & Board Rules” and included 35 rules from different American makers including Stanley, Haselton, Belcher Brothers and Chapin-Stevens all in mint or near mint condition. 

Satin Wood Board Scale with Built-In Tally
Figure 8. Satin Wood Board Scale with Built-In Tally

Johns favorite rule on display was a brass bound satin wood board scale with a built-in tally that is unique amongst board rules (See Figure 8.).  The unsigned rule has brass nuts that move along the beam keeping a running tally of the board feet measured up to a total of 1000 board feet.

Mark Levanway's E.A. Stearns Rule Display
Figure 9. Mark Levanway’s E.A. Stearns Rule Display

           Mark Levanway of Athens, New York, a woodworker by trade, has had a keen interest in antique woodworking tools for over 25 years. Mark has a strong interest in E.A. Stearns rules that were made in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Mark made a beautiful display case just for this event and it housed 25 E.A. Stearn’s rules represented the diversity of the Stearn’s rule making operations. Mark’s favorite is a Stearn’s No. 47 ivory and German silver 4-fold rule with arch joints.

Hook Bindings in an Early Massachusetts Folding Rule
Figure 10. Hook Bindings in an Early Massachusetts Folding Rule

            Phil Cannon of Oak Lawn, Illinois is well known by rule collector through his website Phil’s website provides a comprehensive list of American rule makers and always has new and interesting information to share.  It’s well worth your time to pay a visit to Phil’s website.  Phil’s theme for the showcase was “Early Hook bound Rules from Massachusetts” (See Figure 10).  Phil had several examples of early American rules with hook bindings made by Stanford & Rook, Anthony Gifford, William H. Rook, and Joseph Watts.

Early Massachusett's Rules With Hook Bindings
Figure 11. Early Massachusetts Rules With Hook Bindings

Phil explained that the hook binding’s purpose is to prevent the brass bindings from breaking away from the rule.  A square hook is bent into the brass binding and set into the wood as a means of securing the brass binding to the body of the rule.  This feature is seen only on rules produced in Massachusetts prior to 1850.

Bill Youart's Display of Stanley Doubles-Triples-Quads
Figure 12. Bill Youart’s Display of Stanley “Doubles-Triples-Quads

            Bill Youart of Stephensport, Kentucky describes himself as an “avid” Stanley rule collector since 1988.  Bill brought a fascinating display of Stanley rules he titled “Doubles, Triples, and Quads”.   The title refers to rules produced by Stanley Rule & Level Company with two, three, and sometimes even four variations for the same Stanley catalog number. Bill explained that Stanley rules with specific catalog numbers changed over the years they were in the Stanley line of rules.  These rules remained the same in terms of length, width, thickness and the numbers on the rule, but other changes were made to the rules over the years.  Minor changes might consist of changes to the brass hinges to major changes such as the addition of brass slides and calipers. The Stanley No. 83 two-foot four-fold rule is a great example of what Bill calls a “quad”. When the No. 83 was first introduced it had a 6” brass slide and 1/10th of an inch graduations along the thin edge of the rule.  By 1900 the rule was listed as catalog number 83¼ and had a square arch brass hinge, no graduations on the edge and  a 6” brass caliper rather than a slide.  Then Stanley introduced the No. 83½with a half round edge joint, architect’s scales on the legs and 1/10th of an inch graduations on the edge. In 1910, Stanley introduced the No. 83C with brass round arch joints, a brass caliper and no graduations along the thin edge.  The Stanley No 83 rules were manufactured by Stanley from the 1870’s up until 1920. Of his many favorites Bill particularly likes his Stanley No. 0 and No. 00 six-inch two-fold ivory carpenter’s rules.

Ted Hopkins Eagle Square Rule Display
Figure 13. Ted Hopkins Eagle Square Rule Display

            As anyone who has ever visited Ted Hopkins tool museum in Manchester, Vermont can attest, Ted is a collector of all things Stanley and almost any other tools that catch his eye. Ted’s theme for the Rule Collector’s Showcase was a display of rules made by the Eagle Square Company in South Shaftsbury, Vermont.  While well known for making framing squares, Eagle Square also made rules.  Ted had a wonderful display of beautiful mint condition Eagle Squares rules including wooden zig-zag rules, maple rule blanks, and finished rules with yellow paint. His display also included some brass, stainless steel, and nickel plated metal rules in various widths called counter measures. Ted explained that these rules were used in drapery and millinery shops selling fabric and ribbon in yards and fractions of yards. 

Eagle Square Counter Measure Rule
Figure 14. Eagle Square Counter Measure Rule

They were often fastened to a counter top or a board.  he other possibility involves country stores that sold fabric. To make measuring the fabric easier, brass tacks were hammered into the rule at common intervals – a yard, half-yard and quarter-yard. One theory about the origin of the phrase, “let’s get down to brass tacks” referred to the shop owner using the brass tacks to quickly measure the cloth the customer requested.  These rules were made prior to 1916 when Eagle Square was sold to Stanley.

Kerby & Bros. Display
Figure 15. Brian Lants’ Kerby & Bros. Display

            Brian Lants of Purcellville, Virginia began collecting rules after he purchased an old two-foot four-fold rule while on vacation. His collecting initially focused on collecting all types of rules by American makers.  He soon discovered that serious rule collectors are interested int eh best examples of the rules they collect, so competition for high quality rules is fierce.  So, Brian focused his collection on rules made by the Kerby & Bros. Rule Makers of New York City.  Brian’s display included 22 cordage rules (cordage refers to the ropes used as rigging in ships, or rope in general) produced by Kirby but imprinted with the names of different cordage manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada. Brian explained that, “Kerby was a specialty rule maker.  I do not believe they ever published a rule catalog like many of the traditional rule makers.  Many of the rules made by Kerby were custom orders often with special advertising, markings and scales.  Kerby & Bros Rule makers was established in 1847 and remained family owned for three generations. 

Kerby & Bro. Shoe Measure Rule with an Ivory Inch Measure
Figure 16. Kerby & Bro. Shoe Measure Rule with an Ivory Inch Measure

The business finally ceased operation in 1953 after the death of Robert Kerby Jr.  I’ve had multiple people tell me that when the shop closed, they put all of the contents out on the sidewalk in front of the shop for people to take.  They produced rules for rope makers, printers, tailors, cobblers, glaziers, paper hangers, teachers pattern makers and many others.  Every year when I think I’ve seen them all. I find something new that I’ve never seen before.  Brian has well over 100 Kerby rules in his collection ranging from rope gauges to a six-foot long baggage measuring caliper that was used on the S.S. Roosevelt steam ship.

John Kesterson With His Display of Unique Lufkin and Stanley Tape Measures
Figure 17. John Kesterson With His Display of Unique Lufkin and Stanley Tape Measures

If you’re a serious tool collector in America, there’s a good chance you’ve met John Kesterson of Barberton, Ohio.  John and his wife Julie are familiar faces at tool events and auctions across the country.  John’s theme for the rule collector’s showcase was “Tape Measures Unique and Rare.”  John began collecting in 1975 and admits that tape measures are not his primary focus, but he finds their functions very interesting.  John collects all kinds of measurement instruments by various makers both British and American. Their functions vary from logging to tailoring, to architectural and even horse measuring tools.  His primary focus with rule collecting is Lufkin tape measures and mint condition rules in their original boxes.  John recalled that two close friends were Lufkin tape measure collectors and in his travels, he would find them tape measures for their collections.  John said, “I liked what I was finding for them and began my own collection.  I’ve focused on rule measurement instruments for about 25 years, but I have thousands of tools in my collection.” John’s display featured twelve tape measures, all mint and in their original boxes.  Each rule was identified with information pertaining to its rarity and uniqueness.  John said, “The British horse measurement tool in my collection is my favorite one, it’s pretty cool!”

Figure 18. Geo. Curtis Improved Engineer’s Rule Manufactured
by E.A. Stearns, Brattleboro, Vermont

           For the past four decades, George Gray of Nashua, New Hampshire has collected a wide variety of both American and English rules.  His display featured examples of American and English engineer’s rules made of boxwood and brass with double slides.  The earliest rule in his display was a Wood & Lort of Birmingham, England c. 1750 engineer’s rule names, “The New Improved Sliding Rule.”  This rule has dual adjacent Gunther brass slides. George also had an A. James Nobel of Sheffield, England two-foot two-fold engineer’s rule, c. 1870 with duel brass Gunther slides, one with “English” graduations, and the other in “Metric”. American rule makers were represented by two Stanley Rule & Level Company two-foot two-fold engineer’s each with dual brass extension slides.  An S.A. Jones, Hartford, CT two-foot four-fold rule and an H. Chapin two-foot four-fold rules were also in his display.  Both of these rules had split two cycle brass extension slides.  But George considers the Geo. Curtis Improved Engineer’s Rule manufactured by E.A. Stearns in Brattleboro, VT, to be the most interesting (See Figures 18 and 19). “There is documentation on how the rule is to be used. It describes the use of the “Plain Scale” and the “Diagonal Scales” on the rule.  On the reserve side of the rule are dual Gunther slides made of boxwood, one on each leg.”  Gorge continues to research the rules in his collection.  He finds wantage and engineering rules very interesting because of the complexity of the scales and tables. His reward is in being able to decipher the rule maker’s intentions.

Geo. Curtis Improved engineer's Rule Manufactured by E.A. Stearns, Brattleboro, Vermont
Figure 19. Geo. Curtis Improved Engineer’s Rule Manufactured
by E.A. Stearns, Brattleboro, Vermont with Dual Slides

            George Gray summed up everyone’s feelings about the Rule Collector’s Showcase when he said, “I was very impressed with the diversity and the quality of all the exhibits.  I especially enjoy listening to the history and information about each one of the collections.  These are the most knowledgeable curators of fine antique rules you’ll ever want to meet!”

Participants in the Rule Collector's Showcase
Figure 20. Participants in the Rule Collector’s Showcase Ted Ingraham (seated). Front Left, Tom Whalen, John Harkness, Mark Levanway, Phil Canon, Scott Lynk. Rear Left, Bill Youart, John Kesterson, Ted Hopkins, Martin Donnelly, Brian Lants, George Gray

by Tom Whalen

Lowell is Looming!

Weave Room at the Boott Cotton Mills

Apologies for the pun, but, this long hard winter will come to an end, the snow will melt, the trees will bud out and the flowers will bloom, and Early American Industries Association members will gather for our 2019 Annual Meeting May 15th thru May 18th, 2019.  If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to register on line or get your registration form completed and mail it in!  We’ve got a great program lined up for you with plenty of opportunities for hands on learning.  Click on this link to register for the meeting or to learn more about the wide variety of lectures, workshops, tours, and demonstrations that will take place during the meeting, A couple of the workshops are already full, but there’s still time to sign up and try your hand at blacksmithing, cross stitch, plaster casting, and 19th century candy making.

The Moses Wilder Blacksmith Shop
Figure 1. The Moses Wilder Blacksmith Shop Where You Can Spend TIme Learning at the Anvil and the Forge.

There are also lots of lectures and demonstrations that are free and open to everyone attending the meeting. Lowell, America’s first planned industrial city was the center of cotton cloth production in the 19th century, so there are lots of opportunities to learn about the fascinating history of Lowell, the weaving industry and Lowell’s strong history as a training ground for American machinists. In addition, we’ve put together a great series of workshops, lectures, demonstrations and fun!

The meeting will start on Wednesday may 15th will tailgating in the parking lot at the Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center ( , our home base for this year’s meeting.  On Thursday we’ll spend the day in Lowell, Massachusetts visiting the Lowell National Historic Park  We’ll visit the Boot Mill complex with its wonderful in-house museum. We’ll spend some time at the New England Quilt Museum with their wonderful collection of early American quilts, and we’ll have a special boat tour of the extensive canal system that provided the power for the mills of Lowell.

Detail from an early 19th century quilt from the New England Quilt Museum
Figure 2. Detail From an Early 19th Century Quilt from the New England Quilt Museum

It will be a great day filled with history and learning. Thursday night we’ll puzzle each other with “Whatsits” while we enjoy some New England desserts. So bring along that tool you have pondering and just can’t quite figure out. We’ll see if together we can identify it.

On Friday there are 16 different lectures, demonstration, workshops, and tours that will capture your attention and provide you with multiple opportunities to try your hand at a new skill, and enjoy learning more about America’s industrial history.  It will be a veritable playground for history and handcraft aficionados.   After a full day of fun on Friday you can enjoy a great auction of antique tools put on at the hotel by Jim Gehring and the team from Brown Tool Auctions.

Richard Wright colonial blacksmith
Figure 3. Richard Wright Colonial Blacksmith Will be Demonstrating on Saturday Morning.

  On Saturday we’ll trade tools, and enjoy some wonderful displays put together by EAIA members.  The display theme this year is Fiber Arts and Machine Tools.  It’s a broad category and encompasses so many different tools.  There will no doubt be some amazing displays and we look forward to seeing have you bring a display and share your collecting passion and knowledge with us. Saturday morning will also give you the chance to watch blacksmith Richard Wright at work at a forge similar to those used by colonial blacksmiths in the 18th century. You can also sample some homemade ice cream made in an old-fashioned ice cream maker running off a hit and miss engine.  There will be a stationary steam engine on display and who knows what other surprises await you on Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon we’ll hear from one of the “Mill Girls” who provided the labor in the Lowell weaving mills. 

John Deere Hit & Miss Engine Running an Ice Cream Freezer
Figure 4. John Deere Hit & Miss Engine Running an Ice Cream Freezer. We’ll Get to Sample the ice Cream!

            We’ll end our meeting with the always fun Silent Auction.  Please consider bringing a donation for the Silent Auction since it is the major fund raiser for EAIA’s annual budget.  Everyone loves to see our talented members display their talents with their donations to the Silent Auction.  You can relax at the banquet, enjoy a great meal and we promise we’ll quickly get through our Annual Meeting.  We will top of the evening with a fascinating astronomy lecture put on by two real live astronomers in period costume using a set of extremely rare moveable magic lantern slides. 

            We promise lots of history, camaraderie, learning, friendship and just plain fun!  Sign up! We look forward to seeing you there!  

by Paul Van Pernis

Early Lathe from the Lowell Machine Shop
Figure 5. An Early Lathe from the Lowell Machine Shop on Display in the Boott Mill Museum

Sargent Model Shop Tools: Prototype Successor to Shaw’s Patent Planes?

Sargent prototype plane

Here it is at only the second post of this blog and I’ve gone off the subject of Stanley Model Shop tools in my collection to discuss a Sargent prototype plane that joined the collection recently.  This plane (Figure 1) suggests that Sargent was considering a successor to its Shaw’s Patent line of planes.  As with the Shaw’s Patent planes, this plane allows the frog to be moved forwards and backwards to adjust the size of the mouth.  The frog adjustment mechanism is different from that of the Shaw’s Patent planes and the body profile is unique among Sargent planes.

Figure 1 Sargent prototype plane

Figure 1 Sargent prototype plane

Before proceeding, a quick review of Shaw’s patent Sargent planes.  John H. Shaw was issued Patent No. 824,954 on July 3, 1906, assigned to Sargent and Company for “a plane in which the frog may be adjusted longitudinally and clamped in place after the bit is clamped to the frog” (Figure 2). The primary claim of the patent is for “a novel construction by which the adjustment of the frog may be made from the rear after the bit is secured to the front face of the frog.”  As seen in Figure 2, an advantage of the Shaw’s patent configuration is that the frog may be adjusted to narrow or widen the mouth without affecting the depth at which the cutter (“bit” in the words of the patent) setting or requiring it to be removed.  According to the patent his is done by loosening two vertical screws “O” shown in the lower part of the figure and turning the horizontal adjusting screw “No 3” shown in the upper part of the figure and then tightening the two vertical screws.  There are two disadvantages to this configuration:  First, there is a screw through the frog under the cutter into the body of the plane (not shown in the figure, but approximately at “E” in the upper part of the figure).  When this screw is secured tightly, a great deal of force is required to move the frog.  The cutter must be removed to loosen this screw, negating the claimed advantage of not affecting the cutter setting.  Second, the two vertical lock screws “O” at the rear of the frog are awkward to access with a regular screwdriver.  The screwdriver must be inserted at an angle into the slots in the screws with the consequent danger of slipping out of the slots and damaging the screw heads.

Figure 2 Shaw’s patent plane
Figure 2 Shaw’s patent plane

Sargent Shaw’s patent planes were manufactured from approximately 1906 to 1918 in sizes from the 7 inch long No. 7 with 1 5/8 inch wide cutter to the 24 inch long No. 24 with 2 5/8 inch wide cutter [1].

Returning to the Sargent prototype plane (Figure 1), its sole is 9 inches long from the toe to end of the lug under the handle and 2 1/8 inches wide.  It has a 1 ¾ inch wide cutter.  The sole is 1 inch longer than that of the typical Sargent bench plane with a 1 ¾ inch wide cutter and is the length of the typical Sargent bench plane with a 2 inch wide cutter.  The mahogany handle and front high knob, the Sargent logo on the lever cap and on the cutter, and the 1 1/8 inch cutter adjusting nut suggest that this prototype dates from the 1920s or 1930s.  The cutter adjusting nut appears to be solid brass; most standard Sargent cutter adjusting nuts are brass coated steel.  The threaded rod for the cutter adjusting nut is loosely threaded into the frog and has a left hand thread.

Figure 3 shows the body and bottom of the frog of the plane.  The frog is mounted to the body with two screws rather than three as on Shaw’s Patent planes.  Similar to the Shaw’s Patent planes, a slotted pedestal on the body engages a slotted adjusting screw in the frog to vary the mouth width.  The base of the frog rests in a milled channel on the body, a feature absent from the Shaw’s Patent planes.  This prevents the frog from moving side to side or twisting and the milled channel is the same concept used for mounting the frog on Stanley Bed Rock planes.

Figure 3  Prototype plane body and frog
Figure 3 Prototype plane body and frog

The inside of the body and the frog of the Sargent prototype plane are japanned with a thin coat of japanning.  The front of the top of the handle has been clipped, apparently to provide clearance for the frog and lateral adjuster; but this was unnecessary because there would have been no interference even if the handle had not been clipped. The prototype frog is compared with a Shaw’s Patent frog in Figure 4 and Figure 5.  Primary differences between the two aside from the more modern profile of the prototype frog are in the configuration for mounting the frog to the body.  The Shaw’s Patent frog is mounted with three screws, two in the rear of the frog, and one under the cutter.  The prototype frog uses two screws through brass pads under the cutter.  Each brass pad is fastened to the frog with a steel screw and brass washer.  Loosening the screw and twisting the pad allows it to be removed from the frog.

Figure 4  Upper sides of Shaw's Patent frog (left) and prototype frog (right)
Figure 4 Upper sides of Shaw’s Patent frog (left) and prototype frog (right)

Perhaps the function of these pads was to provide a low friction bearing surface so that the frog could be adjusted fore and aft using the frog adjusting screw without having to remove the cutter and loosen the frog mounting screws.  However, the brass pads are tapered to match the roughly 15 degree downhill slope of their bearing surface on the frog (see the inset in Figure 4 for details of the brass pads).  This would have allowed only very limited fore and aft movement of the frog without the frog either being wedged in place when adjusted forward or becoming loose when adjusted backward.  This binding or loosening of the frog during adjustment would have happened even if the screws holding the brass pads to the frog were loosened.  Note that this problem would have been eliminated if the frog had been built to have the portion under the brass pads parallel to the mounting surface on the body of the plane.  One wonders why Sargent chose this sloped configuration for the frog and brass pads when a parallel configuration combined with the milled guides for the frog would have resulted in a more readily adjustable mouth opening without danger that the frog would be twisted sideways.

Figure 5  Under sides of Shaw's Patent frog (left) and prototype frog (right)
Figure 5 Under sides of Shaw’s Patent frog (left) and prototype frog (right)

The cutter of the prototype plane is marked with the trademark shown in Figure 6, which was used by Sargent in the 1920s and 1930s.  This generic trademark does not indicate a plane number as is common on many original cutters.  The lack of a plane number is common on Sargent replacement cutters.  The letter B is overstruck on SARGENT.  I believe that I have seen this before, but cannot remember where and am curious about its significance.

Figure 6  Markings on cutter
Figure 6 Markings on cutter

An observation:  There are several prototype and salesman’s sample planes by Sargent and Stanley in my collection.  Almost all of those by Stanley are in pristine condition and show few signs of use.  All of those by Sargent have been put to use as user tools, and some none too well cared for, as evidenced by general wear, paint spatters, dings, worn japanning, and occasional rust.  A speculation on this observation:  Perhaps Stanley held their prototypes and salesman’s samples more closely before they got into collector’s hands while Sargent let theirs go out the door to users when they were done with them.  Or, maybe, just the effects of a small sample size.

If you have additional information or comments about this or other Sargent prototypes, please contact me at or reply to this blog.  I look forward to hearing from you.


[1] D. Wilwol, The Sargent Hand Plane Reference Guide for Collectors & Woodworkers, Don Wilwol, 2017, p. 40.

Who Gets The Credit?

Bailey Chisel Plane and Traut Prototype No. 97 Chisel Plane

The Stanley No. 97 Cabinet Maker’s Edge Plane

In late 1869 or early 1870, shortly after Leonard Bailey started working at the Stanley Rule & Level Company, he produced the “chisel plane” shown in Figure 1 below.[i] This heavy bodied plane is 9 15/16” long and 2 3/8” wide and the body is a cast box with substantial cross ribs running from side to side and front to back.

Bailey's Chisel Plane
Figure 1. Bailey’s Chisel Plane

This braced box construction is identical to what Bailey used on his early No. 9 cabinet maker’s block planes (See Figure 2), and the 2 3/8’ wide cutting iron has the trademark used by Bailey and Stanley during the years 1867-1872.

Photo, Bailey's No. 9 Cabinet Maker's Block Plane Lower Half of Photo
Figure 2. The Bailey Chisel Plane in Upper Half of Photo, Bailey’s No. 9 Cabinet Maker’s Block Plane in the Lower Half of the Photo. Note the Similarity in Construction of Both Planes

The cutting iron adjusting mechanism is identical to that seen on the No. 9 cabinet maker’s planes of the same vintage. A rectangular steel plate is attached to the 1/16th inch thick cutting iron with a screw.  The plate fits over the end of the lever on the yoke shaped adjustment mechanism. The cutting iron bedded at a 27º angle with the cutting edge facing upwards and is held firmly in place by a #7 size cam lock lever cap that is 2 15/16ths inches wide(See Figure 3).

Bailey's Chisel Plane Disassembled
Figure 3. Bailey’s Chisel Plane Disassembled

When the brass adjusting screw shown in Figure 4 was turned to advance the cutting iron just slightly ahead of the plane’s body, a thin shaving would be removed and the plane could trim up a rabbet or be worked into a corner.

Adjusting Screw on Bailey Chisel Plane
Figure 4. The Adjusting Screw on Bailey’s Chisel Plane

This plane has all of the characteristics of a Bailey made plane, but it’s easy to see why it got put on the shelf; it’s just too big and too heavy for most applications.  Bailey put this one on the shelf, but not in the Stanley Model Shop as there are no Model Shop numbers on the plane.  It was likely kept in Bailey’s shop within the Stanley Rule & Level Company but got left behind when he departed Stanley in 1874.  From there it made it into the Stanley Model Shop but was never assigned a Model Shop number.

Stanley Model Shop Prototype Chisel Plane
Figure 5. Stanley Model Shop Prototype Chisel Plane Made by Justus Traut

Fast forward about 35 years to 1905 when Justus Traut decided to produce a chisel plane of his own design. He may well have taken Bailey’s version off the shelf and been inspired or at least stimulated in his thinking by Bailey’s plane.  The plane shown in Figure 5 appears to be the prototype from which Traut eventually developed the Stanley No. 97 Cabinet maker’s Edge Plane.[ii]  The Stanley Model Shop #337 is present in two places on the japanned lever cap.  At 7¾ inches long and 2¼ inches wide the plane is much smaller than the one made by Bailey.  The 2¼ inch wide cutting iron is designed to rest on the two sloped sidewalls of the plane and is unusually thick at an eighth of an inch. Bedded at a 17º angle, the cutting iron is held firmly in place by the screw down lever cap. The curved hood at the back of the lever cap provides a nice place to rest your hand when using the plane.  The cutting iron adjuster has a “faucet handle” design and is based on Traut’s March 13, 1900 patent No. 645,220 (See Figure 6).[iii]

Traut's Patent No. 645,220
Figure 6. Traut’s Patent No. 645,220 Describing the Cutting Iron Adjusting Mechanism

In the patent description, Traut describes the “slide” as being supported by the “guide” “g” (I’m using the numbers and letters in the patent drawings to attempt to coherently explain the adjustment mechanism, so  reviewing Figures 1,2,3, and 4 of the patent drawing may be helpful!). An adjusting screw, “f” with two different diameters and two different thread pitches is inserted into the threaded hole “13´” in the guide “g”. The narrower portion of the screw which is near the end of the screw can pass through the threaded portion of the guide “g” without difficulty.  The narrower portion of the screw is threaded into the threaded opening on the slide “S”. When the adjusting screw “f” is turned the slide “S” is drawn up towards the guide “g”.  The movement of the slide up towards the guide is due to the fact that the threads at the forward end of the screw are of a steeper pitch than the threads near the head of the screw. A series of parallel transverse grooves or “nicks” on the back of the cutting iron are designed to fit over the short-raised rib (“16” in the patent drawing) on the slide. 

Stanley Model Shop Prototype Chisel Plane
Figure 7. Stanley Model Shop Prototype Chisel Plane by Justus Traut

With the cutting iron in place, fine adjustments can be made with the screw adjustment mechanism. Once the depth of cut has been set with the screw adjuster, the lever cap is screwed into place to secure the cutting iron (See Figure 7). This cutting iron adjustment mechanism is a clever design and was used on multiple different planes in the Stanley line.[iv]  This prototype version of the chisel plane feels good in my hands and appears to me to be a tool that would have functioned well.  While this version didn’t make it to the manufacturing stage and ended up on the shelf in the Model Shop, many of its features were incorporated into the production model of the Stanley No. 97.

Stanley No. 97 Chisel Plane Type 1
Figure 8. The Stanley No. 97 Cabinetmaker’s Edge Plane Type 1

Figure 8 shows the Stanley No. 97 Cabinet Maker’s Edge Plane Type 1 which was first pictured in the Stanley Pocket Catalog and the Stanley No. 34 Full Line Catalog in 1905 priced at $2.00.  It was initially labeled as a “Piano Maker’s Edge Plane”, but by 1907 Stanley had changed the name to “Cabinet Maker’s Edge Plane”. Stanley described the plane as, “A useful tool for Piano Makers and all Cabinet Workers, for trimming inside work where space prevents the use of any other Plane.” (See Figure 9)

Ad for the Stanley No.97 Piano Maker's Edge Plane from the 1905 Stanley Catalog
Figure 9. Ad for the Stanley No.97 Piano Maker’s Edge Plane from the 1905 Stanley Catalog

The plane might be best described as a wide adjustable chisel blade held at a constant angle by the body of the plane. The No. 97 plane is 9 13/16ths inches long and 2¼ inches wide.  The rear portion of the plane bed has been extended to allow the addition of a rosewood knob which provides a hand hold.[v] It’s curious that Stanley chose to use a knob rather than a rear tote.[vi]  The half circle cut outs in the sidewalls of the plane allow for easier access to the faucet handle cutting iron adjusting screw. Like the prototype shown in Figure 5, the cutting iron rests on the sidewalls of the plane body at an angle of 17º with the beveled side of the cutting iron facing upward. There is a 5/32nds inch wide vertical groove milled into the center of the cutting iron on its upper end which accepts the end of the lever cap screw. Tightening of the lever cap screw into the groove not only holds the cutting iron firmly in place, but prevents lateral motion of the cutting iron as well. For some unknown reason this useful feature was only seen on the Type 1 No. 97 plane.[vii]  The hooded lever cap seen on the prototype plane was eliminated and replaced with a japanned lever cap with a rounded top (See Figure 10).

Stanley No. 97 Chisel Plane Type 1 Disassembled
Figure 10. Stanley No. 97 Cabinet maker4’s Edge Plane Type 1 Disassembled

Based on the relative scarcity of remaining examples of the Stanley No. 97, the plane met with only moderate success. But there was enough demand for the plane to remain in production until 1943 and went through several design changes during those years. A type study done by John Wells in 2005 does a great job of outlining these changes.[viii]

Because the production models of the Stanley No. 97 Cabinet maker’s Edge Plane have an adjustment mechanism based on Traut’s patent #645,220 these planes are generally ascribed to Justus Traut. However, it appears that Leonard Bailey was the first one to come up with the idea and perhaps both Leonard Bailey and Justus Traut should share the credit for this interesting plane.

by Paul Van Pernis

Bailey's Chisel Plane
Figure 11. Bailey’s Chisel Plane. Note the Small Hole in the Right Sidewall of the Plane Which Allows for Insertion of the Pin for the Cutting Iron Adjustment Mechanism

[i] This plane came to auction on April 2, 2005 as lot 639 in the 26th International antique Tool Auction.

[ii] Lot #502 in the 27th International antique Tool Auction, October 29, 2005

[iii] Traut submitted the application for this patent on December 10th, 1897.  The patent was not granted until March 13, 1900, 14 months later.  This is an unusually long time between a patent application and the granting of a patent especially for someone as well known to the Patent office ad Justus Traut. Traut and Stanley Rule & Level Company began using this cutting iron adjustment mechanism starting in January of 1898 on the No. 60, No. 65 and No. 220 block planes.

[iv] This same adjustment mechanism was used on Stanley No. 60, 60½ 61, 63, 64,65, 65½, 90, 90A,92,93, 94, 97, 118, 131, 140 (after 1898), 203, and 220 planes.

[v] The knob on the No. 97 planes is the same size as those seen on the No.5 thru No. 8 Stanley bench planes.

[vi] There is a circa 1907 Stanley No. 97 Cabinet Maker’s Edge Plane produced by Stanley with a typical rear tote and a level lock lever cap that came from the Model Shop.  Apparently, this version was never put into production. See image below taken from the article cited in footnote viii.

Prototype Stanley no. 97 with a Traditional Rear Tote

[vii] The Type 1 No. 97 was made for only a very brief time in 1905.  Examples of the Type 1 No. 97 are extremely rare.

[viii] Wells, John G., “The Stanley No. 97 Edge Plane”, The Gristmill, No. 119, June, 2005, pp. 30-33.

Ten Things You Might Not Have Known About Lowell, Massachusetts

Lowell Mill Girls in the early 1900's

With the 2019 Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting coming up in a few months, here are some interesting tidbits of information about Lowell, Massachusetts that will hopefully entice you to join us for our Annual Meeting next May. The young mill girls in the title photo above invite you to learn more about them and their interesting lives during the Early American industries Associations’ Annual Meeting May 15th thru May 18th, 2019. So, here are ten things you might not have known about Lowell, Massachusetts.

  1.  Lowell, Massachusetts is named after Francis Cabot Lowell who never actually stepped foot in the town that bears his name. Francis Cabot Lowell spent two years in England between 1810 and 1812.  While he was there, he toured the textile mills of Manchester and some say, engaged in industrial espionage.  He apparently memorized the workings of the power looms that were common in England at that time.[1]  Upon his return to America, Lowell and an inventive mechanic named Paul Moody developed a power weaving loom in 1814 based upon what Lowell had seen in England.  With financial backing from a group of Boston investors he formed the Boston Manufacturing Company and developed the first fully integrated weaving mill on the Charles River in Waltham, Massachusetts that started with cotton from the bale and at the other end produced bolts of cotton cloth. You can learn more at ([2]  The mill at Waltham was a great success and it soon became apparent that the company needed to expand.  But, the three mills that had been built in Waltham were using all of the available power from the Charles River.  So, the Boston Manufacturing Company sought a new site.
Mill-workers photo

Figure 1. Early Photo Inside One of the Lowell Mills

They settled on East Chelmsford, Massachusetts on the Merrimack River just 30 miles from Boston. Construction began at the site in 1822 and the investors decided to name the new town they built Lowell in honor of Francis Cabot Lowell who had died in 1817.

2. At its peak in 1850, the city of Lowell had 40 mill buildings powering 320,000 spindles on almost 10,000 looms and employed more than 10,000 workers in the textile industry.[3]

Whistler's Mother

Figure 2. Whistler’s Iconic Painting of his Mother. Its Correct Title is “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1”

3. Lowell is the birthplace of the American painter James McNeill Whistler. He was born on July 11, 1834 and achieved worldwide fame  as a painter.  His most iconic image is the painting of his mother shown in Figure 2. But his father, Major George Washington Whistler, was a fascinating character in his own right.  His life story is at least as interesting as that of his famous son. (

Major George Washington Whistler

Figure 3. A Not Very Famous Portrait of Whistler’s Father, Major George Washington Whistler, Not Painted by His Son!

George Washington Whistler supervised the building of the first locomotive in the Lowell Machine Shop in 1835.  He took apart a locomotive imported from England to learn how it was constructed and then fabricated patterns from which the Lowell Machine Shop built one of the first locomotives manufactured in New England.  Within three years, the Lowell Machine Shop had turned out 32 more locomotive engines. The Lowell Machine Shop was established to meet the machine tool needs of the weaving mills, but expanded to be one of the premier machine shops in the world.  Many of the master mechanics of the American Industrial Revolution got their training at the Lowell Machine Shop.

Locomotive Engine built by the Lowell Machine Shop in 1852

Figure 4. Locomotive Engine built by the Lowell Machine Shop in 1852

The Whistler House Museum of Art ( is worth a stop at some point during your visit to Lowell.

4. By 1846, the mills in Lowell where turning out almost a million yards of cloth a week! Until the Civil War, Lowell was the largest concentration of industrial production in America and was New England’s second largest city with a population of 33,000.

5. Lowell, in 1879, was the first town in the United States to get telephone numbers just three years after Alexander Graham Bell had patented his telephone.

Jack Kerouac Book Cover

Figure 5. Jack Kerouac Most Famous Book

6. Lowell is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969). For those of us who lived through the 60’s, his name will be a familiar one.  As the author of, On the Road, and several other books, he is considered a literary iconoclast and alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg is closely identified as one of the members of the Beat Generation and a progenitor of the “Hippie Movement”. You can learn more about this literary icon at

Moxie ad

Figure 6. An Early Moxie Ad

7. Moxie originated as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”, which was created around 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts. Thompson claimed that it contained an extract from a rare, unnamed South American plant which is now known to be gentian root. Moxie, he claimed, was especially effective against “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia”. Thompson claimed that he named the beverage after a Lieutenant Moxie, a purported friend of his, who he claimed had discovered the plant and used it as a “panacea”.  After a few years, Thompson added soda water to the formula and changed the product’s name to “Beverage Moxie Nerve Food”. By 1884 he was selling Moxie both in bottles and in bulk as a soda fountain syrup. In 1885, he received a trade mark for the name. He marketed it as “a delicious blend of bitter and sweet, a drink to satisfy everyone’s taste”. Thompson died in 1903. Moxie was purchased by the Coca-Cola company in 2018.  The name has become the word “moxie” in American English, meaning courage, daring, or determination. Our Executive Director John Verrill is a big fan of the stuff. You might want to try some while you’re in Lowell.

Lowell Mill Girls

Figure 7. Some Lowell Mill Girls

8. One of the features that distinguished the Lowell mills in the 1830’s was that workers were paid in cash once a month. Most other employers paid workers with credit at a company store or settled their worker’s wages once every 3 months.  In the 1830’s, a woman working at one of the Lowell mills could earn between $12-$14 dollars per month (that’s equivalent to about $320 – $370 in 2017 dollars)[4].  The mill girls paid $5 a month for their room and board in one of the company’s boarding houses.  These young women experienced economic independence that was unknown before the development of the Lowell mills. They likely had more ready cash than their farmer fathers.  It was not unusual for these young women to return home after a year in the mills with $25-$50 in a bank account. But these women worked long hours (as many as 14 hours/day) with only brief breaks for their breakfast and dinner (See Figure 8).  Their hours were shorter during the winter months, but the working conditions were dusty and dangerous throughout the year.

Work Schedule at the Lowell Mills

Figure 8. Work Schedule at the Lowell Mills

9. The women in the Lowell Mills formed the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1844 with Sarah Bagley as its first president. The Lowell mill girls were not hesitant to express their opinions about working conditions and wages in the mills.  The first protest came in 1834 just about a decade after the mills opened. Subsequent protests and strikes followed resulting in the organization of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. The LFLRA is noted as being the first organization of working women to come together and bargain collectively for better working conditions and higher pay. You will learn more about these women and their labor reform efforts during out visit to the Boott Mill National Historical Park.

Charles Dickens photo

Figure 9. Charles Dickens

10. English Author Charles Dickens (See Figure 9) visited Lowell in February of 1842.  He specifically wanted to see America’s first industrial city.  He toured the mills, the tenement housing and the city of Lowell. He later wrote a book about his travels in the United States titled, American Notes.    In the book Dickens wrote favorable descriptions of both the Lowell mills and the Lowell mill girls. He said of the mill girls, “They had serviceable bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls… They were healthy in appearance, many of them remarkably so, and had the manners and deportment of young women, not of degraded brutes of burden.”

So, come join us for the 2019 Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting, Wednesday, May 15th thru Saturday, May 18th, 2019 in Lowell, Massachusetts for a meeting filled with friends, fun, workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a variety of opportunities to learn. Maybe a glass of  Moxie to avoid “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness and insomnia!  The 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting maybe just the “panacea” you need! I guarantee you’ll find out some more interesting things about Lowell! We’ll be based at the Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center in Westford, Massachusetts (  Registration forms will be mailed to you and will also be available right here on our website in mid-January 2019.

by Paul Van Pernis

Moxie ad

Figure 10. More Moxie!

[1] After the Revolutionary War, England passed laws prohibiting the export of textile machinery or the emigration of those who could operate it.  Samuel Slater an overseer in an English textile factory introduced British cotton technology to America when he left England posing as a farmer. He had committed the details of the Arkwright spinning machine to memory and in 1790, while working for Moses Brown, he started the first American cotton spinning mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

[2] Waltham and the Charles River Museum are only 22 miles from Lowell and would make a great side trip before or after the 2019 EAIA meeting.

[3] At Pawtucket Falls just above the junction of the Merrimack and Concord Rivers, the Concord River drops more than 30 feet.  The system of canals and gates built in Lowell harnessed the kinetic energy of this water flow and produced over 10,000 horsepower of energy to turn the turbines that powered the mills.

[4] The average daily wage for a female working in the cotton or wool manufacturing industry in 1830 was 38-40 cents/day! (https://www​

Leonard Bailey’s Last Vertical Post?

Stanley Model Shop Vertical Post Plane Title Image

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.

Bailey Vertical Post Schematic Drawing

Figure 1. Schematic Drawing of Bailey’s Vertical Post Plane. Drawing by John G. Wells

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).

Bailey Vertical Post Plane Showing the Cutting Iron Adjustment Mechanism

Figure 2. Bailey Vertical Post Plane Showing the Cutting Iron Adjustment Mechanism

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) .

Production Version of the Front Knob from a Vertical Post Plane on the Left, Model Shop Version on the Right

Figure 3. Production Version of the Front Knob from a Vertical Post Plane on the Left, Model Shop Version on the Right

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.

Bailey Vertical Post Lever Caps. Early Version on the Left, Later Version on the Right with the Banjo Spring

Figure 4. Bailey Vertical Post Lever Caps. Early Version on the Left, Later Version on the Right with the Banjo Spring

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).

Early Version of Bailey's Vertical Post Plane on the Left with a Wider Mouth to Accomodate a Thick Tapered iron, Later Version on the Right with a Narrow mouth To Accomodate a Thin Parallel Iron

Figure 5. Early Version of Bailey’s Vertical Post Plane on the Left with a Wider Mouth to Accommodate a Thick Tapered iron, Later Version on the Right with a Narrow mouth To Accommodate a Thin Parallel Iron. Also Note the Difference in the “Ears”  of the Frog Between the Early and Late Models.

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.

No. 1 Size Vertical Post Plane

Figure 6. No. 1 Size Vertical Post Plane only 5½ Inches Long

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.

No. 5 Size Bailey Vertical Post Jack Plane

Figure 7. A No. 5 Size Bailey Vertical Post Jack Plane

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.[1]  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.

No.3 Size Model Shop Vertical Post Plane in the Foreground, Production no. 3 Size Vertical Post Plane in the Background

Figure 8. No.3 Size Model Shop Vertical Post Plane in the Foreground, Production No. 3 Size Vertical Post Plane in the Background

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):

  1. The lever cap is a later version with a square spring.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The cutting iron is unmarked and is a thick tapered cutting iron. The cap iron is also unmarked.
  6. 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).
Stanley Model Shop No. 3 Size Vertical Post Plane Disassembled

Figure 9. Stanley Model Shop No. 3 Size Vertical Post Plane Disassembled

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.

Vertical Post Brass Cutting Iron Adjusting Nuts, Production Model on the Left, Model Shop Version on the Right

Figure 10. Vertical Post Brass Cutting Iron Adjusting Nuts, Production Model on the Left, Model Shop Version on the Right

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.

[1] 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.

The 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting – Put It On Your Calendar!

Early Image of the Mills at Lowell, MA

It’s time to start thinking about the 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting Wednesday, May 15th thru Saturday, May 18th, 2019!  We will be based at the Westford Regency Hotel in Westford, Massachusetts (  Room rates at the hotel are $125/night.  Come and join us for another great meeting full of great activities and great people.

Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center

Figure 1. The Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center in Westford, MA

On Thursday we’ll visit the Lowell National Historic Park (  The park is the site of the Boott Mills which were part of an extensive group of cotton mills built along an extensive series of canals town. The Boott Cotton Mills complex is the most intact and houses the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.  The History of Lowell is closely tied to its location along the Pawtucket Falls of the Merrimack River which provided water power for the factories that formed the basis of the city’s economy for a century. The city of Lowell was started in the 1820s as a money-making venture and social project referred to as “The Lowell Experiment”, and quickly became the United States’ largest textile center.

Boot Cotton Mill, Lowell, MA

Figure 2. The Boott Cotton Mill

The Merrimack Manufacturing Company opened a mill by Pawtucket Falls, that began weaving cotton in 1823. Within two years a need for more mills and machinery became evident, and a series of new canals were dug, allowing for even more manufacturing plants. With a growing population and booming economy, Lowell was named after Francis Cabot Lowell, and was officially chartered on March 1, 1826. By 1850, Lowell’s population was 33,000, making it the second largest city in Massachusetts and America’s largest industrial center. The 5.6-mile-long canal system produced 10,000 horsepower, to ten corporations with a total of forty mills. Ten thousand workers used an equal number of looms fed by 320,000 spindles. The mills were producing 50,000 miles of cloth annually.

Interior of the Boott Cotton Mill

Figure 2. Interior of the Boott Cotton Mill

Other industries developed in Lowell as well: The Lowell Machine Shop as well as other machines shops served the large number of weaving mills. Moxie which was created around 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts. originated as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”. He claimed Moxie was especially effective against, “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia.”. In 1880, Lowell became the first city in America to have telephone numbers.

Uriah A. Boyden installed his first turbine in the Appleton Mill in Lowell in 1844. It was a major improvement over the old-fashioned waterwheel. The turbine was improved at Lowell again shortly thereafter by Englishman James B. Francis. Francis had begun his career in Lowell working under George Washington Whistler, the father of painter James Abbott McNeil Whistler, and his improved turbine, known as the Francis Turbine, is still used with few changes today. Francis also designed the Francis Gate, a flood control mechanism that provides a means of sealing the canal system off from the Merrimack River, and completed the canal system by adding the Northern Canal and Moody Street Feeder, both designed to improve efficiency to the entire system. We’ll get a first-hand look at the canal system and the turbines on a narrated boat tour of the canals.

Mill Worker's Tenements, Lowell, MA

Figure 3. The Mill Worker’s Tenement Buildings in Lowell, MA

The Lowell Mill Girls were young female workers who came to work in industrial corporations in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The workers initially recruited by the corporations were daughters of propertied New England farmers, typically between the ages of 15 and 35. By 1840, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the textile mills had recruited over 8,000 women, who came to make up nearly three-quarters of the mill workforce.  While their wages were only half of what men were paid, many were able to attain economic independence for the first time, free from controlling fathers and husbands. As a result, while factory life would soon come to be experienced as oppressive, it enabled these women to challenge the then existing gender stereotypes. As the nature of the new “factory system” became clear, the Lowell Mill Girls joined the American labor movement.  In 1845, after a number of protests and strikes, many of the mill girls came together to form the first union of working women in the United States, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. The Association adopted a newspaper called the “Voice of Industry“, in which workers published sharp critiques of the new industrialism. The “Voice” stood in sharp contrast to other literary magazines published by female operatives, such as the “Lowell Offering“, which painted a much more sanguine picture of life in the mills. We’ll spend time at the Boott Mill, tour the canal system by canal boat, and visit the tenement houses where the Lowell Mill Girls lived.

The New England Quilt Museum

Figure 4. The New England Quilt Museum

We’ll also take the time to visit the New England Quilt Museum ( which is less than a block from the Boot Mill site. The New England Quilt Museum, founded in 1987, is the only museum in the Northeast solely dedicated to the art and craft of quilting. Their collections are strong in 19th century quilts, with a geographic focus on New England and the museum staff are planning a special display of their early quilts just for our group.

The New England Quilt Museum

Figure 5. The New England Quilt Museum

On Friday, we’re going to feature a wide-ranging series of hands on workshops, lectures, and demonstrations.   You’ll have a chance to try your hand at blacksmithing, rigid heddle loom weaving, cross stitching, 19th century candy making, and decorative plaster molding.  We’ll have a demonstration on bookbinding. More workshops and hands on activities are in the works so stay tuned.  You can take a tour of the Starrett factory and museum in nearby Athol, Massachusetts. You’ll get to see some very early Native American tools from the extensive collection at the Peabody Institute of Archeology ( and be able to try your hand at flint knapping. . You’ll hear about Civil War Soldier’s quilts.  We’ll be entertained at our banquet by Doctor and Doctor Noah (yes there are two) and their “Amazing Mechanical Magic Lantern Astronomic Slide Show.” Both the Fiber Interest Group and the Blacksmith’s Interest Group are helping to put together this meeting.

Bob Roemer's Forge

Figure 6. Interior of the Moses Wilder Blacksmith Shop Where the Blacksmithing Workshops Will Be Held

And of course, we’ll enjoy tailgating, our annual Whatsit’s session, the ice cream social, displays, and tool trading as well as the Silent Auction, our Annual Meeting, and Banquet. The theme for the displays is Fiber Arts Tools and Machine Tools.  So, start thinking about a display. They’re a great way to share your knowledge and some of your tools with the rest of us. The more displays the better! Also, don’t forget the Silent Auction.  Items donated by members help support EAIA’s annual budget.  Share your creative talents with the rest of us and bring an item or two for the auction.

Bill and Alyssa Rainford and Eileen and Paul Van Pernis are co-hosts for this meeting. Put the dates, May 15th thru May 18th on your calendar. Think about your display, and an item or two to donate to the Silent Auction.  Bring a friend or your family and come enjoy a great 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting in Massachusetts. Watch for more information about the 2019 Annual Meeting in Shavings and on the EAIA web site (

By Paul Van Pernis

EAIA’s BIG Sponsors Regional Meeting

The Blacksmith Interest Group (BIG) of EAIA held a regional meeting at the reconstructed Moses Wilder Blacksmith shop in Bolton, Massachusetts on July 28th.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide hands-on demonstrations and give participants an opportunity to try basic blacksmithing using coal forges. There were 30 participants which was the number that the shop and grounds could reasonably accommodate. The event lasted the entire day with demonstrations and presentations in the morning, followed by lunch and an afternoon of opportunity for participant forging with coaching from master smiths at one of the four available blacksmithing stations (forge, post vise, anvil and tools). The day ended with an hour or more of participants’ stories and networking about blacksmithing. The participants who were not already members were introduced to EAIA; several became members as a result.

The meeting started with a brief introduction to EAIA and the Moses Wilder blacksmith shop, the original of which was moved to Old Sturbridge Village in 1957 and an accurate reproduction built in the early 2000’s by the Roemers on the original foundation at their home.

Bob welcomes the participants to the event and provides introductory comments. (Photo – Marc Sitkin)

Derek Heidemann, Coordinator of Historic Trades at Old Sturbridge Village, demonstrated the forging of blacksmith’s tongs from a single piece of mild steel, first by forging jaws at either end, then diagonally slitting the piece to form the reins, and finally punching and riveting the hinge joint. Rob Lyon, Derek’s former mentor, was the “striker” for the project, an interesting reversal of roles.

Derek Heidemann holds a top swage while Rob Lyon, his striker, uses a sledge hammer to drive it to form one of the jaws of the tongs. (photo – Marc Sitkin)


Derek holds the slitting chisel while Rob Lyons drives the chisel through, splitting the bar into the two sides of a pair of tongs.


The audience watches Derek and Rob with rapt attention.


Derek holds up the partially split bar which shortly became the two pieces of the tongs.


The final forged and pinned tongs. They will be smoothed out further before use.

Dirk Underwood, Blacksmith and edge tool maker, demonstrated blade making from large coil springs. Dirk is well known in the area for his knives made from a wide range of materials and processes including lamination of chainsaw chain and ball bearing races!

Dirk at his portable forge on the lawn starting to form a knife blade from the alloy steel of a very large diameter industrial coil spring.


The blade undergoing the initial forging. (Photo – Marc Sitkin)


The final forged blade. The blade will be then ground, polished, and fitted with a handle. (Photo – Marc Sitkin)

Rob Lyon, the former Master Blacksmith at Old Sturbridge Village discussed early iron production from bog iron, a process that was very important to the trade and economy of New England in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Rob explains how to differentiate steel and wrought iron. Each sample was partially cut through with a hacksaw. When they were broken at the saw kerf, the wrought iron (left hand) showed a very fibrous structure while the steel (right hand) appeared uniform and somewhat crystalline.  Pieces of bog iron are on the table.

Tom Kelleher, Historian and Curator of Mechanical Arts at Old Sturbridge Village, discussed the economic aspects of early blacksmithing using early account books and journals to illustrate the discussion. His talk was particularly interesting as it highlighted the use of “virtual money” to value transactions either in English pounds or American dollars even though very little actual cash changed hands. The talk also underscored the importance of bartering goods and services as well as the wide range of tasks of the typical rural blacksmith, often done in between tending for his farm which was often his primary source of food and income.

Tom explains the economics and financial transaction of 18th Century and early 19th Century blacksmiths, augmenting his talk with copies of day books and account books,

Bob & Max Roemer, owners of the reconstructed shop, demonstrated the use of a restored antique Champion tire and axle upsetter to shorten the circumference of an iron wagon tires which had come loose from road wear and/or shrinkage of the wooden parts of the wheels.

The behemoth Champion No. 1 tire shrinker and axle upsetter weighing in at about 870 lbs.! The hand wheel drives a large gear attached to an eccentric which drives two jaws with an enormous mechanical advantage.


A sample piece of wrought iron being upset as the two jaws are driven together by hand wheel, gears and the eccentric. The heated region is hammered to prevent buckling.

The meeting was considered a success at several levels. EAIA’s Blacksmith Interest Group looks forward to having a similar event for the 2019 EAIA Annual Meeting in Lowell, Massachusetts (May 16 – 18, 2019).  Please come join us, either as one interested in trying your hand at the forge or as a presenter/demonstrator.

Little-Known Anvil Makers

By Clayton Ray

Postman’s 1998 book, Anvils in America, is a landmark in the study of American anvils. He documented all of the major makers and many minor ones. It would, however, be too much to expect that he could have exhausted the subject, but not too much to suspect that some among the varied membership of EAIA might have knowledge of obscure brands, from advertising, brochures, catalogs, or other scattered contemporary sources. A few examples may serve to clarify the subject. All are late nineteenth or early twentieth century cast anvils.

Postman, page 140, recorded one “GEM” anvil but found no information on the maker. It is a cast iron anvil, unusual for its lugs for anchoring it, otherwise known almost exclusively on Fisher anvils.  My example is shown below.

Detail of “GEM” anvil with scale

Postman, pages 197-203, documented the American Star anvil, made in Trenton, NJ, the outstanding feature of which is its patented so-called “tempering cavity,” a cylindrical hole extending from the bottom well into the core of the anvil. The logo is a 5-pointed star centered on its right side.

Star was a popular logo and name of a wide variety of manufactured products, including one or more little-known anvils in addition to the American Star. Among these is the Swedish North Star brand, with a 5-pointed star. I have two anvils of about 100 lbs. each with embossed stars, about 2.5 inches in diameter, on the right side. These stars are unusual in being 6-pointed instead of the common 5-pointed stars. The only other mark is the weight on the front foot.

6-pointed star anvil. Although not very clear, the top scale on the ruler is in inches.


I have two anvils, one 8 lbs. and one 58 lbs., marked “U.S.A.” in large embossed letters on the right side. The letters are set in a recessed rectangle with rounded corners. They have hardy holes, but no pritchel holes.

Overall view of the anvil marked “U.S.A.”. Again. the top scale on the ruler is in inches.


Detail of the “U.S.A.” cast in the anvil.


Last, and to me most interesting, is an 18-lb. bench anvil, with no name, but with “chilled semi steel” in embossed letters along the right side near the bottom. Most unusual are swales on the underside, four linear crosswise and four circular, one at each corner.



18 lb. anvil with “CHILLED SEMI-STEEL” embossed on foot.


Detail of 18-lb anvil with embossed “CHILLED SEMI-STEEL” and swales evident on the underside.

Your help is needed in filling out information on these and many other obscure makers of U.S. anvils.

Clayton Ray