Assembly of the cylindrical body
This third blog installment profiling the construction of a tin canister by Bill McMillen will outline the assembly process of the body. Parts 1 and 2 published previously gave some background on the tin trade and the preparation of the component pieces that are cut from a 10″ x 14″ sheet of tinplate using patterns.
Recall that Bill has already cut the pieces for the round bottom and for the body of the canister. The first step in canister assembly is to transform the flat piece of tin for the body into a cylinder, with enough overlap of the ends to allow the joint to be soldered smoothly. This cylinder will be formed by hand around a wooden mandrel, but before that is done one of the short ends of the flat piece must be given a slight curve using a mallet and a metal stake (the short ends will be overlapped; the long ends will form the top and bottom circumferences of the cylinder). If you just formed the cylinder by hand without this step there might be insufficient curvature at the thin lap joint to make a tight seal. In this case Bill used a double seaming stake, but any stake with a cylindrical portion can be used. A tapered stake should not be used, as the curvature would be uneven.
The cylinder is then formed around a wooden mandrel by hand. In this case, unlike the previous step on a stake, the mandrel is tapered, so Bill knows by experience on which part of the mandrel to work and how to work to achieve a cylinder. His hands “know the way.”
Gentle manipulation by hand at this point is necessary to bring one end of the cylinder around to come up to the line that was previously scribed onto the body to indicate the thickness of the overlap. This step is important, as the circular bottom piece was cut out to fit a cylinder of a specific diameter. Making the lap joint too thick would result in a cylinder that has too small a diameter, and making the joint too thin would result in a cylinder that has too large a diameter.
Once the cylinder shape is achieved with the proper overlap, small clamps can be used on each open end to secure the lap in its proper place prior to soldering. Used surgical hemostats work well and are often available at flea markets, although these would not have been available to 18th or 19th century tin workers.
This canister has a simple soldered lap joint. Larger vessels, particularly those that would hold heavier liquids, frequently had locking “seamed” or even “double-seamed” joints, but they aren’t necessary on a small vessel such as this.
Soldering the joint requires several items, including an appropriate soldering iron, solder, flux, and a solution of ammonium chloride (sal ammoniac.) In the 18th and 19th centuries the soldering irons would have been made with a sturdy tapered piece of copper attached to the end of a metal and wood handle, and they would have been heated in a small charcoal stove. The use of such soldering irons requires great skill in judging the temperature of the copper, as this temperature is critical to adhering the solder first to the copper, and afterwards to heating the joint to be soldered to the point where solder flows off the copper and into the joint where it hardens and seals. Bill is proficient at the use of these soldering coppers, but in the “privacy of his own home” frequently uses a modern electric powered soldering iron with a tip that maintains an appropriate temperature of 700 F.
Solder is a mixture of tin with another metal. Pre-20th century tin workers would have frequently used a 50/50 mixture of tin and lead. This solder is still available but, because of its lead content, should not be used on items that may contain consumable liquids or solids. Bill therefore uses a solder that is 96% tin and 40% silver which melts at 430 F and flows easily at the 700 F temperature of his soldering iron. The brand is Silvergleem, it is manufactured by Canfield Technologies and available through the internet. The 100 watt Weller soldering iron is also available with tips through the internet.
A flux is applied to the lap joint prior to the application of heat and solder. The flux removes impurities from the surfaces of the tinplate as it burns, and this allows the molten solder to spread evenly between the sheets and provide a tight seal as it cools. There are various types of solder available, but for this sort of work Bill uses powered rosin, grinding chunks (for stringed instrument bow use) in a mortar and pestle.
Sal ammoniac solution is used to clean impurities from the tip of the soldering iron. Powered sal ammoniac is added to a cup of water to form a concentrated solution. Once the soldering iron tip reaches the appropriate temperature it is dipped briefly into the solution, and/or wiped quickly on a moistened natural sponge, and then touched to the end of the spool of solder. As the solder comes in contact with the hot tip it melts and is pulled onto the hot tip in liquid form. While sal ammoniac was available in the 18th century, Bill isn’t sure if it was used. At Colonial Williamsburg’s armory, where they use 18th century techniques, the smiths use a coarse linen cloth with rosin, according to Bill.
A good source of soldering supplies is available online at Barnhart Studios.
And now, to begin soldering the canister body: with the clamps in place at the ends of the cylinder, as shown in the photo above, two small patches of flux are applied along the seam.
Now, solder is applied to these two spots using the heated soldering iron. After cooling for a few seconds, the clamps may be removed. The two tacked areas holds the cylinder in shape and it can then be slipped over a wooden mandrel so that the entire joint may be soldered. Powdered solder can be applied along the entire seam, or a solution of rosin in alcohol can be applied along the seam with a brush. Then, using a scratch awl to press the two layers together, the solder iron is used to apply solder along the entire seam. Moderate downward pressure is applied as the iron heats the metal to the point where solder flows off the tip and between the layers of tinplate. As this happens, Bill advances the iron slowly along the seam. Experience and judgment are needed to determine the rate at which the tip should advance. Too fast a rate results in insufficient heat transfer and flow of tin, with a weak non-waterproof joint. Too slow a rate causes the tinplate to overheat and become discolored.
My next installment will cover the construction of the canister bottom and its attachment to the cylindrical body. Stay tuned……………
If you’d like to read other installments in this series you can read them here.
The Early American Industries Association in conjunction with the Babcock-Smith House in Westerly, R.I., will hold a regional meeting on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at the Babcock-Smith House, 124 Granite St., Westerly. EAIA member Paul Wood will speak on “Tools and Machinery That Created the Granite Industry,” describing the changes in granite industry technology up to World War II. The meeting is open to the public. The day begins at 8 a.m. with tailgating tool sales, followed by museum tours, a box lunch, the talk by Paul Wood, and a walking tour of Westerly to see examples of the quarry’s stone and the building and monuments made from it.
The famous Westerly granite, which was used for everything from humble curbing to skyscrapers to monuments for the Civil War dead and mausoleums for Gild Age robber barons, was first discovered in 1845 on the Babcock Farm by Orlando Smith. Today, the restored Babcock-Smith house interprets the story of the families who lived there. The museum’s collection, however, emphasizes the tools and ephemera of the granite industry in Westerly. Among the items are the order books of the Smith Granite Company, which describe in detail the design of the work, the stones that were cut, the names of the workers, and the cost of stock and labor. The order books will be on display during the meeting.
The day begins at 8 a.m. with tailgating tool sales in the museum’s parking lot. Coffee and dough-nuts will be available, and at 9 a.m., attendees will divide into groups for tours of the house, viewing of a DVD on rock drilling and a trailer of the recent PBS documentary on the Westerly granite industry, and a walk-through of the museum’s vault where the order books are located, as well as a tour of quarry industry tools (including some “whatsits”) in the museum’s basement.
Cost for the day is $18 and includes the lunch and the museum tours and all the other activities. Advance registration is requested. Contact Patty MacLeish at email@example.com
Additional information on the event can be found here on the EAIA website and the print brochure can be found here. Given the event is this week, please contact Patty at the email address above if you plan to attend.
Photo caption: A Westerly, Rhode Island, granite quarry. Credit: Babcock Smith House
Before I tell you about it, let’s put this bull-nose plane from the Stanley Model Shop in its proper historical context by delving a bit into 19th century industrial history. In the second half of the 19th century the “inside contracting” system became very popular in American factories. Under the “inside contracting” system, a company’s managers provided work space, light, heat, power, raw materials, and working capital to the “inside contractor” to pay his employees. In addition the company would advertise, sell, and distribute the finished product. The “inside contractor” negotiated a contract with the company’s management on a yearly basis and hired his own workers, established their wages and their work hours. The “inside contractors” income would be the difference between the price he had negotiated for the products he produced and the wages he paid his employees. The system gave the inside contractor control over who he hired, what wages he paid his employees, their work hours, and the methods by which he produced his products. He was in essence running his own business without having to provide all the work space, start-up capital and raw materials. Under this system any efficiencies the inside contractor could develop in the manufacturing process that either increased productivity or lowered costs would accrue to the contractor as increased profit.¹ The inside contracting system flourished at the Stanley Rule & Level Company from 1870 and well into the 20th century. At its peak 20 departments at Stanley were run by these inside contractors. The system was attractive to both the inside contractors and to the company’s management in that the company was able to attract highly skilled and motivated craftsmen with this system who were motivated to produce finely crafted products and the company’s management could focus their attention on marketing, sales, and running the company at a profit. At Stanley, Justus Traut was just one of these inside contractors along with Leonard Bailey, T.A. Conklin, Henry Clark and James Eddy. Traut was a superb mechanic and very inventive in his own right, and deserves full credit for many of the planes and other tools produced by Stanley but he also had a talent for hiring craftsmen who were not only highly skilled but also inventive. Traut was labeled the “Patent King” of New Britain Connecticut with more than 150 patents to his credit during his lifetime. I can only speculate, but my guess is that not all of these patents were the result of only his inventiveness. He was great at taking an idea often proposed and/or patented by someone else, tweaking it in some fashion to “improve” it and then promptly utilizing the full force and ability of Stanley’s management and legal departments to obtain a patent on his “improvements”.²
So why would I suggest that this attractive bull-nose plane is an example of Traut taking an already patented idea and with some modifications turning it into another patent under his name? Well, Stanley had been manufacturing the #120 adjustable block plane since 1876. The #120 adjustable block plane was just one of several different planes that were being produced under Traut’s supervision in his shop at Stanley. This #120 adjustable block plane sold well and had undergone several modifications and improvements since its introduction in 1876. The #120 being produced in the 1880’s was based on patents granted to Traut for the design of the lever cap and the adjustment mechanism. For an excellent review of the early models of the Stanley #120 adjustable block plane take a look at the excellent articles by John G. Wells on this topic in the September 2006 and the December 2006 issues of The Gristmill.
This unique bull nose block plane was without a doubt made by Traut or one of the mechanics in his shop at Stanley. It is basically the body of a Stanley #120 block plane with the front end removed.³ The plane is 2 inches wide and 5 1/4 inches long. The interior of the plane, the exterior side walls and the lever capped are all japanned. The cutter is 1 and 5/8ths inches wide with the circular trademark shown in Figure 3 stamped in the cutter. The number “120” was stamped into the bed on the tail of the plane. The cutter adjustment mechanism consists of a piece of steel with serrations folded into a “U” shape to create the cutter seat. The adjustment lever and cutter seat are held in place by pins at the front and back that project through two raised portions of the casting on the bed of the plane. The cutter has a series of grooves machined into the back of the cutter which match up with the serrations on the cutter seat. The cutter can be advanced or withdrawn by moving the adjustment lever. This adjustment mechanism was patented by Traut on September 2nd, 1879 (Patent No. 219,816).
The lever cap has a raised six pointed star with a 5/16ths inch threaded hole in the center. The lever cap screw is threaded into this hole on the bottom side of the lever cap. The cutter has a circular stamp at the top as shown in Figure 3. These features date this plane to somewhere between 1880 and 1888. I would date this plane as being made in 1884.
Now that Traut had created a bull nose block plane by cutting off the front end of a #120 block plane, he came up with the idea of putting the front end back on! Time for another patent! So, on November 23rd, 1883 he applied for a patent and on January 8th, 1884 he was granted patent No. 291,815 for a convertible “bull-nozed”[sic] and common hand plane. Traut stated in the patent that….”the object of my improvement is to make a cheap and convenient form of convertible bull-nozed [sic] and common hand plane.” No known examples of this plane exist. If you’ve got one that looks like the patent please let me know, I’d love to see it.
Despite Traut’s comments in the patent this plane would not have been “cheap” and would have required precise machining to make it work. Besides, in 1883, Stanley had acquired the rights to John Campbell’s patent No. 271,219 dated January 30th, 1883 for a “double end block plane”.
This plane was much simpler and less expensive to manufacture and featured a reversible cutter and lever cap system that allowed the plane to function as a bull nose plane and as a regular block plane. The similarities between Traut’s bull-nose block plane and Campbell’s combination bull nose and block plane are striking. The Campbell version which Stanley labeled the #130 Double End Block Plane was manufactured in Traut’s shop at Stanley, so he would have had an opportunity to review this plane shortly after Stanley acquired the patent rights. Stanley started selling the #130 Double End Block Plane in 1884 at the same time that Traut was playing with his idea for a combination bull nose and block plane.³
With some modifications to the #120 block plane and with an eye on Campbell’s version of the #130 Double End Block Plane it wasn’t a quantum leap for Traut to come up with his own version of a dual purpose block plane. But, the Stanley Production Committee which met weekly to review these kinds of issues apparently voted in favor of Campbell’s plane over Traut’s version and Traut, despite receiving a patent for his idea, had to put his plane on the shelf. But over time, this little bull nosed plane escaped from the Stanley Model Shop and now sits on my shelf.
Paul Van Pernis
¹ Many companies used the inside contracting system including The Baldwin Locomotive Works, The Singer Sewing Machine Company, Colt Arms Manufacturing and Stanley Rule & Level Company. An excellent review of the inside contracting system titled “The Inside Contract System” by John Buttrick, can be found in The Journal of Economic History, Volume 12, No. 3, Summer, 1952, pp. 205-221
²A History of The Stanley Works by Robert Keith Leavitt, pp 55-60 provides a lot of information regarding these “inside contractors” at Stanley. The book itself is a compilation of articles regarding the history of the Stanley Tool Works compiled from issues of “Stanley World” the company’s in-house newsletter.
³The Stanley #120 block plane was manufactured by Stanley from 1876 until 1947. The #120 was developed as an adjustable model of the inexpensive Stanley #110 block plane. John Well’s excellent articles in the September 2006 and March 2007 issues of The Gristmill provide a good history on the development and dating of the earliest types of the Stanley #120 block plane. Stanley sold the #130 Double End Block Plane from 1884-1955.
Held on Saturday, March 28th, 2015, this was the second Brown International Antique Tool auction that was managed and put on by its new owner Jim Gehring. Jim and his very able crew are now old timers and ready to roll out the goods with the best of them. Thanks to Cami Foley for all the fine photographs featured in this blog post.
Prices realized in this article include a 13% buyer’s premium. A 3% discount is available for cash or a good check. All photos are courtesy of Brown Auction Services.
The Birdsill Holly smooth plane in Lot 535 had a cast iron body with a simple wrap around band tightened by a robust thumb screw to hold the cutter tight against the frog. The plane’s sole had circular recesses that were intended to serve the same function of reducing friction as grooves. The simple hardwood tote, circular in cross section and slightly swollen in the middle, fit the hand nicely. It was in Good condition and brought $2,147.
Lot 662 was a plane by Harris of San Drancisco, CA. It was marked on the heel “Pat Appl’d For”, but no patent has been found. It was a pattern maker’s cast iron plane with an adjustable cutter mechanism based on the Chaplin’s patent. It also had a replaceable wooden sole that could be fashioned to the desired cross section by the user. The plane was shown at an annual PAST tool meet in San Diego many years ago. It was not for sale but I was allowed to photograph it. Later it was sold in Brown’s 30th auction, Lot 676. The plane in this auction, Lot 662 was in Good condition and brought $2,034.
The Sandusky No. 140 center wheel plow plane, Lot 39, in Brazilian Rosewood was a beautiful plane. The wedge and tops of the arms had a little minor damage through use, and it lacks the locking screw for the center wheel. It was in Good+ condition and sold on a bid of $1,921.
The Ohio No. 110 center wheel plow plane, Lot 217, in Boxwood throughout, was a beauty. It had a few small chips in the locking nuts and a closed crack in one of them. It was in Good+ condition and sold for $1,808.
The L.&I.J. White plow plane, Lot 219, in medium brown Honduras Mahogany, had four ivory tips on the ends of the arms and very light chipping on a few of the threads. It was a rare plane, was in Fine condition and brought $1,469.
The Millers No. 42 bronze type 4 plow plane, Lot 233, had the filletster bed, bronze wrap around fence, and the cast iron straight fence; but it did not have any cutters. It was in Good condition and sold for $1102.
The Zoar Community, a group of German Religious Separatists, formed in 1817, settled in Zoar, Ohio. They functioned as a communal society through 1898 when they dissolved. The cast iron bench planes they made mostly for their own use had a large box like enclosure over the mouth and usually had corrugated soles. They have a very heavy look and although they have a very interesting history in the opinion of some they are less attractive in appearance than the cast iron planes made by Hazard Knowles and patented on August 24, 1827. Zoar planes are all very rare, but a few have been offered in prior Brown auctions where they have brought substantial sums: in Bronw’s 26th auction, in April of 2005, a Zoar bench plane with a corrugated sole was purchased by an absentee bidder; a Zoar anvil was sold in 2011 in Brown’s 38th auction, and another Zoar bench plane was sold in Brown’s 4oth auction in March of 2012. The Zoar 16 inch bench plane in this auction, Lot 526, had a corrugated sole, was in Good condition and was a good value at $3,842.
Lot 314, the 24 inch early 19th century wooden gravity type inclinometer level, was invented by Philo Curtis in Utica, NY. Although it was marked “P.C. Curtis Patent”, no patent has been found. Its brass face plate was bent, but otherwise it was in Good condition. This previously unknown inclinometer brought $2,599.
The Stanley log caliper in Lot 499 was never assigned a model number nor listed in a Stanley catalog. After seeing photographs of Stanley’s receiving facilty for shipments of rosewood, beech, hickory and other woods it is clear they needed a tool like the one in Lot 499 to use in their own business. The example in this auction was made of hickory; its hickory shaft had a table with zillions of hand stamped tables of numbers used to convert log diameters and lengths into board feet of sawn planks and it had huge solid brass jaws that could measure a 36 inch diameter log. It was in fine condition and sold for $2,486.
The Jones “Most Improved Microscope”, Lot 605, was manufactured by the Dollond family of scientific instrument makers of London in the early part of the 19th century. This example was 19 inches high when assembled. It was in the original fitted wooden box with several eyepieces and other accessories. Several of the little spacer blocks in the box need to be re-glued and the lock on the box needs a key. This stunning example was in Fine condition and sold on a bid of $1,808.
Lot 450, the Universal Roofing Square patented in 1899 by John Van Namee of Streator, Illinois, was a charming assemblage consisting of a 17 inch long maple body and four arms. This contraption made it possible to lay out lengths and angles needed to pre-cut all of the members of a sloped roof with intersection of wings of different widths and heights. It was one of two known examples, was in Good+ condition, and sold for $1,695. All of the same layout work could be done by a qualified carpenter using a typical two foot framing square having roofing or rafter tables.
The final little gem, Lot 302, in this group was a 3½ inch long steel soled brass infill plane made in 1987 by the most highly gifted of all plane smiths, Robert Baker. It was in immaculate condition and sold for $1,305.
Two items on the cover of the 46th auction catalog rank as unusual: Lot 267 the strange bronze 11 inch smooth plane bearing the Mark”Morin”, and Lot 292, a cast bronze miter or smoothing plane, previously unidentified.
The very rare Morin plane, Lot 267, was recently featured on the website “Working by Hand” posted June 11, 2014, where it was called “a weird bronze plane” and was described as having a 2 inch wide cutter that was only supported at the mouth and at the top of the handle. A frog could have provided solid support between those teo points or at least part way there and would have dampened cutter chatter. There was mention of a companion block plane in the listing; it was less than 2 inches wide by 7 inches long, but no clue was offered as to where more information could be found. The Morin smoothing plane in this auction was in Fine condition and sold for $536.75. Apparently a Morin smoother was offered in Tony Murland’s 2013 auction with an estimated value of £80 to £120 pounds.
Lot 292 was apparently the cast bronze body of a Scott’s miter or end grain plane with a later and inappropriate replacement infill. The plane was invented, designed and sold by William C. Scott, 204 Clinton Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. The proper body and infill can be seen in Roger K. Smith’s Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume II, page 112, figure 164a and b. The cast bronze body in this auction was in Fine condition regardless of the improper infill and wedge, and was a good value at $310.75. It is very rare and could have been brought into collectible condition with a properly shaped toe insert and wedge.
The 47th International Antique Tool Auction
We are looking forward with great expectation to the 47th International Antique Tool Auction and Dealers Sale which promises to be filled with a tantalizing selection of rare and unusual tools. It will be held on October 30th and October 31st at the Radisson Inn, Camp Hill, PA. Jim Gehring known for his tremendous knowledge of levels and inclinometers as well as an impressive range of similar collectibles and for being the owner and manger of The Fine Tool Journal and now of the Brown International Auction services will be at the helm. Clarence Blanchard and mike Jenkins will be available if called upon for Special Collections and for consultation on special items.
John G. Wells
It has been rumored for several years that Simon Barley, the noted English saw expert, was working on a book about them. At long last the wait is over; the book is out and has exceeded everyone’s expectations. This volume will be the standard that every future reference book in any genre will be measured against. For that matter, every reference book from the past too. It is a must buy for any serious tool collector, not just saw collectors. It is front and center in my library and I am pleased to offer this review of it.
Simon Barley’s more distant ancestors were tool users. His great, great, grandfather was a shoemaker, his great grandfather was a riveter and boilermaker, his grandfather was an engineer, with his father, a historian, the first in the family to go on in education beyond fourteen years of age. Simon himself worked as a Doctor in various branches of medicine, with spells in teaching and medical writing and editing. He retired at the earliest opportunity to take up practical woodworking in renovating a barn into a house and to grow fruit on a small holding.
His affair with English saws began a long time ago. Sometime around 1998 he met Ken Hawley at his tool shop in central Sheffield, renowned as the place that announced in the window ‘We sell nowt (nothing) but tools’. “I acquired from him my first set of hollows and rounds that helped me get started on moulding planes”. Simon was then several years into a major project of converting the 19th century stone barn into a house and was more and more fascinated by the wonderful hand tools he could use. He was looking for voluntary work and Ken suggested that he catalogue the saws in his collection which was housed by the University of Sheffield in a small old steel warehouse. It soon became evident that there was little known about how saws were made in the days before automatic machinery. Before long he had signed up to write a PhD on the early saw making industry of Sheffield; it only took him nine years… While he was doing it, friends in the tool world suggested that a reference book on saws could usefully fill a gap in the literature. This undertaking only took another six years. Central to the history was also the opportunity to collect on his own behalf. He has been able to amalgamate on one site at the Ken Hawley Collection Trust’s new home in Kelham Island Museum around 2,000 examples. View this collection online at hawleytoolcollection.com on the web. Ken’s recent death was a blow since inside his head was a store of knowledge that didn’t exist anywhere else. Simon would like to say that those who write history books can only do their best with what they know, at the same time acknowledging that what they put down on paper is incomplete and immediately out of date. He hopes there will be a core of permanence in his book, British Saws and Saw Makers from 1660.
The book itself contains a chapter on making a saw, one on where saws were made and by whom, one on dating a saw by design and appearance, one on saw handle fasteners, and one on saw handles. Then he has the saw makers listed A-Z for easy look up. He has included countless photos of saw handles, saw die stamps and etches and saw medallions. In the back of the book are appendixes on types of saws and saw handle makers price lists, as well as a bibliography and list of sources. I would be remiss if I did not mention the forward which contains a bio of Ken Hawley, without whose help this book would have been difficult.
This book is 700+ pages and is the most thorough and complete saw reference book ever published. As a researcher and writer on the subject of early American saws, this book is humbling and is an example to me of what can be accomplished by devoting years of one’s life to it.
The EAIA Annual Meeting May 13th thru May 16th in “Quebec City, Quebec, Canada is just a few weeks away! We hope you’re coming. The last day to get the special room rate at the Hotel Ambassadeur is April 13th, so if you haven’t made your reservation please do it soon. The phone number for the hotel is 1-800-363-4619, the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the website is https://www.hotelambassadeur.ca/. Make sure to mention the EAIA Annual Meeting and the confirmation number 220102. The room rate is $104 Canadian per night.
We’ve got a great program set up for you and we guarantee you’ll have lots of fun. So you might ask what’s the weather like in Quebec City in May? Well, here’s what you can expect: average daytime temperatures of between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Night time temperatures of between 38-50 degrees Fahrenheit. So bring a moderate weight jacket or a good sweater. The old city of Quebec sits high on the bluffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River so it can be breezy at times. A good windbreaker and a pair of sunglasses are also a good idea.
Here are a few other things to bring:
1. Your passport or passport card. It’s always a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport or passport card in case they get lost. It will expedite replacement of the passport or passport card if you lose it.
2. Use your credit card to pay for items as much as possible. That way you’ll get the best exchange rate on a daily basis. Recently the U.S. dollar has been doing very well against the Canadian dollar with the rate of the $1.oo Canadian being worth $.80 U.S. dollars That will make your hotel stay, restaurant costs, and incidentals less expensive. A good time to visit Canada! Some credit card companies charge an extra fee for foreign transactions, but others don’t. So call you’re credit card company, let them know you’ll be in Canada and ask about the foreign transaction fee.
3. Bring a “Whatsit”. A “Whatsit” is any tool that you can’t figure out. On Thursday evening we’ll gather for some great Quebec Regional desserts as we ponder the mysteries of the Whatsits that our members bring. Sometimes we figure them out, sometimes we don’t. But we all learn something, have some fun and enjoy great desserts and companionship while we’re at it.
4. Bring an item or two for the Silent Auction. In the past handmade items, old tools, books, etc. have been very popular and all the money raised goes to support EAIA. Whatever your item brings is deductible on your Federal taxes, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
5. For those of you who know some French you may want to brush up on your French a bit. But don’t worry, everyone we’ve met in Quebec City spoke excellent English.
6. Enjoy some local cuisine. The regional dish of Quebec is poutine, an interesting culinary concoction that came about in the 1950’s. I’ll leave it to you to find out what it is and give it a try! Quebec City is a culinary delight full of marvelous restaurants that will please anyone’s palate.
6. Bring your camera! Quebec City and the surrounding region is full of beautiful scenery.
We’ll see you there!
Paul Van Pernis
Before we get back to the some more interesting planes from the Stanley Model Shop I thought you might want to know a bit more about the Model Shop. Clarence Blanchard wrote an interesting article about the Model Shop in the 2000 Fall issue of The Fine Tool Journal, Volume 50, Number 2, pages 22-23. In conversation with Carl Stoutenberg, a Stanley employee, who for many years was the unofficial historian at Stanley, Clarence learned that Stanley Rule & Level Company maintained a model shop from almost the beginning of the business. The model shop made prototypes, tested them, and refined them. They also looked at the products made by competitors. When asked about what happened to all those items in the Model Shop Stoutenberg explained, “There have been many authorized clean outs of obsolete models, casting patterns, and competitive samples over the years. There have also been several “barrel days” where offices were supposed to be cleaned and the pack rats had to take it home or heave it. It is probable office and factory workers have been taking things home with and without approval for more than 150 years! A major effort in this regard occurred in 1964 when Stanley vacated several five-story buildings located on four corners in downtown New Britain and moved into a downsized modern two-story factory on the west side of town. Ten years later the pack rats had overrun the new building’s storage area and in about 1974 one of the largest clean ups of the offices and model storage area occurred. Scrap passes were liberally given out to allow wholesale carton carryouts of “junk”. Sometimes the stuff now turns up still with the pick slips. Both marked and unmarked examples have been observed of Stanley production, prototype, and competitive products. Sometimes S.R.&L is painted on the product. Sometimes a date. Sometimes a tag accompanies the product with information about the item. Sometimes a number is etched onto an item. There probably are as many variations as there were people who had responsibility for identifying the items. Today there is much public awareness of old tools. There is also an aging population of ex-Stanley employees, family and friends wishing to downsize their own storage areas and fatten their wallets. Couple those two truths and the trend is expected to continue.”
Well, that’s the story of the Model Shop in a nutshell from someone who was there. Oh how I wish I could have been around for some of those authorized clean outs and ‘barrel days”! I’m just grateful that these pieces of American industrial history haven’t been completely lost and have made their way into tool collections all over the country so they can be studied, preserved, and enjoyed by those of us who find this stuff so fascinating. Stanley still maintains their Model Shop, but now they call it the “historical vault”. You can get a look at it by going to YouTube and looking for a video called “History of the Stanley Tool Company”. The video will give you a chance to get a glimpse of the “historical vault”. If you watch the video carefully you’ll see some tools with the Model Shop numbers painted on them as shown in previous blog posts.
But let’s move on to a few more planes from the Model Shop. Leonard Bailey started making wood bottom planes in late 1868 just about a year prior to the time he sold his business to Stanley. Bailey was trying to reach those craftsmen who preferred a wood bodied plane but who also recognized the advantages of his adjustment mechanism and his thin parallel cutter. So, he put his cutter and adjustment mechanism in a cast iron frame and attached it to a beech plane body. These early models had no imprint on the toe of the plane. When Stanley purchased Bailey’s stock of wood bottom planes in 1869 they stamped an eagle logo on the toe of these planes and added the model number below that logo.(See Figure 2) Some collectors call these “transitional planes” under the incorrect assumption that these planes helped ease the transition from wood bodied planes to the all metal cast iron planes. This was not Bailey’s or Stanley’s intention. They were marketed and sold as a somewhat less expensive option for those craftsmen who preferred a wood bodied plane but also wanted the convenience and sensitivity of Bailey’s adjustment mechanism. Because of their popularity Stanley continued to produce several models of these of these planes from 1869 until 1943.¹
The planes shown in Figure 3 are wood bottom planes from the Model Shop. What makes these two planes interesting is that they have a rosewood sole finger jointed to the beech plane body. The larger of the two is 15 inches long, 2 and 11/16ths inches wide and has a 2 and 1/8th inch wide cutter. This makes it the size of a #27 Stanley Wood Bottom Jack Plane. The #27 Wood Bottom Jack Plane was made only from 1869 to 1917. The rosewood sole is 1/2 inch thick including the fingers and the beech plane body is 1 and 1/8th inches thick including the fingers. The fingers are 1/8th inch high and 1/8th inch wide and spaced 1/8th of an inch apart except at each edge of the plane. The glue joint is beautifully tight and the body of the plane has a heavy coat of varnish which almost completely obscures the end grain of both the rosewood and the beech. There are no markings on the toe of the plane. Model Shop number 175 is painted on the cam lock of the lever cap.
The wood body of the smaller of these two planes is 8 and 5/8ths inches long and is gently tapered on the toe with a more acute taper at the heel. The cutter is 2 inches wide. The rosewood sole and finger joints are of the same dimensions seen on the larger plane with the exception of a wider finger at the toe of the plane to compensate for the taper of the plane body at the heel of the plane.
The smaller plane doesn’t have a visible Model Shop number, but there are scratch marks on the cast iron frame in front of the front knob with a few remnants of white paint suggesting that it may have had a Model Shop number that was at some point removed. “Bailey” in block capital letters is stamped on the toe. Beneath that is stamped Stanley Rule & Level Co. and No. 35. The Stanley catalogs describe the #35 as a Wood Bottom Smooth Plane.
Both planes have identical trademarks on the cutter which reads STANLEY, PAT AP’L 19, 92. This applies to Edmund A.Schade’s patent #473,087 granted on April 19, 1892. The patent was about repositioning the cutter slot hole nearer the base of the cutting iron, engaging the lateral lever with the slot in the upper portion of the cap iron, and an improved method of hardening and tempering the cutting iron making it less likely to crack. Even though the patent wasn’t issued until 1892, Stanley started putting these cutting irons on their planes in 1890.² The lateral adjuster has one patent date stamped on it, 7/24/88, which refers to Justus A. Traut’s patent #386,509 which addresses the lateral lever.
Using the “Bailey Stanley Wood Bottom Plane Types” type study done by Roger K. Smith(see Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, Volume 1, pp.275-278), these characteristics date these two planes to between 1900-1907. The question arises as to why Stanley would want to go to the trouble of putting a rosewood sole on the bottom of these planes. Well, rosewood is much harder than American beech so the planes with a rosewood sole would be more durable. The rosewood also made the planes very attractive. We don’t know, but it’s most likely that Stanley decided against putting these planes into production because of the increased cost associated with adding the rosewood sole.
These two planes which are in unused condition and never made it into production, weren’t Stanley’s first, nor were they the last time the craftsmen in the Model Shop married beech and rosewood to make a wood bottom transitional plane. Figure 7 shows a series of four wood bottom transitional planes made between 1872-1874 with a beautifully executed dovetail joint between an upper body of rosewood and a lower body of beech. These were purportedly made for Stanley’s exhibit at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Also in 1922, Stanley was having difficulty finding enough high quality beech stock for their longer length wood bottom planes. The Stanley Operating Committee met on January 17th, 1922, and assigned Mr. H.J. Cook with the task of investigating the possibility of using “built up wood stock” for the longer wood bottom planes Stanley was manufacturing. Mr. cook dutifully submitted a written report to the Operating Committee on March 14th, 1922 and informed the committee that the cost of making a #32 26 inch long Wood Bottom Jointer of a combination of beech and rosewood could be done at a cost of 25% more than the cost of making the planes from a single piece of beech. He also informed the Operating Committee that the company already had a large supply of… “#11 Rosewood Level Stocks that have been air drying for a good many years. This stock is in splendid condition. We use very little of it for Levels. It works up to good advantage for the bottoms of these planes by simply ripping a billet in two pieces. It would seem that we have enough material of this kind for Levels and #31 and #32 Planes to last a number of years.” Along with his report Mr. Cook submitted an example of a #32 wood bottom plane with the finger jointed rosewood sole(See Figure 7). The rosewood fingers appear a bit larger than those on the earlier Model Shop finger jointed planes and this plane was marked in pencil “March, 1922″³
And finally, one more wood bottom plane from the Model Shop. This one was made most likely for a display of Stanley planes for some exhibition or trade show. Made from a beautiful piece of rosewood, with a rosewood rear tote and front knob, it is 15 1/2 inches long and 2 and 5/8ths inches wide with a 2 and 1/8th inch cutter. That makes it a half-inch longer than a #27 wood bottom jack plane. The cast iron frame, all of the screws, the frog and the adjusting screw are heavily nickel-plated. There is no trademark stamped on the toe of the plane. Three patent dates are stamped on the lateral adjuster(2-8-76,10-21-84,and 7-24-88), and there are “S”casting marks on the lever cap and the cast iron frame. The cutter has the STANLEY, PAT AP’L 19,92 stamp. All these factors suggest that this plane was made somewhere between 1893 and 1899.
The craftsmen in the Stanley Model Shop made an incredible number of versions of these wood bottom planes. I’ll pull out a few more in a future blog. But, keep your eyes open and you may be able to uncover one of these at an auction, tool meet, garage sale or flea market. Let me know if you find one!
Paul Van Pernis
¹Stanley made 18 different versions of Bailey’s wood bottom planes from a 7 inch smooth plane up to a 30 inch joiner plane. These planes were numbered from #21-#37 in the Stanley catalogs.
²Stanley’s use of these improved irons starting in 1890, two years before the patent was granted would come back to bite Stanley in court. This new cutter sold very well and competitors seeing that it wasn’t patented began to copy it. When the Ohio Tool Company refused to cease using the improved cutter on its planes, Stanley sued. The trial didn’t begin until 1901 and The Ohio tool Company argued that the slot arrangement was a preexisting unpatented improvement that had been in public use for more than two years which would make Stanley’s patent void. The court agreed with the Ohio Tool Company and Stanley lost. They appealed but lost again on appeal. See Walter, John, Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools, 1996, p. 806.
3 You can find the full article regarding this plane entitled “Where’s the Beech” by Clarence Blanchard in The Fine Tool Journal, Volume 54, No. 4, Spring, 2005, pp. 2, and 20-22. Both this plane and the rosewood and Becch wood bottom dovetailed planes sold an auction in November of 2002. The #111 levels referred to by Mr. Cook are the #111 Victor Carpenter’s Adjustable Plumb and Level that were offered by Stanley from 1911-1923.
Welcome back. I’d like to begin this second installment in this series of blog posts on tinsmithing with Bill McMillen with a bit of information about the tin canister and the tinplate and patterns from which it is made.
Almost all tinplate in early to mid 19th century America was imported from the United Kingdom, and in particular from Wales. A detailed history of the development of the tinplate industry in Europe and the US was published in 1915 by D. E. Dunbar, titled The Tin-Plate Industry: a comparative study of its growth in the United States and in Wales. A link to it was given in Part 1 of this blog. Another excellent source of information that is available online for free was published in 1880 in London by Philip William Flower and is titled A History of the Trade in Tin, and it can be accessed through this link.
Bill’s Canister is a standard quart and a half size and it makes efficient use of one standard 10″ x 14″ piece of tinplate. Here is an example of one such piece:
This was perhaps the most common size of tinplate, and tinsmiths would have tried to use it in the most efficient manner to minimize waste. In the case of our canister, one half of the plate, or a 5 ” x 14″ piece constitutes the body of the cylinder and the other pieces, including a flat round bottom, a cone-shaped piece constituting the neck of the cylinder, and the several pieces that make up the mouth were all made from the remaining 1/2 sheet. The pattern pieces that were used to assemble the piece are shown in the photo at the beginning of this blog. A tinsmith would have patterns such as these prepared for many of the articles and he or she produced on a regular basis. They enabled the smith to quickly trace the pattern onto a new piece of tin and then cut out the individual parts without having to “reinvent the wheel” by redrawing each piece every time a particular article was needed.
Vosburgh’s The Tinsmith’s Helper and Pattern Book, published in 1912, and referenced in Part 1 of this blog, contains a chart showing the various types of tin ware available: Vosburgh chart of tinplate. In this chart, the standard 10″ x 14″ is shown in the column headed IC (or “1 common”) in the top row titled “trade name.” According to this chart, a box of this weight and size of tin contained 225 sheets and weighed 107 pounds. The tin was supplied in wooden boxes made, I believe, from elm. And of course it almost certainly came from Wales, at least until the latter part of the 19th century.
Bill McMillen’s first step in constructing this canister consisted of separating the various patterns from their wire hanger. You’ll notice on the photo at the top of this installment that each piece has a small punched hole. This allows all the patterns for a particular piece to be kept together on a wire to prevent any from being misplaced. Bill then placed the 10″ x 14″ piece of tin onto a non-abrasive piece of material to prevent unnecessary scratches that might be visible on the finished piece. The largest piece of the patterns for the canister is the one for the body itself, taking up almost one full half of the whole sheet, and he placed this pattern first on top of the sheet and traced the outline of the pattern onto the underlying sheet using a scratch awl.
This awl is made from iron, and most of them have a twist in the center to aid in holding it securely, along with one or two sharp ends that are used to produce narrow scratches on the plate where cuts will be made with tinsnips. The particular awl that Bill is using here has a hook at the top so that it can be hung in a known location and not misplaced (I’m particularly attuned to this attribute because I’m constantly hunting around for things that I’ve misplaced!) The scratches on the underlying sheet will be followed in cutting the piece for the new canister out of the full sheet. Bill did this by hand using tinsnips as he works primarily with earlier technology.
Tinsmiths working with techniques common in the mid to late 19th century might use a bench shear to cut straight lines such as this. Most curved lines were cut using hand shears (tinsnips), even later on in the 19th century, although machines or shears capable of cutting curved lines did exist. Snips came in a wide variety of sizes and also in shapes. Here are two that Bill uses. Note the scratch awl on the upper right:
Now that the piece for the body, representing almost 1/2 of the full sheet has been cut away, the remaining pattern pieces are positioned onto the remaining half of the full sheet so as to most efficiently use the materials.
Bill then traces these patterns onto the sheet using his scratch awl, and cuts the sheet into multiple pieces using hand shears, avoiding cutting along any of the scribe lines. Each piece needs to be individually trimmed to the scribe lines by hand once the section of tin on which it has been scribed is cut away from the full sheet. Note that the pattern on the lower right is rectangular. This pattern will actually be scribed onto the sheet twice, one for the top rim of the canister, and another for the rim of the lid that will encircle the top rim of the canister when the top is in place. These rectangular pieces are fairly easy to cut by hand using tinsnips. Note, however, that several of the pattern pieces have curved edges. The pattern for the bottom of the canister is a circle, and another one for the shoulder of the canister has one concave and one convex edge. These must be cut carefully so as not to warp them. Bill carefully cuts away the excess tin from around each curved edge without actually contacting the scribed line. Once this has been done, he then carefully cuts along the scribed line and the waste piece curves and twists away from the blades of the shear, while the desired piece is not warped.
Excess tin has been cut away close to the scribe lines
Trimming along the scribed lines to produce the desired piece:
Bill did not cut out all of the pieces at once before proceeding to shape any of the canister. Instead he worked to assemble the first two pieces, the cylindrical body secured by a lap joint, and then the bottom with an upward burred edge that slips over the bottom of the body cylinder. Other pieces will be cut and trimmed after the first two pieces have been assembled. This allows for more flexibility as the process of hand making the piece continues. Depending on how the assembly of the cylindrical body with the round bottom turns out, subtle changes can be made to subsequent piece dimensions to ensure tight fits at all joints.
As I just mentioned, the body piece of the canister will be formed into a cylinder with a simple soldered lap joint along its short edge. Before the cylinder is formed a line is inscribed along one short edge of the piece to show the depth of the intended lap. Bill uses a tin gauge with pre-cut notches of known depth to scribe the appropriate line. In this case, the line is inscribed 9/64ths of an inch in from the edge. The pattern pieces have been produced to fit on the resulting cylinder. If you were to change the width of the lap joint, for instance making the scribed line closer to the edge, then the resulting cylinder would have a larger diameter and the round bottom piece would need a narrower burr in order to slip over the bottom of the cylinder body.
Scribing the burr line:
The piece for the bottom disc and the rectangular piece for the body are now ready for assembly. I’m going to close Part 2 at this point. The next installment will begin to describe the various steps in the forming, joining and soldering of the canister. But to keep us oriented, here’s a sneak peek at what we’re aiming for:
I’ll be back soon with more………
If you’d like to read other installments in this series you can read them here.
March is here, and in just over two months we’ll be congregating for the 2015 Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting in Quebec City, Canada on May 13th through May 16th, 2015. We’ll be staying at the Ambassadeur Hotel & Suites in Quebec City. The hotel can be reached at 1-800-363-2619. We’ve contracted with the hotel for a reduced rate of $104 (Canadian) per night for double or single occupancy. These rates are good from May 10th, through May 18th, 2015, so you can extend your stay on either end of the EAIA meeting. But don’t delay, the cut off date for these special nightly rates is April 13th, 2015. When you call to make your reservation be sure to use the confirmation #220102 to insure that you get the special room rate and mention that your coming for The Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting.
We’ve got three days of great activities planned for those attending the meeting. You can look at the full schedule of events and even register right here at our website by clicking on the News and Events tab on the tool bar on the EAIA home page and scroll down to Annual Meetings. If you’re worried about the registration costs, don’t be! Several generous donors have provided six registration scholarships of $215 each to cover the cost of registration for this meeting. These are available on a first come, first serve basis for first time meeting attendees age 50 and under. To request one of these scholarships contact EAIA’s Executive Director, John Verrill at 703-967-9399. Also children 12 and under can attend for free and children from ages 13-18 can attend for a registration fee of $100. So please bring your children and/or grandchildren!
The image above is of one of the beautiful medallion that EAIA Past President Tom Elliott has designed for the upcoming meeting. Tom has graciously lent his talents to the design of these medallions since 2008. That year was EAIA’s 75th anniversary, and Tom has been providing the design for a medallion each year. Every person attending the EAIA Annual Meeting will receive one of these medallions. As you might expect, they’ve become collectible! This year’s design features the flag of Quebec and a cannon. The blue and white flag was adopted by the National Assembly in Quebec in 1948, and was the first provincial flag adopted in Canada. Its white fleur-de-lis (symbols of purity) and blue field (symbolizing heaven) come from a banner reputedly carried by French Canadian militia at General Louis-Joseph de Montcalms victory at Carrillon. Beneath the flag is a cannon representing the cannons which defended the city of Old Quebec. The obverse of the medallion as always carries The Early American Industries Association’s logo.
So, don’t delay, register for The Early American Industries Association’s Annual Meeting in Quebec City May 13th through the 16th, 2015. You’ll have a great time enjoying the sights, sounds, history and flavors of one of the world’s great cities. Hope to see you there!
Additional information related to the annual meeting, registration information etc can be found here.
Folks who attend EAIA meetings are certainly familiar with the work of master tinsmith Bill McMillen. Bill has given numerous talks and demonstrations at our meetings about his work and about his studies of the tinsmith trade. His summary of the subject, “The Tinsmith in America – The Trade, Materials, Tradesmen, Tools and Products,” was The Chronicle’s cover article in June 2013.
Bill grew up on Staten Island NY where his father was the director of the Staten Island Historical Society, an early member of EAIA, and also involved in the establishment of Historic Richmond Town. Bill subsequently worked there for many years prior to retiring to the Albany area a few years ago. In the early days, Bill accompanied his father as he went out on antique collecting trips and consultations regarding renovations/reconstructions of early buildings. While still young, and through these early experiences and his subsequent work at Richmond Town, Bill learned to look closely at objects in order to determine the original techniques that were used in their construction.
Bill’s first contact with tin work came in the mid 1970s with Don Carpentier, who had already set up a tin shop at Eastfield Village. If you’ve attended any of EAIA’s Trade Samplers during the summer at Eastfield, you’ve probably seen this shop. Shortly after this experience with Don, Bill began collecting the necessary original tools and set up a shop within Historic Richmond Town. That shop is still in operation.
There is an excellent DVD still available here that demonstrates Bill’s skill at tin work. There are also summer classes (“Tin 1” and “Tin 2”) held at Eastfield Village that are taught by Bill. I was able to participate in both courses several years ago, and I’ve now assembled my own tin shop with original hand tools and machines. I’m having great experiences making a variety of accurate copies of original tin items, and also occasionally engaging in what might be called “flights of fancy,” if not up to the standards of actual folk art. The latter isn’t something that Bill does very often, as he hews pretty closely to reproducing items that are known to exist, using techniques as close to those that were originally used as he can discern. He believes that spontaneity in making objects on a daily basis was fairly unusual for the 18th and 19th century tinsmith. The smith’s livelihood depended on making objects that people would actually buy, so what was made was what was expected by the clientele. One exception might be gift items intended for the 10th or “tin” anniversary and that might include tin top hats and ladies bonnets.
In order to supplement the information included on the above DVD, I recently visited Bill and Judy at their home near Albany and interviewed Bill regarding his techniques.
What will follow in subsequent installments is a step by step demonstration of the creation of a tin canister, shown in the photograph above.
Before proceeding, however, let me give you links to some helpful and free online books:
First: The Tin-Plate Industry, A Comparative Study of its Growth in the United States and Wales, by D.E. Dunbar and published in 1915 is an excellent source of historical information about the industry and the processes used to produce tinplate. Here’s the link.
Second: The Tinsmith’s Helper and Pattern Book by H.K Vosburgh, published in 1912 has a wealth of practical information about sheet tin, pattern production, etc. It can be viewed or downloaded by accessing the following link.
Additional information can be accessed at the tintinker’s website here.
The next post will cover the construction of the canister. In the photo above Bill holds the original and the completed copy. Stay tuned…
If you’d like to read other installments in this series you can read them here.