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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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)
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).
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
[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.
[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.