The Plane Collector's Dream: A journey through time and plane.

July 16, 2016

 

I've been collecting for a number of years now and when I started, like most, I started simple.  I thought "perhaps just a couple to add to my work bench".  Fat chance.  I got the first few but as my collection grew slowly my interest piqued.  Again, like most, the more I learned about this amazing tool, the more I needed to know.

 

I decided that the best option would be simply to have one size each of Bailey planes, not a difficult nor too challenging goal, especially with eBay and a local antique tool dealer who had more than adequate supplies of common Bailey bench planes.  In about 6 months each size Bailey was sitting proudly on my bench taking up some pretty valuable real estate as my bench isn't that large.  OK, now I'm set. But wait, what next?  

 

I fell in love for some reason, with the Sweetheart era planes type 12,13, 14 and 15.  Some call it Stanley's Golden Years of plane making.  The planes of that time just seemed perfect to me and the variations of each type seemed to capture the essence of the art.  Perhaps to enhance my enjoyment I should try to include a Sweetheart of each size.  Sounds great and while still affordable on my meager budget, the planes included in this category were indeed priced at a bit of a premium, perhaps 10 percent but not unmanageable.

 

While collecting the Bailey planes I became intrigued with the frog designs and the many variations that were patented during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.  As I found each more interesting than the other my direction changed a bit to finding as many different patented designs pertaining to frogs and cutter adjusting systems.  I learned that the last 20 years of the 19th and first 10 of the 20th Centuries was perhaps the most prolific period of patented improvements, (or at least ideas which were thought to be so), than any time before or since.  Just about every "tool inventor" was working on some, as stated by Patrick Leach, "better mousetrap".  Of course, if you know much at all about planes, you already know the improvements by Leonard Bailey and his contemporaries at Stanley.  But literally dozens of others, including Palmer & Storkes, 

 

Chaplin's, Steers, Hayworth, Rodier and Goldsborough' Challenge, just to name a few, were attempts, good and bad, to modify the basic plane design.

 

Enter the Bedrock era of my collecting and the determination that this is arguably the best bench plane ever produced for stability and ease of use.  So, as Yodel the Planemaster says: "Collect the Bedrock Series you must, with sizes complete and types each and every."  A voice in my head said: "Use the Force, Mark, use the force."  and so I did.

 

This led to an affinity to learn about and collect some of the more successful Stanley competitor efforts to dethrone the KING. The likes of Sargent and their Shaw's patent, Ohio Tool and the less successful Mark's Patent of the early 20th Century, Vaughan and Bushnell's version of the Bedrock design, Sandusky Semi-Steel planes and Union Tool's X-  planes.  None of these companies ever was able to crack the Stanley strangle hold and all ended up either broke or bought out, though Sargent continues to this day making, among other things, padlocks.

 

 

So the next logical step had to be the No 2 barrier.  Starting mildly with a broken type 10, I gradually amassed enough No 2s to fill half the living room.  Some great acquisitions, like a type 2 Bailey, Shaw's Patent Sargent, V&B 902, Fulton made by Kunz, and the ever elusive Defiance No 2 which some say never existed.  Well, I do have one with the proper iron that I'm pretty certain isn't a ghost.  I have had such great help in gathering my No 2 collection that to have done it without their help would have taken decades if it could have been done at all.

 

Finally, where am I today? I've discovered what I believe is plane collecting Nirvana.  The man most responsible for the development of the wood working plane, Leonard Bailey, himself produced dozens of bench planes before, during and after his time with Stanley.  I managed to get me a Type 1 Bailey that was produced when he was living and producing planes in Boston, before he hooked up with the "Monster of New Britain".  The Victor and Defiance lines, aptly named after his departure from them, Of course the split frame and vertical adjuster models are still in my dreams but are on the "wish list".  

 Even still, if I find great examples of any of the other branches of the collecting tree limbs that I'm already out on there's always room for one more Bailey, V&B, Ohio, or Sargent.  Sadly, I have not much more room but I sure love keeping them safe, at least for a while.  Guess that's what being "passionate" is all about.

 

 

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