Stanley's Forgotten Bedrock
A question that will plague mankind for all eternity: Why oh why did Stanley not produce a Bedrock No. 601? One can only speculate as to the marketing strategies, production issues, salability, etc. but one thing for sure, if indeed they had there is no telling what the value today might be. Compared to their Bailey counterparts, in today's market place Bedrocks in general sell for two or three times more. Given the relative scarceness next to the sheer numbers of Bailey planes for sale, Bedrocks can command a premium price. Throw in the fact that it's a much more desired user and the price increases again.
While many modern plane manufacturers today use the basic Bedrock patents, I can think of none that produces a flat top 601 Bedrock copy for general sales. Lie NIelson does make the larger flat top sizes and a Bedrock round side in a Number 1, (sans frog adjusting screws), the No. 1 flat top remains absent from the line up. Manufacturing has certainly changed over the 120 years that have elapsed since the first Bedrock appeared in Stanley's catalogs around 1898. Precision design specs and computer aided production methods make it much easier, certainly much less time consuming and less risky financially to create a plane that may have taken weeks to build from start to finish at the turn of the 20th Century. Maybe the complexity of the small size caused the decision makers at Stanley pause to consider the cost of production vs. the practicality and sales potential. Clearly they must have understood the sales trends for the larger Bailey planes vs. the No 1 size. Very limited marketing opportunities for such a complex and more expensive to produce plane would have had some impact on their decision not to make them. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate for us today in that the most desired plane in the most desired size never crossed the exit doors at the Stanley Works.
As a collectable, the No 602 smooth plane with round top sides but without corrugations will sell for anywhere from $400-$800, flat top sides run just a bit higher. Add corrugations and the price doubles. Though prices have come down a bit on the No 1 Bailey of late, they still draw upwards of $1000 or more. One can easily see how a 601 Stanley Bedrock could command in the multi thousands of dollars, if they existed. But alas, they do not which is a bummer. Or, do they?
Most plane collectors recognize the name Patrick Leach as a recognized information guru on Stanley planes. Patrick is probably best known for his informative essay on Stanley planes entitled "Patrick's Blood and Gore" He also buys, sells and markets tools through his website: The Superior Works; www.supertool.com via email copies of his monthly newsletter. On rare occasion Patrick designs and commissions tools to be created for sale. Some years ago, Patrick had a great marketing idea. for production the aforementioned missing Stanley Bedrock No 601, (currently out of stock and as hard to find as clear photos of Bigfoot). As I recall, several hundred (others I've spoken with say less than 100) were produced and sold at a ridiculously reasonable price. Imagine my chagrin when, after deciding that no Bedrock collection would be complete without one, I received the response. "All Gone?" you say. Yes, all gone Leach replied. Some months later I managed to procure one out of luck, from Patrick, a buyback original unused IOB. Now, imagine my elation when I received the email from Patrick offering me up the opportunity. Though I did pay a bit more than the original price, it was, in my opinion, well worth it. Try to even find one today.
So now my Bedrock line collection is complete. The 601 does indeed exist albeit a model not cast in the fires at New Britain. It is Bedrock marked and a near duplicate of what an original probably would have looked like in 1911. In closing this article I think it fitting to give Leach his due for providing the "piece de resistance". of the Bedrock line.
"A missed marketing opportunity of the past is now finally corrected. Overlooked in the original production run of the popular Bedrock series of bench planes, the #601 miniature smoothing plane is now available today thanks to the fine team effort of The Superior Works. A #1 size plane was offered under the Bailey design, but wasn't under the Bedrock design. And for good reason - it's a very difficult plane to manufacture with the Bedrock features. Undaunted by the difficulty, The Superior Works took up the challenge. Our pain is your gain.
With years of painstaking development, where no detail was neglected, the #601 is an exact miniaturization of the original Bedrock line. Every part, all 33 of them, from the smallest screw to the largest casting, is 100% faithful to the original. In fact, one can easily believe that the #601 was made decades ago (when the last originals came off the assembly line during the early 1940's). It's that true and precise, able to withstand the finest scrutiny by the most critical tool connoisseur.
Only the finest tradesmen dared tackle the production of such a tool. With patterns made in an old-time patternshop that formerly served the shipyards of coastal New England, a foundry that actually knows how to pour cast iron, precision machine work performed by the finest machinist on the planet, wooden boxes fabrique au Canada by a real live viscount, and efforts by several others all performed tirelessly to manufacture the #601.
Simply put, there is no finer plane being manufactured today. By anyone. Guaranteed. You'll never look at another plane of modern manufacture the same after owning, or even seeing, the #601. Each and every #601 is warranted and guaranteed to satisfy; the cutter even says so right on it." (Patrick Leach; The Superior Works)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Leach; The Superior Works; www.supertool.com