Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Seeing - part I

Several months ago a friend of mine stopped by with his typical ‘goodie’ bag. Some of it was for sale, some was just for show & tell, and some was part of the ongoing lending routine (for which I am very grateful). This plane was one of the ‘lenders’. There were 2 reasons he brought this plane. First was because of the very unusual marking on the lever cap (which we were both pretty excited about).

The other, closely related reason, was to get my thoughts on who might have made it. I had an opinion on the maker question immediately. He had concluded the same thing. We compared notes about why we concluded the same name - it was an interesting exercise. What was most interesting is that we were both looking at the form of the plane - the lines, the shapes and the design details. We used that information to identify the maker (as opposed to a great big SPIERS or NORRIS stamped in the lever cap).

I have been thinking about this issue for a very long time - what details distinguish one makers work from another? I have talked about this topic with a few other planemakers over the years and it is always fascinating and informative, and is something very near and dear to our hearts.

I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too fast here (as tempting as it is), so I would like to get some feedback from anyone who is interested. I have taken several photos of this plane from a few different angles to offer as much detail as I can. I would love to hear from you as to who you think made this plane, and most importantly - what details of this plane did you use to help identify it (or were you considering when identifying the maker)?

I should also mention, that as far as I know - this plane has not been positively identified or attributed to a known maker, so there is no right or wrong answer here. Depending on the interest in this topic, I am willing to venture further out on the plane design limb.

So... who do you think made it?

The below two photos have been added as per Peter McBride’s request.


Blogger Rollo said...

I'm guessing Norris, or at the very least not spiers. My rationale is not even based on geometry, but on the adoption of mass production methods, which seems to be what this plane may represent. Using a single plane as a testbed to approve irons would probably have been adopted by postwar Norris once they tried to make a more mass produced infill, versus prewar spiers and Norris, who matched their caps to their irons to their chip breakers to their bodies to their infills. My guess, anyway.

21 September 2011 at 23:34  
Blogger Peter McBride said...

Have a look at this plane marked Mathieson on the front infill.
It is very similar to yours, and yours is only the 3rd like it I have seen that has the sloping rear.
It seems the more of these infill planes I see, the less I am confident about who made them.
Can you add some pictures of the inside of the lever please? I think that is where the answer might be.
I have 15 or more planes I am confident were made by Spiers & marked with another name, and 5 or so of them are marked Mathieson. They have a distinctive lever cap design seen from the back. I have another 2 or 3 marked Mathieson that I think were made pre-war by Norris, including this one, and yours perhaps.
However I am by no means certain, the more I have, the more I see conflicting evidence.

Peter McBride

22 September 2011 at 08:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this excercise, please continue.
I also would say Norris based on sidewall shapes and front bun, but then the rear tote looks a bit odd not becoming the frog, so I'm not 100% any evidence of it being a mongrel? besides the broken front bun, are the top of the sidewalls mushroomed? it seems like it may have been altered by someone.

22 September 2011 at 11:32  
Blogger Jay said...

I think Rollo's comment is very intriguing, but I would actually use that logic to speculate in the opposite direction. My guess (and it's only that) would be that this is an early plane produced by maybe Spiers or Mathieson when they were acquiring their irons and cap irons from outside suppliers like Ward and Howarth. If they were purchased in sufficient quantities, it would make sense to me that Howarth, for instance, might have a test plane to fit and test irons before sending a batch to Spiers.

As to specific maker, I would guess Mathieson, based solely on the saracen cap screw and the rounded back, but that's far from an educated guess.

Very interesting! Thanks for the post, Konrad.

22 September 2011 at 14:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess Mathieson for no good reason. I am not that skilled but when I first saw the picture I thought Mathieson, then saw the blog entry.\


22 September 2011 at 19:35  
Blogger Richard Wile said...

Not being schooled in the finer aspects of old infill plane design, I did what any self-respecting tech geek would do - did an Internet image search. And while it may seem like piling on I too felt it was a Mathieson, mostly based on the design of the lever, with the undercut front. Also the tail treament, and the shape of the sides where the bevel begins and ends. I found one very similar on the gallery on The Best Things site.

My 2 cents...
Richard Wile

23 September 2011 at 06:50  
Blogger Geoff said...

I'm going to say it is Norris, based on the profile & chamfering of the sides and the infill. In particular the rear of the front infill and the tote right behind the iron.

Interesting, will be looking forward to the experts' opinions.


24 September 2011 at 21:10  
Blogger Jay said...

That cap iron is Norrissy.

7 October 2011 at 12:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mathieson.about 1933. looking at the shape and looking at the following link...

18 October 2011 at 20:06  
Blogger Richard Wile said...

I still think Mathieson, and I agree with Anonymous' post for the catalog.

As a side note, I looked into the prices from the catalog Anonymous posted. The 845 - 16.5" Panel Plane was 76 shillings/10 pence in 1933. I spoke with a friend of mine from England and he tells me his father was working as a plumber at that time and earned 50 shillings/week, meaning that plane was a lot of money even back then. So as near as I can tell this roughly equates to 175 pounds today which is more or less the price of a premium (LN, Veritas) plane today. Useful, no, interesting? I think.

30 October 2011 at 21:28  
Blogger Peter McBride said...

Anonymous musn't have seen any earlier Mathieson catalogues. The drawing is the same in 1899.
And for that matter those pictures of other plane sellers like Norris, Preston, Buck, Spiers, Tyzack show characteristics seen on the plane in question.
The point is...who was the actual maker of a plane marked with or without a makers name?
We cannot assume that a maker's name actually identifies the maker. After looking at many of these planes I have come to the conclusion that a plane marked Spiers was made in Spiers workshops.
All the rest were not necessarily made by the makers who's name appears on the plane.
I have more than 5 or 6 planes marked Mathieson that were made using Spiers construction techniques, and parts from the same casting patterns as Spiers used. Also other Mathieson marked planes that have very Norris like characteristics. So the question is more like ... was Norris making for Mathieson, or Mathieson making for Norris....or both of the above at diferent times, which I think is a more likely truth.
Soon I will have some comprehensive web pages available to show some of these examples, but as I do it and talk to other collectors, the water just gets much more muddy.
Here is some work in progress


8 November 2011 at 17:46  

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