2 planes I don’t use

There’s two wooden planes that I don’t use – they sit in my house instead of in the shop. They aren’t particularly valuable (at least I don’t think they are…) and neither are they very rare…

The first one is a small plane, with an unusual beech body, very fine grain in it. The length is 9” and the overall width is 2”. The iron is just shy of 1 ¾”. The strike button is some exotic hardwood, maybe lignum vitae? The iron is marked W Greaves & Sons Warranted Cast Steel. The web tells me Greaves was a Sheffield firm, early 19th century.

The 2nd plane is a dado plane; cuts a 3/8” dado. Has a knicker, (or is that nicker?) and a depth stop. A garden variety molding plane; in fine shape. Little if any use. Has a hole bored in it to hang on the wall…

So what’s the story with these? I have them because they are both struck with the maker’s mark “A J Wilkinson & Co Boston.”  Wilkinson’s was a hardware store & supplier, for many years titled “Boston’s Oldest Hardware Store.” The firm began in 1842. The smoothing plane, with the Greaves iron, might date from nearly that early.

Here’s the dado’s imprint:

My father worked at Wilkinson’s from the day after he graduated high school, c. 1942 until his death in 1975. I can remember him telling us stories about “old man Wilkinson” who must have been the 2nd or 3rd generation…the Wilkinsons sold the place in the early 1950s…and it eventually got absorbed by some chain and floundered, I think in the 1990s. I’ve lost track.

Just last week I got a reprint of a catalogue of Wilkinson’s from Josh Clark at http://hyperkitten.com/ – Josh sells old tools there, and it’s site worth looking over from time to time. The catalog dates from 1867. It has great stuff in it, you could buy a gentlemen’s’ tool chest from them, made of chestnut, w: 34” h: 18” depth 18”. I gather with the following tools:

“Short jointer, jack plane, smooth plane, block plane, mallet, plumb and level, broad hatchet, nail hammer, brad hammer, tack hammer, draw knife, splitting saw, cutting saw, panel saw, back saw, compass saw, oiler, brace, oil stone, chalk line, chalk line reel, shingling hatchet, 1 pr pincers, bench vise, 2 ft four fold rule, scratch awl, spoke shave, marking gauge, large brad awl, small brad awl, 3 gimlets, 1 sliding T bevel, small try square, large try square, 2 ft steel square, saw file, large screw driver, small screw driver, 5 auger bitts, 4 gimlet bitts, 2 countersink bitts, 1 pr compasses, 6 firmer chisels, 3 firmer gouges, 1 bottle liquid glue & brush, chalk, pencil.

Had 2 sliding tills and a saw rack. $50.”

Here’s the list of some of the planes they offered in the catalog

here’s more:

Most of my tools that came from my father are now gone, I upgraded many of them, except for household stuff like screwdrivers, etc. I do have a couple of tools in the shop that came from his days at Wilkinson’s – this set of wooden spokeshaves for instance. I doubt he ever used them. They are Marples, who knows how old. Not as old as the planes…I used the hollowing one a lot when I made Windsor chairs.

It’s a little funny to think about these tools & that firm. My father never lived to see me become a woodworker…his work at home was all tablesaw & drill press oriented. But I like to think about him as a young man, working at what was, even in the 1940s, a 19th-century firm. He told me that old man Wilkinson had “long whiskers” and he used to wonder did he tuck them inside or outside the covers when he went to bed. I can answer that now…but I couldn’t at 17!

7 thoughts on “2 planes I don’t use

  1. Peter:
    Wow! Incredible! In 1867 dropping some items you have a joiner’s 17th-century tool kit ‘cept for tree felling and splitting It is clear that even in the 20th-century your Dad worked in a time machine.And you are the better for it. How splendid.

  2. Peter

    I would love to see some more pictures of your travisher. I would especially like to see how the mouth and sole work in conjunction with the blade.


  3. I use some of my grandfathers planes. He was born circa 1890 in rural Maine, fought in the First World War. Never met the fellow, but inherited many of his tools which I have also upgraded from in large measure to preserve them….except for his lovely scrub plane. I get giddy using that one. He also had a great iron clad mallet which I have never used. I suspect its early 19th century yet could be right out of our period in question.

    On my many trips to New England visiting family, I brake at all those great out of the way antique shops and barns in hopes of scoring some survivor of the 17th or 18th century –been lucky a few times. Even us Chesapeake folks can claim some 17th century history and need the requisite tool (you yankees cant have all the fun!)

  4. Peter:
    In your fascinating blog you indicated that the A.J.Wilkinson Company was the maker of both planes. The plane people tell me that this is not necessarily the case. Many hardware merchants purchased unmarked planes and stamped them with their own name. In this instance I suspect we will never know. All this adds to the mysteries of unknown craftsman. When you friend finds company purchase documents then we might know more. You could send a query to the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) for publication in their Chronicle. You might be surprised to learn more. Perhaps there is specialized Wilkinson tool collector waiting to enlighten us. Small World!

    • JA = you are quite correct, but that was just sloppy writing on my part…it’s true that Wilkinson’s did not make the planes. The big book on American Planemakers identifies the maker for AJ Wilkinson & Co; but I forgot to look it up. the book is in the shop & I am home sick w a cold. The book I use for this sort of information is “A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes By Emil & Martyl Pollack, 4th Edition revised by Thomas Elliott. I know in their entry for Wilkinson’s they say that the firm ran until 1973, but I know it went beyond that.

  5. You wear knickers and sometimes you nick (steal) them and you get nicked and sent to the nick (police station).. Probably should be nicked (A shallow notch, cut, or indentation on an edge or a surface: nicks in the table; razor nicks on his chin. freedictionary)

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