Chaplin’s Patent Planes
Peter McBride    -   Melbourne, Australia 2006
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 Thankyou to Len Blaylock of Maumelle, AR. and Don Boyer, of Franklin, TN. for their help in supplying information and advice for this page.

click here to see pictures of some of the Chaplin's planes in my collection, and here to see some pictures of #3 size original patent planes.

Around 1990 I bought a table saw and a wood lathe from an elderly gentleman, and was given 5 boxes of planes as an "extra". I began researching these planes after receiving advice from the member’s of the HTPAA on the display stand at the "Working with Wood Show" in Melbourne soon after. Amongst those planes, I found I had been given a Chaplin’s original patent block plane. As well as other American patented planes by:- The Metallic Plane co, Shelton, and Stanley from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Gun makers after the American Civil war seem to have turned their attention to the hand tool business, and their inventiveness is reflected in the huge number and variety of patented designs of hand planes and their adjustments. I had studied Mechanical Engineering at RMIT in the 1970’s and was fascinated by the variety of adjusting mechanisms on these planes. And in particular I liked the Chaplin’s early patent planes. They had elegant solutions to design and engineering problems created by the protection of patents already held by other plane makers. I’ve been a goldsmith and jeweller since 1976 and a student of design in that field for many years. The Chaplin’s planes with their flowing lines, and sensuous curves stand out from the rest of the patented hand planes of the era. They are more reminiscent of the decoration seen on planes from Great Britain made about the same time. The lever cap with its large round screw, curves and pair of arms around the frog plate have been likened to the female form embracing the blade and holding it to the plane, I agree with that...but then some say I have an obsession with both the female form, and hand planes…both absolutely true!

The challenge of the hunt, the difficulty…. and the rewards of finding a treasure  
I’d collected Chaplin’s early patent planes for about 6 years when a friend called me from Camberwell market early one Sunday morning. He’d found a small block plane like the ones I collect. I misunderstood his description and told him it probably wasn’t one. Luckily he bought it, and when I saw it the following Monday was very surprised to see  #0 block plane, the smallest one from the earliest series. I knew it was a rare item because there were no photos of that particular size plane in either of Roger Smith’s volumes on Patented Planes…only a reproduction of an advertisement from John P Lovell Arms Co Boston, Mass. I emailed Roger Smith and he confirmed it was indeed a very rare item. As far as I know, no others have been found, and there are none I know of in any other tool collection.  

Above: Chaplin’s original patent - #0 block plane c1880 and #3 smooth plane with iron handles c1880.

 

The Original Patent

 

How the frog / lever cap works

There is no lateral blade adjustment on the original patent planes.

The blade depth adjustment is obtained by an ingenious adaptation of the worm and worm-wheel gear system, seen on reduction gearboxes and winches. There is a paddle attached to the section of a worm gear, and a small section of the worm wheel is incorporated into the bottom of the frog plate, so when the paddle is moved from side to side the frog plate rises and falls.

The frog plate is held in place somewhat loosely by one round head screw at its base, and the mesh of the gears at the top. The lever cap is a two-piece system, the upper one in cast iron and the lower one made in hard steel forming a chip breaker. The two arms on the lever engage with corresponding steps behind the lever plate. When the blade is placed between them, and the screw on the lever tightened, the blade forms a bridge between the planes base, at the bottom, and the meshed gears at the top. The cast top half of the lever bears down on the centre of the steel plate, which can pivot slightly, and so at its top and bottom bear down on the blade positioned close to the edge of the blade to perform the chip breaker function.

Blades will fall out the bottom of the original patent planes when the lever cap screw is loosened, so care is needed when handling them.

 

The Planes

chap1255.jpg (13522 bytes)chap1255a.jpg (15465 bytes)

#1255 adjustable throat corrugated smooth plane. c1890

Distinctive features of the Original Patent Planes. 

One of the most obvious features is the Hard Rubber handle. (cast iron handle and knob on the earliest models)

Not Gutta percha, or Bakelite. They are Vulcanized hard rubber (Ebonite), invented by Charles Goodyear c1844. (Prolonged vulcanising of rubber with the addition of sulphur.)

Wooden body planes were only made in the Original Patent design.

The cutting end of the blade is wider than the top where it must fit between the lugs on the lever cap.

The lever caps and steel back irons riveted to them have assembly numbers.

An amount of hand fitting which is probably one of the reasons for their relatively short production life.

Parts are a bit less likely to be interchangeable than other makers.

More obvious re-working, (lead solder under nickel-plated iron knob, holes in castings plugged, crooked castings).

Lower standards of quality compared to other contemporary makers, Steers, Bailey, Stanley, and The Metallic Plane Company…(but they were responsible for the horror three-lever adjuster)

 

The Improved Patent planes

improved.jpg (13270 bytes)improved1.jpg (15396 bytes)

# 1205 Improved patent corrugated smooth plane with optional wooden handle c1902.

Major difference is the addition of a lateral blade adjuster to the improved patent planes, interestingly located forward of the blade, a different depth adjustment from the original patent and a parallel sided blade.

Replacing the screw and lever depth adjuster with a rocking cam. 

   

The large number of individuals that had a hand in Chaplin’s planes

List of persons involved in designing and making the Chaplin’s Patent planes. 

Orril R. Chaplin. Inventor and machinist working in Boston, Mass. (also shoe making machinery)

Charles Ballard: Worchester, Mass. Inventor, firearms maker, possibly made the first type of Chaplin’s planes.

Iver Johnson: Casting and manufacturing the planes (and firearms).

John J. Tower, inventor and company owner.

Tower and Lyon (John J. Tower and Polhemus Lyon): hardware firm that sold the planes.

John P. Lovell Arms Co, Boston Mass: also sold the planes

Reinhart T. Torkelson, inventor and employee of Iver Johnson.

James Hartness, Torrington, Connecticut, Inventor.

Maschil D. Converse, Superintendent of the Tower and Lyon Company in 1904.


Patent Time-Line

 

Orril R. Chaplin, May 7th, 1872. #126519

Basic design, saddle / frog-plate, adjuster, lever cap with pivoting steel chip breaker, holes in base. 

John J. Tower, July 4th, 1876. #179494

Cast Iron hollow handle with cross bar, dovetailed block on base, and lips on handle to engage the base. 

John J. Tower, March 13th, 1888. #379346

Dovetail and pair of lugs to hold wooden handle.

(Note: almost identical to Spiers Sisters and William McNaughton, Patent #10531 Great Britain, Oct 1909…21 years later) 

Reinhart T. Torkelson & Iver Johnson, April 17th, 1888. #381186

Corrugations below and above base, throat adjuster, Vulcanised India Rubber handle – chequered, fitted into a collar dovetailed to the base. 

Reinhart T. Torkelson & Iver Johnson, April 17th, 1888. #381141

“T” adjustable throat. 

James Hartness & John J. Tower, Nov. 6th 1888. #392425

Back iron for wooden based planes. 

Reinhart T. Torkelson, July 9th 1889. #406605

Sprung steel back iron contained under a flanged saddle through a hole in the blade. 

Maschil D. Converse, Feb. 14th 1899. #619394

Lateral lever with excentric under thumbscrew on lever cap. 

Maschil D. Converse, Oct. 30th 1900. #661010

Excentric thumb-wheel lateral adjuster. 

Maschil D. Converse, Dec. 3rd, 1902. #716386

The complete “Improved Patent” bench and block planes.

 

The type study.  

Any attempt to “Type Study” the Original Patent Chaplin planes is challenging. There is clear evidence in dated magazine advertisements of overlapping sales of different features that were added as Patents were obtained. Some features of these patents may have been incorporated before, and some after the actual patent dates. However, a broad outline can be seen, and the developments which were incorporated when patents were obtained. Other problems are the many anomalies and variations, and also planes not listed in advertisements or catalogues.

Original Patent planes made for approximately 28 years from 1872 to 1900

Improved patent planes made from about 1900 to 1914. (I find them a bit light weight…) one of the reasons I have less interest in the “Improved Patent Planes”

Luckily we only have a short period to deal with…not 150 years, as is the case with Stanley.

Wooden body planes were only made in the Original Patent design.

 

Type 1 - 1872 - 76 Original production, Red paint, Iron knob and tote, and includes

 # 0, # 1/2 and # 1 planes. These have solid frog plates and solid backs on the lever caps. Unmarked blades. Possibly made by Charles Ballard, Worchester, Mass. 

Type 2 – 1876 – 1890 Black japanned. Iron handle and knob. Smooth bottom only. These have the extra scallops on the larger planes #6 - #11. The same solid lever and frog plate as type 1. The bevel up style block planes replaced the sizes under #2. On the block planes the adjustment paddle is squarer in form than the later teardrop shape, and the knob has coarse knurling. Unmarked blades.

(Model maker's planes  #0, #1/2 and #1 still being advertised by Lovell late in 1888 possibly old inventory) 

Type 3, (Oct 1887 Tower and Lyon advert "Carpentry and Building"), Smooth base and corrugated base (corrugations on the top of the base), i.e. the 12** series. Adjustable throat option on some planes, frog plate now hollowed out shape to reduce friction on the blade, and the lever cap also shaped on the back with a central rib. Optional iron or wooden handle. Tower and Lyon on blades. On the block planes the adjustment paddle is teardrop shape, and the knob has fine knurling. 

Type 4, Improved patent 1900 - 1914 

Some comments on the sizes and rarity.

The original numbering system on the red japanned planes was :- the block planes #0, #1/2, #1 then bench planes #2 through to  #11 skipping #9 ( maybe to save confusion with #6) This was continued through the next type with iron handles and knobs, and some of the early hard rubber handled planes. Then the system for the bench planes changed to the 3 and 4 digit system with the last two digits giving the size, eg *03, and the prefix either a 2 for smooth bottom or a 12 for a corrugated base. The adjustable throat was signified by a repeat of the size number in place of the 0. eg. non-adjustable smooth 205 or corrugated 1205, and with the adjustable throat 255 and 1255.

The smaller sizes are VERY RARE, the so called Model Maker’s block planes (#0, #1/2, #1). These have bevel down blades, with a bedding angle of 45 deg. like a bench plane for the #0 and #1/2 and a lower angle for the #1, but later block plane types are bevel-up, giving them a lower profile.

Some sizes are much more rare than others. Small sizes obviously, #2 and to a lesser extent the  #3, but a little surprisingly the  #4 - 9 inches long with a 1 inch blade is one I’ve never seen.  The #6 - 12 inches long, which is almost equivalent to the Stanley 5 but the blade is inch wider at 2 inches is only occasionally seen. The wooden body transitional style planes aren’t common.

 

Original Patent Chaplin’s Iron Plane Sizes

Iron handles

Hard rubber handles, optional iron or wooden handles.

Length in inches

Blade width in inches

Closest Stanley equiv.

smooth

corrugated

throat adj

0

 

 

 

5

1 1/8

101 / 102

 

 

 

5 1/2

1 1/4

1

1

 

 

 

7

1 1/2

 

2

202

 

 

7

1 1/2

2

3

203

1003 / 1203

233

8

1 3/4

2, 3

4

204

 

 

9

1 3/4

3

5

205

1005 / 1205

1255/255

9

2

4

6

206

 

 

12

2

5 1/4

7

207

1007 / 1207

277

15

2 1/8

5, 51/2

8

208

1008 / 1208

 

18

2 1/4

6

10

210

1010 / 1210

 

22

2 1/2

7

11 211 1011 / 1211   24 2 5/8 8

Note: The 1898 Orr & Lockett Hardware Co. Chicago show a 10** series number for "enameled wood handle" and 12** series numbers for " chequered rubber" handles. Both the 10** and 12** series have corrugated bottoms..."the latest and most popular improvement"

Block Planes (bevel up blades)

15

fixed throat, japanned

6 1/2

1 9/16

9 1/4

18

fixed throat, nickel plated

6 1/2

1 9/16

9 1/4

20

Adj. Throat, japanned

6 1/2

1 9/16

9 1/2

30

Adj. Throat, nickel plated

6 1/2

1 9/16

9 1/2

16

Extra wide block plane, smooth

7 1/2

2

 

420

Extra wide block plane, corrugated, fixed throat

7 1/2

2

 

???

wide block plane, smooth + Adj Throat

7 1/2

2

 

422

wide block plane, corrugated  + Adj Throat

7 1/2

2

 
Note: The 1898 Orr & Lockett Hardware Co. Chicago show the model numbers for the seldom seen wide block planes with 2 inch blades, with what must be a misprint of the plane and blade dimensions. It is printed in error with the same dimensions as those for the #20 and #30.

 

Chaplin’s Patent Wood Bottom Planes.

 

 

Length in inches

Blade width in inches

Stanley equiv.

72

unhandled

7

1 3/4

21

73

8

1 3/4

22

74

8 1/2

2

24

75

handled

9

2

35

76

10

2 3/8

36

77

15

2 1/8

27

78

15

2 1/4

27

79

18

2 3/8

28

80

20

2 3/8

29

81

22

2 3/8

30

82

24

2

31

83

26

2 5/8

32

84

28

2 5/8

33

 

Chaplin’s Improved Patent.

CORRUGATED BASE SMOOTH BOTTOM    
rubber handle wood handles rubber handle wooden handles    

fixed
 throat

adjustable throat

fixed
 throat

adjustable throat

fixed
 throat

adjustable throat

fixed
 throat

adjustable throat

Length in inches

blade width inches
1203 1233 1003 1033 203 233 3 33 8 1 3/4
1205 1255 1005 1055 205 255 5 55 9 2
1207 1277 1007 1077 207 277 7   15 2 1/8
1208   1008   208   8   18 2 1/4
1210   1010   210   10   22 2 1/2
1211   1011   211   11   24 2 5/8
                   

BLOCK PLANES - Improved patent

solid throat adjustable throat    
japanned finish and japanned sides nickel finish and planed sides japanned finish and planed sides nickel finish and planed sides  
 
   
15 18 20 30 6 1/2 1 5/8
16 19 25 35 7 1/2 2

 

References:-
Planes in my collection and others.
Advertisement for Tower and Lyon, New York, in Carpentry and Building, October, 1887.
Advertisement for Tower and Lyon, New York, in Carpentry and Building, July, 1886.
Advertisement for Tower and Lyon, New York, in Carpentry and Building, October, 1905.
T. B. Ryal & Co. Detroit, Mich. Catalogue, c1880's (Reprint  1973, EAIA.)
T. B. Ryal & Co. Detroit, Mich. Catalogue, c1905 (Reprint  1976, Roger Smith, Athol, Mass.)
T. B. Ryal & Co. Detroit, Mich. Catalogue, c1907.
Orr & Lockett Hardware Co. Chicago, Catalogue 1889 ( reprint 1975 Robin Hood Publications, Berkeley, CA.
Advertisement for Tower and Lyon, New York, in American Carpenter and Builder. c1905.
WM. P. Walter's Sons, Philadelphia. c1888 ( Reprint 1981 - publisher North Village Publishing Co.)
Tower and Lyon Co. Catalogue No12, (reprint  Roger Smith, Athol, Mass.)
PTAMPA Vol 1 & 2 ( Roger Smith, Athol, Mass.)


Advertisement for Tower and Lyon, New York, in Carpentry and Building, October, 1887.

tower_and_lyon1.jpg (285069 bytes)
click on the image for a larger picture
 

Note: There is also a Chaplin’s Patent shoot board and plane.  Another collector found 10 different variations before he discovered a duplicate.

Copyright Peter McBride 2006, 2007, 2013