Peter McBride

Antique and Old Tools

Updated :- Thursday, 24 January 2013  

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A close look at the mark "STEEL" on some dovetailed infill planes marked Mathieson, Norris, Buck, Preston, and Spiers.
With a view to establish who actually made them.

Often when looking at Infill planes there appears similarities between makers, and planes that although marked by a known maker, bear a striking resemblance to another maker's product. This is often a source of speculation about who the actual maker might have been.
I have some planes that were obviously made by, and marked with the Spiers name. Other planes I have carry 5 to 10 of the identifying characteristics of a Spiers plane but are marked with another maker's name such as Mathieson. None of these planes are marked "STEEL" on the body. The planes marked "Mathieson" that I believe are made by Spiers are only marked on the wood, and not the lever cap. Those Spiers planes will be the subject of another study.

Two of the planes I have are only marked Mathieson on the wood, and don't have the Spiers look. Both have "STEEL" stamped on them different to the italics style  "STEEL" as seen on those planes with Mathieson on the lever cap. These two planes are much more like a Norris than a Spiers. 

Here is a close look at the mark "STEEL" on some planes marked with the makers' names Mathieson, Preston, Buck, and Norris.
Also a real little mystery. A Spiers, Ayr cast iron bull-nose rebate plane  marked erroneously  "STEEL" on the back. The only Spiers plane I have seen marked "STEEL"


I believe the following 9 planes marked, Buck, Mathieson and Norris were all Norris products.
(the numbers are just a code I use to ID the planes and the pictures)


8. Buck - Panel Plane.

Note the top left on the "T", and the top of the "S" missing.

Compare it to the Norris jointer below.
Important Note:
Not all Buck planes are so obviously Norris. I have some that are Spiers made. (detailed in another study to follow)

08a.jpg (56818 bytes) 08.jpg (77040 bytes)
9. Buck - Skew Mouth Rebate

I can see enough of the stamp to be certain it was the same as the one above, so it's a Norris plane.

09a.jpg (79598 bytes) 09.jpg (59410 bytes)
11. Mathieson - Closed handle Smoother.
A very rarely seen plane. Only marked very faintly on the front bun with the Mathieson mark.. Very much in the Norris #5 style.
Marked with the same punch as the Panel Plane below this one.

Note the top of the "S" 

11a.jpg (56139 bytes) 11.jpg (71793 bytes)
17. Mathieson - Panel Plane.

Another plane looking like a Norris plane, and marked Mathieson on the front bun only. Stamped with the same "STEEL: punch as the plane above, and some of the Norris planes below.

17a.jpg (51100 bytes) 17.jpg (56226 bytes)


Planes marked Norris.


12. Norris - Jointer Plane.

Here the "S" looks like the top of the letter has finally broken away from the punch..

12a.jpg (49823 bytes) 12.jpg (65322 bytes)
13. Norris - #2 Smoother.

Same punch as the #6, and #A6 below. The punch is still fresh.

13a.jpg (65715 bytes) 13.jpg (95398 bytes)
14. Norris - #5 Smoother.

Note the top of the "S"

14a.jpg (58658 bytes) 14.jpg (75640 bytes)
15. Norris - #6 Smoother.

Identical to the #A6 below, and the punch looks very fresh still.

15a.jpg (55685 bytes) 15.jpg (67113 bytes)
16. Norris - #A6 Smoother. 16a.jpg (61383 bytes) 16.jpg (66703 bytes)


The 5 planes below, it is pretty safe to assume, were made by Mathieson. All the planes of this type that I have, and have seen have the same italics mark "STEEL".


1. Mathieson - Skew mouth Rebate Plane. 01a.jpg (69261 bytes) 01.jpg (53404 bytes)
2. Mathieson - Open Handled Smoother 02a.jpg (62483 bytes) 02.jpg (63471 bytes)
3. Mathieson - Jointer 03a.jpg (51777 bytes) 03.jpg (56889 bytes)
4. Mathieson - Open Handled Smoother 04a.jpg (73227 bytes) 04.jpg (42806 bytes)
5. Mathieson - Unhandled Smoother 05a.jpg (70921 bytes) 05.jpg (55441 bytes)


The next two planes are also marked "STEEL" but with letters with serifs.


6. Preston - Unhandled Smoother.

Marked on the lever cap, and the front of the bun with a similar but different punch to that used on the Mathieson Rebate plane below. (note the "S" is different)

06a.jpg (68680 bytes) 

06.jpg (63968 bytes)

10. Mathieson - Skew Mouth Rebate.

Early looking wide rebate plane marked on the front infill.

10a.jpg (75739 bytes)

10.jpg (66028 bytes)


This plane is a conundrum. Cast iron, marked Spiers, Ayr on the top front, and "STEEL" on the back.


7. Spiers - Bull-nose Rebate Plane

The "STEEL" doesn't match any other planes I have.
Fitted with a "Stewart Spiers, Cast Steel, Ayr. Scotland"  marked blade.

07a.jpg (81855 bytes) 07.jpg (54640 bytes)

Copyright Peter McBride 2011