Mystery plane?

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Forum topic by riven_oak posted 01-11-2013 09:38 AM 1088 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2164 days

01-11-2013 09:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Can anyone help identify this strange plane?

It came out of a tool chest that’s been in the family, originally from a carpenter working in Connecticut around 1825 – 1850. Most of the other tools in the chest can be dated to around that time period, but this one has no identifying marks on it anywhere that I could find. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of plane it is. Anyone know what this plane is used for (or who made it)? The two fences have me really confused. First because there’s two of them, and second, because there seems to be some sort of channel in both—note the curved wood and square channel in each fence. Any pointers are much appreciated!

8 replies so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2208 days

#1 posted 01-11-2013 03:24 PM

That big, wide handle configuration makes me think this plane was pushed “sideways” through the work. You’d grab the wide handle in your left hand and the knob in your right hand to push it. The 2 fences appear to hold the piece (perhaps a dowel?) and the plane blade may have cut a groove into it as it was pushed along the length of the dowell. Uses 2 fences to hold the wood straight as it fed thru the plane.

But what do I know? I’m just a woodbutcher who was the first of 109 views to post a GUESS . :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3153 days

#2 posted 01-11-2013 03:29 PM

Looks like a proto-version of a Stanley 45 plane.

I’m not saying that is what it is, but it reminds me of it.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View bandit571's profile


21767 posts in 2885 days

#3 posted 01-11-2013 03:33 PM

Looks like about three irons are missing. One for the plane proper, and each of the fences also had one. Maybe a fancy molding plane, to make wide crown type moldings.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View riven_oak's profile


3 posts in 2164 days

#4 posted 01-11-2013 03:59 PM

I’ve got an update—- Over on another forum somebody sleuthed out that it was a ‘Fales Patent Variable Plane’. Brandon is essentially right, it’s an early combination plane. It was first patented in 1882, so I think this preceded the Stanley 45 (but not sure). In any case, Stanley’s massive marketing engine pretty quickly knocked this one off the market.

There’s a neat description of the Fales plane, from a trade journal published in 1885:;cc=manu;rgn=full%20text;idno=manu0017-10;didno=manu0017-10;view=image;seq=0240;node=manu0017-10%3A38

I still haven’t figured out why there are two fences on this particular one. It could be that there’s some obscure carpentry task where it’s useful, or maybe it’s just a spare fence. I find the spare parts explanation a bit unlikely, as these things were apparently pretty expensive in the day, and it doesn’t seem like either one is broken. I haven’t managed to track down a manual for how to use this thing, so there are still a few mysteries to solve.

It could be that having two fences allowed one to push this thing sideways as joein10asee suggested. Maybe for narrow window sashes or muntins… I have no experience with that kind of work.

View Mosquito's profile


9540 posts in 2494 days

#5 posted 01-11-2013 04:49 PM

That thing is awesome…

Interesting that the fence closer to the main body has a notch cut out of it, and a rounded groove just behind that. I wonder if it would have gone on the other side for some tasks? It also looks like the metal part of that fence is narrower than the other one. Looks to me like the metal casting doesn’t extend beyond the rounded groove in the wood?

I’m just thinking out loud there, maybe someone can run with some of those ideas, who may know more about it than me…

After reading through that link you provided makes me think it’s closer in use to a #55 than #45. And from Fig.1 in the link, I would guess that a fence on the other side was an relatively accurate statement. Fig.1 shows the rods beyond the right side of the main body, and they talk about putting the fence on the other side for front and back fillester, etc.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Don W's profile

Don W

19012 posts in 2769 days

#6 posted 01-11-2013 05:21 PM

Its one cool looking plane. I wonder if the two fences are for two different types of irons/cuts.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3849 days

#7 posted 01-11-2013 05:37 PM

It appears narrow cutters can be stuck into the fence
nubs and secured with the thumb screws… maybe
for making beadboard with the two of them.

The notch is so you can adjust the width of a rabbet
by snugging the fence up to the plane body.

View riven_oak's profile


3 posts in 2164 days

#8 posted 01-11-2013 06:06 PM

> The notch is so you can adjust the width of a rabbet by snugging the fence up to the plane body.

slaps forehead Even I should have figured that one out. Thanks!

This plane lives in a full-sized tool chest filled with all kinds of goodies (belongs to a relative, and not me, alas), though this plane is the only oddball in the bunch. I haven’t made any attempt to adjust it, so both fences were like that when I pulled it out to photograph. I have a feeling there are at least a few irons and accessories floating around in the tills. Now that I have some sense of what to look for I will have to go back through and see what I can put together.

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