|Forum topic by reedwood||posted 04-01-2014 05:25 PM||919 views||0 times favorited||10 replies|
04-01-2014 05:25 PM
The Story of the Bedrock #601 Hand Plane
April 1st. 2014
While driving through the Smokie mountains on vacation looking for antique tools, hand planes and the ultimate fly fishing spot, we discovered a small artisan community nestled in the mountains with several old buildings all connected by a creaky covered walkway.
On the end was a small antique store that apparently used to be Bailey’s Fly Rod Shop.
We went inside hoping to find something special and Boy, did we! There was rusty gold everywhere.
I was excited to find a Stanley #8 hand plane and a #18 block plane with a sweetheart blade in the original box….. Holy Cow! I thought I found a gold mine! So, I looked around to see what else I might find.
In the back of the store sat an old man at a workbench covered in wood shavings making what appeared to be a bamboo fishing rod. There was bamboo stored in the rafters above, hand tools scattered here and there, balls of twine and bits of feathers sticking out of a chest of tiny drawers behind him.
As a woodworker myself, I’m always fascinated by another craftsman’s work bench so it was hard not to stare as he slowly planed the long strips of bamboo.
As a fly fishing sports fan, this was like watching a scene from the past.
I’d read stories about the origins of fly fishing and knew they used bamboo as well as lancewood and whalebone but I’d never seen one made. He was completely immersed in the rhythm of his work and I felt it would be rude to interrupt. So I stood quietly and watched.
Eventually he noticed me standing there and came to a stop. I almost asked him to keep going – don’t mind me but he smiled and walked over to the counter.
He saw the planes and says “You got some real beauties there, Mister.” I was grinning from ear to ear so he must’ve seen how much I liked them.
I told him a little about my small collection of hand planes and how I just finished reading about the history of the Stanley tool company while he rang up the sale. That’s when he looked at me and said,
“See that sign above the door? ... See that name on the front of that plane? ... That was my Grand Pa.”
I couldn’t believe it. Here I am talking to a descendent of Lenard Bailey, the man who invented the hand plane as we know it. Could this be true?
That’s when he said to me, “ All that stuff you read about …ain’t none of it true.” I began to think I’d said something wrong.
Then, he says, “Want to hear a story?”
Like a kid getting tucked in to bed I quickly sat on the bar stool by the counter and said, “Sure!”
He slowly wrapped one of the planes in newspaper and put it in a bag. Finally he says, “Ever wonder why it says Bailey right there?” as he’s pointing to the front of the plane. I figured he was about to tell me so I just smiled.
He says,” That was put there in memory of my Grand Pa, Frank Bailey, the young brother of Lenard Bailey who you probably think invented them planes.”
He says,” The real story is my grand pa invented them planes. But he never got no credit ‘cause he was eaten by Cannibals!”
Is this a joke? No way is this true, I thought to myself.
He says,” See, most people don’t know much about these parts cept’ what they read in them books, but if you notice, all them books say the same thing.”
It occurred to me at that moment that several references in my research were indeed worded the same.
He says,” Back in the day, rich people took a real shine to fly fishin’. Why, they’d come from all over to buy my Grand Pa’s handmade bamboo fly rods and fish around here. Bet you didn’t read about that, did you, son?”
I didn’t dare answer and just sat there listening . He went on to tell me things that blew my mind.
It all started back in the 1450s when a book was published called A Treatyse of Fysshynge.
It was about the art of fly fishing including a list of twelve fishing flies.
A secret society of twelve wealthy fly fishermen adopted the name, The Treatyse Twelve, in reference to this book.
A list of the men included:
P resident Dwight Eisenhower who was an avid fly fishermen.
R ockefeller, John D who donated 500 K to preserve the trout streams in the Smokie mountains.
I van von Hart who invented the Aluminum fly reel
L enard Bailey, a retired tool company owner
F rank Bailey, a tool inventor who worked for Henry Stanley as a shop foreman.
O rvis Wilson, the owner of a large manufacture of fishing gear.
O ren Mclure, who discovered Tonkin bamboo from the banks along the Sui River in southern China.
L enard Kelsen who perfected making handmade flies
S amuel Philippe who was the first person to assemble what is the traditional hexagonal (6-sided) fly rod.
The competition was fierce between the American aristocrats and the arrogant Brits who invented new techniques like the dry fly, cork handles and the false cast.
The first all-bamboo rods originated in England and were made from bamboo that was imported from India called “Calcutta cane”.
But then the Brits had discovered a new type of bamboo rod from the islands of new Guinea called Tonkin cane. They were also using feathers never seen before.
The Americans decided to travel to the islands to find the native made bamboo rods and the source of the exotic feathers used to make the flies.
The Americans couldn’t buy the cane rods with money so they brought hand planes, tools and trinkets to trade for the bamboo and feathers. They had to get permits from the British consulate to travel there but no one told them there were also cannibals on one of the islands.
A few months before they’d arrived there was an incident with the natives. A group of British fishermen had visited the islands to trade for the bamboo rods. But they landed on the wrong island and were attacked.
Five of the tribal chiefs were killed and robbed of their ancestral head dresses for their feathers.
The Americans had landed on that same island and were also attacked.
Everyone escaped except Frank Bailey. They skinned him alive and ate him for dinner!
The wealthy Americans and Brits were afraid of the media backlash towards the fishermen and the natives
Now, here is where it gets really interesting.
In 1961, Michael Rockefeller jr. went back to the islands to find out what happened and gather artifacts
But, he was also killed and eaten by Cannibals!
They just released a book about young Rockefeller’s adventures but they never mentioned this part.
After the Americans returned home empty handed, the fly fishermen faded into obscurity and no one knows for sure whether the group still exists.
Lenard Bailey was so distraught about the horrific death of his young brother, he retired early and discontinued work on his brother’s three hand plane patents.
Lenard Bailey won his case against Henry Stanley who claimed ownership and the hand plane designs were shelved, except for one. The other two patents were never seen again.
But, a few tiny hand planes were manufactured specifically for the pigmy natives to make bamboo fly rods.
The old man finished his story with a big sigh, almost as if he was glad to finally tell someone.
I was amazed at what I just heard, I mean, this was unbelievable.
The bill came to $60.00 for the planes which was half what they’re worth. I think he knew it too.
As I was about to leave he called me back. I thought I left my glasses or something but when I returned to the counter, he says, “I got something to show you.”
I followed him back to his work shop and watched while he cleared his bench of wood shavings and set aside
He reached under the massive wood bench and pushed up a small metal tool that was imbedded upside down flush with the top. Out popped a beautiful hand plane I’ve never seen before.
It was a small Bedrock # 601 hand plane with flat sides.
He dusted it off and reset the blade back into the body, looked at it for a moment and handed it to me.
He says, “Been there for awhile,.... but, seeing how you like my planes, I want you to have it.”
I stood there staring at it, not sure just what to say at first. He tells me he’s been looking for someone to give it to but all of his family is gone and no one seemed to care anymore. I felt honored that he would give it to me.
He asked me to promise not to sell it or tell anyone about it until he passed away.
I received a letter today from his estate, which was worth millions, stating that he had died a few weeks ago.
So, ..... now you know the story about the missing bedrock #601 plane.
Here is a copy of the original #601
- now available online at the Superior Works.
Well, this was different. Maybe too long winded for an April fools joke? Hey, I tried.
Even so, it was a lot of fun doing all the research about Stanley hand planes and fly fishing and stringing this together for a writing class.
Funny thing, most of it is true, just not quite like this story tells it.
It all started when I bought this ting toy hand plane and I wanted to make an LJ April fools joke out of it.
Look! I bought this rare # 0 hand plane! The guy said it’s one of a kind and worth a fortune! ... Ha!
But one thing led to another and the more I put the story together, the more it began to write itself.
As I researched Stanley tools, I came across an old poster of Stanley hand planes and noticed they made
And it’s true about much of the history all coming from the same source, almost verbatim in some cases.
You can’t help but wonder about the Stanley family dynamic and how much they influenced the tool industry, even their own story. If you collect antique tools, it’s a lot of fun to research. Great story.
It’s also true about the old man with the antiques. I got to know him after stopping to buy his planes every year for the last 20 years on our way through the Smokies to vacation down in SC.
He passed away several years ago but I always thought about how his life would be a great story. Maybe I should’ve wrote that one.
The fly fishing book and all of the people in the fishing club are real and actually did the things I described.
The story about the Rockefellers is true except I have no idea whether he traded hand planes for native art.
In 1961, Michael Rockefeller Jr. was skinned and eaten by cannibals,
But as far as I know, Frank Bailey was not eaten by cannibals. He did have three patents that were never made.
Is it possible that one of them was a # 601 Bedrock?.....ask the pigmies, if you dare. Ha!
Thanks again for reading my silly attempts at writing. I’m just havin a little fun.
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.