Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Owner's Marks

So I've been thinking about owner's marks. In my shop, it's mostly the older tools that have owner's marks, and the older the tool the more sophisticated the owner's marks tend to be.

I think some pictures might help me explain what I mean, so here's a sample series in reverse chronological order - newest first.

Yellow paint - not really a mark, but I suppose it does its job (in a very unaesthetic way):

A simple set of initials stamped into the cheek of a metal bodied bench plane:

Initials stamped into a saw handle - not exactly done neatly:

Carved initials, also in a saw handle - done by hand and I like the style given to the "L.A.L.":

Initials and last name done with a dedicated stamp - and S.C. RANDALL took the time to neatly align his stamp (I've got a few of his, and they are all stamped very neatly - he obviously cared:

Three stamps on a British Plane - T. TURNER (maker), T. ATKINSON an owner with a simple dedicated stamp, and J. LONGBOTTOM, most likely the earlier of the two owners judging by his much fancier stamp:

And finally, an adjustable sash plane made my T.J. M'MASTER & CO. and owned by J.A.V.C., with neatly stamped oversize initials, and C. FITZGORGE with fancy stamp:

On this one, I think that the J.A.V.C. stamp is the older of the two, as it seems Fitzgorge was purposefully avoiding over stamping by using the angles. Which is also interesting, as some owners seemed to be trying to annihilate the names of previous owners with almost violent over stamping.

One thing I am curious about is if anyone is marking their tools today. I have a branding iron that I use to mark my shop products and larger tools I make, but I have never made or used an owner's mark. It's a little funny that my initial reaction is not to "hurt" the antique tool by adding my mark to it, when it is the recorded history of owners that makes the tool so fascinating to me. Why shouldn't some future owner look at my mark and wonder who I was and what I might have made with that tool. I mean, all the owner marks on the tool where contemporary at one point in time.

I've been thinking about making an owner's mark stamp, but to be honest, I don't really have an idea on how to go about it. I'm not sure how to carve a tiny version of my name in some kind of metal stamp. Any ideas? Has anyone done this?


  1. It's no help I know, but I've been thinking exactly the same thing of late. Some sort of owners mark stamp would be great.

  2. My guess is that few owners or makers actually made their own stamps. They found someone else who makes them. You can too. Infinity Stamps is only one result of a Google search for "custom metal stamps." They make all sorts of stamps, from custom burning irons, to low stress metal stamps (like the fancy Longbottom), to heavy use production process stamps. I have none of them, nor any affiliation with Infinity. Just offering a suggestion of where to find stamps.

    Go ahead, make your mark.

  3. I've only stamped the planes I've made. For some reason, I just haven't felt worthy to stamp my antique planes. But I do like the idea of having a stamp made.

  4. In the machine shop I work in, information is stamped on the molds with letter and number sets like these which would get you something like the more complex stamps. (

    I'm guessing HF, Grizzly and others would have something similar for less money though.

  5. Here you go, Dan:

    I checked with my ww buddies on twitter and FB. This company apparently makes the stamps but you have to call for a price.

  6. Someone else just recommended to me the same one that Bob suggested:

  7. Here you go, Dan.
    Chris Schwarz recommends:

    Okay, I'll quit bugging you now! ; )

  8. In case the above link doesn't work:

  9. What can I say? The recommendations keep pouring in. If you're not on facebook or twitter, you might consider it. Lots of help from other woodworkers:

  10. Wow! Thanks for all the information everyone! I still plan on trying to make one myself, but if that doesn't work, I've got no shortage of places to turn! Thanks again!

    And Kari, you can "bug" me anytime! Once again you prove to be a wealth of information and very, very helpful.

  11. I don't but my dad do, I think in the event of a theft so he could more easyly prove the owner ship of the tool or tools. He uses his driving licence #... So every time he get rid of a tool and it end up in my shop, I have his DL#...
    Like Kari said, I only do on tools i made!

  12. David - Thanks for sharing - I have a feeling that you and Kari are not alone - that most folks only mark the tools they make. I think that is kind of interesting...I'm still turning that over in my mind...

  13. I felt the same way as you about not "marring" an old tool. But then, I realized how much I enjoy the fact that my grandpa put his initials (initially, with a series of punch-dots; later, with an engraving stylus) -- so now I (usually) mark mine with a black permanent marker. (On my tool totes -- even the cheapies -- I also put the date, where I got 'em, and the price.)

    When I pick up home-made toolboxes/tool totes from garage sales, I also have the owner sign his work -- which amuses them. When they used to be a tradesman, I think they're a little gratified.


  14. Gye - I like the idea of tracking where your tools came from - I always think I will remember, but sometimes I totally forget where I got a tool. I also like your idea of having the owner sign his work on the home-made boxes etc. Thanks for the comment.

  15. I'm pretty late on chiming in here but so what? :D I mark all of my tools. I used to put a blue and yellow paint strip or dot, but now I punch my initials. Working in a shop where people tend to borrow your tools it's helpful to have them marked. I don't own any real antique tools, but if I did, and I got them to use them (rather than to gaze at on a shelf) I would mark them too. For me it's not about my worth as a woodworker, or my place in the history of the tools, it's so I remember what is mine and what is someone else's.


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