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?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Tale of Two Planes

I bought these two planes on eBay, from separate sellers, about a year apart.

The first is an Ohio Tool Co. #75 one inch tongue plane. I'm not sure of the age, but judging from the particular version of the maker's mark, and the width of the bevels, I'm pretty sure it is from mid to early in 19th century. It also has a "L. PHILLIPS" owner's mark stamped in several locations.

The second plane is an H. Chapin plane. H. Chapin was the precursor to Chapin/Union Factory, which I believe dates this plane to the first half of the 19th century. I'm not sure how it started out, but it is now a cove plane. You can see in the picture that its sole has been modified - part of the original No. 219 stamp was planed off. When I got it, there were the remnants of a fence attached to the plane. I removed these bits and replaced it with a new fence. It is stamped 3/8, but the cove it cuts is closer to 1/4 of an inch.

So, you are probably wondering why I am writing about these two planes. What do they have in common? Well, they were both once owned, and presumably used, by one Jacob Myers, who stamped (branded?) his name into both planes.

Now, I'm always a bit sentimental about planes and owner's marks. I wonder who they were, and what they made with the plane. I have multiple planes with the same owner's marks, often with the same chain of owners' marks. But those planes have always come to me as a set - still together after all the years - which is amazing. But these two planes were together, probably on the east coast, got separated who knows when, and now, through random chance and the combined power of the Internet, eBay, and the U.S. Postal Service, are together again on my shelves in Alaska. I think that is pretty incredible...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Modifying Tools - Chisel Handles

Well, the dearth of shop time continues as the tag team of Back Deck and Entryway Reflooring have combined to give me a serious beating. (If this were the old professional wrestling that I grew up with, they would wear capes, have managers and cool names like "The Black Hole of Doom!" and "The Frustrator!" while I would just be introduced as "Dan" with no cape or manager - a sure sign I was about to get a big time smack down!)

All major projects in the shop are on hold, but several small projects continue to creep along. Here's one of them.

I have a set of Narex chisels that I like, except the handles are a little too large for my hands, and the shape doesn't feel quite right. But, being made of wood, the handles are easy to reshape. After covering the business end with several layers of duct tape, I hold the blade in my shavehorse and work the handle with spokeshaves.

I prefer a faceted handle (feels "grippyer" to my hand) and it was not hard to change the existing handle into an octagonal shape. The only tricky part was being careful to stay away from the metal ferrules.

Here's a shot of a finished transformation - the beech handle has been restained...

Only a few are finished, but I can work on them piecemeal as time allows.

Anyway, don't be afraid to modify your tools to fit your needs. And if your opponent wears a cape and has a manager in his corner, be afraid. Be very afraid!