At the cutting edge ...

I have a jack plane from Great-grandpa's toolchest. It is marked "Metallic Plane Co" with two patent dates--1867 and 1869. This tool was designed by Nelson Palmer and was the design that started the Metallic Plane Company in Auburn, NY in 1867. I know this tool was manufactured sometime in the 1870's because the company went out of business in 1880.  With little more than a casual glance it quickly becomes apparent that this is not a Stanley.

  Metallic Plane Co Jack Plane--15" long, 2-1/8" wide iron. From the 1870's.

Metallic Plane Co Jack Plane--15" long, 2-1/8" wide iron. From the 1870's.

There is no lever cap, lateral adjuster, or depth wheel. There are three confusing toggle levers under the iron and some odd pegs that wedge the chipbreaker down. As I learned more about the features and functions of planes I saw that this 140-year old tool had it all. There is an adjustable throat; a tapered laminated iron almost 1/4" thick at the cutting edge; it has a corrugated sole (subject of the 1869 patent); adjustable depth of cut and lateral adjustment (subjects of the 1867 patent). This was the leading edge of hand tool innovation incorporating the newest concepts to address all the functional needs of planes. Ultimately however Leonard Bailey's approach proved simpler, easier to manufacture, and more robust. So today we have Stanley.

There are many lessons to draw from this tool--but the one I am focused on today is innovation. This plane reminds me that there are many ways to accomplish things, creative people are always trying to find a better way to solve a problem. Nelson Palmer identified a need, came up with some interesting solutions, and had the energy to push it to the market. His spirit is alive and well today. Just look at all the interesting gizmos and gadgets at the woodworking shows. Here's to you Nelson Palmer!

  Nelson Palmer's three-lever adjustment system--a different way to operate a hand plane.

Nelson Palmer's three-lever adjustment system--a different way to operate a hand plane.