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Making Sense of Handplane Numbers

What's in a Number?

Stanley’s plane-numbering system has had collectors confused for many years. Whereas it’d seem orderly, some numbers appear to have been assigned as a lot by whim as by logic. How do you clarify why a #5-1/2 is bigger than a #5, however a #5-1/4 is significantly smaller than each?

All of it started with the primary catalog of January 1870, which supplied a line of cast-iron bench planes numbered 1 by 12 and wood-bottomed planes numbered 21 by 37. As new planes had been developed they had been typically given new entire numbers, until they had been intermediate sizes of current planes, or practically similar with solely barely totally different options (equivalent to tilting handles). That’s why we now have a #4-1/2, #9-3/4, and #10-1/4, to call just some.

At the least twice Stanley gave totally different planes the identical quantity (#80 and #90), whereas for some cause #14 and #38 had been by no means used. As the primary hundred slots crammed, Stanley used a brand new numbering logic: Comparable instruments jumped by 100, equivalent to routers #71, #171, and #271 (and we now have a #71-1/2, too). The Bedrock line jumped to #602, #603, #604, and many others., the Stanley Victor was banished to the 1100s, and the Handyman to the 1200s. This left loads of elegant numbers equivalent to #444 to assign to the one dovetail aircraft available on the market.

Classic Hand ToolsExcerpted from Basic Hand Instruments (The Taunton Press, 1999) by Garrett Hack.

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