Tools fascinate me, as they do many woodworkers. And though I'm not intentionally a
tool collector, I have managed to accumulate my share of them (OK, more than my
share), especially planes. But even if I don't have a passion to possess them, I think it's
just plain interesting to know what's out there.
Thus the Stanley Tools Catalog No. 34. Republished in paperback by Lost Art Press,
this catalogue gives a slice in the life of the Stanley Rule and Level Company as it was
in 1914, when the company was in its heyday as the leading source of tools for
American woodworkers. Though not a complete listing of everything Stanley ever
made, it's a good sampling of tools that remain collectible—and usable—yet today.
The catalogue opens with a brief history of the company, which dates from 1857 under
the Stanley name. Succeeding sections explain the meaning of key distinctions among
the various lines of Stanley tools, principally Bed Rock and Bailey. But the book is, in
reality, a sales catalogue, intended to inform buyers about the many choices offered to
It opens with boxwood rulers of various lengths and configurations. Especially
interesting are patternmakers shrinkage rulers, oversized to account for the shrinkage
that occurs in various kinds of cast metals. Ivory rules and caliper rules were in fashion
in that era before trade in tusks became illegal. Zigzag rulers of different lengths and
finishes are also shown.
Plumbs and levels, of particular use in carpentry, are next in line. I admired the duplex
adjustable level in mahogany with brass tips that retailed at the time for $2.00. Metallic
levels were more affordable in those days of low wages. Then come miter boxes of
various descriptions. I was surprised to find the frequently sought after model 150
missing from the catalogue; presumably it was introduced subsequent to the issuance
of this catalogue.
Then come try squares in rosewood, iron, and iron inlaid with rosewood; bevels; angle
dividers; and marking gauges. Specialty gauges—butt gauges for hanging doors, panel gauges and clapboard siding gauges—follow, along with trammel points and pencil
A large selection of bit braces was available in those days; I liked the 10" sweep brace
with cocobolo handle and nickel jaws at a nifty $1.70. Oddly shaped corner bit braces
permitted work in, well, corners, where other braces could not reach. Stanley offered
screw driver bits, dowel sharpeners, countersinks and extension bit holders for use with
their braces. A separate line of breast drills allowed the worker to apply greater
pressure to the drill as it was being worked.
Stanley offered many types of screwdrivers, including cabinetmakers screwdrivers,
small shank screwdrivers and flat blade screwdrivers. No ratcheting or Yankee-type
screwdrivers are listed in this catalogue, so they were evidently a later innovation.
A large section is devoted to Stanley's handplane offerings. Bailey adjustable metal
bench planes were offered in sizes ranging from #1 to #8 in both regular and corrugated
soles and priced from $1.50 to $4.50. Bed Rock planes in sizes #2 to #8 were slightly
higher: $2.20 to $5.25 in both regular and corrugated configurations.
Many other planes were offered for special uses in the trades. Carriage makers rabbet
planes were intended for heavy framing in mining, the carriage trade or wagon building.
Adjustable circular planes were offered in both jappaned or nickel plated versions.
Bailey wooden planes, what we now call "transitional" planes, were available as
smoothers, jointers, jacks and block planes, as well as a "jenny" sized at 13" in length.
Irons for all these planes, along with replacement parts, were available separately.
Block planes, both adjustable and non-adjustable, were also offered in a wide variety.
The popular #45 combination plane was available with 21 "bottoms" (cutters) for $7.00.
The #55, with 52 cutters, was $14.00. The #50 was a combination plow, beading and
matching plane. The #46 combined plow, dado and filletster functions. Several other
planes with combined functions were available.
Other specialty planes included rabbet planes, curved rabbet planes, a dovetail tongue
and groove plane, router planes, door trim planes, side rabbet planes and cornering
tools. A host of other planes follows: matching planes, core box planes, chamfer
planes, scrub planes, framing planes, and belt makers planes. Especially interesting is
the floor plane that, with a 45" handle, was used from a standing position to finish floors,
bowling alleys and ship's decks.
Beaders were offered in both single and double-handed versions. A large variety of
spokeshaves could be purchased at prices ranging from $.17 to $.75 for an iron-bodied
Bailey model. Stanley line spokeshaves were higher, as much as $1.50 for a 12" model
with boxwood or rosewood handles.
A bit gauge and plumb bob, then awls—both scratch and brad—were offered, along
with chalk line reels, nail sets, and counter punches. Small vises, a doweling jig, steel
squares and hammers—claw, nail and machinist's—finish Stanley's offerings.
The catalogue concludes with tables of U.S. and metric weights and measures,
circumferences and areas, and board feet in lumber of varying linear dimensions. A
table of wood properties contains data on the no-longer-available chestnut and soon-to-be-extinct ash, among other domestic species. Nail sizes are explained, along with
estimates of the number of nails by pound and the weight of pine shingles per section of
roof; shrinkage coefficients for cast metals and a brickwork table follow.
As I said earlier, this catalogue represents a look at what Stanley offered on the eve of
World War I. It's by no means a complete guide to Stanley's total production over its
long history. If you're looking for a resource to date planes, for example, to specific
eras, this book won't help you much. But it does cover a significant part of Stanley's
output and it's well worth having for that alone. If you're interested in collecting, you'll
surely want this handy volume to help you set your acquisition targets.
But even if collecting is not your thing, this book is fun to browse and consult about
those tools that have found their way into your shop. Is it an essential buy? Perhaps
not, but you'll sure be missing out on something special if you pass it up. I'm glad I
have it on my shelf as a guide to hand tools that are out there in the wild, both vintage
and newer products whose lineage becomes clear after perusing this book. I think most
woodworkers will agree with me.
Find out more and purchase Stanley Tools Catalogue No 34
J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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