I received a really cool tool from my wife and kids a few years ago. It was an old wooden molding plane. While this in and of itself would have made it cool, the toe end of the plane has a stamp (not sure if it is the maker, or a previous owner) of Laird, which is my last name. There is also one other stamp on the toe end of my plane, “SD”, of which I’ve also found no data. This second stamp may have been a valuable clue at the time it was applied, and may also still have value to those that are deeply involved in the old wooden molding plane arena, but hasn’t led to any data, either.
History: From what I have read in previous literature about the subject, the only way someone could obtain insurance on their tools in the “old days”, was to apply their mark. It also seems that this was almost always in the form of either their last name, or some portion of their whole name, of which a blacksmith (or skilled person) created in what was usually a heavy metal stamp. This stamp was held up against the end-grain on the plane, and struck with a sharp blow of a metal hammer. As this was often on the same end of the plane, as the maker would mark their work, you can see how it might be difficult to easily remove the owner’s name and still leave the maker’s name. Some woodworkers bought planes second-hand, perhaps after the previous owner had passed away and had no one to which they could leave their tools. So, you can find old wooden planes that have a range of names stamped on both the toe, as well as some that may also be located on the heel-end.
Some of the wooden plane makers are readily known, usually due to the quality or quantity of the tools they made, but others are less well known. I’ve gone through a vast number of internet searches, using a wide range of search terms, but still can’t seem to run down the the person whose last name is marked on my plane. Now it is possible, that this plane might have been made by either a maker that did not mark their own name on their planes, and this mark is one of an owner, or the plane was made by someone that wasn’t in the trade of making hand planes at all.
Even with the naming clues still keeping their data veiled, there are other clues that can help limit the area/time of which one must search. From what I have read, the makers of wooden planes in Europe, preferred and primarily used Beech for their plane bodies, whereas those early makers in the U.S. found Yellow Birch plentiful and a strong local replacement. Regarding the a somewhat strong clue as to the era in which the molding plane was made, there are chamfers on the top narrow section of these planes, where the hands would grasp. These were very wide chamfers on planes made prior to, and shortly into the 19th century. After this timeframe, the chamfers diminished and some became more similar to a round-over.
My plane looks to my eyes to be made from Yellow Birch and it has the prominent chamfers I described above, which would seem that I was looking for an early American maker (or at least a maker in America, prior to the 1820’s or so). Another potential piece of the puzzle, is the Lignum boxing, rather than the much more common Boxwood boxing in the sole of the plane. Under additional magnification, and lighting, I also noticed the heel-end of my plane is marked with 6/8. This mark is somewhat light, but is from one or more stamps and not drawn/written by hand.
The iron has a maker’s mark that is difficult to read clearly, at least the first character or two, but here are possible interpretations: Newbould; EW Bould; W Bould;
My wife found this plane, on Ebay, and since it has been a number of years since acquiring, that source of tracking back has also dried up.
If anyone reading this has any useful thoughts relating to solving my mystery, I’d love to hear from you. Even if you don’t know specifics on this plane, feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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