Stars of the 20th International Antique Tool Auction

Stars of the 20th International Antique Tool Auction

Wells, John G

On April 6, 2002, 1 had the privilege of attending the distribution of a truly great collection that had been put together over a period of many years by Dr. Michael Jenkins. It was a collection of unusual breadth and depth, and included items from almost three centuries of America’s leadership in the design and manufacturing of innovative tools for the trades.

I asked Michael Jenkins, who was at the auction, why he chose to sell the collection he had put together with such great care. He said he always wanted to attend his own estate sale, and this was the only way of doing it he could think of.

The evening before the auction, I asked those at the dinner table which item they thought would be the Star of the Show. Naturally, answers varied depending on personal interests, but it was clear the auction contained many great items that would appeal to a wide range of taste. What’s a star? A star is a tool so great that it stands tall above all the others around it. It may not be the most expensive tool but it is the most exciting, significant, and splendid: it shouts out “take me home.” As the auction unfolded on Saturday, this presumption was verified, there were stars in every category of tools.


The collection was quite strong in outstanding levels and inclinometers. In addition to the Davis spindle level shown below was a L.L. Davis 6-inch mantle clock level with almost 100% of the japanning and gold pin stripe decoration, and in the original tattered but labeled box. It sold for $3,410, comfortably above the high estimate.

A Thomas F. Deck, No. 5 pendulum inclinometer made by the Toledo Gravity Level Co. Toledo, Ohio, was Type 1, with a 4-inch dial, patented December 5,1896. This rare inclinometer, in Good condition, brought $2,970. A later version of the Deck Gravity Level with a February 4,1905, patent date, in good+ condition brought $2,200. 1 understand the “Deck Gravity Level” used an elaborate set of internal roller bearings to assure smooth and accurate operation of the pointer.

A spirit inclinometer, called the “Level, Plumb & Inclinometer” patented by John Happle April 5,1904, had a glass level tube bent in the shape of half a circle, which gave a direct reading of the slope being measured, plus two additional vials: one each for level and plumb. Happle’s inclinometers have a cherry wood body, thick aluminum rails on the top and bottom, and a semicircular level vial behind a full height rectangular brass escutcheon flanked on each side by the plumb and level vials behind large circular brass escutcheons. This is the only known example labeled “The Semi-Circular Level Co, Kane, PA.” Happle’s inclinometers are usually labeled “The Bradford Union Mfg. Co. Bradford, PA.” It brought a winning bid of $1,540.

Wood Plow Planes The Israel White No. 106 three– arm self-regulating plow plane, with a handled beech body anc ebony side arms, was clearly the star of this category. There are only two known Israel White three-arm plows that arE handled and this is the only one with factory installed steel rollers in the fence. Israel White (1804 1839) worked as a plane maker at Callowhill & Fourth Street in Philadelphia from 1831-1839.

This great plane had been professionally cleaned and was in good+ or better condition. It brought the highest price of the day selling for $21,450. Its age, rarity, and technical innovation made it a very important Philadelphia plane. It was not surprising that it seized the magical moment and the highest price of the auction.

A very nice Sandusky Tool Co. No. 141 center wheel self-regulating plow plane, in beautiful mellow boxwood with six ivory tips, was a little under appreciated at $9,350.

An absolutely beautiful, and quite rare, Sandusky No. 137 handled ebony plow plane with four ivory tips sold for $4,180.

An E. W. Carpenter, Lancaster, PA (1791 – 1856) boxwood plow plane nicely highlighted with rosewood nuts, washers, fence and wedge, and with improved arms, patented February 6, 1838, brought a strong $3,300. Plow planes by E. W. Carpenter have a very special visual character, which, in combination with their historical significance, helps them achieve very strong prices.

Patented Metallic Planes

The plane on the cover of the auction catalogue was an E. H. Morris diamond soled metallic smooth plane patented November 8,1870, and made by the Sandusky Tool Company. Besides being a scarce model of the Morris smooth plane, it was one of a few that were decorated in the factory with a sheaf of wheat design on the body, wedge, handle, and front knob. An unusual plane that appealed to a number of bidders, it sold for $5,830. The more often seen model of the Morris diamond soled metallic smooth plane had an attractive floral pattern cast on the upper surface of the bed and was similar to the two longer planes in the series: a Morris patented jointer, and a jack plane. The jointer, in excellent condition, brought $2,530 while the jack plane, with a bruised wedge and handle, sold for $2,090.

Lot 672, a Metallic Plane Co. No. 11 non-adjustable filletster and rabbet plane with screw attached skewed cutter, a narrow sliding fence with low relief floral decorations cast in its face, sold for a surprising $4,180, exceeding the high estimate by a good margin. The Metallic Plane Co. made several variations of the No. 11 filletster and rabbet plane including some with a rack and pinion adjustment and bulbous lever cap, and some with a very attractive and delicate filigree fence.

A Bailey No. 3 size vertical post plane with a thin parallel Bailey iron, stamped with the very rare Bailey, Woods & Co. logo, had the extra narrow mouth opening that Bailey used in later examples that were fitted with his thin parallel irons. It was in good++ condition, except for an improper replacement lever cap, and sold for $5,500.

Stanley Tools

The auction was exceptionally rich in Stanley-in-the-Box items, with more than 160 lots in that category. Items that are hard to find in the original labeled box, that are in unused condition and in boxes, and that are in fine condition commanded the strongest prices.

A Stanley No. 57 Core Box Plane, in near new condition and in a fine– picture labeled box brought $1,870.

One of the most popular of all Stanley tools, a No. 1 smooth plane, that had a little light use but still retained 97% of its japanning, in a worn and taped box sold for $1,870. The modest price reflects the importance of both tool and box being in exceptional condition.

A Stanley No. 444 Dovetail Plane in mint condition and complete with cutters, spur blocks, and instructions, in a fine cardboard box brought $1,760. The No. 444 is often found in the box, but seldom found with all of the nickel plating present.

A set of special cutters for the Stanley No. 55 plane, in four labeled cardboard boxes brought $1,265.

A Stanley No. 62 low-angle jack plane, rarely found in the box, in fine condition and in an excellent box brought $1,072.50

There were three Stanley Bedrock bench planes in original boxes with red labels. A No. 603 Smooth Plane with a little use and in a slightly faded box brought $935. A No. 604 smooth plane, near new, and in a fine box, realized $1,045. A mint No. 605 jack plane in a box which had tape on the corner of the label, sold for $907.50.

A Stanley No. 1 Odd Jobs, seldom found with the original rule, in new condition and in a fine box, sold for $605. An earlier No. 1 Odd Jobs, complete with the scribe and in mint condition, but in a worn green labeled box, only brought $275.

Other Great Tools

The auction included three handsaws of great distinction. The first of the handsaws had an eagle with glass eyes carved in both sides of an extension off the top of the handle. The handle was clad on both sides with thick copper plates and attached with four screws in a straight line with a fifth screw at right angles off the top screw. Although the saw was undoubtedly labeled at one time, it was no longer legible. But the shape of the wood handle and a discussion with a handsaw collector and researcher suggested the saw may have been made by Woodrough and McParlin. This very rare saw sold to an absentee bidder on the opening bid for $2,640.

Lot 636 was a Panther saw by Woodrough and McParlin. The saw handle was covered by design patent No.11603, January 13,1880. It had a very attractive panther’s head carved into both sides of the handle and sold for $1,650.

Lot 637 was the highly sought after Henry Disston No. 43 combination saw, rule, level and scribe. It was in good+ condition and brought $1,815.

A really superb, 151/2 inch high, double “Lady” calipers, with 75% original red japanning, slipped by for a bargain basement price of $522.50.

Antique tools are obviously maturing as a major category of collectable antiques. As in other fields of collectables, stellar examples of important pieces are bringing higher and higher prices while ordinary items in average condition are merely plodding along. The average price realized for the 758 lots in the auction, nearly $450 per lot, was almost exactly in the middle of the range of estimated prices.

Brown Auction Services will hold the 21st International Antique Tool Auction November 1-2, 2002 at the Sheraton Inn, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. See all of you in Harrisburg in November.

Early Wood Planes at the Brown Auction

By David Englund

Seattle, Washington

Oddly enough, auction prices on early crown moulders were strong.

A really nice B. Sheneman double iron crown had that look. Massive and 6 5/8″ wide, it produced spirited bidding in the room, bringing $6,270, far over the $3,500 top estimate.

A D. Lose crown moulding starter estimated at $150-250, brought $660. It was 3 3/4″ wide and resembled a large radius rounding plane with depth stops on either side and an integral fence. Crown moulding starters that have been seen used in demonstrations are more like a plow with a V-shaped sole. Maybe this was a wooden water pipe plane.

Two Isaac Field (1781-1860) planes brought good money. One, a 5 1/8 ” wide beech crown with a somewhat offset tote brought $1,430. The other, a 2″ wide birch moulder with a deep S-curve profile sold for $687, well above its $250-450 estimate.

While early crown moulders did well, early wood moulding planes brought lower prices.

Lot 658, F.Nicholson Living in Wrentham (1683/4-1753) was estimated at $900-1,200 and brought $1,045. There was damage in two places on the moulding surface, and the wedge had been improperly replaced. What made this plane notable was that the name had been stamped upside down.

A rare Ion Ballow, Providence (1723-1770) 1″ wide bead in yellow birch, with a somewhat weak mark, brought $522, against the estimate $800-1,200.

An I. Walton in Reading (17501824) 3/a”-wide ogee in yellow birch brought $467 against its estimate of $750-1,000. One third of the sole had been replaced.

By John G. Wells

Berkeley, California

Copyright Early American Industries Association Jul/Aug 2002

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