The Pocket Catalogue of February 1933 introduced a new line of wooden planes called ‘BB‘ Brand Beechwood Planes. ‘BB‘ officially standing for ‘British Beechwood‘, The above quote from the 1938 Hard Cover Catalogue is significant, although it does not mention that these planes were introduced as a lower priced competitor to MARPLES ‘Shamrock Brand‘ Hand Made Planes and also does not indicate that these were machine made planes [only indicating that these planes were priced lower because of ‘new manufacturing methods’]. They are first seen in the February 1933 Pocket catalogue, but it is strange that they are not shown previously with any fanfare or indication that they have been ‘newly introduced’, which leads me to suspect that they may have been on the market for a few months prior to that date. The quality was always not equal to the hand made planes and the range of planes available was quite limited. The different planes were introduced at different times and not all together on one date…see the sections below. However they were good quality user planes for anybody but the strict Master Craftsman. It is strange that MARPLES never did ascribe Item numbers to these planes and they were always listed by name only. It is hard to judge, given insufficient evidence, whether these planes were produced during the War, but it would stand to reason that the Hand made ‘Shamrock Brand‘ planes may have thus suffered in favour of the Machine made ‘BB‘ planes during that confrontation. [Because many of the Hand Craftsmen would have been conscripted into the Forces]. I also cannot presently state that all the planes were supplied in cardboard boxes as I have only seen boxed examples in some of the planes, but it seems most likely. Below you will see a small leaflet that was included with BB planes to indicate that only a very light coat of Linseed Oil ‘occasionally‘ was recommended. So many of these planes turn up with an incorrect full coat finish. All these planes would be supplied with ‘Tapered blades’, as opposed to ‘Parallel blades’ and the ‘BB‘ planes were not made from the same quality ‘Quarter Sawn’ Beech as the Hand made planes…..you will find some slightly inferior wood here, more so in the later issues. The 19cm x 14cm advert [below] is c.1933.
Therefore I will be writing about the individual planes and will try to show you good examples of each, all except were I cannot locate photographs. Please acknowledge that all dates are plus/minus 3 months.
Double Iron Smoothing Planes:
These planes were introduced in Feb 1933 in blade widths of 2″; 2.1/8″; and 2.1/4″. The 1.3/4″ size was first available in Sept. 1935.
But around March 1964 only the 2″ and 2.1/4″ are listed. They are not listed in Cat. #15 of 1965 so may have been available 2/33 – 6/64. The introductory prices varied according to size and were 5/6d – 6/- each.
You may find this Mark on the later planes:
Single Iron Smooth Plane:
This is a small almost one-handed block plane of 6″ long and having a blade 1.1/2″ wide. It is eventually described as being of Polished Beechwood, the only wooden plane so described, as MARPLES always issued their planes with no additional surface coating. So why this plane is Polished is a mystery. Available 12/34-6/64 and introduced costing 3/- each. Listings after c.1954 seem to call this plane a ‘Toy‘ Smooth Plane.
Double Iron Trying Planes:
These planes were 22″ long with a 2.1/2″ wide blade and only ever supplied with a closed handle. Available 2/33 – 6/62 In 1938….10/- each… but a ‘Price Reduction‘ insert in this Catalogue states that the price is 10/6d!!
Double Iron Jack Planes:
These planes were supplied in 3 sizes: 16″ long with a 2″ blade; 17″ x 2.1/8“; and 17″ x 2.1/4″. Available 2/33-6/64, but in March 1964 only the 2″ and 2.1/4″ sizes are listed. From early 1950s onwards they were available with either an ‘Open’ or ‘Closed‘ handle.
Double Iron Technical Jack Planes:
These planes were slightly smaller than the Double Iron Jack Planes, had a Boxwood striking nub in front of the mouth and a stepped down [‘sunk’] lower rear handle area. [These characteristics were shared with the ‘Shamrock Brand‘ Hand Made planes.] They were manufactured in 2 sizes, 14″ long with a 1.3/4″ wide blade and 14″ x 2″. Available 2/33- 6/64. 1933 prices are 9/- each. From early 1950s onwards they were available with either an ‘Open’ or ‘Closed‘ handle.
Skew Rabbet Planes:
These came initially [2/33] in 3 sizes of 1″; 1.1/4″; and 1.1/2″. All priced at 3/6d in 1933. In 4/35 the 3/4″ size was introduced. Available 2/33-6/64, although in March 1964 only the 1″ and 1.1/4″ were offered.
Adjustable Rabbet and Fillister Plane:
This adjustable [‘moving’] bottom fence plane came with a 1.1/2″ wide cutter. It was offered for sale between 1/34 and 6/62.
Fixed Grooving Planes :
These were first supplied in 2/33 with a single 3/16″ Iron and could be had for 4/- in 2/33 & 3/3d each in 1938. They were available for only a short time between 2/33 and 6/40. Another victim of Mr. Hilter!
Moving Grooving Planes:
Although these planes may sound very ‘Hip’ they served a worthwhile function. Introduced in 2/33 at 6/6d each they came with 3 blades, 1/8″; 3/16″ and 1/4″ widths. A ‘Price Reduction‘ insert in the 1938 Cat states their new price as 5/6d each. These planes were available 2/33- 6/62.
Plough Planes (Wedge Stems) :
These always came with a matched set of 8 Irons [1/8″- 9/16″] and the complete plane could be initially bought for 15/- in 2/33. These planes also had a Screw Stop plate actuated by a brass Thumbturn screw on the top of the plane. Available 2/33- 6/62.
Plough Planes (Screw Stem):
Again, below is another casualty of Mr. Hilter in that this plane was only available 12/34- 6/40. The arms and securing nuts each side of the body were all of Beech, but the nuts were ‘polished’. 1933 price of 17/6d each.
Single Iron Roughing Planes:
The real introduction of this plane is in question. It is first seen in the May 1938 Hard Back Cat. but does not show in the October 1938 Pocket Cat. or even that of the March 1940 Pocket Cat. Perhaps nobody remembered to update these smaller Catalogues?? They were issued with Square Irons as standard in 3 widths, 1.1/2″; 1.3/4″ and 2″, but round nose Irons could be supplied at the same price on request. It would therefore appear that this plane was available 5/38 – 6/62. Because they were ‘Roughing’ planes and subjected to hard use in hogging down a board’s surface not too many of these planes can be found intact. Therefore they may now be considered to be somewhat ‘rare’.
BB Plane Labels:
So far I have found only 2 styles of paper labels that were affixed to the Left hand side of the BB plane bodies. I believe that the BLUE label is the earlier version and may have been replaced by the more colourful variety around 1936. This earlier version indicates ‘BRITISH BEECHWOOD‘ whereas the later coloured variety shows ‘BEST BEECH‘.
The Wedge label seen below is quite rare and it is a wonder that any at all survived. I do not know when these labels were used, but probably only on the older BB planes.
The cardboard box always had the colourful label, shown below, attached to the Top of the box. But I have discovered that 2 styles of this label exist, shown right below. You will note that the label marked ‘Best Beechwood’ appears to be later than the one marked ‘British Beechwood’. [Also note that the ‘British Beechwood’ label shows that the plane is made of ‘Fine Selected English Grown Beechwood’].
And the end of box label followed these lines:
BB Planes ‘stamp’.
The image below depicts the only stamp that was used to mark the Toe of all BB planes.