Bench Planes (Wooden)

                                                                             WOODEN BENCH PLANES

This section includes Smoothing Planes, Jack Planes, Technical Jack Planes, Trying Planes, German Jack or Roughing Planes, Skew or Badger Planes and Mitre Shuteing Planes.

There is no mention of any plane sold by MARPLES that can be found in the 1846 Broadsheet, but in the 1862 Catalogue we find the following bench planes listed, but with no Item numbers.

The 1873 Catalogue shows the same planes as being offered but now they are given an Item number:

We see this in 1897:

And in 1909:

From the 1928 Catalogue:

This catalogue states that the planes were also available in the celebrated ‘John Moseley & Son‘ make.  But both the Marples branded and ‘John Moseley & Son’ branded planes were exactly the same, only with different name stamps, because they were all produced on the same benches by the same craftsmen.

The 1938 issue states the price in line with the plane number:

By 1959 we see these pages:

The last ‘Shamrock‘ [hand made] planes were produced by a single workman,  Mr Albert Bock  [below], around 1964-6, and after that time only the BB Wooden planes and a brief issue of ‘other wooden planes‘       were offered . [see those sections available from the Main menu] .  Both of these planes  were certainly not up to the same standard as the ‘Shamrock‘ brand.

Beginning at 1909, I have constructed the table below to help to give you a reference as to what planes were issued and when they may have been de-listed.  I only started at 1909 because of the amount of work needed to go back even further, and there are many other types of wooden planes that I must report on that demand my attention.   The table below here explains the necessary short forms need to interpret the main table because  there is simply not enough space in a table format to write out the full description of a plane AND get in the ‘years’ information .



These very basic bench planes were available from MARPLES since  1862 and were always made by craftsmen from John Moseley and Son.  More details can be found in the pages shown above as there were planes with steel soles etc. , but I will limit my discussion here to those pure Beechwood ‘Shamrock‘ Smoothing Planes that were sold from 1897 to 1963

The ‘Toy Plane’ [#2728] at 6″ long and having a 1.1/8″ wide thick unmarked single blade, is first seen in 1909, but is not mentioned in 1921 or after that time. { It did reappear in the ‘BB‘ series of planes and then continued in the 1965 Beechwood Bench planes.}  It  does have a 1.1/2″ wide blade like the BB series. The wedge is the same as the BB Toy plane, so I cannot tell when this plane was made!! It has the common MARPLES stamp on the toe, but I believe it was still made in the era of Hamptons owning MARPLES c.1990  It is therefore not a true ‘Shamrock‘ hand made plane. It would appear that Hamptons used the old stampings on their new issues of wooden planes introduced in c.1965. after the demise of the ‘BB‘ series. {see the section named ‘Other Wooden Planes‘ in the index.]


The usual Smoothing planes were first seen in 1861/2 and had blades of 2.1/8″; 2.1/4″; 2.3/8″ and 2.1/2″ and by 1873 a 2″ size had been added. 1897 sees the same line-up, as did 1909 but then the numbers were all changed [see table above],+ an option of having Boxwood Striking nubs was offered and, at extra cost, the blade could be a Parallel Iron as opposed to the regular Tapered Iron. In 1928 the planes could be had with the John Moseley & Son imprint and in 1959 the sizes offered were changed to 1.3/4″; 2″; 2.1/8″and 2.1/4″. All four sizes seem to have been withdrawn around 1963.  Generally the bases and wedges were pencil numbered [in arabic numerals] so as to keep the 2 matched pieces together, as that was how they were individually produced. The blades were generally all tapered, and these had a solid cast steel lower insert welded into the blade to act as the superior cutting edge. You can see this insert on the edge of the blade and/or as a line on the inferior side of the blade. Generally this insert seems to be resistant to rust.

The stamped mark on the front of the planes seems to be consistent throughout production, but Hibernia may have been omitted after the War.  

The long MARPLES water transfers may have been applied on the left hand side of these planes from about 1905 [not confirmed as yet],  but the later planes [after 1950?] also had a round transfer on the wedge and the longer one applied to the side of the body.


Probably after 1962 the planes had a MARPLES mark impressed onto the top of the toe section of the planes.[below][readable from the back]  although these planes did not have an impressed mark on the Cap Iron.   But around 1960, or before, the cap iron had a 1″ wide stamped motif as shown below right.


The box labels of all the MARPLES planes seem to follow a common design, but I do not [yet] know when these labels were started or ended.

The different width blades commanded a different length of base, such that the 2.1/8″ blade had a 8″ wooden base and the 2″ blade had a 7.5/8″ wooden base length.

The Wooden MARPLES planes had an insert in the box describing how to treat/not treat MARPLES planes, it probably was included until c.1963, but I cannot say when this practise was started:

                                                                                  The mark on the toe [above]  looks similar to the c.1960 Cap Iron marking.


Sometimes known as ‘FORE PLANES‘.

Most of the points mentioned under SMOOTHING PLANES would apply to these larger planes. The Jack Plane was a staple from day one and was available in 1862 with blade widths of 2″ ; 2.1/8″ and 2.1/4″. In 1873 the plane is listed as being available in 14″-17″ lengths [not specified] and in blade widths of 2″; 2.1/8″; 2.1/4″; 2.3/8″and 2.1/2″. Also the first 3 widths were available as single-iron or double-iron. By 1897 only double-iron planes were offered, but you have to look at the 1897 extracts above to see the variety of Jack Planes on sale at that time.  But in 1897 a Jack Plane variety was first offered  ‘with sunk handles’ extra cost. [This became later known as a ‘Technical Jack Plane’].  1909 shows the same sizes offered  [#2760;2761;2762;2763;2764 ] with Parallel irons being extra, Boxwood striking nubs being extra and Closed handles being extra.  Again there were other varieties of planes available, but too numerous to mention here. See the catalogue photos above.   1921, 1928 and 1938 Catalogues show exactly the same offerings and extras as before.  But there is less variety of planes available at this time.  [One I have never seen is the #2785 Steel-faced C.C. Double Iron Jack Plane 17″ long with a 2.1/4″ blade].  And then came WWII. The Black hole of information.  The 1959 Catalogue shows some changes, which may have come into force before then. The #2760 Cast steel Double Iron Jack Planes had an Open Handle and #2770 Planes had a Closed Handle.  The 2″ width blade is now [+ maybe before 1959] only available in the 16″ size and the 2.1/8″; 2.1/4″ and 2.1/2″ are all only as 17″long and the 2.3/8″ size is no more.  There is no mention of these planes in the No.15  1965 Catalogue but they are shown in the April 1964 ‘Price List to Catalogue 1959′.  These planes were therefore delisted or withdrawn around late 1964. 

Below are some good photos of Jack Planes:

Plane#1  This plane is totally mint and is in the original box. It has a 2″ wide blade and is 16″ long.[c.1955<]  I note here that the front MARPLES mark has the word HIBERNIA in it, so that shows that HIBERNIA was still in use at that time.  The blade is stamped with an ‘M‘ mark; ‘Sheffield’ and ‘England’. [see below] The wedge and side of the plane have the correct water transfers, and the top of the toe has the 1.1/4″ circular MARPLES impression [that can only be read from the back of the plane]  The cap iron has the oval stamped mark and the toe has a 1.1/2″ wide impression as shown below.  2IN is stamped into the heel.


Plane#2.    My Second Plane shows some differences:

It is 2.1/4″ wide blade, and 17″ long.  It has no water transfers. The different toe imprint is 1.1/2″ wide:

HIBERNIA is shown on the blade, but no mention here of ‘Sheffield‘ or of ‘England‘.  Therefore C.1890? Which explains it having no transfers, since these were introduced, I think,  around 1905.   There is a letter mark here of ‘L‘.   Heel marking of 2.1/4 but no ‘IN‘ seen.   Is the exclusion of the INches mark  any indicator of the age of the plane?. But again I have to research as to when the blades had a stamp that included a Letter, and what did this Letter denote…  A year number or a position number on the ‘tree’ of the casting?

Below is a fine example of a Closed handle Jack Plane:


These essential bench planes are also named ‘Razee’ planes as they are cut down in height towards the rear of the plane, thus putting the user’s hand closer to the work surface and getting more thrust. [The word comes from the razee ship conversion wherein the upper decks are ‘razed’ ( lowered) to make the ship lighter and faster]. They are first seen in the 1897 catalogue wherein they are described only as ‘with sunken handles’ at 1 shilling extra. At that times they could be had in 14-17″ lengths and with blade widths of: 2″; 2.1/8″; 2.1/4″; 2.3/8″; and 2.1/2″.  Boxwood striking nubs towards the toe could be purchased for 3d extra.  In 1909 they are officially named as Technical Jack Planes but now only available as #2790  1.3/4″ and #2791  2″ in either 14″or 15″ long only.  Boxwood nubs have now become standard.

There were no changes to these configurations up to and including  the 1938 Catalogue.

In 1959 [ and probably introduced before then] only#2790 was shown and available in 1.3/4″ and 2″ blade widths with a length of 14″ , priced 45/-.   For the first time a closed handle plane was offered at 47/-.    The last Price List inclusion is April 1962, and therefore I assume these planes were not offered after c.1963.

It would appear that the older planes had a toe stamping  of 1″ across and were also stamped on the Wedge as being Wm.Marples & Sons, Sheffield.  To and from dates unknown.  When the move to the larger 1.1/2″ wide toe stamp is also unknown, but the side transfer was introduced first and then both transfers later. Later still these transfers were totally dropped, probably just before 1963, when I have a plane [shown below] that is totally polished and with a linseed oiled sole.  This plane has a flattened Boxwood button, a cap iron marking; no blade letter stamp; and with a Polished Cap iron and Blade/Cap Iron screw!!  At this juncture I am unsure as to whether this plane was ‘owner’ modified!!.

There is a maker’s mark on it of ‘Albert Bock’.

The next interesting Technical Jack plane is an edition from around 1960? which has no Cap Iron mark, no letter stamp on the blade, both water transfers and a 1.1/2″ wide toe stamp. It is mint in the box and is therefore ‘correct’.  It is a 2″ and 14″ plane and again made by Albert Bock.


But here [above] is a perfect example as to how to tell a handmade plane from a machine made plane. The slot to accomodate the Cap-Iron/Blade screw of a Shamrock plane ends as a square chiselled slot, whereas that of a machine made plane ends in the rounded end of a ‘routered’ slot.[shown right above]

Below is a great Closed Handle Technical Jack Plane:


These larger Bench planes were used in the final trueing up of an edge or of a flat surface because they traversed the slight hollows produced by the smaller Jack planes. They were only ever available with a closed handle, which is a stronger handle than an open handle and was needed because of the weight of these planes.

In 1862 they appear as being available as 22″ and 24″ and this range had increased to include 26″; 28″ and 30″ by 1873.  The 1897 catalogue lists the same sizes but now states the blade widths to be 2.1/2″.

The 1909 catalogue shows that by then the 30″ size had been dropped from production, but that now Parallel Irons and Boxwood Striking Nubs could be had at extra cost.  [like 3d!] The planes were numbered 2794-2797.  The 1928 and 1938 Catalogues show no changes from 1909.  But after the war in 1959 only Item# 2794 was available as 22” long with a 2.1/2″ iron, but with no Boxwood Nub being offered.

I have noted some small differences that may destinguish older planes from more recent examples.  The older style has a smaller hand opening in the handle and the top horn is more pointed. [on left below]:

Older Style has the Cap Iron marked ‘Warranted Steel’ [left below]as opposed to the newer oval mark.

Older planes are 3.5/16″ wide, newer are 3.1/8″ wide. Older have a 15/16″ wide toe stamp [below left] whereas the newer planes have the 1.1/2″ wide toe stamp.  Older planes may not have the blade size marked on the heel, although the newer ones had a stamp, but without any ‘inch‘ designation..

Here is a #2794 at 22″ with a 2.1/2″ cutter:

Recently I acquired a Trying plane that I suggest was among the last produced c.1964 and it has various differences from before as well as having no MARPLES impression on the Cap iron.
It has no MARPLES impressed mark stamped into the toe.  It does have a printed MARPLES mark on the face above the toe, but this is printed in a metallic blue colour. But of note is that the chamfer vertically applied to the 2 leading edges is ommitted!   See below:

Same Label

I do not know whether these above differences were applied across the whole range of MARPLES Wooden Bench planes.


These are first seen in my 1897 Catalogue, although they may have been itroduced earlier than that, but definitely after 1873.  There were 3 sizes with Single German Steel blades… as shown below in the 1897 Cat:

The same sizes were offered in 1909  but the numbers had been changed to 2820;2821 and 2822. The 1921 Cat. was exactly the same, but by 1928 the Name had been changed to ‘Roughing or Scrub Planes’ because they were not made from German Steel any more [I wonder why!?] and the numbers were changed again to 2850; 2851 and 2852.  Same sizes but now with Cast Steel blades. Around 1929 the #2850 [1.1/4″ x 10″] was dropped from the line. The 2 sizes left [2851 and 2852]were carried on until they were no longer shown in the March 1937 Mini Catalogue.  These planes are quite rare to find, let alone in good condition, because of the work to which they were subjected.


These planes are listed [not shown] in the 1862 Catalogue , but seemingly are missed from the 1873 and 1897 Catalogues.  I do not know why they were omitted.  They  do appear again in the 1909 Catalogue as shown below:

At this time the 17″ long plane with a 2.1/4″ Double Iron blade was number #2827 but with a #2828 which was ‘Box-edged’.   This availability continued until 1938.  My next refernce is the 1959 Catlaogue in which is listed only the #2527.  The latest Price listing I have is in April 1962 at a price of 90/- [90 shillings], so I assume the plane was not available after c.1963, which ties in with the fact that skilled craftsmen were simply not available or needed around that time.


These planes are listed in 1862 Cat. as ‘Mitre plane common’ and as ‘Mitre plane best with box front’. There are no pictures to show us what they meant by this.  It is curious, as in the case of the Badger planes, that these Shuteing planes are not listed in either the 1873 or the 1897 Catalogues!  They re-appear as Items #2985-2991 in the 1909 Catalogue.

But note here that #2988 is shown as being 22″ long with a 3″ single iron. [see later under 1959 Cat.]        By the 1921 Catalogue only the #2985;2986 and 2987 are listed. The year 1928 shows the same information…

In 1938 the same scenario is shown,  but by 1959 only a #2988 is listed, but this is not the #2988 of 1909 as it is truncated to a 17″ long plane having a 2.1/4″ single iron skew mouth.

These planes are last listed in the Price List of April 1962 and therefore were probably discontinued around 1963, due to the lack of skilled craftsmen able to produce these planes and/or because of the lack of demand for this type of plane.



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