M40 Plane Study

The M40 Plane was listed in all catalogues as a Grooving Plane and as  with Adjustable Depth Gauge and Adjustable Fence. Complete with 3 Cutters, 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″. Will cut grooves 1/2″deep up to 3″ from edge.   In all catalogues it appeared with exactly the same line drawing.

The M40 appears first in the September 1935 catalogue listed at 6/6d, and it makes its’ last appearance in the March 1964 edition of catalogue P61.  However the March 1964 Price List does not list this plane. It is not listed in the D65/4 April 1965 Price List either.  This 4/65 list does however show the MA43, the direct improved double arm descendant of M40.
Here follows a synopsis of M40 prices as I have noted to date:
9/35-3/40          6/6d.
11/51                    16/6d.
9/55                    18/6d
1/61                     22/-
4/61                    22/6d
9/61                    25/- Catalogue P61
4/62                   25/-
3/64              still listed as available in 3/64 P61 Catalogue….see above.

In 1962 Wm MARPLES & Sons was bought out by RECORD [C&J Hampton Ltd] and the M40 survived intact until around March 1964.   But around early 1965 the frame was changed to support double arms for the fence. (A superior method of holding the fence as the single arm fence tends to spin around in use because the user cannot tighten the arm sufficiently to lock it into place, altogether a poor design).  The new 2 arm design was called the MA43, however this design had been used by RECORD since approx 1935, so it is a mystery as to why MARPLES never copied this design improvement from the start.   From the very few examples in my collection, from which I can draw conclusions, there appear to be only 6 major Types of the M40, as outlined below. I have listed any differences under the headings: Body; Lever Cap and screw; Fence and Rod; Thumbscrews and Depth Fence; Box and Label. The M40 was always supplied with 3 blades and these were always unmarked. [1/8″; 3/16″; 1/4″] and were packed inside a small brown paper envelope [or later within a plastic wallet] within the box.

Type 1:
The first issue of the M40 was described as having Nickel-plated fittings but this does not mean that the whole plane was plated. I believe that the body and fence were painted Black and with a Red Lever cap.

Body dimension heel to toe was 13.6cm.[Although the 9/35 Catalogue indicates 5.1/2″ which is 14cm]

As can be seen, the Type 1 Lever Cap [above] was painted RED.  The Cap screw head seems to be plated and is 14mm diameter x 6mm deep, and chamfered slightly on the top edge with fine knurling.                           The thumbscrews are plated and are 18mm wide x 9.5mm deep at the thumb area, and have no knurled central diamond pattern. (only seen later) and in all other aspects the casting is exactly the same as other ‘Types’.

Fence: Was 3.3/16th” long.
In this Type 1 [compared to Type 1A below] it should be noted that the hole size for the rod in the fence is 3/8″ diameter, which is much larger than any rod subsequently issued for the M40.  Type 1 existed until may be June 1937, because I have a plane of that date showing the smaller 9/32″diameter rod.[Type 1A].     Note the larger diameter rod hole on the Type 1  fence shown on the left in the above photo.

Type 1A:   Is exactly as per Type 1 but with a smaller diameter fence rod.


Above  is a Type 1A box Label. 

Type 2:   The M40 was produced throughout the War but had a ‘Cadmium’ plated finish applied  [similar to RECORD planes] so as to comply with Ministry of Supply Order No. 1048.  Could this mean Oct 1948? This finish is described by  MARPLES as ‘Rustless plated’ and I note that as early as 3/36 MARPLES lists Rustless plated on some of their planes.  This Cadmium finish is quite rough to the touch and is Dull compared to a Nickel finish.
My example below  indicates a price placed on the article of 13/6d, no matter when it sold. This would put the date as around 1946?
[The rod diameter and depth of Lever Cap screw both remained reduced at this time.] These were all Cadmium plated but in all other respects were exactly the same as Type 1A, except that the Lever Cap screw head seems to be reduced in depth and with coarser cross knurling.  The MARPLES lettering on the base is again highlighted in Red. This Type 2 may have been produced until around 1944/5, when Red paint was introduced. The fence rod seems to be still Nickel plated and is 11.8cm long and 7mm in diameter.. The body remains 13.6cm long. The wing bolts are Nickel Plated[?] and again do not have any central ‘Diamond’ raised pattern.

The Box end label [shown below] is exactly the same as Type 1A.  The box lid is 14.7cm long x 7cm wide and 4cm deep.

The Box top label shows some differences to Type 1A in that the ‘Wm MARPLES‘ etc printing is in Black, whereas Type 1A box shows this as Gold.

Type 3:
Probably 1944/5  onwards. Body and Fence are both painted Red and are still 13.6cm long.
Lever Cap: Painted Black. The screw head appears to be again less deep than Type 1  but has fine vertical knurling.
Thumbscrews: seem to have a central Diamond shaped raised casting .


Type 4:
This Type was manufactured from at least  1954 onwards, and probably just before this date. .
Body: The Body is Nickel plated and the ‘MARPLES’ letters cast onto the RHS of the ‘handle’ are highlighted in Red paint. The total body is now 13cms in length.

Lever Cap and Screw:

The Lever Cap is still painted Red and the screw is nickel plated. The screw thread is 5mm diameter and has a 13mm diameter head with deep coarse knurling.  Each edge of the screw head is chamfered.

Fence and Rod: The nickel plated fence is 8cm long and 14mm high. The single Rod is 7mm in diameter and 11.8cm long and has a circular indentation close to the outer end.   The function of this indentation is unknown to me.

Thumbscrews: These are nickel plated, 14mm wide and 9mm deep at the oval thumb part and have a central Diamond cast pattern. [as seen above]

Depth Fence: The plate portion is Nickel Plated and 2mm thick, 6.6cm long and 12.5mm wide

Box and Label:   The box lid is 14.7cm long and 7.2cm wide and 3cm deep. The end label is fixed to the end of the box lid and is mounted slightly over the top of the box lid.

Type 5:

Body: The Body has now been increased up again to 13.5cm long . This dimension is indicated in the ‘Woodworker Magazine’ of January 1961, so Type 5 may have been manufactured since a little before this time.
There is also a change in the casting since Type 4 castings have a fine stippling to the finger grip area whereas Type 5 castings show a much coarser stippling. [shown here [below] with Type 5 being below in the photo]
You will also note that the lettering is slightly different, in that the letters used to cast the word ‘MARPLES‘ [especially the ‘S‘] are not the same.

Below is Type 4 shown with Type 5 below .


Fence and Rod: As before.

Lever Cap:  Still is Red.

Thumbscrews: The Thumbscrews are still nickel plated and have raised central Diamond type castings, which are now smaller at 13mm diameter and 8mm deep.
Depth Fence: Same as before.

Box and Label: The box lid has of necessity been increased in size to 14.7cm long and 7.2cm in width with a depth of 3.8cm. This therefore allowed the end label to be applied totally to the end of the box lid with no overlay applied to the top surface. [cf Type 3]

Type 6:

The example below is from a time when the spare cutters were delivered in a red plastic wallet.  But of interest is the fact that the Box is much larger!

But there is a disparity here…. The thumbscrews have a diamond pattern of 13 X 8mm? and the MARPLES raised mark on the handle is more in line with the Type 4 design than the Type 5?  Body length is still 13 cm.
The box is 5″ x 5.1/2″ x 2.1/2″.

It simply cannot be that MARPLES would introduce a box designed to house the whole plane and then downsize again to a smaller box that requires the owner to build the plane from its’ parts.  Unless my one example is totally incorrect.  Can you see now the problems involved in Type casting a plane??
Nevertheless at a marked retail of 25/- on the box I can only assume that Type 6 planes were available from c.September 1961 onwards.
Photos of my ‘Type 6‘ are below:

General , Box and Labels:

The box on the left is dated September 1960 and is 2.7/8″wide, 1.1/4″ deep and 5.3/4″long [Type 4]
The box in the middle is 2.7/8″ wide 1.9/16″ deep and 5.3/4″ long. [Type 5]
The oldest box on the right [dated 6/37] is 2.5/8″ wide, 1.5/8″ deep and 5.3/4″ long [Type 1]


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