Prefabricated Planes


MARPLES Beechwood Adjustable Bench Planes No. 2690 and No. 2691 were a brave attempt by MARPLES to combine the ‘feel’ of a wooden plane with the blade adjustments available on a metal bench plane. They could therefore be considered to be ‘Transitionals’ like those STANLEY planes. The planes were advertised as ‘prefabricated’ with an adjustable cast iron frog held inside a four piece quartersawn red beech body which was put together with strong resin glue. The planes were shaped to look like metal hand planes and were maybe cheaper to produce than full metal planes. They offered the feel of a wood plane with the repeatability of easy blade adjustment and placement inherent in a metal frog. Unfortunately the general public did not support this venture sufficiently to make a success of this great idea which resulted in the planes only being manufactured for a brief period. The fact that C&J Hampton took over MARPLES in 1962, and cheapened these planes in their construction is certainly what would have hastened their demise.
Since the only differences between the two planes was in their length, I decided to treat them both under one study.
The No. 2690 was a Smoothing plane and No. 2691 was a Jack Plane. One of the first adverts c.1961 is shown below.

After a couple of years the design of the planes was recognised by the Design Centre of Great Britain and then a triangular sticker was applied to the box lid to advertise this award, as shown below. A page from Catalogue No.15 in 1965 is shown below that.

The first reference that I can find to these planes being offered for sale is in early 1961, they do not appear in the 1959 hard-back MARPLES catalogue. By November 1969 both planes are listed as ‘withdrawn’.

  • Here are some dates with prices     for 2690        for 2691
  •                                       May 1960              32/6d              40/-
  •                                      April 1961               35/9d              44/-
  •                          September 1961               35/9d              44/-
  •                                October 1962               37/9d              46/3d
  •                                   March 1964               40/6d             50/6d
  •                                      April 1965                42/-               54/-
  •                                       May 1966                46/3d             59/6d

The planes both remained roughly the same dimensions throughout their manufacture being 2.3/4″ wide times 10″and 14.1/8″ long respectively.
I will attempt to show the different ‘Types‘ of these planes as time went by, but only the differences will be explained, all other points being the same as the previous ‘Type‘.

Type 1:
Both planes have a Beechwood open handle secured into a milled slot in the base by resin glue. The word MARPLES is longitudinally impressed into the top of the front ‘boss’ This impression is the single most easy way to identify a Type 1, for it was dropped in Type 2 and beyond.
A colourful MARPLES water transfer was applied to the left hand side of each plane. Type 1 was made until at least 1963.

Cap Iron:
The cap iron is made from stamped steel and painted a silver hammered colour on the top surface only, the underside remains as clean steel. The top edge is shaped to indicate the ‘CORRECT ANGLE FOR GRINDING‘.  The cap iron screw shows coarse vertical knurling
I have recently discovered through purchases that some Type 1s had Cap Irons that were not painted with the hammered silver finish and this may have endured until at least 1963. Unfortunately, I am unable to pin down any dates or reasons why this should be so but I do not think that this is because the original items were later replaced. [the planes do not show that much usage]

Cutting Iron:
At 7.5/8″long, 2″ wide and 3/32″thick it is finished with Matt Black paint all over, except for the lower portion of the back of the Iron [shown]. The iron is impressed with the following MARPLES mark [BM6] at the top. As with the Cap Iron, some blades up to at least c.1963 appear to be unpainted.

Lever Cap:
The lever cap has a Satin black finish on the top surface but is clean on the lower surface. The later planes of this Type had a smoother casting …….shown on the right below.
The spring to the Lever Cap has a distinctive downturn on each side edge [shown below]. [As seen on the Iron Bench Planes.]

The Frog was sprayed GOLD on the underside and the stirrup shows overspray, indicating that the whole frog was assembled and then spray painted. The stirrup is made from 2 pieces of pressed steel that are riveted together by a hollow brass rivet through which passes the securing pin to hold the stirrup to the Frog body. The 2 pieces of this stirrup are also mildly welded together and may be ground at the top cap iron contact end. The Frog is secured to the base by 2 flat cheese head slot wood screws with no washers. The lateral lever is probably nickel plated and has MARPLES impressed vertically on the top upper surface [shown] and it has a distinctive curl at the top adjusting end. The circular disc of the lateral lever rotates, thereby reducing wear on the wheel.

Brass Wheel:
The Brass depth adjusting wheel is again distinctive having a rounded front face, enabling it to be moved close into the frog. Something generally not seen on other planes.

Box and Labels:
Shown below is the end of the box lid label and the colourful label applied to the top of the lid. The wrapping paper within the box is a supple paper/cardboard material, NOT wax paper.

Type 2:
The body of a Type 2 was re-designed so that the top of the side curve was placed further back from the toe of the plane. From 5.5″ to now 6.5″ on the 2691. The word MARPLES is now not present on the front boss. The wood received a pleasing ‘honey’ varnish and is very smooth to the touch and it retains a feeling of quality.

Cap Iron:
The cap iron remains the same but the cap iron screw may be seen to have a finer knurling.

The bottom face of the frog seems to have been cleaned and fettled.

Box and Label:

The end of box label may show as a Typed Label, possibly used as a stop gap measure due to a lack of labels at that time. I am uncertain as to whether this would apply to the whole of Type 2 or just my example.

Type 2a: 

Type 2a seems to be a transition at the takeover of MARPLES by C&J Hampton in 1963, as it shows the same frog with a curled Lateral Lever, but has the changed wooden structure as shown in Type 3 [Raised front boss]. The beech wood is still sprayed with a pleasing yellow toned varnish and the side transfer is still present. The cap iron has been changed to a rounded top edge and the Grinding guide for the cutter thereon is not present. The unpainted cleaned cutter also has no markings. The Box seems to have had the end label covered up by brown paper, but the top label is as before!?
All these facts seem to fit into describing this plane as on the cusp of the takeover. I doubt that this plane [shown] was a one-off, but it is the only one that I have noted.

Type 3:
The Type 3 planes were manufactured from 1963 at the takeover of MARPLES by C&J Hampton and it can be seen that many details show the ‘RECORD‘ influence.
The sides of the body have been lowered, I presume for both planes, and the word MARPLES is still not impressed into the front boss. A defining point is that the front boss is raised above the sides at the front of the mouth and shows a distinct edge between the sides and top. This change is first seen at Type 2a above. Shown here against a Type 1 [on the right below]. The varnish is lighter than in Type 2a.

The cap-iron is no longer painted and now has a semi-circular top end with no impressed markings at all. [As per Type 2a]
The cap-iron screw has coarse knurling.

Cutting Iron:
Is now unpainted and is impressed with a different mark (BM7)

Lever Cap:
Is essentially unchanged except that the MARPLES casting mark now has a curvature to the top and bottom lines. The spring now conforms to RECORD standard flat spring with no turned down edges.

The Frog is sprayed a Deep Gold on the under surface only, the upper blade contact surface remains clean.
The Lateral Lever has become the standard RECORD 2 piece construction, and the Brass Wheel no longer has a rounded nose.

Box and Labels:
Remain unchanged, perhaps using up old stock.

Type 4:
This is a perfect example of the result of cheapening a product and driving it into obscurity by allowing bean counters at C&J Hampton to get their fingers sticky.

The finish applied to these planes is a cheap translucent lacquer over a coarse wood substrate. The result is a product that has had its’ quality compromised. There is no colourful water transfer applied to the left hand side of the plane nor again any MARPLES mark on the front boss.

Is as before but the cap-iron screw shows a vertical knurling that is chamfered on the top edge and has a machined ridge on the bottom edge. See it on the right compared with a Type 3 screw on the left.

Cutting Iron:
The cutting iron or blade now shows a different impression (BM8) and is reduced in total length to 7.7/16″long.

Lever Cap:
Now is painted a semi-gloss black.

Unbelievably the frog is now spray painted a Medium Gold ALL OVER!! and the basic casting looks rough.
The frog attaching screws are now 3/4″No. 12 round head slot screws, but still with no washers.
The Brass Wheel displays a softer more rounded aspect to the circular knurling, shown below on the right in the photo.

Box and Labels:
The same end label is still applied to the box lid end, but the ”Cutter’ circle no longer has a yellow sticker indicating 2″. The colourful MARPLES label,  seen on the top of the lid in all previous issues, has been dropped.

Uncommon 2691 Jack Plane:
I introduce here the fact that the 2691 Jack Plane was issued, maybe as ‘special order’, with a closed handle both during MARPLES production and RECORD-MARPLES production. The same handle is found here on 3 different planes and suggests that this was not just an owner modification. I have yet to see this closed handle on a 2690 plane.

It is possible that both #2690 and #2691  later planes were furnished with round top cap irons with no inscriptions.

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