Squares and Bevels

Soon after William Marples Jnr. started his own business in 1830, Squares and ‘Bevils’ (as they were then known) must have been among the first tools that he started producing.
Although the c.1846 Broadsheet [see Catalogues section] may not have been the first literature advertising his wares, these two products were listed on it. Of note is that at this time no Product Identification Number was in use.
Shown listed from c.1846 [but with no illustrations] are:
Plated Squares from 3″-30″ [affixed with 3 Diamond shaped ‘rivets’]
Best ” ” ” “-” [affixed with a large almost triangular shaped brass insert and 3 steel rivets]
(‘Plated’ means that the inside edge of the handle had a brass plate.)
Best Plated Squares with Levels 9″-30″
Best T Drawing Squares 9″-30″ [Probably the kind of square used in a Draughtsmans’ Office on a Drawing Board]
London Pattern Bricklayers’ Squares
Brass Stocked Sash Squares 2.1/2″ [ A small brass ‘handled’ square presumably used in the layout of sash joints?]
Plated T Bevils  7.1/2″- 15″ [These were the forerunner of the Sliding Bevil/Sliding T Bevil, in that there was no slot in the steel arm]
Best Plated T Bevils  7.1/2-15″
Best Improved Sliding Bevils  7.1/2″-15″
Plated Angle Bevils  7.1/2-15″
Best Plated Angle Bevils  7.1/2″-15″
Those Bevils above were available with either Thumb Screws or Wing Screws at extra cost, as opposed to the regular flat slot headed bolt.
Best London Pattern Bricklayers’Bevils  {I can find no image of this tool even in later catalogues}

The 1861 catalogue pages are shown here:

You will see that  ‘Best Improved Brass sliding bevils’ come in sizes:
7.1/2; 9; 10.1/2; 12; and 15 inch sizes…but no picture is shown.  Prior to 1862 the stamped imprint on the top of one side of the brass frame would be this:

After that time the imprint had the added ‘& Sons‘ stamped. We can therefore assume that this ‘Bevil’ was introduced to the line in the 1850‘s

The imprint on both reads: REG DEF 3835, I think!
In the 1873 catalogue this Bevil is described as a ‘Brass framed sliding T Bevil ‘ with an associated item number of 427.  But the brass frame has been changed to incorporate a ‘rib’ at the half way point. To make the frame more stable?  The sizes were exactly as above in 1862. The 1888 Cat. lists a ‘Best Improved Brass-frame Sliding Bevel [#575] in sizes 7.1/2; 9; 10.1/2; and 12″.
I cannot find this Bevil listed in 1897, so it may have persisted until c.1890.

Now compare these images and documentation with the 1873 Catalogue shown below. There are subtle differences in structure.

Below is a very rare London Pattern Bricklayers’ Square #416. Apparently they were made all in Brass, probably because with all the water involved in Brick Laying, steel squares would not last very long!

Below is an example of a #414 Best Plated Square with Fancy Shield. I see that this example has brass screws attaching the plate to the stock, this is not shown in the c.1873 Catalogue so maybe only the larger Squares were re-inforced this way.

The smaller #414 shown below is marked as ‘PATENT‘ on the shield, so maybe by 1873 the Patent had expired but was retained so as to scare off any copycats!

Below is a photo of #427 Brass Framed Sliding T Bevil, although I note that is has a square end to the slide and therefore is perhaps an earlier model?
Most Squares and Bevils of this era would have been infilled with Ebony or Rosewood. [See above for more details on this ‘Bevil’.]

Here below is a Canada-pattern bevil showing what I have been informed is a Howard’s 1867 Patent locking screw. I see this bevil first in 1888 as #574 with no mentioned wood species but available as 8″; 10′ and 12″. In 1897 it is called ‘Common’ Canadian Pattern [#549R presumably not Rosewood] and ‘Best’ [#574  Rosewood]. In 1909 ‘Common’ is noted as #2236 and ‘Best’ is #2235.  This bevil does not appear in Catalogues after 1909.

Below is a 3″ Engineers’ Steel Square Item #418 c.1880. These Squares were not ‘rule’ marked until c.1890 when they were numbered #560. These markings however seem to be ‘upside down’ to the usual format, reason unknown! In 1909 the number of the ‘rule’ marked squares was again changed to #5132 and this number persisted until the demise of the item c.1938

The next section is from the 1897 catalogue:

#562 Coachmakers’Iron Stock Squares 6″-10″
#576 Coachmakers’Iron Stock T Bevels 14″
#576S Coachmakers’Iron Stock Spider Mortice Bevels
[There are no images shown for these items]

Below is shown a 6 inch Iron-Stocked Combination Square # 554C:

The blade is imprinted  W.MARPLES

                                               RD  No  12845

Below is an Ebony Combination Square possibly #554B. It does not conform to the illustration in the 1897 catalogue but resembles the fittings of a Canada Square [#558].  I estimate this example to be c.1890 since it does not appear in the 1873 Catalogue.

Engineers’ Steel Squares #559 were available [#418 in the 1873 Catalogue] 3″-18″, as were the ‘Engineers’ Steel Squares, Rule-marked #560.
Item #560A Steel T Square was 6″-18″.[see below]

#1675 Tailors’ Boxwood Folding Squares 18″- 30″… No Image.
Listed under Glaziers’, Painters’, and Paperhangers’ Tools are the following, but again there are no images.
#1685T Squares, Rule Marked 18″- 48″.
#1686 Laths, 1.1/2″wide, Rule Marked 24″- 48″.

Next are the 1909 Catalogue listings:
You will see that there is now a re-numbered system since the 1897 numbers, perhaps to absorb the vast increase in the number of products available. There are too many differences between these years to list them all here, so I urge you to explore those newly listed items and discover those that were de-listed.

#4248 Masons’ Galvanized Steel Shiftstocks or Bevels  7.1/2″, 9″, 12″.
#4249 Ditto Solid Brass
These are still listed in 1909 and are shown as per the 1897 catalogue.

It is highly likely that all the wooden measuring implements carrying the MARPLES name were made for MARPLES by SMALLWOOD or RABONE.

The next image is from the 1921 Catalogue pages.  These are the only  Carpenter’s Squares because after the Great War all items were drastically reduced in availability.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1921-Squares-1256x1600.jpg

The next images are from the 1928 Catalogue:

The image above here is from the ‘Coachmakers’ and Wheelwrights’ Tools’ section.

The next images are from the 1938 catalogue:

The next images are from the 1959 catalogue:
Here you will see a drastic reduction in items available since 1938.

The following pages are from the 1965 Catalogue No. 15:

The image below is from the New Products Leaflet of September 1968. This Combination Try and Mitre Square #2205 was only available from 1968 to 1971, being then renumbered as #2222 . This item was short lived as it was replaced by a Die Cast #2222 in 1973 which initially had a spirit level, but this was phased out before 1977.  Photos below show both styles.

Next are photos of a M2222 with the plastic inbuilt spirit level c.1973:

Below is a photo of the Die Cast M2222 without the level. New information suggests that there was a Silver MARPLES sticker in the area of the truncated SeOval area. [Below]

Below is a photo of a carded  new #M2222 which was a re-numbered #2205. The photo below that is of a #2222 but which [looking at the brass locking nut] seems to be closer to the number change from #2205.


What follows is a synopsis of all the Bevels and Squares issued by MARPLES since 1909 trying to link in the Item number with the dates of product availability. The catalogues above will tell you of tools issued before 1909. This research may be altered with new evidence, but I have scoured all the catalogues and bracketed the dates for you. All you have to do is identify your tool from the above catalogue information and look it up in the list below. This will tell you the dates of availability so that you may know roughly the age of your Square or Bevel. The list will be in numerical order, however I have noted that early on [c.1900 to 1938?] MARPLES produced the same tools but were noted as ‘SPECIALS‘, with a suffix of ‘A‘. [For e.g. 2200A] . I do not really know what these items were, but presumably they may have been special orders for specific Companies and were impressed with that Company’s name.  The dates given below are accurate plus or minus a couple of years generally. Where no end date is stated [e.g. 1993<] it must be assumed that the tool existed in production until taken over by IRWIN in c.2007

I will publish here some photos from my files and personal collection, as a picture is worth a thousand words.

In my estimation this Square, #2204, is the very best ever made as it cannot go out of Square. It was called various things throughout its ‘history but’ Shockproof ‘ describes it best.  When first introduced around 1928, and up until 1938+, it had 5 rivets with 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom. It may have gone out of production because it is not listed in the 1959 Catalogue, but it was re-introduced in 1962 with a Hardwood stock and with only 4 rivets. The word ‘Shockproof‘ was introduced in 1962 on the stock initially separated from the other wording, but later was moved up so that the wording was all together [see photo below].  Also at this time a small label was affixed to the blade, as shown on the right. The 1909 Catalogue lists a different product with the #2204 coding, namely Rosewood Squares with incorporated Spirit Levels in the stock brass face. When these Squares were dropped from the line, the number became available and the ‘Solid-Blade’ square appears in c.1928 [below]

                                                        Above as shown in 1928 and 1938 catalogues.

The photo below is of the first ‘Shockproof’ square with 5 rivets. It was not  marked on the stock, only on the blade.  This is a rare example.

The photo [below] shows an original ‘Shockproof’ Square, but not labelled as such. NOTE: the thick 1/4″ dovetailed brass plate.

The photo [Below] shows the ‘Shockproof‘ Squares. The TWO lower Squares are 6″, but the lowest Square shows that the ‘Shockproof ‘ name was imprinted lower than later examples.   The first ‘Shockproof‘ Squares were not marked as such, as shown above. The plate was joined to the wooden stock by accurate Dovetail jointing [No screws].  Later on the brass plate was changed to have a ‘Phillips Screw‘ fastening and a thinner plate. This changed around the same time as the word ‘Shockproof‘ being moved from below the middle rivet to join with the words stamped above. [see the 2 lower images on the right.]
Note that the brass plate decreased from 1/4″ to 1/8″ in thickness when screws were then used.

These Shockproof Squares were sold in cardboard boxes:

But [above] you may note that the advertising boys got into the act as the handle and blade markings have been reversed to accomodate a better format picture.

The photo above shows a very early 14.1/2″ Square by W. MARPLES  JUNR
This was the very first mark that Marples adopted, despite what other sites may say.
The ‘R‘ in Junior [see below] may have been in raised script with a line underneath.  At this time, there were no numbers ascribed to the various tools, but later catalogues would list this Square as #407 [Available in 1873 from 3″ to 30″.]

These Squares below are very early Squares with a PATENT mark of   Reg 3835.    The stock was of Ebony with a total Brass plate all around.  In the 1873 Catalogue they are listed as Item #412  ‘Best Double Plated Squares’, and were available in 3″-30″ .

This MARPLES Square [below] has an iron stock with HIBERNIA in raised letters and is  #2207 [no measurements on the blade] and this existed from 1909 to 1920.  There was also an identical #2208 Square which had inch measures stamped on the blade.

Below is an Iron Square which I cannot find in my Catalogues, but it may be a late #2207, without the Trefoil and ‘HIBERNIA‘ marks.

Below is another 6 inch square that I am unable to identify. It does not have any Rule markings on the blade, but the head seems to be of Aluminium.  I think this item must be post war  [1950<].

Below is a Rosewood Try and Mitre Square #2205, listed 1909 to 1932.

These Ebony with Shield Squares #2202 [below] are listed as being available from 1902 to 1973  [when hardwood was started] but I very much doubt that Ebony was really used much after c.1939!

Below is a very rare 3″#2202 Square with 2 other sizes. All have the same stamped mark on the blade which dates them to c.1932.  The later squares [c.1930< ?] had thumb grooves machined into the handles.

These Rosewood Squares #2200 were issued from 1909 to 1960 [after which ‘Hardwood’ was used], but to be replaced again by a cheap Rosewood in 1993.

These photos below show the transition from the #2200 earlier Rosewood variety with Diamond Plate rivets and Slot screws having a blade width of 2″, to a later Hardwood edition having Phillips screws and circular plate rivets and a blade width of 2.1/4″.   [6″examples shown]

The above M2200 square is from when they had received a ‘Hardwood’ handle.       ‘Record Ridgway Tools Ltd‘. c.1965

The Rosewood Square #2208 [below] was first available in 1938 and was replaced by Hardwood in 1959 and was thus available until 1999.


Ebony Mitre Square with Shield #2212.
Best Ebony. Available 1909-1936.

Item #2210 [below]  Rosewood Diamond-plated Mitre Squares were available 1909 -c.1960, when Rosewood was replaced by Hardwood. But this was again replaced by a cheaper Rosewood in c.1963-1969.

Here below is a very late Marples-Ridgway c.1993 Mitre Square MR2210. It shows a cheap Rosewood, manufacturer drilled hang hole in the handle and no brass protective side strips on the handle.

Shown below here is a small all steel 4″ square that may be a #5131 from the 1909 Catalogue. But it does not fit the picture exactly, because it has a concave aspect to the underside of the handle. It is marked, [as shown,] 1915 with the War Dept. arrow emblem. It may be a ‘SPECIAL‘ produced just for the British War Dept in the First World War.

The 6” square MR2208 below is a late Marples Ridgway offering, showing no brass face on the stock:

Below you will see 2 good photos to show the 9″ later MARPLES RIDGWAY Square MR2208.  The drilled hole in the stock is original.


Presently I can find no listing on this [below] double Brass plated Ebony infilled Bevil, it is not even shown in the 1861 catalogue.  I have a similar item [below]in my collection now.
It seems to be marked: W.MARPLES SHEFFIELD and on the under arc is marked: REGD EF and then under that 3335? Further investigation on Patent Marks is in Order.

This ‘Bevil’ [below] is listed as Item #427 in the 1873 Catalogue . ‘Best Improved Brass Frame Sliding T Bevil’.   Available from 7.1/2″- 15″.

Below is the most famous bevel in the MARPLES lineup, [‘Joiners’ Bevel’] since it endured for so many years. 1909-1973
#2220 in Rosewood and #2221 in Ebony. (1959 Cat. shows only Rosewood)
7.1/2-15″ but reduced over time.  ‘Hardwood’ was started around 1960-64.
But only 7.1/2 and 9″ are offered in 1965.

This #2220 ‘Rosewood Sliding Bevel, Best’ [below] is from c.1932 and shows a rare Water transfer:

MARPLES Item #2226 Hardwood Sliding Bevel, Brass Plated, with special Brass Lever Locking Nut for quick action adjustment. Available in 1959 as 7.1/2-12″.  Was available 1938-1999 . But ‘Hardwood’ replaced ‘Rosewood’ in 1969 but again it reverted to ‘Rosewood’ in 1993.


I will treat these tools as a separate section because they are so different to woodworkers’ bevels.  First named ‘Bevils’ in 1846.  At this time there were various lengths available 8 inches; 10 inches and 12 inches:

Then in 1861:  Up to this time although the length is 12 inches there are still no inch scale markings.

1873: At this time there are various woods available for this bevel and there are inch scale markings:






Photos to follow:









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