The X4 plane makes its’ first appearance, to my knowledge, around mid 1954 in an article [below] about its’ designer and the development of the plane. It was in production until 1965, when low sales dictated its’ demise.
I am unsure as to why MARPLES would have introduced this plane, but it was possibly designed to capture some of the market of the infill planes, (which had such a good name with craftsmen, but were very expensive) because it had everything that an infill plane had: weight; total adjustment; feel and a solid construction made to last generations.
You would appreciate this last statement if you had ever had an X4 in your hands and had studied its’ construction closely. It is for the following reasons that today it commands a premium price. Unfortunately many of these planes have fallen into the wrong hands and have been treated badly due to either plain ignorance of its’ qualities or just simply not caring for the tool. Or then again, maybe just ‘plane’ ignorance! [Sorry about that, I could not resist it.]
Surprisingly, in a 1962 pamphlet, MARPLES shows the X4 and states “It is not recommended for the ‘do-it-yourselfer’,” I surmise that truthful advertising was then still the norm!
It was a heavy and solid plane, just what a number 4 type plane needs. The combined frog and rear closed handle were anchored well to the base. Mouth adjustment was changed by loosening 2 bolts on the top of the plane base just forward of the mouth that held an adjustable mouth plate, and then securing them into the desired mouth width. The base casting was very ‘substantial’ and provides the iron with a 9/16″ support for a chatter less experience. It had a Lever cap which gave the user a good grip when the plane had to be used on a shooting board. The front Knob was quite large and gave a better grip on the plane than smaller normal sized knobs. The wood used was good British Beech coated with a semi-gloss black enamel paint and the base was coated in a ‘black stoving enamel’. All metal fittings were were either Nickel (early) or Chrome (later) plated.
PLEASE NOTE: The sideways adjusting lever originally fitted only had a circular curvature to the top where it was to be finger/thumb adjusted. Later examples had a rounded Red plastic insert pushed into each side of that curvature to make the adjustment less painful. You will find many examples where one or both of these inserts are missing. Re-productions may be made, with a little skill, from those thick red plastic coat-hangers that can be found anywhere today.
Note also that the cap-iron always had a rounded top edge and this is also echoed in the design of the blade. Any other configuration is not original.
Below is the page from the 1959 Catalogue that announces the X4 as being a new plane, but this was only a relative statement [ note: no red inserts are shown in the lateral lever]
Prices for this plane are as follows:
October 1960 65/-
Early 1961 63/- [ I do not know why!]
September 1961- October 1964 90/-
Some photos are shown below.
Below you will find a rare article reprinted from DESIGN August 1954 in which the X4 plane, the designer and the design progress to final copy are discussed.
Above here is a good photo to show the 2 plastic RED inserts [One from each side] that are inherent later on with this plane. At least one is usually found missing as they had but a friction fitting inside the lateral lever top curl.
They can be made from those RED coloured plastic coat hangers, and the domes polished using car headlight micronized cleaner.
The front knob is unusually large, but very comfortable in controlling this plane.
Here [above] you can see the TWO slotted flat head bolts that have to be loosened in order to adjust the mouth width plate [Immediate above]
A good photo to show the Nickel plated depth Adjusting Wheel and the angle at which it was placed.
Above you will find 2 box end labels. The top one is what I believe is the First issued type and then followed below by the Second issue which was after the Plane had its’ Registered Design issued in 1955.
The Cutter supplied to the X4 was always the same, as was the cap iron. Any plane that you see, may not be ‘original’ without these specifications as shown below.
You can note here [above right] that the Blade is chamfered on the edges on the same side as the cutting edge. This is the only correct blade for this plane as is the Oval top edge to the un-marked Cap Iron.