Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Mulholland block plane from Belfast

I mentioned these older type hand tools have secrets to tell,well today I noticed a stamped three didget marking on the underside of the hardwood wedge that holds the plane blade in place,checking the planes body I find the same numbers,so each plane was made to fit its own wedge,this was not mass production,this is a one off and craftsmanship.

Classic British craftsmanship at its very best,note the wedge of steel that has beeen let into the lower face of this Mulholland block plane,this was required to make space for the milling on the other side of the lower face where the blade sits.I have now re sharpened and have been using on the bench,its a fine plane!

I first saw this special plane on the internet,I bought it without hesitation,its from a maker I have never heard of Mulholland of Belfast,which is Northern Ireland.I have yet to date it but its from another age,an age when tool makers had massive pride in what they made,there are many manufacturing secrets too.

One is how the Lignum Vitea hardwood wedge is secured,there is a cross bar but what stops it from twisting? with only one grub screw on each side of the main body,it must twist but checking each side I see they have the screw positions in different places,so the plate will not twist.Another is how do the manage to grind so close to the inside of the blade throut? close inspection on the bottom face of the plane shows a flat metal wedge has been fitted there,with the wedge missing it will have been possible to mill inside.

The blade is warrented cast steel,and stamped part 245,while the main body is stamped at the front Mulholland,at the throut in two round castings the number 61 on the left and ann st on the right,with Belfast stamped between them,under the position the blade sits is a stamping 292 with the number 3 to its right,was that a workers code?.So many numbers which must all have meant some part or its production process,with the low blade angle and very narrow blade throut,this plane will give a superb fine cut.
Left click on any picture to view full size and see more details.

Thank you to Peter Habicht for the words that follow:

Peter Habicht was born in England. With a Master's degree in welding metallurgy, he has worked in the nuclear power industry, primarily in New England, and now has his own business as a consultant on materials corrosion. Starting in 1969, his wife, Annette, has built a business specializing in English antiques, including a few tools. It was natural for Peter to expand that line, and he has become a leading authority on British tools.

England followed by Scotland were the principal manufacturers of woodworking tools in Britain. There may have been a few planemakers in Wales in the late 19th century, such as Hawkins and Webb in Newport, and Munday in Holyhead. Likewise Keller and Mulholland in Belfast, Lewis in the Isle of Man, and John Hubert in Jersey each made tools around the turn of the last century.
-What makes British woodworking tools different? They certainly are well made but aesthetics definitely sets them apart. British tools were often made of exotic woods (such as ebony, rosewood, padouk, and mahogany) and trimmed with brass fittings, or even of just a nice piece of beech or ash trimmed with brass. In the 1800s the British cabinetmaker's chest would be full of great-looking tools: maybe an Ultimatum or brass-framed brace, an ebony and brass mortise gauge, brass-backed saws, perhaps a Scot-tish level with its "fancy" brass top plate, and brass or gunmetal planes of all types and sizes stuffed with rose-wood, ebony, mahogany, or some other fine woods. Even the chest itself would be beautifully veneered on the inside just as though it were a fine piece of furnitu

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