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Alex Mathieson & Son, Ltd., Saracen Tool Works - Glasgow, Scotland

  Mathieson in March - Part 1 by  Ryan Sparreboom 1 of 16  

For March, I will be featuring a series of articles which will pay tribute to the history of Scotlandís greatest tool maker, Alexander Mathieson.


The articles will provide a perspective on the Mathieson legacy timeline, featuring planes not only made by the Mathieson Company itself but by the Scottish makers that contributed to Mathieson's success.

Alexander Mathieson began his plane making business in Glasgow in 1822. By the mid-1800ís he was taking over other prominent plane makerís businesses such as the Stewartís in Edinburgh and thus expanding his business around Scotland.

Mathieson also had acquired the business of planemakers Chas and Hugh McPherson in 1854, who had taken over the business of David Arthur just ten years earlier in 1844. Mathieson would later take over the well-established company of David Malloch of Perth in 1914, who in early years had been one of Stewartís employees.

Malloch had formed his own successful business in Scotland, having taken over John McGlashanís business upon his death in 1849, the same year that Mathieson took over from Stewart.

This complex and interesting history of business acquisitions all led to the success of Alex. Mathieson and Sons, and their expansive Scottish tool business. Over the coming weeks, I will feature some planes made by these makers, as a tribute to the Mathieson legacy.

But if we look back a little bit further, we see that the business beginnings can be attributed to one man, one planemaker that started it all for Mathieson. That man is John Manners.

Manners started making planes in 1792, and occupied a workspace in Saracen Lane, in the heart of Glasgow. He only made planes until 1822, when Alex. Mathieson took over his business. Alex. Mathiesonís year of birth seems to be in some discrepancy but was either 1792 or 1795 according to his family headstone or the 1851 census.

Alexander likely worked for Manners at some point, and they were surely friends, living near to each other in Saracen Lane. Mathieson named his daughter Hanna after John Mannerís wife. Mathieson was named as the executor of Mannersí estate.

Planes made by Manners are difficult to find today. I dislike the overused word ďrare,Ē but I am comfortable in saying that planes made by Manners are not at all common. Itís been documented that there are complex triple and quadruple iron moulding planes with Mannerís mark. (Goodman, 3rd Edition).

Iím not lucky enough to own such a plane, but this level of complexity is a testament to the planemaking skills of John Manners, a level of skill which was passed on to Mathieson. The only plane in my collection made by Manners is a more simple, but exquisitely beautiful sash fillister plane.

The sash fillister plane is, in essence, a skewed rebate plane with an adjustable fence. It is designed to cut the rebates in a window sash and does so on the far side of the work, that is, on the side of the piece furthest from the fence. The fence adjustment on this model is done by way of solid arms, wedged in place in the body with beautiful boxwood wedges.


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