Planes


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The History of Industries and Toolmaking in United Kingdom


 
  Foreign Rivalries - Hardware by H. R. Fox Bourne, 1884 2 of 4  

While our Sheffield manufacturers have adopted no important variations in the shape and finish of these tools during the past half century, the leading firms in the United States have developed scores of inventions.

The preference of English carpenters for the broad, flat saw, with a handle, at the end, over the thin steel band, stretched between two points, which is especially favoured by Frenchmen and Chinamen, may be a reason for not offering the latter in the home markets; but it is foolish to neglect the opportunity of providing foreign customers with the sort of tool they like best. They have allowed American manufacturers - one firm of whom, in Philadelphia, employs more than 1,200 hands in working up Sheffield steel into better saws than Sheffield cares to make - to appropriate nearly all this trade.

So, too, with planes. "The planes manufactured in Great Britain and in other countries fifty years ago," said Mr. David M'Hardy, in his official report on the edge-tools and similar articles in the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1870, " were formed of best beech-wood. The plane-irons were of steel and iron welded together.

The jointer-plane, about twenty-one inches long, was a bulky tool, and the jack and hand planes were of the same materials. Very little change has been made upon the plane in Great Britain, unless in the superior workmanship and the higher quality of the plane-iron.

American planes have now found their way into Great Britain, and it will be seen whether a fair trial is to be granted to the manufacturers of the New World. The American plane is constructed with a skeleton iron body, having a curved wooden handle.

The plane-iron is of the finest cast steel. The cover is fitted with an ingenious trigger at the top, which, with a screw below the iron, admits of the plane being removed for sharpening and setting without the aid of the hammer, and with the greatest ease. The extensive varieties of plane iron in use are fitted for every requirement.

A very ingenious arrangement is applied to the tools for planing the insides of circles or other curved works, such as stair-mils, &.c. The sole of the plane is formed of a plate of tempered steel about the thickness of a hand-saw, according to the length required, and this plate is adapted to the curve, and is securely fixed at each end.

With this tool the work is done, not only better but in less time than formerly." With less waste of material, and all the economy that can be secured by the use of appropriate machinery, America now produces cheaper and better tools of this description than England, and consequently the world is, of course, learning to buy from America instead of from England as heretofore.

A notable instance of the way in which individuals may enrich themselves and benefit the trade of the whole nation by the prompt use of new ideas upon apparently trivial subjects, is furnished by the change in the manufacture of screws, us convenient substitutes, in many branches of carpenters' work, for the old-fashioned nails.

It was a German clock-maker, named Colbert, who devised a plan for twisting iron wire into screws, instead of forging them. In 1798, the largest screw-making firm in England - that of Shorthouse, Wood, and Co., of Burton-on-Trent - was thought to be doing wonders in turning out 1,200 gross of screws weekly, by the help of fifty-nine pairs of hands, on the old system.

In 1873, Messrs. Nettlefold and Chamberlain, of Birmingham, having adopted the new method, at the instigation, it is said, of the energetic member of Parliament for the town to whose industrial prosperity, as well as political renown, he has so largely contributed, but who has now retired from the firm, produced 150,000 gross every week, or upwards of 1,000,000,000 screws in the year.

In so doing, however, they only followed the example of American manufacturers, and took from them a share of the profits that were to be obtained by the new way of making screws. It would be greatly to the advantage of England if it had many more such enterprising firms. As it is, the Americans are, almost without opposition, driving us out of the field in the production of a great variety of the small but very necessary articles in use among carpenters and builders.

The Hon. James Bain, then Lord Provost of Glasgow, reporting to our Government on the building hardware shown in the Philadelphia Exhibition, called attention to the wonderful progress made in these respects by our Transatlantic cousins, who put artistic finish even into their stair-rods, while at the same time rendering them cheaper and more durable, by coating them with nickel. "I think," he said," our manufacturers should specially interest themselves in the action taken by the Americans in the use of this metal.


 
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