Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What Do The Others Have Mitchell Doesn't...

I received an email from eBay a couple of weeks ago informing me that there was a new “Mitchell” listed. As I get these about once a week, I really didn’t get too excited as these searches have never produced the Mitchell I want. This one, however, turned out to be different.

When I opened the email there was a smoothing plane staring me in the face. The written description stated, “This a nice wood planer. On the top and side of the planer block is stamped "W.SUTER". It also has "H.E. MITCHELL 4 NORTH ROAD BRIGHTON" with a Lion trademark. The wood planer is 71/2'' long and in good condition.”

It had been listed the night before and had a long week to run, so I emailed the seller, bluehitch, and asked if he had a “Buy-It-Now”. He was great to deal with; honest, straightforward and pleasant. We ended up striking a deal and he shipped it out in record time.

So here it is…

Here’s the thing. I’m a neophyte when it comes to stuff like this and really don’t have a clue. Take away my books and I wouldn’t know a jack from a jointer.

I do know this is one of Mitchell’s later planes as it is stamped with his lion logo. I calculate he started using this logo around 1885 to 1890, using it for ten or fifteen years before he converted his business into an incorporated iron monger making products for stores and offices.

It has a 2” wide Ward & Payne Cast Steel blade that is 6 1/8” long. I know nothing about Ward blades except what I read in Goodman’s. I am saying this is a Ward & Payne as it has the crossed hammers, the W. and P. initials and the anvil stamp. It has a smaller anvil roughly stamped above the marker’s stamp as well. Goodman puts this blade between 1860 an 1900. It also has a nameless thick, heavy chipper.

This plane also has something I am definitely not sure about. On the sole, in front of the mouth is a honking piece of brass. I can’t figure out if Mitchell put it there, or if someone resuscitated the plane later in its life. The plate is 1/8” thick, wedge shaped, with dimensions of 2 ½” wide by 1 ½” deep.

While it is not badly done, it isn’t centered to the sole. Other than that, I can’t find any clue when it was fitted. The throat, if modified later in life, doesn’t give it away. The rear-facing angle looks original, and when it gets within a ½” of the mouth, it drops straight down so you see about a ½” of the brass plate. I have a feeling it is original to the maker, but even I would trust my opinion, so why should you?

It is 7 ½” long and 2 ¾” wide at the mouth. It has a few areas that have some issues which I haven't figured out what to do with yet, so all I have done so far is give it a quick rubdown with wax and steel wool.

I have rattled on about H.E. Mitchell tools for a few years now and I still can’t figure out what is up with his stuff. They are as rare as hell, yet they don’t fetch a dime more than average, if that. It is not like ol' Henry ran an assembly line producing these things. This plane brings my total collection of his planes to 10; a plow, a smoother, a pair of sashes (sizes 1 and 2) and a set of six beaders. They all seem to work well, feel right, are solid, not warped, hold a blade and everything about them seems to me to be complete and tight. In other words, from the perspective of a guy who, until recently, thought planes weren't worth a damn unless they came with a full horse motor, ol’ Henry produced some fairly well made products.

This, of course, brings to mind the question; why is it that I seem to be the only guy in the world who collects this maker’s work?




  1. Mitchell,

    Nice old, well used coffin smoother. The brass was added later as a fair amount of the sole is worn off, the body should be much higher. You can tell another way because of the large gap the brass plate is filling. If it were a clad plane the throat would still be tighter.

    Good luck on your collection of one maker.


  2. Hey Stephen;

    I guess the operative term in your comment is "well used".

    I ran the blade over the stone a few times this morning and tried it out on a bit of oak. It actually has a nice feel to it and it peeled off some reasonably fine ribbons for a blade not fully sharpened.

    All in all, I got the plane at a very fair price, so I have no complaints at all.

    As usual, Stephen, you are a scholar, a gent, and a damned good judge of fine whiskey.