One of the things I like to do is visit garage sales and antique stores. Recently I was at an antique mall and a transitional smoothing hand plane immediately caught my eye. I found it interesting for two reasons. One, i noticed the front knob (handle) on it. I have seen knobs or handles before on smoothing planes, but they have been a “horn” handle from planes made in Germany. I could tell this clearly was not a German made plane.
The second thing I noticed was the recessed adjustment nuts on it. The top adjustment nut tightened down to hold the chip breaker and blade in place. The other adjustment nut controlled the up and down depth movement of the blade.
Once i picked it up and took a closer look at it. I noticed the name Standard Rule Co. No 25 stamped on the front. I thought to myself, “that’s odd, i never saw a Stanley with these kinds of adjustment nuts.” But then i re-read it. It’s not Stanley Rule Co. It’s was Standard Rule Co.
Okay, so it’s a knock off of the king of hand planes, Stanley. At this point I figured it was totally worthless and there is no point in buying it. Still something told me to take it. It was different, lonely and unappreciated. I felt a connection, especially because I am a hand tool woodworker, and kind of “different” myself. I thought i would buy it and give it a proper home.
Upon returning to my house, I did what most of the techie generation folks do, and hit the web. First thing up, Ebay. Having paid $25, I wanted to see if i overpaid for it. Of course, at this point having bought it there is not much i can do about the price. But that’s not the point, right? We need bragging rights! We need to say, “It sells for $$$ but I bought it for only $.” But let’s be truthful here. What we really need to do is, justify it to the wife. Bottom line, it’s human nature to know if we made a good deal.
So typing in the computer and Ebay pops up on my screen. I type in “standard rule co.” and there was next to nothing on it. Ebay almost always defaulted to Stanley Rule. However I did find a few similar that sold for a lot of money, but i wasn’t exactly comparing apples to apples. It was a jointer plane compared to my smoothing plane. So this was not producing any real help. At this point I figured I’d skip looking for the price. Bottom line is I bought it, it’s mine, and I am happy to own it.
So it’s welcomed to my family of hand planes. And being a family member I need to know of it’s history. Upon typing in Standard Rule Co, into Google, again not much came up. The first thing that came up was a blog Lee Valley did on it, and that was about the most i found on the subject. I didn’t think that Lee Valley would have done a blog since I just associate them with selling their “new” planes. However, it did yield some good insight.
It seems that 1872 the Standard Rule Co did just what the name implies; make measuring and level tools. But in 1883 brothers, Solon and Arthur Rust patented this style hand plane. It was manufactured in the wood transitional style and the all metal planes style. (Much like the stanley number 4 etc) In 1889 they added a lateral lever for side to side movement of the blade. But the plane was short lived. In 1893, just ten years of being in the market, it was shut down. Why is that?!?!
The top dog at the time was Stanley. Stanley began in 1843 but introduced it’s hand planes in 1869. That’s a 14 year head start on Standard Rule Co. I’m sure a lot of smaller companies back then, saw the potential to sell hand planes to consumers. But Stanley is king, and it makes sense to keep the market dominated by the big boys. Now I’m not businessmen, but i would think the King would simply buy up the competition. And that is exactly what happened. In 1893 Stanley acquired Standard Rule Co and closed it’s doors.
So call me crazy, but i feel for this little guy, Here is an underdog who might have had a really stood a chance to become something big, yet was crushed by the big multi dollar company. Was it snuffed out because it was an inferior product? Or was it squashed because it was a real threat?
No one anymore knows the real truth. The board members who made that decision are long since gone. But for me, I am honored to have this little guy in my possession and I plan on restoring him to his glory days and see for myself if he earns a title as a hand tool for FINE craftsmanship.