The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes 

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The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes

The Black Sheep


Every organization needs a Black Sheep, and I’m it for this group.  But don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike wooden planes, I just don’t collect them. I don’t collect Stanley planes either, so I guess that pretty much makes me a Black Sheep no matter which antique tool club I go to.  So what do I collect??  Well I collect eggbeater drills, hand crank drill presses and unusual tools. So why did I join??  Mark Thompson (you may have heard that name mentioned) asked me to help him out with the web page, but the rest is a blur, somehow I ended up as a member. I vaguely remember a blow to the head . . . .the pendulum like movement of a pocket watch and being told, “that wooden planes collectors will be happy to unload their eggbeater drills real cheap”.  Anyway that’s how I got here; how I got into collecting eggbeater drills is a bit more interesting.

As a child, I was very close to my grandfather. He was the one always fixing or building something, and I enjoyed watching/helping him. My grandfather’s signature tool was his old Yankee 1530 drill; it was immaculate but never pristine.  The gears and ratchet mechanism fascinated me and I savored every opportunity to borrow this tool to help with one of my grandfather’s projects.  But this was a tool that seldom left my grandfather’s sight.  He realized this wasn’t a good tool to allow a child to use unsupervised, and he knew that it wasn’t a tool that he could replace if any accidents happened to it. Years later when my grandfather passed away I inherited his little drill.  Unfortunately, as things go, somehow the process of moving things and packing/unpacking the frame of the drill was cracked.  My grandfather’s care with the drill became more understandable; the frame was only pot-metal, and clearly not indestructible.  The maimed little drill was put away, in a place of honor, not to be used again.

As the years passed, I developed the skills my grandfather had passed on to me.  I had my own shop, and I also became an accomplished handyman.  As my interest in woodworking increased, I found a local woodworking club and started to attend meetings.  I soon discovered that many of the craftsmen I admired depended significantly on old hand tools. I wanted to acquire the skills necessary to use the old tools, and that led to an interest in tool collecting.  Of course, my initial interest was strictly because I needed tools for my woodworking hobby.  I wasn’t collecting tools . . . .  these tools were required for the woodworking functions that I wanted to perform.  I started with Stanley planes, and I became intrigued with the many specialized functions that the individual planes could perform. Of course, I had to have each of the planes, just in case I ever needed to perform one of those functions.  Initially I bought only users, because I was going to use them.  However, it started to become very tedious to recondition these planes. Reconditioning the users to a point where they could be used was a lot of work, and when I was done I had a tool that had not significantly appreciated in value, in spite of all my efforts. So I decided to upgrade my acquisition strategy to focus on better condition tools.  The better condition tools required less time to tune, and would appreciate in value better, so this new acquisition strategy made perfect sense to me.  Then as I searched for my better tools I happened to stumble on a couple of (affordable) really nice collectable tools.  They were beautiful, but I couldn’t justify them by saying that I would use them. By then, I had learned enough to know that I couldn’t even tune these tools without depreciating their value. I bought them strictly to put on a shelf . . . . I had become a collector.  However, I also found that apart from a few lucky finds (which were the only ones I could afford), that collecting good quality Stanley planes was going to be a very expensive hobby.

By now I was attending nationally sponsored tool shows/auctions, and was beginning to become very discouraged by the prices of acceptable quality tools.  Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a little drill. It was a Yankee 1530, just like my grandfather’s.  I immediately paid the $5.00 asking price without even trying to talk the dealer down. As I examined my prize, I noticed some significant differences between this one and my grandfather’s drill. This drill had a cast iron frame, and the handle was a different color. I raced home to compare my new treasure to my family heirloom.  On close comparison, other differences appeared, so I set out to collect more samples  . . . .  perhaps I would do a type study on Yankee drills . . . . 

I continued to search for the little Yankee drills and I soon found that they had some big brothers.  The Yankee 1545 was a magnificent hand drill and the Yankee 1555 breast drill was the biggest brother (it has been described as “having more gears than an 18 wheeler”). I also found some cousins in the Yankee 1400 series and the Yankee 1003 and 1005 drill presses. Along the way, I inevitably came across some competitors.  Goodell Pratt made very high quality drills, which in many ways were superior to the Yankee drills. And Millers Falls, another a high quality drill, which went head to head with the larger Yankee drills for features. However, no other manufacturer offered the features available in the Yankee 1530, in a comparably sized drill. For me, those features and the fact that it was my grandfather’s first choice, will always be the little drill’s claim to fame.


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Last modified: August 03, 2001. 
Copyright (c) 2001 by The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes. All Rights Reserved. No part may be reproduced by any means without express written permission.