Story 451

Some folks swear they're the best ever.

Ask any builder or geologist—bedrock ranks as the ultimate in stability. So it's no wonder that in 1900, when Stanley Rule and Level Company introduced planes that held the plane iron (cutter) rock steady, the company dubbed them "Bedrock."

At the heart of the new tool sat an improved frog, patented in 1895 by Stanley's head engineer, Justus Traut. The frog—a roughly triangular cast-iron piece upon which the cutter rests—secures that iron to the plane bottom. The Bedrock and frog evolved from Stanley's Bailey bench plane, the standard for nearly 40 years. Traut's patent made the frog even more triangular and mated it more stubbornly to the bottom, while allowing easy throat-opening adjustment.

A later improvement in Bedrock planes came in 1910, when Edmund Schade, then superintendent of production at Stanley, patented a system of draw pins and tapered screws that allowed the frog to be securely drawn down on the base. At the same time, this improvement permitted the adjustment of the throat opening without the need to remove the plane iron. Along with this change, Stanley altered the side profile of the planes to the square or flat-sided type shown above, a change that lasted until Stanley discontinued the line in 1943.

More support for the cutter The improved Bedrocks supported the plane iron right to the heel of its bevel, eliminating movement and chatter so completely that some folks proclaim them the finest planes ever made. Bedrock planes cost slightly more than the Bailey planes, and come in corresponding sizes 2-8. The prefix "60" identified the Bedrocks. So a No. 608 Bedrock plane equalled a Bailey No. 8 in size and cutter width. The same model Bedrock, with a corrugated bottom, is No. 608C.

Today, collectors and craftsmen seek Bedrocks, which generally cost more than the Bailey planes. Some Bedrocks, such as the rare No. 602C and the No. 605 14 , can sell for $500-$1,000. While collectors want them for their relative rarity, craftsmen still crave them for clean, chatter-free hand-planing.