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Flat Back Molder Wedges

John Nicholson (late style)

Ce Chelor (late style)

E Taft

S Partridge

Charles Dupee

L Metcalf

G Hawes

Photos / information provided by Colonial Williamsburg,  Mike Humphrey, Will Steere, Steve Frazier, Tom Elliott.

Flat Back Molder Wedges

Cesar Chelor

(1754-1784 working dates)

Chelor's flat back wedge and the chamfer stop with its tipped step followed by a shallow elongated gouge cut/ turnout (shown above) are the defining elements of what has been described as the late phase of Cesar's work. 

A question which follows is whether other regional, period craftsmen used these traits, either through direct contact or by a copy-cat dynamic. IE, ... are there craftsmen whose work follows that of Cesar Chelor late in his career? This question was posed amongst a group of plane researchers, including the contributors cited above, who discussed this question and considered which of the early NE planemakers/craftsmen might be included in such a group. The list of craftsmen in the title section are those which most strongly utilized these molding plane elements and thus provide a working list to consider. The men comprising this list include E Taft, S Partridge, Charles Dupee, L Metcalf and G Hawes, all from the area of southeastern Worcester Co. and southwestern Suffolk Co., Massachusetts. (John Nicholson will be treated separately.)

 

It should be noted that the wedge elements are most closely followed by these craftsmen, and the chamfer stops, less so. Instead, these craftsmen tended to use a more simplified chamfer stop composed of a flat step and simple turn-out. (Not everything is clear cut and simple ... as Charles Dupee is more complicated with his wedges and George Hawes is more complicated with his chamfer stops. Nonetheless these generalities seem to hold.) (A second list of craftsmen who partially follow the flat back wedge design include U Clap, I Holmes and A Brown. These craftsmen might be addressed in a follow-up study.)

The initial study started with a review of Chelor's planes in Williamsburg's online collection. The first finding is that Chelor's late work formed a distinct minority of his planes (14 of 54). The second finding is that Chelor's late work seems to fall into two phases, one preceding the other. The "earlier" phase, evidenced by one plane, has a blocky heavier profile to his flat back wedge finial outline and importantly, has an earlier chamfer stop form ... that of a narrow lamb's tongue style. This Chelor plane, the first shown below, seems to bridge the middle period of Chelor's work and the late period of his work ... a transition piece. The second Chelor plane (one of 11), also shown below, has the more typical late form elements defined by a late wedge finial (with a more uniform sweep/curvature than the earlier blocky form) as well as the late chamfer stops. (Note: The maker mark has been removed from the first plane (2016-380), but the plane is attributed to Cesar by Williamsburg.)

Ce Chelor "late" phase chamfer stops

"earlier/transitional"              "later"

                 Ce Chelor "late" phase wedge finials

"earlier/transitional"                                       "later"

John Nicholson

I Nicholson / In / Wrentham imprint found on the flat backed wedge planes

In reviewing Williamsburg's Nicholson / Chelor plane collection, it was noted that three John Nicholson planes also had flat backed wedges. Interestingly, the wedges had finials which were nearly identical to the blocky heavier finial profile of Chelor's "earlier" late phase exhibited in the first Chelor plane.

 

In a striking parallel to Chelor's having two "late phase styles" as evidenced by the wedges and the chamfer stops, the  late form Nicholson molders also seem to fall into two "late phase styles" based on the two distinct chamfer stop designs that were found. The first Nicholson plane below has an earlier chamfer stop form (a simple lamb's tongue) which is similar to the majority of Nicholson planes from his "early" and "middle" periods. The second Nicholson plane below, has the typical late Chelor chamfer stop form with the tipped step and gouge cut / turn out.  The third plane, not shown, is Williamsburg #609, and it has the earlier simple lamb's tongue chamfer stop. These three Nicholson planes seem to document the transition between a "middle phase" and a "late phase". 

 

There are a number of caveats that need to be mentioned.

1) Care must be taken in interpreting "transitions" or "trends" as we are talking about a very limited number of planes, but these are the clues we currently have.

2) The observation that John Nicholson planes often showed a range and variability in construction styles needs to be considered. It should also be mentioned that construction details can be subtle.

3) GAWP5 gives a date range of 1739-1747 for this imprint ... thus suggesting that these "late" Nicholson molders would be actually considered early.  (There have been questions raised with respect to the imprint date ranges and it has been put forward that a study of I Nicholson marks and planes is needed. This research is currently underway as of November 2023. This I Nicholson / In / Wrentham imprint is now thought to be post 1770 based on this research.)

4) It has been suggested by several writers that Chelor might have made many of the I Nicholson planes prior to 1754, but this does not alter the above observations.

John Nicholson

I Nicholson / In / Wrentham

Williamsburg #611

(dates possibly extend to the 1760s.)   

John Nicholson

I Nicholson / In / Wrentham

Williamsburg #635

I Nicholson "late" phase chamfer stops

"earlier/transitional"           "later"

I Nicholson "late" phase wedge finial common to the "earlier/transitional"  and  "later" planes

Enos Taft 

(ca 1773 starting working date)

Of the craftsmen on the list, E Taft most closely matches the wedge and chamfer stop details found on the "typical" Chelor late period molding planes. Most of Enos's planes have a chamfer stop turnout that resembles Chelor, but whose step is more flat. A minority of Taft's planes have the tipped step. The wedge finials are close to Chelor's "typical" late style finial (2nd plane) but are somewhat larger overall. Of the planes known, Taft seems to have been fairly consistent in his body of work with respect to his chamfer stops and molding plane wedge details.

Looking at other plane categories, Taft's plow planes share quite a few elements in common with Chelor's "late" phase plow planes; chamfer stops, arm and fence profiles, skate design, rivets and fasteners, among others. In the plows, considering the molding profile to the body above the skate, Taft follows Chelor's middle period rather than Chelor's late period. Taft's open totes share a common fishtail element with later period Chelor planes as well as with J Perry and R Thayer planes. (See the "Fishtail" open tote study/entry.) R Thayer and J Perry share similarities with Chelor's and Taft's open totes, but they do not have a flat back wedge style in their molding planes. (Perry is of the same relative age as Taft and Chelor, but Thayer is a generation later.) The closed tote profiles seen in the one known Chelor jointer and in several Taft jointers bear little resemblance to each other. This might indicate there was a not a close relationship / history between Taft and Chelor. (One should remain careful in drawing such a conclusion, as only one Chelor jointer is known.)  Contrast this to the closed tote similarities of H. Wetherel and E. Clark, which does support the idea that such a relationship most likely did exist with these two craftsmen. (Note that the Chelor jointer has late style chamfer stops and so, fits within the timeframe of this study.) Unlike the closed tote disconnect, Taft's graceful rabbet escapements are very similar in form to those used by Chelor. 

Chelor rabbet and toted E Taft rabbet.

Stephen Partridge

(ca 1772 starting working date) 

S Partridge, closely aligned with E Taft, follows many of the element designs used by E Taft, including the use of the same In Mendon stamp.  The wedges seem to be more "compact" (less elongated) than with Chelor ... similar to those seen in the L Metcalf molders.)

Charles Dupee (small mark)

(ca 1754 starting working date)

As has been stated, Charles Dupee is a more complicated craftsman with respect to having employed multiple construction styles in his planes over his career. Indeed, there has been speculation as to whether two generations might have made the Dupee planes, father and son, small imprint and large imprint. However, at present, there is no evidence that Chares Jr. made any of the planes. 

With respect to Charles Dupee planes, small mark and large mark, it is the small imprint planes which are considered earlier and are those which are being considered here. The Dupee chamfer stops are fairly consistent in style with a flat step followed by a simple turn out. The small imprint wedges are another matter ... as they show significant variation in styles ranging from the flat back form, to relieved finials similar to Jo Fuller and to a small rounded form as recorded in GAWP5. (Follow-up work is planned to more fully understand and document the variations in wedge style used by this craftsman as we don't yet understand the styling sequence observed in his molding planes.) It's interesting to note that the escapement shown in the Dupee rabbet plane below does not follow the design used by either Chelor or Taft. Dupee's estimated starting working date is quite a bit earlier than the other craftsmen   ... approximately 20 to 30 years,  concurrent with Cesar stamping his own planes. 

GAWP5 Charles Dupee wedges. The B4 wedge is from a later large mark molder with flat chamfers.

Luther Metcalf

(ca 1778 starting working date)

Based on the few wedges / planes available for study, the wedge finials closely match Chelor's late finials noting that the Chelor cutouts under the finial are longer. The chamfer stops are composed of a flat step followed by a simple turnout.

G Hawes

(ca 1782 starting working date)

George Hawes of Wrentham has the latest estimated starting date of these craftsmen. There is some variance with the wedges but they all have a flat back. There is a range of chamfer stop styles associated with his flat chamfered planes; a tipped step which rounds over followed by a flute, where the flutes are either short or elongated (a short form example below), as well as a tipped flat angled return. On a round chamfered plane, the stops are a faint double gouge cut. (The first mentioned form is very similar to those found on planes by Jo Fuller.) The flat step with a simple turnout style used by most of the craftsmen on the list, doesn't seem to have been used by Hawes based on the planes available for review.

Note; A 1801 Wrentham deed has been found where John Nicholson sells George Hawes a 37A property.

Rabbet with the relieved form of Hawes' wedge. The escarpment is similar to both Chelor and Taft.

Representative G Hawes chamfer stop styles.

Wrentham, Medway and Mendon, Massachusetts

In review, a minimum of five early Massachusetts craftsmen employed wedge (and chamfer stop) elements that follow the late forms believed to have been developed by John Nicholson and Cesar Chelor. Based on the body of known planes, many, if not most of these craftsmen were like to have been influenced by Chelor and Nicholson, but not necessarily, directly so.  Dupee was working nearly a generation earlier than the other four and may have had a higher degree of contact, but the plane chamfers and varied wedge designs don't yet support this consideration. Enos Taft's planes seem to have the most in common with Chelor's late planes and so he may have had a closer relationship with Cesar than the others... but there remain significant differences in their jointers. So, this study needs to continue and that can happen if additional plane examples are reported. This material will be updated as that new information is supplied.

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