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N Taber Planes

Nicholas Taber (1761-1849)

New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA

per GAWP5, he was active 1785 to 1820.

NICHOLAS TABER’S PLANEMAKING CAREER

  

New Bedford [including Fairhaven] was split from Dartmouth Ma. to become a separate town in 1787, then Fairhaven became independent of New Bedford in 1812. Nicholas Taber was born in 1761, probably in Fairhaven. In 1784 Nicholas married Desire Vincent in Dartmouth [probably Fairhaven] [1]. They had two daughters and a son named Vincent, born in 1787. Vincent, who later lived on Martha’s Vineyard, was a carpenter, and may have been the maker of the plane described in the V Taber entry in GAWP5. After Desire died in 1792, Nicholas married Rebecca Marshal in 1794. The documented details of his early life are incomplete, but Nicholas was described has a housewright in a Fairhaven deed from 1798, at the age of 37. Subsequent deeds continue to call him a housewright until he is identified as a toolmaker in an 1818 deed. His son, John Marshall Taber was born in 1796 when Nicholas was 35 years old, his daughter Desire was born in 1799 and his son Allen was born in 1800. Where Nicholas received his housewright training or whether he had any exposure to commercial planemaking are unknown.

 

There are a handful of early N Taber planes, showing a progression of styles, all of which might date to the 1780’s. The two earliest molding planes are quite similar to those marked Jo Fuller IN Providence, and may have been made around 1785, or a little before that. Also from that period are a narrow, birch, fixed panel raiser and a birch crown molder. These two planes have no flutes, flat chamfers, very offset totes and straight, flat chamfers on the escapement abutments. From the other end of his career, there is a sprinkling of planes with either his large or small imprints. It is believed that Nicholas turned his planemaking business over to his son, John Marshall, by 1820.

 

Most of N Taber’s surviving planes have the large mark, are 9.5” long, are made of beech and have pronounced, rounded reliefs to their finials and a significant turnout at the bottom of the cutout under the finials. The majority have steep pitched irons and bold chamfers that are flat or round, in about equal numbers. By themselves, the features of these planes would suggest that they were made around 1800, or early in the 19th century. It might also be surmised that there was a gap of time between the production of the earlier and later groups of planes. One plane, however, argues for a different timeframe.

 

A few years ago, Sandy Moss [2] found an N Taber beech panel raiser which is 13” long instead of the typical 14”, has round chamfers that are especially bold and a tote that is off center by only .25” [less than on most]. In addition to the imprint of its English maker [Brades Co], the iron is also marked W. S. Wall New Bedford. No other examples of this imprint are recorded, and Wall was not a merchant previously known to Sandy. Subsequently, Sandy discovered an 1802 letter in which Wm. Sawyer Wall is cited as having sold 3 scythes to a former New Bedford resident along with a discussion of other materials. Because of the scarcity of records regarding Wall as a merchant, I assume that his business was short-lived, and that the plane dates to about 1802 [of course, I could be wrong]. If this plane was made around 1802, then all of the 9.5”, flat chamfered molders would date to the 1790’s, along with some of his heavy round chamfered planes.

 

As more of N Taber’s planes are examined, his style transitions are discovered to have been less abrupt than previously thought. After his initial molding planes were made in the style of Jo Fuller IN Providence, Nicholas used a rounded finial with an intermediate sized relief on a 10” beech, flat chamfered molder with no flutes, a 9.5” birch, flat chamfered molder and at least three  9.5”, beech molders with bold, flat chamfers. All five of those planes also feature the steep pitched irons which he seems to have used exclusively until he returned to a lower pitch at some point during his period of bold, round chamfers. The cutouts under the finials on those five planes range from being straight to turning out mildly, and all turn out less sharply than on his later 9.5” beech planes.

 

Nicholas Taber’s earliest and transitional planes might date from the 1780’s and his 9.5” flat chamfered [and some of his round chamfered ] planes might have been made in the 1790’s. His planes made after that are more difficult to date, but it is a fact that some of N Taber’s large marked, late planes are essentially identical to some of J M Taber’s earliest planes. By 1800, Nicholas Taber was certainly busy. He was an active housewright, the builder and owner of an Inn, a Fire Company member and an active school Proprietor, along with being a commercial planemaker and a father raising and training several children.

 

Because nothing is presently known about the maker of surviving planes marked J Taber, they should be mentioned here with N Taber. J Taber used an imprint that is very similar to that of N Taber, and the known molding planes all have steep pitched irons, just as N Taber’s flat chamfered, 9.5” beech planes did. Because the planes are so close in style, it is easy to suspect that the two makers worked in close proximity, sometime in the 1790’s. Based on information in the GAWP5, W Taber might have a similar story.  J Taber planes are not common, but enough exist that he must have been a commercial maker.

 

[1] New genealogical data is all from familysearch.org

[2] A Nicholas Taber Panel Raising Plane—With a Story, by Sandy Moss

 

Mike Humphrey

IMG_7292_edited.jpg

above; GAWP5 Jo Fuller wedge C,

Jo Fuller / In / Providence

Per GAWP 5, N Taber planes are separated into two main groups; the A and the B imprints. Given the N Taber planes available for study, the planes having the A imprint are now divided into roughly three groups based on the molding plane length, the molding plane wedge style and the body chamfers; "Early, Middle and Later". Following this regime, the B imprint planes are designated as "Late". These added divisions and nomenclatures are the author's. All "Early" molders are 10" long while "Middle, Later and Late" molders are all 9.5" long. The GAWP5 designated wedges A, B and C are supplemented with additional C variants. No attempt has been made to give these C variants a 'name'. 

 

Note: A single N Taber B imprint molding plane is reported at the end of this entry.                        

 

Planes with a bench escapement roughly fall within these same groups noting that chamfer styles are the main group determinant feature. Chamfers on the wedge abutment cheeks fit into the early as well as middle / later camps and in general complement the body chamfer styles. The bench plane style wedges, however, are all round topped in the examples available for study and thus do not act as a group defining trait. 

Molding Planes

"Early" N Taber planes. In 2023, an "Early" style N Taber molder was offered by MJD Auctions. This molder, below, has the features of the "Early" example described in GAWP5 ... 10", birch, flat chamfers end with a tipped step, roll over and connected flute. It has a wedge that is very close to the Jo Fuller C wedge  and is compared with the Jo Fuller three dot wedge and the Jo Fuller / In Providence wedge below. Based on this "Early" N Taber molder and a second example available for study, the author proposes that the associated wedge profiles are closer to the Jo Fuller C wedge (Jo Fuller / In / Providence) than the N Taber A wedge type presented in GAWP5.10" long, 3 1/16" height, birch.

Top to bottom; "Early" N Taber wedge, Jo Fuller / In / Providence wedge, Jo Fuller three-dot wedge.

Left, "Early" N Taber end chamfer and Right, Jo Fuller / In / Providence end chamfer.

A second "Early" N Taber 10" birch molder courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

A later "Early" N Taber 10" beech molder, no flutes, with a rounded, slightly relieved wedge finial. The cutout under the finial remains slightly curved continuing the design found on the "Early" wedges. The finial height also matches the finial height on the "Early" wedges. This wedge represents a new N Taber molding plane wedge form. The same wedge design has been found on four early "Middle" 9.5" molding planes (covered below). Thus, this wedge seems to represesent a transitional form, bridging the "Early" planes and the "Middle" planes. Courtesy of Will Steere.

A later "Early" N Taber 10" beech molder, no flutes, courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

An "early Middle" N Taber 9.5" birch ogee with flat chamfers. The "early Middle" designation is based on the rounded wedge finial which was also found on a 10" later "Early" molder made of beech and shown above. This is one of four known 9.5" planes that has this wedge. Courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

A second "early Middle" N Taber plane. A mark, flat chamfers, with the same wedge style as the previous plane. Beech, 9 1/2". Courtesy Bob Collington, Rhykenology Group on Facebook, February 8, 2020.

A third "early Middle" N Taber plane. A mark, flat chamfers, with the same wedge style as the previous two planes. Beech, 9 1/2".

A fourth "early Middle" N Taber plane. A mark, flat chamfers, with the same wedge style as the previous 3 planes. Beech, 9 1/2". Courtesy Steve Frazier.

"Middle" planes. The majority of the N Taber molders found are of this type: 9.5" long, flat or round chamfers, type C wedge and C wedge variants. Planes with flat chamfers (earlier) preceded the planes with round chamfers (later).

Earlier "Middle" planes.  A mark, flat chamfers, beech. C or C variant wedges.

Later "Middle" planes. A mark, round chamfers, beech. C or C variant wedges.

Earlier "Middle" C and C variant wedges (flat chamfers). 

Later "Middle" C and C variant wedges (round chamfers).  

A "Later" N Taber plane. A mark, round chamfers, beech, B wedge.

10" long plow plane...one of two reported. A mark, flat chamfers. Replaced wedge. Beech. Many of the details parallel Jo Fuller's 10" plows with the D1 mark; arm design, inset diamond washer for the arm/fence rivet, thumbscrew head design, fence molding details, raised rivet heads, body transform to top of skate. Courtesy of Steve Frazier.

N Taber planes with a bench type escapement

Two planes with a bench plane type of escapement ( a crown plane and a panel plane) are included in the "Early" and "Earlier" designations based on their flat body chamfers, birch construction, and style of the wedge abutment cheek chamfers. The tote profiles, body chamfers and body chamfer ends are similar enough that one cannot easily discern if one is older than the other. However, the author believes that the wedge abutment cheek chamfers do vary enough to separate the planes into an "Earlier" style (the crown molder) and an "Early" style (the panel raising plane). ("Earlier" cheek chamfers are 5/32" to 3/16" wide and "Early" cheek chamfers are 1/8" to 5/32" wide.) The "Earlier" and "Early" bench planes may or may-not correspond with the "Earlier" and "Early" molding planes from a construction date perspective .... but they're probably close. (The author's definitions are given as an aide to help in the interpretation of style changes over time .... changes which vary between dates, different regions and specific craftsmen. In addition, with respect to definitions and terminology, see Mike Humphrey's articles written over the years. Mike has long strived to build a bridge to common terminologies such that the communications and understandings of early wooden planes are enhanced.) 

Earliest Jo Fuller (three-dot) jointer plane with wide, pronounced, flat wedge abutment cheek chamfers. Based on cheek chamfer similarities between this Fuller plane (and other three-dot Fuller planes) and the N Taber crown molder, this N Taber crown molder is designated "Earlier".

3 Dot Jo Fuller

N Taber "Earlier" crown molder

N Taber "Earlier" crown molder, courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

Early Jo Fuller (In / Providence) crown molder with narrower flat wedge abutment cheek chamfers. Based on cheek chamfer similarities between this Fuller plane (and other In / Providence planes) and the N Taber panel raising plane, this N Taber panel raising plane is designated "Early".

Jo Fuller / In / Providence

N Taber "Early" panel raiser

"Early" N Taber panel raiser with flat chamfers and early wedge abutment cheeks. Birch, 14" long.

"Mid" to "Later" N Taber panel raiser with tight round chamfers. Birch. Courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

"Mid" to "Later" N Taber plane. A mark, round chamfers, birch. The wedge abutment cheek is later in style ... something closer to an A Smith A1 or early B style. (N Taber molding planes of a comparable age would have been primarily made of beech.)

courtesy Sydnas Sloot Old Hand Tools

"Later-period" N Taber jointer. A mark, heavy round chamfers, beech, 30" long, 3 1/4" wide with a tote height of 3 7/8". The wedge abutment cheek is later in style ... something closer to an A Smith A1 or early B style. Wedge is probably a period replacement.

N Taber B Imprint.

9.5" long molding plane, beech. B wedge. Courtesy Steve Frazier.

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