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Stiles, J

GAWP5: James Stiles (1743 -1830)

  • born and apprenticed in Berkshire, England

  • Working as a carpenter, toolmaker in New York City 1768-1775

  • RW soldier and then settled in Kingston, NY in 1783

Stiles, J

Dated Planes of James Stiles 

(SOJ 3-4 Winter 2002)


By Pat Lasswell


James Stiles was an early planemaker who was born in England in 1743 and had immigrated to New York by the 1760’s.  His earliest known work, ca. 1768-1775, was from New York City and he moved to Kingston by ca. 1783. He continued working in Kingston until 1823 when he semi-retired. (1)


The outline of his work and his plane imprints are well documented and are summarized in AWP4. An article in Plane Talk, Vol. XII No. 1, provides additional biographical information. (2) Since James was one of the few planemakers who often dated his planes, the study of such planes can offer insights into the transitional period of planemaking in America, ca. 1790-1820.


Presented here is information on wedge profiles and chamfer details based on dated J. Stiles planes found in Cliff Yaun’s extensive collection. The planes to be discussed range from 1780 through 1812 and bear the J.STILES mark designated (B). (3)


The first plane, dated 1780, is only a couple of years “younger” than the earliest one documented…1778. (4) It is a beech tongue plane, 9 ¾” in length, and has heavy flat chamfers 3/8” in width. The wedge matches the (B) wedge illustrated in AWP4. The chamfers simple turn out on the ends and a step defines the upper body from the

hollowed shoulder. The reverse chamfers end low in comparison to the shoulder. The iron is marked G. Bishop.











In most details, this 1780 dated plane is quite representative of an 18th C plane in general. The plane, including the use of beech, is closely allied to British-made planes of the same period.


The second plane dated 1795, a beech ogee, is 10” long and has 3/16” round chamfers. The chamfers simply turn out on the ends and a step still defines the hollowed shoulder. The reverse chamfers end a bit higher with reference to the shoulder. The wedge, how-ever, has an elongated larger finial than does the standard type (B) wedge. This wedge is not documented in AWP4.


This 1795 plane very much fits the pattern of ca. 1800 American molding planes. The plane’s length of 10” does hint at an earlier date than ca 1800 with regard toboth British and American planes. But, the lengths of James’ planes are not predictable when dates are considered.


The next plane, dated 1802, continues with the transition from a “18th C style” to a “ 19th C style”.  The plane is rather unique in that while the body of the plane is straight, the sash profile is curved. The plane is made of beech and is 8 ½” long. The chamfers are heavy and round (1/4” plus) and end with simple turnouts on the ends.  The wedge is similar to that of the 1795 plane, except that the finial is slightly rounded near the tip. It is not shown in AWP4.










Plow planes, dated 1806, 1807 and 1808, have similar chamfer details to the 1802 plane. Shown below is the 1807 wedge, which is now approaching a 19th C style. This wedge outline is not presented in AWP4.




The final plane, 9 ½” in length, is dated 1812 and has nearly standard 19th C style chamfers and wedge. The wedge approaches the (D) style shown in AWP4. The plane is made of beech and is double boxed. The molded shoulder retains the step and the reverse chamfers end high compared to the shoulder.


















While mainstream English planemakers led both provincial makers and American makers in regards to these stylistic changes by a good 10 to 15 years, James Stiles’ planes typify the transition of 18th century to 19th century planemaking. The dates on James’ planes provide an unparalleled dimension to this overall subject. 


(1) A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, by Emil & Martyl Pollack, 4th edition revised by Thomas Elliott, pgs 395 & 396.


(2) Plane Talk, Vol. XII, Number 1, pgs 65-67. “The Life and Times of James and JJ Styles”.


(3) A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, by Emil & Martyl Pollack, 4th edition revised by Thomas Elliott, pgs 395 & 396.


(4) A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, by Emil & Martyl Pollack, 4th edition revised by Thomas Elliott, pgs 395 & 396.

Four James Stiles / New York Planes

(SOJ 3 – 4 Winter 2002)


By Pat Lasswell


This brief discussion of four James Stiles hollow and rounds will fit in well with the article on James’ dated planes. Four planes with the James Stiles / New York AWP4 (A) imprint were found together and are all stamped with the owners (zz) imprint H. ELY. AWP4 states that the (A) imprint was used by James prior to the Revolutionary War.


These planes will help illustrate the considerations which must be given to plane construction details such as chamfers and plane length when one tries to assign dates to these traits.



Note: First of all, I am basing the observations that make up this article on an assumption that may not be true. Since the planes have the same Stiles’ mark, the same wedge design and were found together with the same owner’s mark, I am assuming that the planes are of the same age. Readers must use their own judgment on this point.




In general American and British molding planes with wide flat chamfers are assigned to the early and mid 1700s. Chamfers then tend to narrow and to become more equally positioned between the top and sides of the plane body into the later 1700s. Commonly, it is thought that wider chamfers are earlier than narrow chamfers (especially when one is comparing planes from the same maker). But a look at these four planes dispels this last generalization, at least when James Stiles is concerned. (A large group of ca 1800 C Harwood molders from one tool set also shows this pattern, Brown Auction, Fall 2001, as do four Thomas Granford hollow and rounds profiled in The Chronicle, Vol. 48, No. 1).


Simply: The wider Stiles’ planes exhibit wider chamfers. The converse is also true. The chamfer widths are actually quite different: 3/8” on the wider planes and ¼” on the narrower planes.

Studies of other sets of planes for other makers need to be done to see how the chamfer patterns emerge.




The dated Stiles’ molding planes vary in length from 8½” to 10” in length. These four planes are all 9 9/16” in length. I see no linkage between plane length and date with James Stiles. Other makers, such as Jo Fuller, are much more predictable so each maker should be considered separately.




A consideration of these four planes is useful since few sets or partial sets are found intact. One interesting note is that these planes have the (A) imprint but all have the (B) wedge. The wedge shown for the (A) mark is different in AWP4. If this were just one plane, the combination may just have been an oddity, but with four planes the observation is more compelling.


None of these four planes is dated, but James still used his number stamps. The large round is stamped 14 on the heel and has a G Bishop iron. The large hollow is not stamped with numerals and has a York iron. The small hollow is stamped 19 on the heel and 9 on the lower wedge. The small round is stamped 10 on the heel and 10 on the lower wedge. Its’ iron is marked G Bishop.

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