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Plane of the Week with Ryan Sparreboom

  Mathieson in March - Part 2 1 of 4  

Mathieson had taken over Manner's business in 1822 and started his adventure into plane making which would lead to the most successful toolmaking empire in Scotland.

Last week, I introduced some of the early history of Alexander Mathieson through his relationship with late 18th and early 19th-century planemaker John Manners.

Mathieson’s company expanded slowly in the first half of the 19th century. The Scottish census of 1841 listed Alex Mathieson as a “master plane-maker.” By 1851, census records show that he had eight employees, one of whom was his son Thomas Mathieson. Thomas had joined the business and listed as a “journeyman plane-maker” since 1841 when he was only 15 years old.

The era of mid-1800’s was the beginning of the Mathieson business expansion, which occurred through a series of important business acquisitions, and Thomas played an important role in this growth.

The first significant business acquisition that Mathieson made was in 1849 when he took over the firm of James and William Stewart. James and William are believed to be brothers, and sons of John Stewart, who had started his plane making business in 1774.

By 1848, the Stewarts had built a huge business in Edinburgh, and Goodman described their business as a “prolific makers and the leading plane makers in Edinburgh” (BPM from 1700 3rd Edition). The plane made by Stewarts and shown below is certainly a testament to the high quality of their work.

This plane is a double iron, ogee and quarter round profile plane. Double iron planes (and triple and quadruple for that matter) are not necessarily wider than some single iron planes. The advantage is that they are supposed to be quicker to sharpen and set then wide complex single iron moulding planes.

The ogee and quarter round profile has been used on all types of mouldings, from window and door trim to decorative trim on furniture. The plane features a very deep fence to register the plane to the proper spring angle and guide it along the edge of the work. The spring lines are still very clearly visible on the front of the plane.

By its features, we can tell that this is likely an earlier plane made by Stewart. The 5/16” wide flat chamfers are typical of British planes made in the mid to late 1700’s. Rounded chamfers had typically become the norm by about 1780; however, this change may have come a bit later in Scotland.


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