The Superior Works: A Better Mousetrap? Oliver Hayworth

The 1870's and 1880's were the decades of bench plane innovation by all the also rans, who, not unlike a horny chihuahua making amorous motions towards one's leg, unsuccessfully tried to neuter Stanley as the top dog in plane manufacturing. By the 1890's, most of the plane patents were made by men in the employ of the larger toolmaking firms, or by men who assigned their patent rights to the same. However, one such fellow, who obviously took the state motto of "Show me" to heart, decided to give it a go with a design that probably never should have been shown to anyone.

Oliver Hayworth, of Tarkio, Missouri, received a patent on November 7th, 1893 for an adjustable iron along with a lateral adjustment means for the iron, both of which had already been done quite nicely by Leonard Bailey's design. The plane employs a faucet handle-like adjusting knob that when turned raises/lowers a casting that has a machined nib, which in turn engages one of a series of slots cut into the iron. Turning the iron to the right retracts the casting, and thus decreases the iron's set. Conversely, turning the knob to the left lowers the casting, and increases the set. The frog itself is adjustable backward/forward via the common manual means by loosening two screws, positioning the frog, then tightening the screws. This same method is identical on the Bailey bench planes.

The lateral adjusting lever had to be designed to circumvent the patent rights Stanley had earlier filed for the same. Hayworth's adjuster is sorta a rack and pinion-like style, where a cross bar is pinned and pivots on a lever. The sides of the cross bar are bent upward so that they butt against the edge of the iron and don't engage it directly like on the Stanley design. The Hayworth adjuster is not smooth, and it has a tendancy to snap into position at the extremes of the adjustment's range - not a very desirous feature when trying to make a fine adjustment to the iron's lateral position. The lever itself is a twisted piece of steel, very much like that used on the Sargent&Co.'s lateral adjuster.

Hayworth's patent was manufactured by The Derby Plane Company, of Derby, Connecticut for just a few years. This company was the successor to The Birmingham Plane Manufacturing Company, of Birmingham, Connecticut. However, none of Hayworth's planes are marked as being made by Derby, but are instead marked "THE BIRMINGHAM PLANE MFG CO CONN" on the iron. Like so many other holders of patents, Hayworth had to look far and wide to find someone willing to manufacture his brainchild. The patent was applied to both wood bottom and metallic planes, as were many plane patents of the time.

The planes are not very well made, certainly not up to the standards of other manufacturers' products. The knob and tote are just stained hardwood, and the castings are rather thin and fragile (the adjusting wheel is normally found with one or more lugs snapped off). The lever cap uses the cheap thumb screw forcing the lever cap against a cross rod method to hold the iron in place. This means of securing the iron normally doesn't work worth a damn when the iron is set rank as the force on the iron to lift a thick shaving is greater than the holding power of the thumb screw, which invariably leads to the workman tightening the screw more and more until finally he snaps the lever cap and then goes into an apoplectic spasm over the cheap design.

The cap iron of this patent is interesting in that it has the slot for the cap iron screw cut in it rather than in the iron (because the iron is slotted to accept the adjuster). The keyhole cutout, through which the cap iron screw passes when the iron is disassembled for honing, is at the bottom of the cap iron.

These planes are hard to find, and when they do show up, they usually are of the wooden configuration and look like they were on the losing end of the plane demolition derby. They, like nearly all plane patents, were made in a range of sizes, from smoother to jointer. No block plane version of the patent has ever surfaced.


Copyright (c) 1999 by Patrick A. Leach. All Rights Reserved. No part may be reproduced by any means without the express written permission of the author.

pal December 28, 1998