Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 1
   September 2010
   From the Collection

Preston Irish Pattern Chariot Planes

Preston Irish Pattern Chariot Planes

The Preston name has long been associated with quality early English toolmaking. Founded in 1825 and continuing until 1932, the business recorded more than 25 patents and 35 registered designs. The early years focused on wooden plane, rule and level manufacture. By 1865, Edward Preston Junior joined his father's business and the company started producing a variety of metal tools and castings that won it the respect of other English toolmakers. Its metal products exemplified superb design elements and the distinctive Victorian embellishments found on some may never be replicated. Today, some of the more practical designs are being successfully copied by other tool companies, more than 100 years later. The Preston firm was located in Birmingham, unlike most of the other metal-trade manufacturers, which were established in Sheffield.

The Irish Pattern Chariot, as described in the 1909 Preston catalog, was technically a bevel-up block plane, but was classed as a chariot. It's clear that conventionality was tossed aside when it was categorized as Irish; whether this was an advertising gambit, a product of innovative marketing research, some sly humor, or the result of numerous Irish customers asking for such a tool will never be known. The accepted and usual length of a chariot plane is in the 3-1/2" to 6" range. In this case, the length advertised in the catalog is 7-1/2" long with a 1-3/4" wide blade. With its swept-back sides, the intention of the design, in some way, may have been to replicate the look of an early Roman chariot, hence the name. The large wedge placed between the sides gives a place for the hand to rest. The plane was advertised as having an adjustable insert mouth and came in two versions, malleable iron and bronze. The recessed areas of the malleable iron version were usually painted.
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