versions of the Stanley 60-1/2A block plane (one with
painted rails, one without)
This story of how a multinational corporation handled the merchandising
of an innovative redesign of a product that had been sold for
more than 100 years without undergoing any changes has all the
intrigue of a Cold War espionage plot. First, however, the critique.
As any company grows, there comes a time referred to by the
number crunchers as the point of inflection. Simply stated,
it is the time when any business reaches a certain size and
must enlist outside help in order to grow further or else ultimately
fail. The problem rears its head when the new management inductees
are not fully versed or don't even care about what brought the
company success in the first place. Instead, the newcomers,
armed with their pertinent degrees, often ignore the basic tenet
of any commercial enterprise (customer satisfaction) and attempt
to run the business based on the latest model that's in vogue.
Sounds harsh, doesn't it? The point is that bigger is not always
better, especially when the left hand does not know, and again
doesn't care, what the right hand is doing. It's all about the
silo-and-bunker mentality and what the bottom line is or what
the dividend payout is this quarter. This is not a bashing of
big business, but more a background explanation of the planes
Stanley Tools, a division of The Stanley Works, has been making
tools for more than 150 years. As the company began to grow,
it purchased smaller companies and opened branch plants around
the world in order to expand the business further. It also encouraged
rivalries between divisions to drive corporate returns. By 1982,
the popular 60-1/2 and 9-1/2 block planes were no longer manufactured
in North America; instead production was shifted to England.
(Remember those number crunchers.) It was during the next few
years that the planes shown here were designed (we think) and
manufactured by Stanley UK to compete with similar products
by other manufacturers. It's unknown whether these new designs
were meant to supplant the existing models, as it appears both
styles were put into production. These "A" planes
were marketed in England, Canada, South Africa, Australia (unconfirmed)
and presumably other parts of the world, but never in the USA.
Whatever the reason, consumers had a relatively short exposure
to them, although it has been postulated that they were available
until about 10 to 15 years ago (new old stock) along with the
existing American styles.