Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 4
   March 2013
 
   From the Collection
 

The Anomaly
From the Collection
Two 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 shown here.

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.
 
 
         
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