Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 1, Issue 5
July 2007
From the Collection

Melhuish Shoulder / Bullnose Plane

This type of plane is usually associated with the prominent Scottish plane makers Spiers and Mathieson. Norris, a maker from London, also produced planes of this type. Identified as a rebate (rabbet) bullnose combination, planes of this style were highly prized and, therefore, reserved for special or "first-class" joinery. They were almost always found with particularly fine mouth openings, which allowed for the precise fitting of a joint. The high initial purchase price of the tool suggests that it was found only in the master's tool chest or cabinet.

Melhuish Shoulder / Bullnose Plane

The plane features traditional dovetailed construction with rosewood wedges and infill. The sides are dovetailed into the sole. Of particular interest is how the front section, a solid piece, is dovetailed into the rest of the body. This detail allowed for the fine mouth in the bullnose section, as well as the maintenance of both the tool's structural integrity and the mass required for conducting a controlled cut without body flexing. The front joint is often mistaken for a flaw in the plane body, and, in some cases, this type of steel plane construction is misidentified as a casting, given the precise fit and finishing of the body joints.


Front   Side


The heel of this example is conspicuously stamped with the mark Melhuish London, which was an English company that traded from 1828 until about 1950. The blades are from J. Howarth of Sheffield, a company that was well respected for the quality of its blades. Sold as a 1" plane, it is actually 15/16" wide.   Stamp

CatalogFrom about 1870 onwards, Melhuish enjoyed much success due to its large catalog publications, which offered a wide range of products including tools manufactured by other toolmakers and not just those of the company's own fabrication. The particular mark on this plane, with the inclusion of the word London, dates it to post-1938. Spiers had ceased trading by that time. Meanwhile, Mathieson was known to produce planes on contract for resale by ironmongers, but during this time period, the company was in a decline, which resulted in its demise by about 1950. Norris followed the pattern but stopped trading later in the 1950s.

The particular shape of the wedge suggests manufacture by Norris, and the proximity to the London market and the reselling of genuine Norris planes by Melhuish during this period makes it plausible that the plane was a special order for a preferred customer.

Plane parts

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