And now to the meat of the article: this plane bears the ZB stamp of Gabriel, a manufacturer in London, England from 1770 – 1830. The company went on to be one of the most dominant English timber merchants and lasted at least until 1900, which makes dating the plane problematic. At 7-1/2" long with a 2-1/8” blade, it is typical of that size and type of plane. Made of beech, the plane is completely usable. The candle holder is as described in the patent papers. Its inclusion on the front of the plane provides a superb handle when using this tool. This same modification has been seen before on wooden smoothers; therefore, it is not thought to be a unique owner alteration. In other words, a block plane cries out for a front handle. In fact, it is a most practical marriage.
As with most innovations, there is always the naysayer who must look on the dark side of life. There is and can be no thought that this device was the result of unscrupulous manufacturers trying to squeeze a few extra hours of worktime out of already overworked indentured employees. It is also not true that it was a place to keep a candle because, as we all know, lubricating the sole of a plane with wax makes the task easier. This is a practice that has reappeared through the writings of the modern day tool gurus.
D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Now retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.