by Alvin Sellens
The Bed Rock series of planes is becoming more popular with Stanley tool collectors. However, some aspects of this series are still subject to speculation. Prime questions facing the Bed Rock collector are, "What did the initial Bed Rocks look like?"
Although very little firm information has become known since THE STANLEY PLANE was published in 1975, some bits of fact and theory can be strung together to add a little more understanding. The basic Bed Rock patent was issued April 2, 1895, but nothing appeared in the Stanley literature regarding this subject for several years. The 1897 and 1898 Stanley catalogues, as printed by Ken Roberts, did not mention Bed Rock planes or a new frog design.
The original issue of the 1900 catalogue did not list Bed Rocks, however, updated supplemental pages to that catalogue included a listing. Inasmuch as a 1901 catalogue has not been found, it is believed that the supplemental pages were issued in early 1901 and in lieu of a catalogue for that year. The pages were certainly issued prior to 1902. The January 1, 1902 Stanley catalogue is the first known dated reference to Stanley Bed Rocks. This catalogue shows the No. 600 series planes as, "New Tools Not Previously Listed." The illustration in the 1902 catalogue plainly show the rounded sides and the "STANLEY R & L COMPANY BED ROCK" on the lever cap. THE STANLEY PLANE book, using a conservative approach, specifies 1902 as the starting date for the 600 series Bed Rock planes.
The above rationale for using 1902 as the initial date for Bed Rocks is difficult to refute except that an earlier type of Bed Rock is known to exist (assumed to be earlier). Planes with the April 2, 1895 patent date, STANLEY R & L BED ROCK LEVER CAPS and bearing the numbers 4 through 7 have been noted in various collections. Although only numbers 4 through 7 have actually been seen, it seems reasonable to assume that the whole series of No.2 through 8 planes were made in this configuration. The pertinent question is, "When were these planes made?"
It is considered unlikely that any company would market two types of planes simultaneously with both bearing the same numbers. Therefore, the 1895 frog design was probably applied to the basic No.2 through 8 series of bench planes and then withdrawn and applied to a new 600 series in 1902. If this theory is corrected these early Bed Rocks should be considered in-line variation of the No.2 through 8 planes rather than a variety of the 600 series. The relative scarcity of these planes would indicate that they were made for a very short period.
The theory that the early Bed Rock planes are the result of a test marketing campaign has been considered and discarded. Test marketing was not a common practice at the turn of the century. In addition, there is no evidence that Stanley employed test marketing in the hundred of other product changes made in the same time period.
In summary, the evidence indicates that the early type Bed Rock planes are a variation of the No.2 through 8 bench planes and that they were made for a short period sometime prior to 1902. My guess is that they were made in 1901 and for a portion of a year only.
Any information about Bed Rock planes prior to 1902 would be greatly appreciated by the author. Until one more piece of information is documented, the story of the beginning of the Bed Rocks will contain an element of doubt.