Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turner Hand Planes - A Small Review



Made in Australia until around 1970, Turner handplanes are an important part of our country's manufacturing heritage, and are still to be found at markets and online auction sites.
Along with Carter, Falcon Pope, Jas McLaren, McConnell and H E Watkinson, Turner manufactured metal bodied hand planes for a tool-hungry home market.  See Reference


Turners were different from their contemporaries, and deserve a closer look.


Turner made a host of different hand tools, but are best remembered for their range of handplanes.  These included 220 block plane, and bench planes - numbers 4, 4-1/2, 5, 5-1/2, 6 and 7.


The block planes and the number 7 pictured here are not Turners, but are simply included to fill out the range.


The Turner 220 block plane was a clone of the Stanley 220, with a ruby cellulose acetate front knob instead of the beech version that the Stanley used.  This was a useful and well made block plane, but may not have sold in large numbers - as it is extremely hard to find in the wild.  Perhaps, unlike the other Turner handplanes, it did not offer anything over the Stanleys of its time.  Perhaps these small planes were simply lost - bit of a mystery that one. The adjacent picture is courtesy of the HTPAA website



The other Turner bench planes were all made in precisely the same manner, and they share two things in common - attention to detail, and quality control.
They are modelled upon the Stanley range of bench planes and share similar design features to the type 19's of the same period - 1948-1961.


Here is a Turner plane, as boxed, from the factory in Nunawading in Melbourne, Victoria.


Totes and Handles

The most obvious difference shown by the Turners was their ruby-red, cellulose acetate handles - advertised as unbreakable in Turner marketing.

It was eye catching in hardware store displays, and drew plenty of attention away from the competition.

Wooden totes that had worked loose had a habit of cracking then breaking about two-thirds down their length. Interestingly, Turner marketed their handles as replacements for the timber handles of their competition, and hardware stores carried them as upgrades.

My first speargun carried a Turner ruby handle, procured from the local hardware store.  Inverted and reversed, it was the perfect shape.

Of course, as Turner totes aged, the cellulose acetate became more brittle, and with loosening handle screws, pressure on the rear totes sometimes cracked and broke off the toe - just behind the front screw - on larger handles.  So - not quite unbreakable.

Of note, is the fact that Turner number 4 rear handles were made in two types.  One was secured only by the tote bolt that ran through the handle length, the other had a supplementary screw at the front - similar to the totes for the larger planes.  I suspect that the two-screwed version was for the earlier number 4's, as they are less common. All Turner handles had a moulded seat on the bottom of the handle - that fitted into a recess in the cast iron base - for a secure fit.


Castings

The quality of the castings for the bases is another thing that impresses with the Turners.  Made from high grade, stress relieved grey iron, the thicknesses of both bases and sidewalls, are uniform and nicely finished.
The sides are square to the bases and the bases are flat from toe to heel.
Turner never marketed a corrugated base version of their handplanes, something that Stanley USA and Sargent did to diversify their line.  As far as I know, no Australian plane manufacturer offered a corrugated sole version as an option.  No demand, probably.

The mouths are well machined and are square to the body, lining up nicely with the leading edge of the frog.  The frogs are a work of art, and are an item that would not be out of place in 21st century precision manufacturing.

Frogs



The frogs are made from aluminium, and the finish is so good that each frog fits precisely onto the mating parts of the base.  I have read somewhere, but can't verify it, that Turner frogs were injection moulded rather than cast.  If so, then this would explain the precision of these finished articles.
Unfortunately, the frog is also the Turner's achilles heel.

Over-tightening of the lever cap set screw, can result in deformation of the frog and blade mating surface over time, stretching the top face into a convex shape that causes the blade to flex rather than mate perfectly flat.  When buying a Turner, always check the frog and blade for any deformation of the frog.  It will present as a gap at the side of the frog top near the lateral lever, between the frog and the blade.

Adjusters

The frog is equipped with three different adjusters - fore and aft adjuster for controlling the size of the mouth, lateral adjustment lever and depth adjuster for the blade.


The size of the mouth opening is set by loosening the two frog-to-base attaching screws, and winding the fore/aft adjusting screw at the rear base of the frog.  Small mouth for fine shavings, larger mouth for thicker shavings.
The blade depth adjuster is linked to the blade and cap-iron via a cast yoke, which again fits precisely, leaving very little backlash in the large brass depth adjusting wheel.  This is beautifully made, with four knurled rings for easy finger tip control of the blade depth.  In my opinion, this is one of the best designed depth adjuster rings ever made for a Stanley-type plane, and is similar to - but better than - the Stanley type 18 (1946-1947)
The lateral adjuster lever for the blade, also fits the slot in its matching blade with no slop or play, and allows precise setting of the blade edge to the timber.

Blade and Lever Cap


The Turner lever cap is based upon those of the Stanley type 16 (1933-1941) and later.  Incidentally, this was also the date for the introduction, by Stanley, of the frog design used by Turner as well.

Blades for early Turner handplanes  were made by Erik Anton Berg in Sweden, and stamped with the Turner logo.  These are highly sought after - even today, but set Turner apart as a premier hand plane manufacturer of its time, with a premium product.  Later blades were made by Turner themselves, and were manufactured from high grade tool steel, that was hardness tested before leaving the factory.
All Turner blades are quality products that take and hold a keen edge.

In Operation

Turner hand planes are easy to set up and easy to use.  They hold no vices in operation and produce excellent results.  The only thing to be careful of is the state of the aluminium frog, which may have been stressed and deformed by over-tightening the lever cap screw.  Apart from this, there is nothing to worry a Turner hand plane user.


Their attention to detail and use of quality components stood them in good stead in the Australian marketplace, and make them a popular collector's and user's plane even today.  It is pleasing to know that our wonderful country was a producer of excellence in hand tool manufacturing in its past, and this can be a source of pride for anyone lucky enough to own a Turner hand plane.


One other aspect of Turner handplane manufacturing that would set them apart, is the possibility of being an exported handtool.  I have read, but cannot verify, that Turners were exported to South America.  Whether this is accurate or simply apocrypha, I cannot say, but they were well enough made to compete on an international stage, and enough of a threat for Stanley Titan to absorb them and close them down.

If you ever encounter one in the marketplace, it may well be worth the trouble to acquire.

............................ and happy shavings to all ...............

38 comments:

  1. Thanks Tom, much appreciated by a fellow Turner trajic.

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  2. It's a disease for which a treatment is still being sought. Glad you liked it Nick.

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  3. I am similarly infected, and enjoyed the post greatly. Any idea why Turner chose to do aluminium frogs? Are there any similar planes anywhere - other than the all aluminium ones?

    Regards,

    Tim

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    1. Hi Tim,
      according to the HTPAA "Turner acquired the patterns and details of its plane lines from Pope Products Ltd in Adelaide". Now, Pope were using the aluminium frog and I presume the idea came from Pope.
      It was a quick and accurate way of getting consistenly high quality frogs without the need for re-grinding and machining the rough cast iron frog.
      You will find that there are lots of Pope planes with aluminium frogs as well. I haven't come across any others besides the all aluminium Stanleys and the Australian Adept.
      Cheers
      Tom

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    2. Oops, I forgot to mention the British Lewin 615 as another aluminium plane from the past. It was not a bench plane, but a combination plane like the Stanley 45. It was not all aluminium either, and was very well made. I might do a little review on it one day.

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    3. I have a few Popes as well. I have never actually thought the frogs migh be aluminium - I'll have to look. I'll feel like dill if they are, considering the time I've spent over the years cleaning them up. Now that I think about it more carefully I'm not sure that I haven't seen a Australian Stanley 4 with an alumnium frog. I've also got three of them (well, 2 4s and a I 5 I think) which I will check as well.

      Tim

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  4. I can't be certain that all Pope frogs were aluminium - certainly many of them were. Turner was acquired by Stanley Titan Australia, so it would make sense to use up Turner stock on Stanleys produced here. I would be interested to know if the use of aluminium frogs was widespread on Stanley Australia planes, ie that they continued the practice long after Turner was gone.
    Interesting.

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    Replies
    1. A quick look:

      Oz Stanley 4 with plastic handles - aluminium frog

      Oz Stanley 3 with wood handles - iron frog

      Two Pope number 4 equivalent and a 41/2 all iron frogs.

      Regards,

      Tim

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  5. Another Turner number 4 last weekend! Don't often see them. Needs a good clean, but otherwise looks little used.

    Tim

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  6. Did it have the extra screw in the rear handle Tim?
    The plain rear handles on number 4's seem to be the most common.
    Cheers
    Tom

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  7. Yes, does that make it earlier or later?

    Tim

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    Replies
    1. Earlier in my opinion. There would be the possibility that the blade might be a Berg made for Turner on the earlier planes.
      Cheers
      Tom

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  8. Th blade is not marked Berg. I have a 5 with a Berg blade, this is like the other 4s.

    Regards,

    Tim

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  9. There is no necessary correlation between the Berg/Turner blades and the handles on the number4. I believe that both were in the early days of Turner planes.

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  10. I've just acquired my first Turner - a No. 5 1/2 - with Turner cutting iron. I'd have called the frog "die cast" but then I suppose that's an aluminium alloy. I have a "Rapier" 400 (No.4 size = made in Gateshead, UK) with a die cast frog, and a 500 with cast iron frog. Cheers, Vann.

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    1. Congratulations Vann. Check that the frog is straight and hasn't bent under excessive lever cap screw pressure. Enjoy your plane - I think that the 5-1/2's were less common than others, but that is only personal opinion of course.
      Cheers
      SG

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  11. Hi, Great blog. Really enjoyed it. I have a Turner 4 1/2 in reasonable condition that I plan to sell at the next market stall. Handles are a little loose but not broken. Can you give me an idea how much I should ask for it?
    Cheers,
    Mike

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  12. Hi Mike,
    everything depends on condition of course.
    Without seeing it I couldn't really say what it is worth.
    Online auctions have seen these in excellent condition go for anywhere from $50-over $200. It all depends on who is bidding and how much they want it.
    Average condition Turner 4-1/2's at our local markets are around the $40+ mark. Dirty and rust laden go for less. Handles must be good - if not, then they are not worth much at all as replacement handles are near impossible to find.
    Good luck with your sale.
    Tom

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  13. Wow. Thanks Tom. I was thinking to ask 10 in the hope of getting around 8. Someone would have got a bargain because it's in pretty good nick overall. Just needs a bit of a clean and some TLC. In that case I think I will just hang on to it in the hope of coming across some more and get a collection going.
    As they say, 1 piece is just junk, 2 is a collection.
    Cheers and thanks for your quick reply and sharing your knowledge.

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  14. I was wondering if you could help me with an idea of the value of a Turner no 6 in very good nick. With as new handle and tote. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Turner hand planes seem to have shown some appreciation in value and are quite collectable.
      A number 6 Turner is not common and in good condition can fetch very good money. One sold recently for over AU$400.
      However, keep in mind that it will depend on condition and demand at the time of the sale. It only takes two people who really want an item to drive the price up. On the other hand, if no-one is looking at the time of the sale, it may go cheaply. Checking completed listings on auction sites and online at places such as ebay, will give you a good guide.
      Hope this helps.
      Tom

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  15. Hi
    I greatly appreciate your blog as well as the review on the Turner hand planes. Your review helped buy one - with the Berg cutter.

    Best regards from Finland

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    Replies
    1. Happy New Year from Oz.
      My apologies for missing this comment - I had meant to post a reply earlier. Congratulations on your new plane. You are so close to the home of Berg steel - often used in early Turner planes as their blades were made by E A Berg of Sweden.
      Happy shavings
      Tom

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  16. Hi

    I have been looking to pick up a bench/smoothing plane for a while, and found a Turner No. 5 at the Mill Markets in Daylesford, Victoria. It seemed in pretty good nick so I forked out $85 for it and took it home and pulled it apart (I have no idea really what I'm doing, I am still a beginner wood worker and pretty new to hand planes, I only own a LA block plane).

    Thanks for your review here. It turns out that the frog is bent, two ways - a little in towards the centre of the plane, lifting the corners, and also the back end is dropped beyond the lever cap screw, producing a slight curve. The first bend I can sand out, the second I won't worry about, its straight enough where it needs to be.

    The orginal Turner blade has a nasty chip in the corner that is as large as the bevel, and I don't have a grind stone so I think I will buy a replacement Stanely blade for now and keep the old one aside.

    The beautiful epoxy knob and handle are in great condition, and the plane bed is 'dead' flat (at least with against a straight edge, to the naked eye, lets see what happens with some and paper and a flat surface). Overall I am really happy with it, but just filled with warm fuzzies to know that I am resurrecting a bit of Australiana.

    There is a bit of rust spotting on the working parts (bed is clean), any suggestions on how I can remove this to bring it back to schmiko condition?

    Cheers, Dylan

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dylan,
      to clean up rusty tools, I use a brass wire wheel on an old bench grinder. You don't have a grinder, but you can use an electric drill with a cheap wire wheel if you clamp the pieces in a vice - or with a clamp on a benchtop. If you contact me, I will happily grind a new bevel on your Turner blade for you. I won't post contact details here, but you can find me in the phone book.

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    2. Hi Tom

      Thanks for that, I thought I had replied already but don't see the post... beware of a double posting.

      Anyway I really appreciate the offer, I will send it up to you either later today or next week.

      Kind regards, Dylan

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    3. Hi again Dylan.
      The blade arrived yesterday and I have cleaned it up set a new bevel and sharpened it. It will be in tomorrow's post.
      I'll post a chapter on here to illustrate the process.
      Happy shavings
      Tom

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  17. Thats great, I'll look forward to picking that one up tomorrow. Many thanks

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  18. Also I just saw your write up. Looks great. I'll take some pics and send them when I get the blade tomorrow

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  19. hello, I have just bought an old blanket box/trunk and it is very old, the only main clue as to its age is that is has turner Australia handles on it. im now searching his name all over the net and ended up here. Did he makes woodwork himself at all as I wonder if the box is his make or just the handles? Do u know anything about his ''modern handles' company prior to him making it in the tool business ??
    and possibly how much the handles would cost in good nic these days? sorry for all the questions there is very little info about the place on this guy

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    1. Yes, there is not much information available on Turner manufacturing. The company started out making handles for various things and then diversified enormously.
      There is quite a bit of information available here:
      http://www.htpaa.org.au/turner.php
      I think it would be most difficult to try to track down original Turner handles today but some old antique shops in Windsor in Sydney used to have a good range.
      I think that you will have to be very lucky to find what you are after.
      Good luck anyway.
      Tom

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  20. Hi there,
    have you seen many Turner 220 block planes down there?
    I have one in fairly good condition which I don't really want to part with.
    Nigel

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    1. Hi Nigel,
      no, in all this time I still have not come across one. Plenty of Stanleys of course, but the Turner 220's are as rare as hens teeth.
      You are lucky to have one.

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  21. Hi Tom,
    I am a Hire a Hubby handyman for the past two years, which required me archiving my loved cable tools, and purchasing a full range of Milwaukee 18V. Except for a planer. The cable unit still does me well for external work, but internal it makes to much of a mess.
    So I still use my Turner No5, that my Grandfather bought me back in 1962. Still in its original mustard carton with the price of Pnds 4-10-6 crossed out and newly written as Pnds 3-10-0 on special!!
    Just an immaculate piece of equipment for producing some long curls when easing old doors that would take ages to remove from well painted hinges.
    And you get the benefit of smelling old red cedar and aged oregan.
    Paul

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  22. hey i was fixing a old turner no 4 in all right condition but the breaker and blade are missing hes had this for a couple year when he got it from a op shop but i wanted to now is the blade the same size as a Stanley no 4 thanks jimmy

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    1. Hi Jimmy,
      yes a Stanley Number 4 blade will fit as will a Carter, a Falcon/Pope, a Sargent and virtually any blade from a number 4 plane. Beware of the late after market blades that are very thick, as these will foul on the depth adjuster tab.

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  23. OK thanks for confirming my suspicion will ask my buds and me to look around for one cheers jimmy

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  24. Hi I am looking for some information on turner plane corrugated as I have inquired a no 4 and no 5 both corrugated and can not find anything about them and now looking for no 4/12 no 51/2 no 6 and no7 so well made and lovely to use..
    Cheers David

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