Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We used to make things in this country. #24. Roxton Pond

Over the years, I've picked up a number of old wooden planes, which people used to sell at yard sales for a buck or two.  Simple  and elegant tools:

Before iron planes, these tools were made in an astounding variety of sizes and shapes, and an experienced cabinet-maker could be expected to own dozens of different types.

Walter Coventon.  Woodworking Tools and Their Use.  London:  Hutchinson's
Scientific and Technical Publications, 1953.
Eric Sloane.  A Museum of Early American Tools.  New York:  Ballantine, 1974.  

According to Eric Sloane's excellent book (originally published in 1964), at one time in Vermont you could buy these tools by the barrel for $5, and most buyers simply used them for stove wood!

Anyway, I've acquired three made by A. Monty:

Below, Monty rebate plane, unfortunately missing its wedge and iron:

Recently, I picked up the S. Dalpe rebate plane below:

Both the A. Monty and S. Dalpe planes were made in Roxton Pond, a pretty village in Quebec's Eastern Townships about halfway between Montreal and Sherbrooke and 2 hours north of the Quebec/Vermont border. Jacques Héroux has produced an excellent history on the tool makers of this locale, summarized below.

In 1865, Sam Dalpé (who had worked for E. Carter, a plane maker in Troy, New York) paid $1300 for Louis and Paul Payan’s furniture store in Roxton Pond which specialized in making wood trying-planes.   Even though Dalpé produced a large 1899 catalogue of his planes, today they are apparently rare.
Four years after his death in 1895, his widow sold the business to Arthur Monty for $4000 “including the saw mill, the plane factory, the house and the barn.”  Monty began making planes to his own design, particularly his wedge design, and using his imprint of three stars.  Adélard Monty bought the mill in 1899 and continued with plane-making (as well as serving as Mayor of Roxton Pond from 1908 to 1913 and 1917 to 1919).  Below, Adélard Monty's factory:
Monty planes were carried in the catalogue of the Marshall-Wells company, the third-largest hardware merchant in the U.S. Adélard Monty died in 1927 and although the factory was rented afterwards, the plane business was discontinued.  The factory was demolished in 1966.

In 1902, W.S. Bullock became president of the Roxton Tool and Mill Company, which he sold to the Stanley Rule and Level Company in 1907.  The sale included, "The absolute control of the water power, two dams, including the new one four hundred and twenty-one feet long, twenty feet high, giving thirty-four feet of head on water wheels, the electric plant with a capacity of five hundred lights extending over the entire village and plants; grist, sowing, planning mills; foundry, machine shops and complete manufacture of carpenter planes and "S" wrenches, with all equipment herein..."  Bullock remained the head of Stanley's Canadian operation for many years.  The company started off making wooden tools at Roxton Pond, but soon expanded to make their No. 45 and 55 universal planes, and ultimately 80 percent of the Stanley Tools sold in Canada.  

Popular Science, July 1953
So, chances are if you have a Canadian-made Stanley tool, it was made in Roxton Pond.

The Stanley plant was closed in 1984.  All that remains to mark Roxton Pond's place in history as the largest tool-producing centre in Canada are the lovely friezes and gingerbread on the homes, and a brass plaque put up in 1974.

1 comment:

SGR651 said...

fantastic read. I just acquired a 2 1/4 A.Monty 3 star wooden jack plane. I've been doing research on it all morning and am now proud to own a piece of history