This week’s antique is a beech nosing plane made by I. Guest with a laminated blade made by James Cam.
Nosing planes were used to round off the front edge, or nose, of a stair tread. These planes were sometimes referred to as forkstaff planes because they were also used to round the handles of pitch forks or other tools. Note the large rounded bottom below.
This is an unusual plane because I cannot find the plane maker’s mark in any of my books. This usually means that it is either a owner made tool or more likely a small and/or short lived business. As shown below, the stamp of the toe (front end) of the plane appears to be “I. Guest”.
The embossed stamp is surrounded by a zig zag border which was very common from approximately 1730 through 1820. The letters are somewhat crude which means it was either owner made or the plane manufacturer was earlier, smaller, or both. I was unable to find any “Guest” listed in any of my plane maker reference books (no English or American marks). The tote (handle) is on the centerline of the plane versus being offset to one side, so I believe this plane dates towards the later half of the 1700’s or after 1800. The chamfers along the sides and front/rear of the plane are of a common design. However, there is no semi-circular cutout at the base of the front and rear chamfer terminations as seen in the above right picture. This points to earlier manufacture or owner made.
James Cam’s mark is clearly visible on the top of the blade. The mark is embossed with a zig zag edge. James Cam is listed in Kenneth D. Roberts’s book “Some 19th Century English Woodworking Tools”. Cam was in business from 1787 through 1837. This is the correct period for the design of the plane body.
Since owner made planes are typically made of woods available to the worker at the time and this plane is made from the same wood commonly used by plane manufacturers but not typically used by furniture makers or house builders, my guess is that I. Guest is a yet unknown plane manufacturer. The metal screw at the front of the base of the tote was probably added because it is not countersunk. Also, a screw in this location wasn’t common until much later in plane manufacturing. All things taken into account, this plane most likely dates from the late 1700’s, and the blade is probably original to the plane because it also fits this time period. This nosing plane is not in good shape, and I bought it purely for its old and unusual maker’s marks. I’m glad I could share it with you and put out the word about Mr. Guest so that he won’t be unknown any longer.