The Starr Hand Plane Irons 1846 – 1848

This is written by John Moody, woodworker and site admin for The Patriot Woodworker website.  Here, he takes a look at a wooden hand plane in their “Throw Back Thursday” event.
Here is John’s story:
In the past few weeks while helping to clean out an old building, I ran upon this old wooden plane which at the time was quite dusty and dirty. It was about to make it’s way to the burn pile when I ask if I might have it. Immediately I took it to the truck and saved it from the burn pile. All I knew at the time was this was just an old wooden plane, but looked good enough I thought I could put it on a shelf in my office for conversation.

While spraying some finish on a table this week and waiting for it to dry between coats I decided to take the old plane and clean it up and see if there were any markings on it. To my surprise as I removed the many layers of dirt and rust from the cutter, I noticed some lettering beginning to show. I started getting a little excited as it is then you can at least research your finding and see where it might have traveled from and to. The letters E.W.N. Starr & Co were all I could make out at first. Then there were a few letters on a second line and CAST on the bottom line.

That started me in my Google search to see what I could find out about E.W.N. Starr & Co.  According to a web site I found on Tool Makers of Middletown, Connecticut, The Starr company made Plane Irons only from 1846 – 1848. The company was started in Hartford by Nathan Starr, Sr. around 1787 who was a blacksmith by trade. In 1812 He moved to Middletown, Connecticut and operated a factory on Starr Mill. The company manufactured swords, pistols and eventually rifles for the U. S. Government and also made muskets. Nathan Sr. died in 1821 and his son carried on till 1845. During this period some 70,000 arms of varied kinds were made here. A number of commemorative swords for national heroes were also produced including one for Andrew Jackson. It was managed by three generations of the Starr family. Elihu William Nathan Starr was born 10 August 1812 and Died 14 June 1891.

Here is the logo from the Tool Makers of Middleton, Co. Site.

The Starr Manufacturing Building.
The Starr Co was located near another plane company, the Baldwin Tool Co.
In 1783 Enos Baldwin was born in Cavendish, VT and in 1807 He comes on the scene as a toolmaker in Albany, NY. He opened a shop at 90 Elizabeth Street in the heart of what is now Lower Manhattan. Enos trained both of his sons, Austin and Eldridge Gerry to work in the business learning the trade of tool making. Enos died at an early age of 45. E. Baldwin became A&E Baldwin in 1830 with the half brothers running the business. The two brothers built the business into an impressive operation. They are also likely responsible for training many of the other NYC makers know to be in the tool making business. The partnership lasted until 1841.

So after finding the name of the plane iron I got out some Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle brush to see if I could find a logo on the front of the wood plane. After a little scrubbing here is what I was able to see.

I could only make out New York on the bottom so I took several pictures and put them on a larger monitor so I could enlarge them and have good resolution. I was able to make out a BA at the top and IN near the New York, so I started looking for information on the Baldwins to see what kind of stamps they might have used on their planes.

They had several different ones but looking through them I found what I am pretty sure is the one that is located on the front of the plane I have. Here is another picture of my plane.

So with just a little more cleaning the BALDWIN and NEW YORK shows up but I couldn’t make out what was on the left side until I found this web site.

It was then apparent that the left side had A & E. What also become interesting is that E.W.N. Starr had stock in Baldwin Tool Company. Starr was supplying plane Irons to Baldwin.  So it looks very much like the plane I have is in fact an A.&E. Baldwin made in New York and a plane Iron made by E.W.N. Starr & Co. of Middletown, CT that would have been made between 1846 and 1848. My own conclusion is that this plane is definitely per Civil War and not really sure how it made it from the far North East to North Alabama. It would be nice if I could find the owner of it in this area. I plan on doing a little more research on who owned the building we were clearing and what connections they might have had. A link to Starr Iron blades and cost in 1847.The plane is 22″ long and has a few age cracks in it. The tote is solid and doesn’t have any breaks or cracks. The Iron looks to have been abused a bit with someone not knowing how to adjust the blade and beating on it with a hammer pretty hard to roll the edge like it is.  So this is my Throw Back Thursday Tool. Hope you enjoyed it and how you find a way to save all the old tools you run into. You just never know what story they have to tell. Don’t let them go to the burn pile.  Instead of just a piece on a shelf, now I have something I know some of the history about and the neat thing is it didn’t cost me a dime.

John Moody
The Patriot Woodworker Site Administrator
“Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.” Shaker Saying

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auf Wiedersehen!…Frank