Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Leonard Bailey was a tool designer in the 19th century, who, working on his
own and later for Stanley Rule and Level Co. (now Stanley
Tools) , designed Bailey, Victor, and Defiant bench planes, or tools used
to smooth the surface of wood. His designs became models for most planes made
Bailey started out as a cabinetmaker before becoming a toolmaker in Boston,
where he produced innovative bench and block planes, scrapers, and spokeshaves
during the 1850s. Bailey's first patent, in 1855, describes a scraper plane
with an adjustable cutter. The blade was mounted on a plate that pivoted near
the sole of the tool. As the angle changed, the depth of cut changed.
Soon after, Bailey adapted the principle to metal bench planes. He mounted
the cutter on a pivoting casting installed between the sides of the metal body.
Angling the blade forward simultaneously increased the depth of cut and the
mouth opening. Shifting it backward decreased the opening and depth of cut for
fine work. Bailey also patented the lever cap that held the blade in place.
Bailey's 1867 patent shows the plane design we are most familiar with today.
The plane's cutter moves along a 45 degree bed by means of a forked lever that's
activated by a knob. This mechanism was used on both wooden and cast-iron planes.
Bailey is also credited with the adjustable frog - the bed on which the cutter
rests - and the cap iron, a thin piece of metal with a curved edge that's fastened
to the cutter to keep it stiff.
Until May, 1869, Bailey ran his own factory - Bailey, Chaney & Co., which
he sold to Stanley Rule and Level Co., giving them the right to manufacture
tools under his patents. However, in 1875, after inventor Justus Traut patented
the No.110 block plane Stanley had in production for several months, Bailey
terminated his contract with Stanley, claiming that sales of the plane cut into
Shortly thereafter, he developed the 'Victor' plane line to compete with the
Stanley/Bailey planes still in production by Stanley. He fought several unsuccessful
patent infringement fights with Stanley and lost a significant battle in 1878
when the Stanley company won a decision against Bailey and the Victor line of
planes. The decision resulted in Baileyís sale of the Victor business to the
Bailey Wringing Machine Co. of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He moved there to produce
Victor and Defiance planes and tools.
However, in 1880, Stanley took over as the sole agent for Bailey's Victor
planes. After a series of patent-infringement suits and charges of industrial
espionage, Stanley bought the entire Victor production facility in 1884 and
then discontinued the line. (In 1936, Stanley resurrected the Victor name for
a few years and applied it to a series of inexpensive homeowner-grade tools.)
Bailey, meanwhile, stopped inventing nearly altogether and became a manufacturer
of copy presses. Though his ideas are often taken credit for by the Stanley
Co., his genius as an innovator is indiminishable.