11/11/2018 World War One and Norris Planes
This is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. This blog entry originally appeared ten years ago this day. I thought it appropriate to repeat it. We have corrected some grammar and updated the pictures.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918 the "War to End All Wars" ended. Most of the great names of the English tool industries survived the war but really it marked the beginning of the end. Most of the reasons for the decline were changing tastes, changing technology, and other seismic changes that the war really sped up but didn't directly cause. During the war the British government realized that unless they supported business during the war many of their industries would not survive.
Some business simply switched to war production (as Norris did during WW2) but your average tool company like Norris during WW1 didn't have the machinery or the capital to do anything other than what they knew how to do - make tools or in Norris' case make planes. So the British government placed orders for a lot of stuff that may or may not have been actually needed by the army but was certainly needed by the manufacturers to stay in business.
Demand of course for fancy infill planes was obviously small, but Norris was issued at least one contract for a bunch of very simple A51's. I don't know if the intent was to use the planes and these simple models were the most price competitive to Stanley type planes. There certainly were a lot of military carpenters who would have needed the planes. Or if they were bought, stored, just as a way of subsidizing the company, and after the war sold as surplus.
As Norris' go it is very low end model of infill, crudely made compared to peacetime models. It has an iron lever cap and iron screw because brass was in short supply and strictly rationed for cartridges and weapons. The mark that indicates it was purchased by the defense department is the "Broad Arrow" or British acceptance mark, which was stamped on goods to indicate that they were accepted by the military as having passed any quality or standards tests. This plane is stamped on the side and also on the 2" wide iron.
All the parts are original and the iron and cap iron are also stamped with the Norris logo. The lever cap doesn't have the usual model number but this plane is basically a narrow no. 51. In the last photograph you can compare the plane to the more common 2 1/4" wide peacetime no. 51. In this case, a fairly early one.
To me this plane is more than a simple Norris souvenir. It's a witness to how, in a terrible time, Europe convulsed and war affected everyone and everything. Even the planemakers.