……………an expression generally heard in the UK as an expression of exasperation when wrangling with unfamiliar metric terms. It probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense in other countries, but we really did have Old Money once – and I don’t mean the hard-up aristocracy.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I splashed out on a second Record 043, going quite cheaply in an auction.
Why? Well, although I already had one, these little Record planes are not expensive in the UK, nor are they uncommon. There was a practical reason too. On occasion I make things that can have a multitude of grooves cut at different widths and centres. Rather than keep altering my settings, I prefer to use more than one plough plane. I set each one to its size, label it up and lock it tight for the duration of the job. It’s one of my strategies for reducing the potential for error.
The Record 043 plough plane was in production since the early 1930s but has not been made, to my knowledge, since the 1970s. They were popular with schools due to their small size. If I recall my wood-working school-days in the late 50s – early 60s, most of these ‘trophy’ tools - shiny combination planes, large and small - were kept under lock and key in a glass cabinet behind the teacher’s desk, on display but seldom used. I expect that it may have been the same with some private users. It isn’t robust enough to be a site tool, so a lot of them remained unused, in their boxes.
When it turned up in the post, original cardboard box and all, the retail price was written in pencil on the label – 34/-.
Here it is. In old money, that’s thirty-four shillings……………….. thirty-four bob………………. One pound, fourteen shillings.
How old is it? We went decimal as far as currency was concerned in 1971, so it has to be older than that. From that original retail price on the box, I’d hazard a guess at the early 1960s, give or take a few years. Thirty-four shillings was a decent amount of money in the early 1960s. 1
Here’s the other one that I have, showing that there were production changes over the years. The one that originally cost 34/- is on the right in the picture and has round, knurled fence-screws, whilst the other on the left is, I believe somewhat older – probably pre-war. If you look closely, you’ll see that it features wing-nuts holding the fence to the rods. In other respects they are identical, though the castings are not as well finished on this one.
I consulted a reprint of Record’s tool catalogue from 1938. 2 In those days it cost 9/6 and the picture displayed the thumb screws. If I recall, there was purchase tax back then, as well as in the 1960s, but the catalogue does not mention it.
I don’t know what the average chippie earned in 1938, but my memory from the early 60s – for example, 1963, when I began work as an apprentice – suggests that tradesman would earn about £13 for a 40 hour week. That works out at about 6/-6d an hour. At that rate he would work about 5 1/2 hours to buy one of these. Rough figures, admittedly, but enough to put the relative values in context.
When you find one of these for sale, they are either in good condition, as these are, or with parts missing and not much in between. If there is one design failing with this plane, it is that the blade clamp is a loose, separate part, intended to be interchangeable with the larger Record 044 plane. As a result it often gets detached and lost, as do the spare blades.
It was supplied with three blades: 1/8”, 3/16” and 1/4”; I have never found a use for the two smaller blades, though the plane will accept any of the straight Stanley/Record pattern of combination plane blades, (width within reason) so that it is possible to make grooves wider than 1/4” in one sweep though personally it gets to be a struggle when you exceed 1/2” and there are larger plough planes that work better for this.
Anyway, there it was – thirty-four-bobs-worth of good, old fashioned top-quality plane….. though I paid a bit more than that for it.
1 Bone up on ‘Old Money’.
Nowadays the British Pound is divided into 100 pence, just like most of the other decimal currencies in the world.
Before 1971, we had LSD – Pounds (£), shillings (s) and Pence (d); The origins of the terms go back to Roman times . There were 12 pence (d) in one shilling (s), 20 shillings in one pound (£). A further complication was the Guinea – twenty-one shillings and the half-guinea, or 10/-6d – or what the Mad-Hatter’s topper cost, according to the label in the brim.
As with everything else, Old Money had its own nomenclature: pennies, halfpennies (ha’pennies), 3d, (thruppeny bits)…. 6d, was known as a ‘tanner’ and a shilling was a ‘bob’.
Two shillings was a Florin (or two-bob), two shillings and six pence (2/-6d) was either ‘half-a-dollar’ or ‘two-and-a-tanner’; naturally ‘5 bob’ was a ‘dollar’.
And of course a quid was a quid and still is.
I could go on………………… But that’s enough.
2 Record Tools – Reprint of Catalogue No: 15 of 1938: Leslie Harrison.
Roy Arnold - 2003 - ISBN 0 904638 14 6