Tool Auction News

By Wells, John | The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., November/December 2004 | Go to article overview

Tool Auction News


Wells, John, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.


Sale of the Rodier Set Smashes All Previous Records

During Martin J. Donnelly's Live Free or Die Auction on Saturday, September 18,2004, at the Nashua, New Hampshire, Holiday Inn Hotel, the sale of a small carrying case containing four woodworking planes wrote a new chapter in the chronicle of antique tool collecting. The incredible sale price of $83,000 ($91,300 with the buyer's premium) not only set a new world's record for the sale of a single auction lot of antique tools but almost tripled the previous record of $31,900 set by an Israel White plow.

The story of this extraordinary event began almost twenty years ago in 1985 when auctioneer Richard Crane received a letter from Charles L. Rodier of California. The letter described a mahogany traveling display case containing four planes (a jack plane, a smooth plane, a block plane, and a bull-nose block plane), an original patent certificate, and a drafting set that had belonged to his grandfather, Louis C. Rodier. It had been handed down to him through his family and its provenance was impeccable. The box had an oval label with the inscription: "L. C. Rodier's Single Iron Planes Patented March 4, 1879, April 21,1885."

In volume 2 of his Patented Transitional & Metallic Planes in America (PTAMPIA), Roger Smith noted that the Rodier planes were "personal prototypes and/or patent models that incorporated the 1885 design." The two bench planes were a little smaller than his production models 2-1/16 inches wide with 1-5/8 inch wide irons. They had smooth rather than fluted sides, and the soles were smooth rather than having the wavy corrugations used on production planes. All four planes had the 1885 patented mechanism described in P-TAMPIA. Apparently Rodier did not succeed in getting financial backing and planes of this design were never put in production.

The traveling box of planes and his drafting set were offered in Richard Crane's auction catalogue for the March 30,1985 sale at the Nashua Holliday Inn Hotel, almost exactly 100 years after Rodier was granted his second patent for planes.

The Crane auction took on a very serious tone when the lot containing Rodier's traveling case and four planes was announced. Interest in patented planes was just beginning to develop and collectors had only a hint of the significance of the set. …

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