Norris Plane Type Study Steel Dovetailed Infilled
Planes - Model 5 and A5
From Left to Right
Prewar 5 2 1/4 blade
Prewar 2 2 1/8 blade
Prewar A5 2 1/8 blade
Postwar A5 2 1/8 blade
Click on the photo to enlarge it.
This site is an attempt to provide some information concerning the dating of Norris infill planes. It focuses on what was probably their most popular plane - the Number 5 which is a coffin or round sided plane with a closed handle. The earliest were not available with adjusters. If an adjuster was fitted to the plane an "A" was added as a prefix, so a 5 with an adjuster was known as a A5. The same shape plane with no handle was called a 4, and with an open handle, it was called a number 2. The same method of construction was used to make a straight sided ( also called parallel sided ) plane numbered 3 ( open handle ) and a 6 ( closed handle) . Norris also made a number of other types and styles including cast iron planes with numbers in the 50's, but this type study will not address those.
Some information concerning dating and models is available from scans of a 1914 catalog
and a later catalog released in the 20's http://www.handplane.com/norris-1928-catalog
Other information is available from other websites such as Tony Murland's site http://www.antiquetools.co.uk/articles/norris.htm
and Joel's site at Tools For Working Wood
and at Best of Things http://www.thebestthings.com/infill_i.htm
My main goal was to provide a site to give some assistance on distinguishing between a prewar and postwar planes. I have separate pages on Prewar and PostWar to aid in the identification. Why should you care? There are two entirely unrelated companies that sold Norris infill planes. The first, was the T. Norris and Son and they made planes up until about WWII. After WWII, another company, Aeronautical and General Instruments Ltd of Croydon, bought the name and sold planes under the name Norris London until the late 50's. While the post war planes are pretty nice, most users agree that in general the prewar planes are far better performers. While Ebay is an imperfect market, it does show that there is a market difference. A postwar A5 in good condition may sell for $300 to $600. In contrast, a prewar A5 will often sell in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. Sometimes you see a very poor photo and no express statement in the listing as to whether it is pre or post war, or sometimes there is a statement that is wrong. Hopefully by looking at the info on this site, you will be able to tell in a glance whether it is pre or post war. In getting this info together, I also found more info on prewar planes and dating, and so have a separate page on that.
DISCLAIMER - just because this is posted on the internet doesn’t mean I know anything about this subject. I own a few Norris smoothers - both Pre War and Post War but I am no expert and don’t rely solely on this - check the links and read up before you bid on something. Also, the Norris Co was not like large automobile manufacturers that have clearly established model years, with distinct features. For example, the lever cap screw with a button or finial on the top is the earliest cap lever screw I have seen, but when they changed to a smooth top, it is unlikely they threw out all the old stock, and may have continued to make planes using the old screw until the supply ran out. Likewise, the adjuster wasn't introduced until 1913, so if the plane has an adjuster maybe it was made after 1913, or perhaps someone bought the plane before that and added an adjuster later. Since the planes were largely custom made, just because it doesn't have an adjuster doesn't mean it was made before 1913, a customer who bought a plane in the 1930's may have ordered it without an adjuster. You are best protected by buying from an established dealer. If you see something wrong on this site, just drop me an email at the contact address.
This photo shows another addition to the collection, an A5 probably made around 1927, based on the date stamp made by the Owner - it has a 2 1/4 " iron which gives it a wider appearance. Note I have replacement irons in the three planes to the left - click on the photo to enlarge it.