Record Tools History
Record - In The Beginning
The Record Tool Factory was originally formed in the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield,
a city which was renowned throughout the world for the steel and tools produced there.
At the time of the establishment of the factory in 1898 Sheffield had just become
a city a few years previous in 1893. The combination of the new city status and
the world reputation of Sheffield steel made this the ideal place for a tool
maker to setup business.
Vices, Wrenches, Cramps and tools alike were produced in the factory during the first 30 years of the 20th century, then in the 1930's Record made a move in a new direction, they started making hand planes.
In January 1931, Record launched a new line of adjustable iron planes. These planes included models: 03, 04, 04 1/2, 05, 05 1/2, 06, 07, 08, labelled as 'Record Adjustable Iron Planes', and models 0110, 0120, 0220 labelled as 'Record Block Planes'.
These hand planes were to line up in direct competition with the dominant tool maker Stanley (USA). Stanley had a long history of making innovative, user-friendly, affordable planes and their new wave of planes were proving a huge success. As such many tool sellers in the UK had for a number of years been importing Stanley planes into their shops. With the display of these tools on shop shelves and shop brochures and the distinct lack of competition of similar planes, these Stanley planes had become a familiar name amongst many carpenters.
The launch of these planes at this time just happened to be a time at the start of the Great Depression, it was also at a time when nations were implementing protectionism strategies. The US implemented a policy know as the Smoot–Hawley Tariff which raised taxes and imposed quotas on imported goods from countries such as the United Kingdom to record levels. As a consequence there were retaliation policies put in place. These barriers between nations meant there was an increased sense of national pride. This meant although times were unbelievably tough, it meant British makers now had an edge over foreign makers and for Record this was a great opportunity to seize some of the metal hand plane market share which Stanley had pretty much owned. Record responded and played upon the national pride feelings by making planes with the markings 'BRITISH MAKE' and 'RECORD BRITISH'.
The vast majority of the Record plane designs were quite similar to the Stanley equivalent models of the time and so was the numbering of the models. The model numbers given were very cleverly numbered so to give the Record models a unique model number but so it was very straight forward for potential customers to compare each respective Record and Stanley plane model against each other. The clever part of the model numbering was simply to place a '0' before each Stanley equivalent model number. A simple and very effective strategy.
The Record Tools strategy seemed to have some success almost straight away. In 1935 a large string of tool sellers based in the South of England were devoting advertising space for Record planes near the front of their tool brochure with just a small sidenote below each Record plane offering the option for customers to buy Stanley (USA) equivalent planes. They were selling the Stanley and Record planes at exactly the same price.
At around this time there must have still been some sensitivity between the age long traditional use of wooden planes and the new emerging modern technologies. To address this sensitivity, Record once again put a very clever strategy into place in order to change users mindsets; they published a book called 'Planecraft - Hand Planing By Modern Methods'. This book was basically a tutorial educating craftsmen how to use the new modern Record planes.
The book started by introducing readers to the evolution of the plane from Roman times through to the 19th century wooden planes and then seemlessly through to the new evolutionary stage, the Record plane. It was brilliantly written, anyone who wasn't convinced who read this book must have surely been intrigued. Their sensitivity on the shift from the traditional wooden hand plane to the new metal plane was addressed beautifully in this book in one simple but powerful sentence: "and though the machine plane is with us, the hand plane will never leave us".
By 1938 the Record plane and tool range was at its height. The release of the Record Tools catalogue no. 15 showed an impressive 82 planes (including model variations such as 'SS' and corrugated models). Sadly a number of these 82 planes were only to have a short period in which they were made due in part to the dark times which lay ahead.
The 1940's saw World War II and with it came war time restrictions and shortages such as the rationing and shortages of petrol and steel, the country also saw a massive shortage in man power. 1943-1944 saw the height of rationing and shortages, it is believed during this time Record stopped producing a number of tools, it may have even been 1942 when they stopped producing a number of their tools. It must have also been the case that the quantity of tools produced during war time were greatly reduced.
1949 saw the release of the Record Tools catalogue no. 16. This catalogue listed the same tools as catalogue no. 15, however the attached price list showed a number of tools 'out of production'.
Record - From Then On
The Record brand of planes were continued to be made for the next five decades. Gradually through this time models of Record planes were removed from production. Most of the models which stayed in production kept roughly to their original form. The exceptions to this were the Record 044 plough plane and the 050 combination plane which were given a brand new design. The 020 circular plane also saw a new design and model number. The letter 'C' was appended to the original model number to indicate these were the new versions. There were only six new unique plane model numbers introduced during this period, these were:
- 060 1/2
- The Calvert Steven CS88
Record - Today
The "Record" trade mark is now owned by the US company 'Irwin Industrial Tool Company Limited'. The Irwin Record planes available today are:
- 09 1/2
- 060 1/2