This article originally appeared in The Gristmill, No. 54, March, 1989.
How Thick is “Extra Thick”?
“Extra thick and strong” or “thick” rules were offered by at least two manufacturers: Stanley Rule & Level Co. and Belcher Brothers & Co. The available catalog listings for these rules do not specify ho w much thicker they were than the ordinary varieties.
In the two Belcher catalog listings which I have available (1853, 1860), there is some ambiguity in the terms: “thin,” “medium,” “thick,” and “extra thick.”. A comparison of the two Belcher price lists shows that , in the change from the 1853 price list to the 1860 price list, “thin” retained the same designation; “medium” received no designation; and “thick” was changed to “extra thick.” as shown in the following table:
|Rule Width||Catalog Number||1853 Catalog||1860 Catalog|
I am attempting to verify that the rule described below is an extra thick Belcher rule. The rule, as observed when laid out with several other 2 foot, 4 fold rules, appears noticeably thicker, but not extremely so.
Since no Belcher rules were stamped with numbers, and since their round joint rules were not stamped with their name, the verification necessarily must rely on other means; namely, comparison of the physical description with catalog listings, and compa rison of the style of figures with other Belcher rules.
The rule has legs which measure a nominal 7/32″ thick (compared to the usual nominal 3/16″). The thickness of the legs averages about 0.203″ but at the round joint measures .215″. I believe it likely that shrinkage would account f or this difference.
|General view of the rule. Note the steel center plates and the embellishment lines which do not extend completely to the end.|
It is of a common configuration: 2 foot/4 fold, one inch wide, with round joint, center plates, and brass tips. It is unsigned and unnumbered. The main (round) joint has three leaves rather than the usual two; they are steel and extend through the fu ll width of the legs to the outer edges. The center plates of the knuckle joints are also steel. The rule is graduated in 1/16ths of an inch on both sides.
|Edge view of Belcher rule (left) compared to a “standard” thickness Stanley rule. Note the thickness (shown in mm) and edge embellishment lines.|
The embellishment lines display some unique characteristics. Not only are there double face embellishment lines on the inner ends of the graduations, but there is an additional embellishment line, very close to the edge, at the outer end of the gradua tions. The graduations terminate at this line and do not continue to the edge. This line is so close to the edge that it is mostly worn away on the outside but is clearly evident on the inside. Further, there is another embellishment line near the inner edges, which, on the inside, is a pair of lines. This totals four embellishment lines on the face and five on the inside. The two principal face embellishment lines stop about 1/8″ short of extending to the brass tips. At the round joint, the fir st embellishment line stops 1/2″ from the end, the second continues to the end, and the third stops 3/8″ from the end. Most unusual are the four edge embellishment lines, arranged as two pairs, with each pair very close to the outer edge.
A statement in the Belcher Brothers & Co. price list reprint of 1860 states that their round joint rules “…being made of an inferior selection of Boxwood, although well seasoned, will not have the stamp of the firm upon them….” The 1853 price list includes a similar note: “The rules numbered 30, 50, 70, 80, 90 are not stamped Belcher Brothers & Co.”
|Comparison to Belcher bevel (top): note the damaged figure stamp of the first digit in the “11.” It does not appear in the other double digits or the single 1’s.|
After considerable study, I am convinced that the figures on this rule were produced with the exact same stamps as those on a signed BELCHER BROTHERS MAKERS ship carpenter’s bevel in my collection.
The construction style of the round joint (three steel leaves, full width of the legs) and the steel center plates of the knuckle joints are typical of examples by the earlier New York rule makers.
Based upon the fact that the figures on this rule match the signed BELCHER BROTHERS MAKERS ship carpenter’s bevel in addition to the statements in the Belcher Brothers & Co. price lists that their round joint rules were not marked with the firm nam e, I conclude that there is a high degree of probability that this example is a Belcher Brothers & Co. No. 50 “extra thick and strong” rule.
Further information on rules similar to this one or comment by other collectors would be appreciated.