Sears, Roebuck & Co. in-house Fulton brand hand planes manufactured by Union Plane Co.

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Sears, Roebuck & Co. in-house Fulton brand hand planes manufactured by Union Plane Co. after acquisition by Stanley Rule & Level, circa 1925.

It is the fall of 1927 and Sears, Roebuck & Co. has just introduced their new Craftsman line of tools intended to replace the previous Fulton brand. Fulton was launched in 1903 with the Fulton line of hand planes following shortly after in the fall of 1904. After nearly a 25 year run, Sears, Roebuck & Co. decided it was time to refresh the in-house brand. With Sargent & Company set to supply the new Craftsman line another supplier was necessary for the now second tier Fulton line. Sears, Roebuck & Co. awarded the Fulton bench plane contract to Stanley/Union using their new Union line of bench planes available for third party branding.

This supplier change marked a brief reintroduction of the corrugated sole Fulton bench plane that had been absent from the line for the past 2 ½ years. The Stanley/Union contract was short lived as Sears, Roebuck & Co. turned to Buckeye Saw Vise Co. in 1928 and Millers Falls Tools in 1930 as the Fulton suppliers.

As the nation emerged from the Great Depression, Sargent & Company and Millers Falls Tools traded places as suppliers for the Craftsman and Fulton line of bench planes until the 1940s when the Craftsman line finally cemented its position as the premier brand of tools for Sears, Roebuck & Co. By 1941, Sears was all but done with the Fulton brand name and turned to Peck, Stowe & Wilcox, PEXTO, to supply a value priced home handyman plane bearing the Fulton brand. This marked the beginning of the end of Fulton, the once premier line of Sears, Roebuck & Co. tools. By 1944, the Fulton branded woodworking tools were all but gone from the catalogs. A brief and sad reemergence of the Fulton brand in the fall of 1955 stamped onto inexpensive West German planes supplied by Schmachtenberg und Türck was quickly snuffed out by likely trademark infringement claims by others using the name after Sears abandoned the Fulton brand.

These Stanley/Union Plane Co. Fulton branded planes have several distinctive features, most notably the FULTON trademark stamp on the iron. Short, simple and without any embellishment, this is the only time such a Fulton trademark appears on the bench plane line. The use of machine screws instead of threaded post and cylinder nuts securing the tote and knob are found on both the earlier Stanley/Siegley Fulton brand bench planes and the Stanley/Union Fulton brand bench planes. The bodies of the Stanley/Union planes carry a cast model or size on the toe of the plane whereas the Stanley/Siegley planes were completely unmarked. The Stanley/Union planes feature a much thicker than average cutting iron and the underside of the frogs have the distinctive “Union cut” milling mark.

One of the less common of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. Fulton bench planes, the Stanley/Union planes were offered in a size 4, 5, 6, and 7, in either smooth or corrugated bottom. While not overly difficult to find, not many have taken the time to identify or assemble a complete set of the 4 different sizes of this plane that was available for less than a year.

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