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Remembering Thomas Norris & His Planes


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I have been greatly interested to read over past months and years items referring to Norris tools, together with one of that firm's logos reproduced. It is possible that a few reminiscences from one who knew Tom Norris well may be of interest to some of your older readers.

Our first meeting takes me back sixty years to the end of my school days. Tom's wife, "Aunt Nell", was god-mother to the girl I had already planned to marry some day (and did in 1932). The Norrises lived in an unpretentious house in New Malden, Surrey, with a sizeable workshop on the adjacent plot, and it was there that we visited over the ensuing years. They never changed their abode, nor the simple and dedicated lifestyle which so admirably fitted this closely knit couple. They comprised the firm, the work being shared with a naturalness which made it appear to be unplanned. They were totally complimentary, and I never heard a complaint or sharp word pass between them.

I must have spent many a long hours in Uncle Tom's company in his workshop, but the hours seemed to pass like minutes. Work continued steadily and everything he did fascinated me. He never overlooked me, and as he worked he would quietly explain what he was doing and why.

Orderliness prevailed. There was a loft full of hard wood, mostly rosewood seasoning over the years, and this, with the machines, tools and materials in the workshop were treated with a respect amounting almost to reverence. Integrity was the key to Tom Norris' life and work, from the largest jack planes to the smallest bronze violin-making planes; the latter little larger than my fingernail, but with a cutting iron ground, tempered and honed with as much care as it's largest brothers. There was a press where the steel was formed for the dovetailed frames; a grindstone and a furnace, polishing machines, drilling machines and much besides. With what pleasure one picked up a finished cutting iron of a sturdiness unknown in to-day's volume-produced tools. Timber was carefully shaped, smoothed and polished with loving care. Everything moved unerringly towards the final product with it's glistening steel, highly polished bronze and shining rosewood combined in a tool which handled like a Leica camera. Quality was the watchword.

Tom Norris was not a demonstrative man, but I remember him telling me, with what seemed to be a touch of sadness how, during the first world war, he had been compelled to downgrade the product by substituting a casting for dovetailed frames in order to increase production and lower the cost to help meet the urgent needs of a nation at war. Even so quality was not forgotten.

So the months and years went by, with husband and wife going off for a week or two's "holiday" each year. This vacation would entail loading up the car with a variety of stock and setting off on a round of visits to merchants who distributed his wares. Again, it was the personal touch which mattered. Then they would return to recommence another year's routine which was for them life, happiness and understanding. It was enough for them that they could maintain and finance this way of life.

The Norris's had no family, and it became clear that a young man who was determined to claim the girl they loved would not be unacceptable as an apprentice: but it was not to be. However, the time came when I moved into life in company with this girl, together with two Norris planes. My treasure house was full. Alas, after the second world war the planes were stolen from the warehouse in which our furniture was stored while we were living and working in the Middle East. I would rather have lost almost anything else. But I still have the girl. She has been my wife for more than fifty years, together we have a host of memories of two lovely people who, I believe, had got their priorities right.

E. Guymer

Text reproduced from Woodworker Magazine (U.K.), August 1983

NORRIS A1 14 1 2 PLANE
NORRIS A1 14 1 2 PLANE $598.71 (1 Bid)
Time Remaining: 11h 58m
GOOD QUALITY EARLY ANTIQUE BRONZE BRASS WOOD WOODWORK PLANE NORRIS or SIMILAR
GOOD QUALITY EARLY ANTIQUE BRONZE BRASS  WOOD WOODWORK PLANE NORRIS or SIMILAR $139.70 (33 Bids)
Time Remaining: 1d 15h 18m
NORRIS STYLE TWIN THREAD ADJUSTER NORRIS OR EASYFIT BACKPLATE
NORRIS STYLE TWIN THREAD ADJUSTER NORRIS OR EASYFIT BACKPLATE $99.79
Time Remaining: 2d 18h 27m
Buy It Now for only: $99.79
NORRIS LONDON PRE WAR No 1 DOVETAILED PANEL PLANE 13 1 2 INCH
NORRIS LONDON PRE WAR No 1 DOVETAILED PANEL PLANE 13 1 2 INCH $658.60
Time Remaining: 2d 18h 51m
Buy It Now for only: $658.60
NORRIS LONDON 1 3 4 PRE WAR CAP IRON
NORRIS LONDON 1 3 4 PRE WAR CAP IRON $66.53
Time Remaining: 3d 8h 24m
Buy It Now for only: $66.53
Stunning Rare NORRIS No31 Rosewood Infill Thumb Plane
Stunning Rare NORRIS No31 Rosewood Infill Thumb Plane $5,754.41
Time Remaining: 3d 21h 2m
Buy It Now for only: $5,754.41
Buck Steel Soled Gunmetal Chariot Plane Made By Norris
Buck Steel Soled Gunmetal Chariot Plane Made By Norris $3,319.60
Time Remaining: 3d 21h 2m
Buy It Now for only: $3,319.60
Rare Early Norris No28R Patent Metal Chariot Plane
Rare Early Norris No28R Patent Metal Chariot Plane $525.55
Time Remaining: 3d 21h 2m
Buy It Now for only: $525.55
Norris type infill plane brass and steel lever cap screw new reproduction
Norris type infill plane brass and steel lever cap screw new reproduction $10.95
Time Remaining: 5d 19h 5m
Buy It Now for only: $10.95
Norris type infill adjuatment mechanism for smoothing jack or joiner planes
Norris type infill adjuatment mechanism for smoothing jack or joiner planes $55.00
Time Remaining: 5d 19h 5m
Buy It Now for only: $55.00

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