(Originally published in THE GRISTMILL of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association: March, 1989, Number 54)


Cliff Fales

Extra thick and strong" or "thick" rules wereoffered by at least two manufacturers ‒ Stanley Rule & Level Co. and Belcher Brothers & Co.  The available catalog listings for these rules do not specify how much thicker they were than the ordinary varities.

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". See TABLE 1.

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".

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.

Ex Thick Gen View1.JPG
 General view of the rule. Note the steel center platen and the embellishment lines which do not extend completely to the end.

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 comparison 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 .203" but at the round joint measures .215".  I believe it likely that
shrinkage would account for this difference.

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 full 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.

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 a additional embellishment line, very close the the edge, at the outer end of the graduations. 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. 

Ex Thick Edge View2.JPG
 Note the thickness (shown in mm) and edge embellishment lines. 
 Edge view of Belcher rule compared to a "standard" thickness Stanley rule.

The two principal face embellishment lines stop about 1/8" short of extending to the brass tips. At the round joint, the first 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 pair, 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."

Ex Thick comparison3.JPG
Comparison to Belcher bevel. Note the damaged figure stamp of the first digit
 in the "11."  It does not appear in the other double digits or in 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 name, 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.


Rule Width          
Catalog Number
1853 Catalog
1860 Catalog
 extra thick
1 3/8"
Further information to this subject or comments by other collectors would be appreciated.

Comments? Contact the author

Price List of Box-wood and Ivory Rules, Belcher Brothers & Co., reprinted in: Roberts, Ken, Introduction to Rule Collecting, Ken Roberts Publishing Co., Fitzwilliam, NH: 1982, Plate IX
Price List of Box-wood and Ivory Rules, Belcher Brothers & co., reprinted by Ken Roberts Publishing Co., Fitzwilliam, NH: 1982    
Stanley Rule & Level co. catalogs of 1859, 1867, 1870, 1872, 1879, 1884, 1887, reprinted by Ken Roberts Publishing Co., Fitzwilliam, NH, 1975 through 1980 
Stanley, Philip E., Concordance of Major American Rule Makers, Philip E. Stanley, Westborough, MA, 1985

1989 Clifford D. Fales All Rights Reserved

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