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US Patent: 10,844
Device for tonguing and grooving lumber
Nicholas G. Norcross - Lowell, MA

USPTO Classifications:
125/16.01, 144/36, 144/37

Tool Categories:
woodworking machines : cutter head machines : matchers


Nicholas G. Norcross - Lowell, MA


Patent Dates:
Granted: May 02, 1854

Patent Pictures:
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"Vintage Machinery" entry for Nicholas G. Norcross
To no-one's surprise, Norcross was sued by the holders of the Woodworth planer patent as soon as this patent was issued. But to the astonishment of all, Norcross prevailed even though this machine is a more direct infringement on Woodworth's patent than many others that lost. According to Charles Tompkins' 1889 book, "The History of the Planing-Mill", the owners of this Norcross patent had quietly made a deal with the Woodworth cartel: they would support the Woodworth cartel's attempt to get another extension if the Norcross cartel could "compete" in the same marketplace. Since the Norcross machine is really a bit of a kludge, and the presence of competition in the marketplace might tame the growing resentment against the Woodworth cartel. Apparently it was not difficult to control the outcome of the court ruling. Even before the lawsuit was finished, quite a few Norcross machines were sold, with the Norcross patent owners indemnifying the purchasers for any damages if the Woodworth cartel prevailed in court.

The Norcross design was fairly similar to the Woodworth design: a pair of upper and lower feed-rolls were mounted to a frame, albeit Norcross's roles were somewhat larger than Woodworth's. The feed-rolls were geared using star gears that allowed a certain amount of adjustment to accommodate different stock thicknesses. Different sized gears were also provided as necessary. A slotted bedplate was situated close behind and below the rolls, with the planing cylinder beneath the slot so that the knives could protrude slightly through the slot. This contrasts with the Woodworth planer and all modern planers where the cutter-head is above the bed rather than below it. In this respect the Norcross planer works somewhat like a modern jointer. An upper press-plate provided a surface to hold the wood down against the cutter. The cylinder bearings were attached to this upper press-plate via arms passing down through the main bed-plate. To adjust the machine for different thicknesses of lumber, cast-iron strips were inserted between the press-plate and the cylinder boxes. This adjustment method was clunky but effective and solid. Once the Woodworth planer cartel lost its monopoly in 1856, however, the Norcross tonguing and grooving machines quickly fell into disuse, replaced by integrated planer-matchers. That helps explain why the Norcross cartel had supported the Woodworth cartel.

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