The subject router is commonly referred to disparagingly as the ‘old woman’s tooth’ or ‘hag’s tooth.’ It is a router that houses a plough plane iron instead of a purpose made shoe-type cutting iron. They work fine but rarely give the type of clean surface required for veneer inlays. These types of tools are adjusted by the same hammer-tap tapping method used generally on wooden-bodied planes on the iron or plane body. These tools are effective and practical when used in general carpentry and joinery.
The firm of Alexander Mathieson & Sons was one of the leading makers of hand tools in Scotland. Its success went hand in hand with the growth of the shipbuilding industries on the Firth of Clyde in the nineteenth century and the emergence of Glasgow regarded as the "second city of the Empire". It also reflected the firm's skill in responding to an unprecedented demand for quality tools by shipyards, cooperage's and other industries, both locally and far and wide.
The year 1792 was deemed by the firm to be that of its foundation it was in all likelihood the year in which John Manners had set up his plane-making workshop on Saracen Lane off the Gallowgate in the heart of Glasgow, not far from the Saracen's Head Inn, where Dr Johnson and James Boswell had stayed on their tour of Scotland in 1773.
Alexander Mathieson (1797–1851) is recorded in 1822 as a plane-maker at 25 Gallowgate, but in the following year at 14 Saracen's Lane, presumably having taken over the premises of John Manners. The 1841 national census described Alexander Mathieson as a master plane-maker at 38 Saracen Lane with his son Thomas Adam working as a journeyman plane-maker.
In 1849 the firm of James & William Stewart at 65 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh was taken over and Thomas was put in charge of the business, trading under the name Thomas A. Mathieson & Co. as plane and edge-tool makers. Thomas's company acquired the Edinburgh edge-tool makers Charles & Hugh McPherson and took over their premises in Gilmore Street. The Edinburgh directory of 1856/7 the business is recorded as being Alexander Mathieson & Son, plane and edge-tool makers at 48 Nicolson Street and Paul's Work, Gilmore Street. The 1851 census records indicate that Alexander was working as a tool and plane-maker employing eight men. Later that year Alexander died and his son Thomas took over the business. Under the heading of an edge-tool maker in the 1852/3 (Post-Office Glasgow Annual Directory) the firm is now listed as Alexander Mathieson & Son. By the early 1850s, the business had moved to 24 Saracen Lane.
The directory for 1857/8 records that the firm had moved again only a few years later to East Campbell Street, also off the Gallowgate, and that through further diversification was also manufacturing coopers' and tinmen's tools. The ten-yearly censuses log the firm's growth and in 1861 Thomas was a tool manufacturer employing 95 men and 30 boys; in 1871 he had 200 men working for him and in 1881 300 men. By 1899 the firm had been incorporated as Alexander Mathieson & Sons Ltd, even though only Alexander's son Thomas appears ever to have joined the firm.
A vintage tool made by a well-known firm made for other firms and individuals that worked in wood. The tool was used for making timber veneers or smoothing a trench in a piece of timber that was then used in some form of cabinet manufacture or wood working enterprise.
A significant item from the mid to late 19th century that today is sought after by collectors. It gives us a snapshot of how furniture was made predominately by hand and with tools that were themselves hand made and required considerable skill in their use.
Old Woman's Tooth Router Mathieson. Single iron cut down from a larger plane iron. Has
Inscriptions & markings
Marked A Mathieson & Son also stamped inscription on side G Hill. (owner)