Historical information

Caulking is the traditional technique used on wooden vessels built with butted or clinker-built planks to fill the gaps between these planks while still allowing the wood to flex and move. This involved driving the irons, hammered in with the mallet, deep into the seams to open them up. After this, spun yarn, oakum (hemp) or cotton was driven deep into the gaps. The hemp or cotton was soaked in creosote or pine tar to make the joins watertight. Caulking also played a structural role in tightening up the hull or deck by reducing the longitudinal movement of the neighbouring planks.

William Marples junior joined his father's joinery making business in 1821. In 1860 William's sons joined him and the firm became William Marples and sons. Over the years they acquired John Moseley & Sons a London plane maker and Thomas Ibbotson & Co a Sheffield edge tool maker. Growing to become the most prolific and best known Sheffield tool maker. Their large factory was known as the Hibernia Works.
Their trademark was a shamrock that appeared on some of their tools, in 1961 they had about 400 employees. In 1962 the record Tool Company and William Ridgway acquired a fifty percent interest in the company and in 1972 the companies merged with several others to form Ridgway Tools Ltd. After 116 years at its Hibernia Works, the company was moved to Dronfield. A 1982 takeover by A G Bahco of Sweden was short-lived and in 1985 Record Ridgway returned to British ownership first as Record Marples Woodworking Tools Ltd. In 1988 then as Record Holdings PLC in 1993. In 1998 the company accepted a bid from American Tool Corporation, subsequently trading as Record Irwin. The Irwin company itself was acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in 2002 and renamed Irwin Industrial Tool Co. Both the Marples and Record names were re-branded "Irwin" However the name has since been resurrected as Irwin/Marples and applied to wood chisels and table saw blades now made at their new facility in Udine, Italy.
As a footnote, William Marples was the uncle of Robert Marples and Joseph Marples, both of whom established competing tool making businesses in Sheffield. The Robert Marples firm disappeared early in the 20th century. After several changes in the company's ownership tools are now made under the Ridgway name but in China.


A tool made by a company with a long family history of tool making in Sheffield England, with a member of the Marples family, Joseph Marples establishing a competing tool company which continues today to manufacture quality products for the joinery and shipwrights trades.

Physical description

Caulking tool straight wide blade,

Inscriptions & markings

Stamped "W Marples & Sons" & James S Steele tool box.