Edward Preston & Sons were one of England’s leading makers of hand tools. Some people compare them to the American company, Stanley for its wide range of quality utilitarian tools at affordable prices.
With it’s headquarters in Birmingham, England, Edward Preston & Sons, is said to have been founded in 1825.
Edward Preston Sr. (c. 1798–1883), (Probably baptised at the church of St Philip, Birmingham, on 26 March 1798), appears to have started out in business as a plane maker and was first listed as in this profession at 77 Lichfield Street in the Birmingham Directory of 1833. From other listings and advertisements, it appears that the business was actually started in 1825. Preston is likewise recorded as a plane-maker living with his family in Lichfield Street in the 1841 census, at which time his younger son Edward was 6 years old. Around 1850, his son Edward left school to join his father’s business and is recorded in the 1851 census as a plane-maker at his father’s address.
By 1864Edward Jr. appears to have started up his own “wood and brass spirit level manufactory” at 97½ Lichfield Street. By 1866, he had added planes, routers, joiners, coach, gun, cabinet and carpenters tools to his line, and the following year he moved his shop from his father’s address and relocated to 26 Newton Street, before moving again to much larger premises at 22–24 Whittall Street. This location became known as the Whittall Works and later was the office and factory of Edward Preston & Sons, Ltd.
In 1889 Edward Preston Jr.’s three sons were brought into the firm and the name was changed to Edward Preston & Sons, becoming Edward Preston & Sons Ltd on incorporation in 1898. Part of the firm’s output was a healthy line of malleable and gun-metal planes and patent adjustable iron smoothers, shoulder planes, bullnose and block planes – a range that was expanded in later years. The 1901 catalogue shows several styles of planes which were unique to the Preston brand, along with the usual styles which had already been set by other makers such as Spiers and Norris.
Falling on hard times, the firm of Edward Preston & Sons was sold to the Birmingham firm of John Rabone & Sons in 1932 and shortly thereafter manufacturing rights to some of the Preston range of planes were sold to the Sheffield firm of C. & J. Hampton, who would later merge with the Record Tool Company. Some of the Preston planes were directly added to the Record line by the Hampton firm, while others were modified or discontinued altogether.
Generally, all Preston wooden planes are clearly stamped on the front of the plane, the shape, size and character type of the stamp indicating the age of the plane. On some metal planes, all the component parts were stamped with a number or symbol during manufacture. This number was used to re-assemble the parts following a batch process.
Not all Preston tools are trade-marked clearly. Early shoulder, rebate, chariot planes and chamfer rebates commonly appear without trademarks but may have assembly numbers.
The “E P” trade-mark was already in use by 1882.
The trade-mark “Preston” also appears on some later tools that were manufactured in Sheffield, England. These are generally smoothing planes and appear modern and very similar in construction to other modern manufacturers’ planes.
Awards at world’s fairs
International Exhibition, Sydney, 1879. First award
International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880. First award
Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition, 1887. First order of merit