Boxwood Rulers

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Boxwood Ruler

Boxwood Rulers -

Boxwood Rulers always fascinated me.  They are very utilitarian, yet they have that certain charm and appeal which makes collecting at least one quite satisfying.  The patina on these is usually quite stunning when you find one that is a mixture of brass and wood.

Boxwood rulers, cabinet makers rule, or the carpenter’s rule as some are called come in a variety of lengths.  Some have a caliper on the end, but most are the plain folding types.  Most of these were manufactured from about 1820’s – 1950’s, although some might still be made today.

When looking for a boxwood ruler I usually look for ones that have brass outlining the wood.  These types typically keep the wood from warping, which can occur over time and sell for more.  Besides wood, some where made from ivory or ox bone.  Ones made of ivory or bone fetch a steep price on Ebay and Esty.

bolted jointBoxwood Rulers – Types

The 2 main types of boxwood rulers were either the 2 fold or the 4 fold double arch-joints rule.  All rulers in this style have what is referred to as a round joint, arch joint or bolted joint.  The joint protrudes from the ruler when folded and is quite strong and extremely durable.  The four fold ruler came in either a  1 foot or 2 foot length.  The 1 foot ruler consists of 4 (3 inch) segments while the 2 foot consists of 4 (6 inch) segments.  Calipers were sometimes added to the rulers to give it extra functionality.

The rulers mostly consisted of boxwood and brass and some of the more exoctic ones were made from a combination of brass and ivory or bone.

Boxwood Rulers – Cost Estimation

When trying to identify how much a ruler may be worth, there are 7 different categories (New, Fine, Good+, Good, Good-, Fair and Poor.)  Most rulers will fall somewhere between the Good+ to Fair, since age has a habit of degrading the item.

The first thing you should check for is how the numbers read and if the ruler can open and close properly.  Next check to see if the ruler is warped.  Boxwood over time has a tendency to warp, which will devalue the price.  Brass was often used to outline the wood and stop it from warping.  Some of the rulers look like they are made from boxwood, but are actually made from ivory or bone.  These will certainly be worth more.  The last thing to look for is the manufacturer.

Below are various ruler manufactures.  Stanley is the most common and tends to be the least expensive.  Belcher Brothers rulers are the most rare and usually cost the most.  This list will help you identify which boxwood rulers might be worth more when your doing your Antique Outings.  I have seen Standard Rule and Belcher Brothers sell for $200-$500, so finding one of these at an estate sale or flea market can be an amazing antique pick.

  1. Stanley Rule Level
  2. Lufkin Rule
  3. Upson Nut
  4. Chapin-Stephen
  5. Chapin
  6. Stephens
  7. E.A. Stearns
  8. A Stanley
  9. Standard Rule
  10. Belcher Brothers

If you’re looking to buy to sell, in other word looking to purchase with the intent of selling the ruler later, you should try to get the cheapest deal possible.  If you can find a boxwood ruler for under $20 and it is in good condition, you can probably make money off of it.  Finding that special or rare ruler will take time and patience.  Sometimes buying those items is a crap shoot, because you never know what someone will eventually pay for it.

Boxwood Ruler – Cleaning Tips

Bar Keepers FriendBoxwood rulers being what they are, often are purchased rather dirty.  I am sure there are many ways to clean some of the grime off.  Here are a few good suggestions.

First up is Murphy’s Oil Soap.  Generally you spray it on and let it sit for about two minutes.  After that you use a soft cloth to remove the grim.  You shouldn’t need to apply much pressure.  Keep repeating until your satisfied.

Bar Keepers Friend made from (Boraxo or Oxalic acid) works particularly well on wooden rules because the numbers were stamped on using India Ink, which is a form of carbon black.   As it happens, oxalic acid will not remove or change the color of carbon black.

Using renaissance wax afterward on the wood brings out the patina.

Note Of Caution: Removing the older look of certain antiques can actually lessen their value.

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I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.

5 Comments

  1. Jack Nelson III on

    I have a boxwood ruler that is in very good condition. It is made of brass and wood. It is a 4 fold that folds and unfolds with ease. Metal Dow is still in place. The number and lines are in good shape and readable. This one gas a brass calliper with the number 17 at the bottom of the brass calliper. Could you tell who is the maker and year and value of this piece.

  2. Jack Nelson III on

    The boxwood ruler I own is the exact one pictured at the beginning of this page by Tom Candrell.

  3. Hi,
    My name is Valentia J. Fields, my husband and I recently purchased an 1893 Upson Nut Co. 2ft. ruler that folds in 4. It says on the back that it is No. 01 . We were wondering if perhaps this is the first one made in the series? and if so how much would or could the value be. Thank you for any information you may have regarding this item.
    Valentina J. Fields

  4. I have a sliding ruler that has been in the family for 90+ years. It is made of wood and extends from 6 to 12 feet. It is a Lufkin No7166 Made in the USA. Does this have any value, or is it collectable?

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