Saturday, January 21, 2012

Buying USA Stanley Planes

pdf file can be download here:

A few years ago I began to buy my first Stanley planes on the net and I won my first auction for a strange red plane, paying it only $10.
My skills and knowledge about planes were limited, so I asked a friend of mine for receiving more information about.
When he saw the plane said: "you are lucky, Giuliano, this is a type 13 SW Stanley Bailey. Someone painted it red" and explicated me its features and why some vintage planes were considered better than others. Since that day I began to read all it was possible to find on the net about Stanley vintage planes, and to buy other models on ebay (mostly ebay US). Here it is possible to have a very large plane offer. I always preferred to point auctions with few photos, good information about plane conditions but poor description of age and types. The reason is simple: more type information there are, more users and collectors point that auction and more the price will be high. In fact, information about plane typing are widely present on the net. My first reference is the Joshua Clark site Here is possible to date vintage Stanley plane (made in USA) using an easy to use flow chart for planes from type 1 (1867) to type 20 (1967):

Of course, during a century of production, Stanley planes had not same quality. Varies improvements occurred as the lateral lever, the frog adjusting screw, and a higher knob with raised ring. 

 The lateral lever was introduced  with type 5 planes. It is an essential element, very useful for compensate out of square cutting edge.
 The chart I am proposing is intended to help buyers to choose best USA Stanley bench plane, having for this purpose only few pics and seller description. Of course these advices are based on my personal considerations and experience during these years of plane use.
For example, I find the frog adjusting screw useful only for smoothing planes in which a frequent mouth adjustment is desirable. 

Low and high knob, on the right a raised ring at base is present

Again, the raised ring surrounding the knob base is often indicated as important for prevent knob breaking during hard use, but this never occurred to me.
On the right, the lever cap with keyhole-shaped hole

So I used these elements not as absolute choice characteristic, but rather as relative feature to identification when other elements are not visible in the pics. 
Using the chart is quite simple. Choose what kind of plane you are betting on (smoother or not) and follow the diagram. If the result is red, not buy, if it is green, so go and enjoy your plane.

The better frogs have the whole surface machined. Not so the late plane frogs (right)


Frog adjusting screw

                                                                                                                  Patent dates


  1. Have you tried to get on the email listing from Patrick Leach at Superior Tool? He puts out a listing of tools around the first monday of each month. As for eBay, I haven't had any good experiences with it and I tend to avoid it and look else where.

  2. Ciao Ralph,

    I bought from ebay around the world more than two hundred woodworking tools (mostly planes)and only 4 or 5 times I had not good experiences with it. It seems to me an acceptable risk percentage. Of course you have to do some restoring job, but I think it is instructive for understand well these tools. I saved a lot of money in this way, in spite of international shipping costs.
    However, thank you for your advice. I'm sure it could be a valid option for taking good hand tools.