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Thread: Planes and a Few Things to Look For

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    Planes and a Few Things to Look For

    Someone asked about what to look for when shopping for planes on eBay and other places where rust accumulates.

    Here are a few musings about Stanley/Bailey planes. I am not too familiar with other makers. Maybe someone who is could add some information about Sargent, Miller's Falls, Union and many other makers of quality planes.

    When I am out in the wild hunting rust, one thing I always consider is how much work will be needed on any item being considered. Looking for missing and broken parts is also important. If possible, the plane is dismantled and threads are checked to make sure they will not be a problem. Repairing threads with JB Weld has worked for me so far. Getting the taps to rethread is a bit of a challenge, but it is possible.

    Where are the deals?

    All over the place. Antique shops and malls. Always ask about tools. Sometimes they are hiding. Have had a few shopkeepers tell me there aren't any in the shop, but they have some at home or know someone that wants to sell.

    eBay will be covered later.

    Estate, yard, garage sales and flea markets are also good places to look. My brother makes a bit of his living doing this. One of his tips, when looking for tools, look in the garage and out buildings. He also says to look in the drawers and cabinets. It is amazing how most people will not open a closed door. Look behind things. Focus, don't just gaze. Sometimes, the good deals are hiding right out in the open, hanging on a wall or sitting on a shelf.

    When I am hunting, a few tools come along with me. A magnifier, a screw driver, a small pair of pliers and a small piece of 220 sandpaper. There is also always a tape measure and a small pocket knife in my pocket. When it is remembered, my telescoping dental mirror also comes along. It is handy for looking on top of high shelves and behind things.

    The screw driver should be hefty enough to dismantle a plane. Always ask the seller if it is OK before dismantling a plane. In some places, this may not be practical. An estate sale is a bad place to dismantle anything. Also, if there are more tools, it might be better to gather and pay. I sometimes have a five gallon plastic bucket to use like a shopping bag when gathering up stuff. Often, the seller will just look into the bucket and give a good price for the whole lot.

    The sandpaper is used for testing rust for depth of damage.

    If you want to get serious about buying used tools, learning about rust is important. One should study the different qualities of rust so the damage done can be determined just by how it looks. There are many depths of rust from just a light surface dusting, a light patina, a heavy surface rust and then the blooms and scales of rust that indicate deep pits and damage. Remember, rust never sleeps.

    A magnifier should be in the 5 - 10X range. Comes in handy when looking for cracks around the mouth and in the wood.

    IS OLDER BETTER?

    Not always. Many feel the golden age of Stanley planes was from about 1907 to 1930. My preference is for planes from this period and earlier. The planes from before this period are often a little less costly.

    Most of this is personal preference. My experience is with Stanley/Bailey planes. There are many other fine planes available, I am not very familiar with them.

    Many people like the planes Stanley made during WW II. The casting is a little heavier.

    My preference is for short knobs, others may prefer tall knobs.

    THINGS TO CONSIDER...

    Do you want to have a matched set? Do you want all the same brand? Does it matter if they are all different types and makes?

    I like Stanley/Bailey planes because parts are readily available. There are also a lot of broken ones on the market that can be bought cheap for spare parts if that is your style.

    BUYING FROM eBay

    Always check the shipping cost. Sometimes it pays to ask. My usual note to the seller mentions that the shipping calculator is not working or giving numbers that do not seem right. Some sellers will then give a lower quote on shipping. If they reply $6 or $7 dollars, you can bet when the auction closes it will be $7.

    It helps to know the sizes and prices for flat rate Express Mail packages. Then you can judge for yourself what the price should be.

    Because eBay auctions do not stay around as long as this thread might, the images from the auctions mentioned in this post have been saved here.

    These examples were found by searching eBay for > Stanley 4 plane <.

    The best first:

    Nice 4-1:2.JPG Behind the Frog.JPG
    This is a #4-1/2 type 11, all the other planes are #4s. This has many things I like, short knob and from the era of Stanley planes I like.

    This seems to be a pretty good plane. A little rust on the sole, but it looks like it would clean up fairly easy. The tote is cracked, but that looks to be repairable. The blade looks a little short, but the 2-3/8 inch blades are not much longer than the chip breaker. A little more than 3 days left, no bids and with shipping comes to a little less than $40. My wife and I are both glad that I am not in the market currently.


    In Defiance.JPG

    The Defiance by Stanley was an inexpensive plane when it was marketed. Notice the tote is a flat sided piece of stained hardwood. Notice also, there is no frog. The blade rests on supports cast into the base.

    Stanley P2.JPG

    This is another of the lower cost planes Made by Stanley. Notice the lateral adjuster. It is a one piece construction that is bent to fit in the blade slot. Also notice the blade length on this one. The 2" blades should reach well beyond he end of he chip breaker. Some of the newer blades are a little shorter overall, but when buying, it is good to ask for another picture or how much is left.

    It is a good idea to study the different blades with the chip breakers attached to get an idea of the blade length left. This is a blade from after the 1950s I believe. Notice the rounded corners at the top.

    Missing Adjuster?.JPG

    Actually, this plane looks like it could be a type 10 or 11. With shipping it is about $17 and there are no bids. Notice the frog adjusting screw. There should be a plate in the groove around the head. It could be there if someone took the plane apart and did not put it back together correctly. This is one that I would ask the seller for some pictures of the area behind the frog to see what dates are there and to see if all the parts were there. It would also be a good idea to ask for pictures of the sole, particularly around the mouth and ask about the blade marking. This could be a good candidate for restoration or it could need too many parts, it all depends on the buyer.

    To be continued...

    jim
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 07-16-2009 at 1:04 AM.

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    All this listing said is:

    "vintage plane, stanley sw

    Here is a very old plane."

    Stanley or Miller?.JPG Blade.JPG

    I will always remember showing someone a penny from the 1960s. This was in the early 1990s. I was showing it to them because most of the pennies in circulation were zinc coated with copper, this started in 1982. He looked at the date and said, "Man this thing is old." So old is all relative.

    This auction, 360168848745 , closed at $9 plus $11 for shipping with one bid.

    Notice the wood. It is a light hardwood with black paint. Flat sides on the tote.

    The picture is not clear enough to see the lateral lever to tell if this is a Stanley or a Millers Falls plane. If it is an early Stanley, it has the wrong wood. The lever cap also looks wrong. Notice the front knob does not seem to go with the screw holding it in place.

    Notice how the blade is mushroomed. Either someone did not know how to adjust the blade or they were using it for a chisel. The blade also seems to have a little pitting.

    The frog, if Stanley, is from an early type, straight sides. The pictures do not make it clear enough to tell if this was marketed as a Stanley/Bailey or if it is one that was made for sales as a "house brand" in hardware stores. It does look like a large adjuster. There are no visible markings on the base.
    This could be a Frankenplane. It could be one with which I am not familiar.
    This listing has enough problems for me to avoid this one.

    If more is found on which to comment, it will be added.

    Hopefully, someone else will share what they "see" or want to see when looking at old rust.

    jim

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    Jim,

    A most propitious posting!! You have recently gone to a great deal of time and trouble to make a series of very helpful posts. I, for one, say many thanks!

    -Jerry

  4. #4
    This should be required reading.
    “I don’t have a lot of tools because it doesn’t take many to make furniture.” - Rob Millard

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    Jim,

    Thanks for all the great info on what to look for and avoid on ebay.

  6. #6
    Excellent! Thanks, Jim, for sharing the wisdom and experience you have accumulated in this arena. I look forward to the additional posts.

  7. #7
    Nicely done Jim. I'm sure many of the folks here will find your commentary useful. Thank you.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

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    Great post Jim! That's some excellent info.

    Regarding information on other planes like Millers Falls and Record, there are a couple of good websites with useful info.

    Millers Falls has some very nice older planes, but like Stanley, they also had some economy planes that probably aren't worth much time, money, or effort. Best to bone up on the markings so you can identify the differences, though many of the economy planes had gray paint and decals. It's also important to note that MF's numbering system is very different from Stanley's...(MF #8 = Stanley #3, MF 9 = S #4, MF 10 = S 4-1/2, MF 11 = S 5-1/4, MF 14 = S 5, MF 18 = S 6, MF22 = S7, etc).
    OldToolheaven has lots of good info on Millers Falls planes and tools.

    Record also has really good planes....useful sites:
    Record-planes.com
    Recordhandplanes.com
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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    I've had good luck with pre WW2 planes with well used (short) irons. It seems to me that if a plane was not used much maybe there was a reason -- perhaps it had a problem or two. Perhaps this is silly. Does anyone else share this view?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Goodman View Post
    I've had good luck with pre WW2 planes with well used (short) irons. It seems to me that if a plane was not used much maybe there was a reason -- perhaps it had a problem or two. Perhaps this is silly. Does anyone else share this view?
    It could also be from lack of knowing how to set one up, or a gift given to someone who simply didn't use handplanes, or a purchase by someone who passed away unexpectedly, or an impulse purchase of a plane not really needed (though not likely from that era!), etc.
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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    One other thought to add to Jim's post. As he's noted, the Stanleys on e-bay that don't get many (or any) bids are usually the ones that have something wrong with them. The "wrong" might not make any difference to a user whatsoever, but it does to a collector, and the price goes down proportionately. Rarer Stanleys fetch much more money, sometimes out of all proportion to their usefullness in the shop. A #9 Stanley miter plane, for example, will bring about $1400 if it's in good shape and has all original parts, so you're better off buying a L-N new clone, or perhaps finding another alternative to a shoot-board plane.

    If you're looking for superb users that collectors have little interest in (and they're therefore a lot cheaper), Sargent's VBM brand are very, very well made planes. The "VBM" stands for "Very Best Made", and while that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, it wasn't far off the mark. I've found them to be the equal of Stanleys in every way, except that collectors want things to be branded "Stanley", or to a lesser extent "Millers Falls", and Sargent runs a very distant 3rd or 4th, so even a plane without any rust pitting, all original parts, and a near full-length blade will go for 1/2 to 1/3 what a Stanley example will go for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Goodman View Post
    I've had good luck with pre WW2 planes with well used (short) irons. It seems to me that if a plane was not used much maybe there was a reason -- perhaps it had a problem or two. Perhaps this is silly. Does anyone else share this view?
    This is one of the many things to consider when looking at a used plane. My dad owned a few planes, but his were mostly acquired either through the family or in one of his many dealings and trades. He only used them occasionally. One that was his grandfather's, a Union #4, did have a short blade and was a great user. I handed it and a couple of others over to one of my brothers to keep with our family heirlooms.

    Often, a plane would be bought by a homeowner with a hard to close door. The plane would come home from the hardware store, knock a shaving or two off the door and be put on a shelf for the next time it could be of use. Many of these make up the mint condition planes that are often for sale today. This was not as likely to be the case before WW II. In the early part of the 20th century, people who wanted to work had to be versatile if there was not a lot of industry in their neck of the woods. Often, a laborer would have tools of many types and trades in their arsenal.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Keller NC View Post
    One other thought to add to Jim's post. As he's noted, the Stanleys on e-bay that don't get many (or any) bids are usually the ones that have something wrong with them. The "wrong" might not make any difference to a user whatsoever, but it does to a collector, and the price goes down proportionately.

    [snip]

    If you're looking for superb users that collectors have little interest in (and they're therefore a lot cheaper), Sargent's VBM brand are very, very well made planes. The "VBM" stands for "Very Best Made", and while that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, it wasn't far off the mark. I've found them to be the equal of Stanleys in every way, except that collectors want things to be branded "Stanley", or to a lesser extent "Millers Falls", and Sargent runs a very distant 3rd or 4th, so even a plane without any rust pitting, all original parts, and a near full-length blade will go for 1/2 to 1/3 what a Stanley example will go for.
    Many users feel that Sargent made better planes than Stanley. The one Union plane that I have owned was a bit nicer because of a thicker blade.

    I think Stanley is so common because they were more aggressive in marketing their tools and in the acquisition of other tool makers.

    The fact that there were so many of them is one of the reasons for using them in my shop. With a lot of them out and about, there are a lot of broken ones for parts.

    Try finding a lever cap for one of the brands like Winchester or Vaughn & Bushnell. To my knowledge, these are very well made planes. Their rarity works against them when a replacement part is needed.

    One of the reasons my Union plane was put into the family heirloom collection was there not being much possibility of finding a proper replacement blade. Spare the user, spoil a family heirloom...

    jim

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    Stamped or Stomped?

    This is a #5 size plane from an unknown maker.

    Here is another questionable plane. The problem with these to the unsuspecting eBay bidder is some sellers know nothing about planes. If one of these shows up with a Stanley blade, to them, that makes it a Stanley.

    The pictures are not clear enough or from an angle that would positively identify the frog to be stamped steel, but this does have that look. Also notice the blade adjuster mechanism. The adjuster nut looks like thin steel. The yolk also looks odd. Finally, look where the lever is attached to the cap. Not only is the rivet rounded at both ends, the top view makes the walls of the lever cap look like sheet metal.

    Top View.JPG

    The tote looks like it was designed to be turned out on a machine in 30 seconds or less. Also note where the surface is chipped it looks like light wood under a dark coating.

    Side view.JPG

    There is an evolution of Stanley totes. In the early years, the top of the handle has a large tongue and the top front does not curve on the rise. Later the totes seem to be made to better fit a users hand. Finally the changes seem to be made to cut cost.

    Stanley totes could be a short history of American manufacturing. It started with a new idea. As the product was marketed, there was consideration of making the item work better and "fit" better for the buyer. Then came the period of cutting another half cent from the cost of production. After all, when a million of them are being made, a half cent becomes $5000. And that is how we got into a race to the bottom.

    As I find 'em, I'll post 'em...

    jim

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    Excuse me if I am repeating something but I would add a magnet to the list of tools to have on hand while hunting.

    I've come across brass plated steel and aluminum frogs.

    I have three Sargents and a couple of Millers Falls, all of which are easily as good as my Stanleys. The Sargents in particular have better irons.
    Last edited by Richard Dooling; 07-16-2009 at 4:06 PM.
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    Rust Never Sleeps

    Here is a candidate for the study of rust. The sole on this plane looks to have rust on top of rust on top of more rust. This is about the lightest kind of rust that will leave craters when the rust is removed chemically or mechanically. Note the rust's colors. I do not know the metallurgy of rust. Having to deal with it over the years is my only experience.

    Sole Rust.jpg

    Other things to notice on this example are the flat sided tote also has a short toe. Notice how the casting is ribbed. This looks like it captures the tote to keep it from twisting in use.

    Back View.jpg

    The lateral lever looks like a one piece stamping. Another blade with a round corners at the top. Also to be seen in this image is the blade through the hole in the chip breaker. It looks as if the large hole at the bottom of the slot can be seen here. This can be a help in determining the amount of blade left.

    Lateral.jpg

    DOH! I just noticed after looking at this that the depth adjuster nut & screw appear to be missing.

    Sorry for the fuzzy pictures, but I didn't take them.

    If this was selling for a nickel at a yard sale, it would still be left behind.


    Well, for a nickel the blade might get a look. But there are enough good 2" blades in my shop already.

    jim
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 07-16-2009 at 4:24 PM. Reason: DOH!

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