Why I love old planes

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Blog entry by SST posted 04-27-2010 03:35 AM 2022 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Besides P-51’s & B-17’s (how can you NOT love these old warbirds/), I’ve mentioned in the past that love old wood planes & can’t really see what all the hype is over new expensive planes which can’t work any better than my old ones (don’t get me wrong…I think they’re beautiful and, no doubt, work really well, I just, well, I just don’t get it…that’s all. And I really don’t understand getting a low(?) priced new plane that many people seem to continue to make excuses for because of the workmanship.

Now, while I have continued to deny being a collector of planes, (I’ll admit to collecting shopsmiths…not a real efficient use of space, I’ll admit) I probably am kind of a plane collector. Not a total nut job with hundreds that I’ll never use, but a group of about 20 of different sizes & uses, most…ok, many…ok, some of which I use, and I do intend to use more.

Ok, back to the point of all this. Why I like old planes. First, I like ‘em because they’re old. But it’s not the age. Lots of old stuff is just old junk. Old wood planes are a part of American history. Some of mine were used to build things in the 1800’s…the 1800’s. They make me feel good just using them & feeling that. For me, a big part of woodworking is the “feeling” part of it. Sure, I like seeing my completed work, but I’ve really come to love the process. It’s like taking a trip by train. It’s not just the destination…it’s also the journey.

Second, I don’t buy rare or pristine planes. I get (collect) ones that I can restore & that I’m likely to use so the prices range from reasonable to downright cheap.

Here’s my most recent purchase, a Stanley #18 block plane. It was $15.50 plus $5 to deliver it.

I used the electrolysis method for the rust, a bit of wire wheeling & lapped & sharpened it. It took about an hour in total and the end result is:

It just seems to me that, for about $20 and some elbow grease, this beats the heck out the new low priced planes (& new Stanleys) and makes a shaving that even the expensive planes can’t improve on.

I know that I’ll never convince everyone that this is the way to go…not really trying, why would I want more buying competition on ebay, I just wanted to write down a bunch of my thoughts on the subject.

So I did. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

8 comments so far

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3314 days

#1 posted 04-27-2010 03:42 AM

very nice job, and great steal too.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3919 days

#2 posted 04-27-2010 03:51 AM

awesome !

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Broglea's profile


685 posts in 3117 days

#3 posted 04-27-2010 06:06 AM

SST – I’m with you on this one. I restored a #4 Stanley using the same process you described. I used it on a panel I glued up the other day. As I was planing I thought to myself, this is woodworking bliss.

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3023 days

#4 posted 04-27-2010 06:29 AM

I am with you on this. Although I have more than I use. I just purchased a small spar plane. Nothing more fun than tuning these oldies. Judging by the paper thin size of your shavings you got yours tuned nicely ! Some of my old #45 even have a unique smell to them . I love it ! I haven’t tried the electrolisis method yet, It looks like it might be easier than the method I use. i am still looking for help on re-nickel plating my old #45 & 55’s

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2978 days

#5 posted 04-27-2010 08:25 AM

I am with you also, SST. I have several handplanes, not sure exactly how many. However, I do know exactly how many of them are new: 1. I purchased a LN small router plane new and that’s it. Everything else is used, off Ebay, etc – all Record, Ulmia, and Stanley. I used a little elbow grease (and the same electrolysis process) and got them clean and true. These tools are a pleasure to work with and I learned alot about them along the way. I sure like the looks of new tools, but I cannot justify the cost when there are so many good used examples out there and with the savings made, I can further expand the tool selection. Plus, if I had new tools I would be scared to get them dinged up. With used tools, dings add to the patina!

-- Mike

View KnifeL's profile


86 posts in 2978 days

#6 posted 04-27-2010 08:29 AM

Electrolysis eh? I’d like to hear more about this… Turned out to be a great block plane, nice!

-- Will in Boulder, CO

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3312 days

#7 posted 04-28-2010 12:03 AM

I totally agree with you on the restoration of old planes. I have several and love using them. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in seeing great shavings coming from what most people would have considered a piece of junk. The work is very rewarding.

Nice job on the block plane. You will obviously enjoy it.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3141 days

#8 posted 04-28-2010 06:30 PM

Electrolysis is very effectiv, takes a little time but that´s okay
if we want a shiny one from start we had bought it …..right

I´m with you all the way about this kstefektiv thing new vs used
as a hobbywoodworker
but I allso realy vish I could affort the schoulderplane from Bridgecity tool works
or one of Wayne Andersons handmade planes
just becourse of there buty they most be a joy to work with them and look at
but as a hobbywoodworker with a lov budget I wont even consider them to
be in my list of those tool I need


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