While at my grandparents house recently, I dug through the basement hoping to find some tools I’d have use for. My great-grandfather was quite the woodworker and while I’ve previously collected a variety of tools from there I decided to focus on things I could use for woodworking with this visit. I found some files, rasps, a saw set, and a variety of hand saws. All need a little work but are in pretty good shape—cleaning, removing rust, and sharpening will put them in great shape.
I also found a gem: a Stanley #55 plane set. The #55 can be used for cutting all sorts of dadoes, rabbets, tongue and grooves, as well as creating molding patterns—hugely flexible! It has four boxes of cutters, all complete. The plane body itself appears to be complete, including two little scoring arms and all the adjustment screws. The right fence (and related pieces) is missing, but I think that’s all. I think that makes it complete enough for use as a plow plane, but not a molding plane; maybe I can get the missing fence from eBay some day.
Looking closely at the cutters, most still have tool marks on the edge from the factory sharpening and only four appear to have been honed. Of those four, two are about 1/8” shorter than the others which would suggest they saw a fair bit of use.
I sharpened up the #16 cutter (straight 1/2”) and tried cutting a dado in a piece of 2×4. The biggest challenge is that without the right fence the plane is intended to be used by a right-handed person, and being left-handed I found that to be a bear! The number of adjustments on this plane is significant and I’m sure setup was always a big part of using it: cutter blade depth, runner adjustment to match cutter width and height, fence width and angle (two if I had both fences), two scoring blade depth adjustments, cam adjustment for working with wide stock, front and rear shoes. Phew!
A very cool tool; I look forward to working with it more!