Stanley Bailey #4 -bought it about 1970 - should I keep it.....

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Forum topic by Jim Bertelson posted 10-26-2009 03:50 AM 1956 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3400 days

10-26-2009 03:50 AM

I have not used my plane for a long time, but I know, now that I am getting into the hobby end of woodworking, that I will use planes. It is a Stanley Bailey #4 circa 1970. I bought it new. It has a lot of dings and evidence of use.

I think that I should just buy a few very good planes, and not deal with the minutia of this aspect of the hobby. I am not into reclaiming planes, buying antiques, etc. Chisels and planes I would just like to throw some money at and be done with it. Learn to use them, sharpen them, etc. I do like to tinker with machines. Practical, when it comes to the planes and chisels. No strict budget.

Would you believe I owned just this one plane, for almost 40 years. Utilitarian stuff was me, but now I am starting woodworking as a hobby. Furniture, not big tables, maybe someday a chair, but I doubt it. Small stuff. But good wood….end table, book ends, clock, Arts and Crafts [ no choice, my wife’s choice ], etc.

So where does this plane fit in my universe? Should I put it into a corner of my shop, a momento, and forget it? Should I just sharpen it. Should I buy a new blade?

Thanks in advance for the info.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

18 replies so far

View CoolDavion's profile


452 posts in 4060 days

#1 posted 10-26-2009 04:14 AM

I’d say keep it /use it.

I’m in the process of learning to tune/use planes, I got a unknown “Made in the USA” plane from my uncle’s stuff that I had for a couple of years and decided to finally try it out. If nothing else you could learn/practice sharpening (if necessary) w/ the existing blade and get a new one if needed latter.

-- Do or do not, there is no try!

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Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3400 days

#2 posted 10-26-2009 04:25 AM


Sounds good, if I screw up the blade sharpening it, no big deal. I really have no fixed thoughts on the matter, but that sounds more than reasonable. Thanks.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Bothus's profile


441 posts in 3412 days

#3 posted 10-26-2009 04:56 AM

Hi Jim,

I splurged and bought a Lie-Nielsen block plane even though I had a Stanley and another no name block plane. I have not regretted it.

When you have quality tools it makes want to go quality work. I know Lie-Nielsen is pricey and there are a lot of people who will tell you Lee Valley is just as good and they may be. I never tried one.

I had an opportunity to go to a roadshow by Lie-Nielsen a while back and they taught me how to sharpen my plane. I doubt if they will take their roadshow to Anchorage though, they aren’t even coming back to Los Angeles in 2010 according to there current schedule.

I still have the old planes but I never use them.

Having said all that, if it were me I’d keep it. But this I never get rid of anything.


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

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Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3400 days

#4 posted 10-26-2009 06:30 AM

Thanks Bothus,

You are reinforcing my feeling. Buy some good planes, keep the old one to practice with, as per CoolDavion, and be on my way.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3790 days

#5 posted 10-26-2009 06:40 AM

Hi Jim, I would use the #4 so you know how to tune it and get it working really well. If you mess it up, its’ no big deal. It will also let you know a high quality plane when you use one.
Believe me, I have a bunch of old planes that I tuned and fettled. But when I bought my first lie-nielsen plane, I realized I had a long way to go before making my stanley planes work that well (but I eventually did get most of my old planes working really well).

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4333 days

#6 posted 10-26-2009 06:47 AM

I would keep it and play around with it. Although I do think that Old = Good. Although, perhaps a bit older than 1970.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View stefang's profile


16209 posts in 3570 days

#7 posted 10-26-2009 11:26 AM

Hi Jim, I also have a Stanley jack plane I bought around the same time. I tuned it up long ago and it is actually a
reasonably good plane. Some years ago I dropped in my then workshop which had a cement floor and a very large chunk of one side broke out. I still use it though, and it performs just as well as it always did. I think the most important things about using a handplane are tuning, and sharpening. There are a million references to both on the web if you don’t know how. The tuning is a little bit of work, but it only has to be done once. It is great to have a handplane for small work such as boards too short for the machine planer or for finish smoothing a surface which saves a lot of sanding time and mess.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View knotscott's profile


8174 posts in 3611 days

#8 posted 10-26-2009 12:23 PM

Keep it…..40 years of history is too hard to replace, and it probably wouldn’t fetch much over $25 or $30. My favorite plane is my Grandfather’s Stanley 220…it’s a decent enough plane, but the fact that it was his is priceless.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3400 days

#9 posted 10-26-2009 04:07 PM

Thanks everyone,

Sounds like the consensus is keep it for learning and nostalgia, but you may want to get a good plane or two….........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 3448 days

#10 posted 10-26-2009 06:37 PM

I’d keep it. I have several very old Stanley’s that have fantastic performance. You just have to get them tuned up properly.

- make sure the sole of the plane is flat. If needed, flatten with wet sandpaper over a piece of glass.
- sharpen the iron properly.
- Set the cap iron properly (should be 1/32” or less from the edge of the blade.)
- Set the mouth opening properly (should be about 1/32” or less of an opening)

You’ll find that you can get shavings that are almost as good as those from a Veritas and Lie-Nielsen. The main difference with those planes are their higher quality materials, very tight tolerances, and adjustment systems. They are OUTSTANDING planes but IMHO you don’t need to spend a load of money on them to get high quality results.

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3854 days

#11 posted 10-26-2009 06:51 PM

Hey Jim….keep the Stanley. The No. 4 is a good versatile plane. I think it would be a good daily use plane. At least it’s always good to have a “beater” around for those boards that might be a little dirty or may have metal in them. A good block plane is a must and you should consider adding one.
As far as tuning…..ALL of my planes, currently around 20, are old Stanley/Baileys and I have never taken the time to tune any of them. All I do is clean, oil and sharpen them. I’ve never run across instructions in old woodworking guides to tune metal planes and think it is a modern issue. It’s kind of like the Starret square for woodworking….How accurate is accurate enough?

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View TheDane's profile


5575 posts in 3899 days

#12 posted 10-26-2009 07:59 PM

The #4 is a ‘Smoothing Plane’, and unless there are problems with the casting or the tote or knob I would definitely keep it. Sharpen it, lap/flatten the sole, and it should give you many years of use.

As you get further along, you’ll discover that you need (or can make use of) additional planes. The #4 can be a good tool, but you’ll want to look for at least a block plane, and maybe a jointer or a fore plane. Lie-Nielsen and Veritas have excellent offerings, and some say the new Stanley planes are worth a look.

One thing I have found is I can improve the performance of an older plane (I have a #3 that iis 110+ years old) with new, high quality irons and chip breakers. I have a personal preference for blades from Hock Tools ( Hock is not cheap, but in my experience, you get what you pay for.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3400 days

#13 posted 10-27-2009 03:43 AM

Don, Rick, and TheDane,

Thanks for the advice. Amazing the skillset and experience here on LJ’s.

The old plane is in excellent shape, but I think I would replace the blade. Nice to see the castings that are crisp, with no plastic in sight. Might refinish the tote and knob, but except for some chips in the finish, they are perfect. Could be the goto plane for daily use. I will lap/flatten the sole just for the experience. Then have to buy a plane or two, or more, I understand. That’s part of the hobby too….......................spending money (-:

This is all thinking ahead, from a DIY utilitarian worker. But working with solid hardwood is a different deal, I know. So I am setting up for it. Plan ahead, get organized, gotta do tools, learn stuff, do some practice projects…...........


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 3448 days

#14 posted 10-28-2009 05:11 PM

One thing I forgot when setting up that plane.

Take the top of the blade (side that the cap iron rests on) and flatten the top quarter on the cutting edge end. The purpose is to make sure that the cap iron has NO gaps between its leading edge and the top of the blade. You will also want to flatten the leading edge of the cap iron for the same purpose..

Works wonders on the plane’s performance.

View SteveC3606's profile


8 posts in 3379 days

#15 posted 10-28-2009 05:45 PM

I’d Keep it. Even if you don’t use it it will be worth more in the future than it is today. But in the meantime you’ll have an inexpensive plane to use while you decide if y ou want to go for a more expensive one.

-- Stevec3606

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