Contractor grade???

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Forum topic by b2rtch posted 03-10-2010 12:19 AM 5462 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4863 posts in 3195 days

03-10-2010 12:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plane

I see Stanley planes named “contractor grade”.
What’s that?
Are they better or worse than the “no-name”ones?
Thank you.

-- Bert

7 replies so far

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3820 days

#1 posted 03-10-2010 12:34 AM

I’ve always assumed that anything “Professional Grade” or “Contractor Grade” was code for junk.

View TheDane's profile


5524 posts in 3809 days

#2 posted 03-10-2010 12:44 AM

Stanley’s ‘Contractor Grade’ planes aren’t quite as bad as some of the real low-end junk. You can tune them up and get some good use out of them, but they are nowhere near the quality of either the vintage Stanley’s or any of the premium tools.

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

View knotscott's profile


8129 posts in 3522 days

#3 posted 03-10-2010 02:24 PM

Most of the bigger names had similar economy lines, or at least eras of cheaper construction, which is one aspect that makes it a bit difficult for newbies to select good quality older planes. Most of these companies were in business long enough to go through several changes that reflect business philosophy changes, political turmoil, and economic changes. The lower lines are often associated with more painted parts, plastic handles, decals instead of embossing, lower quality metals used, fewer adjustments, etc. Some companies identify their econo planes with name or number changes, but some like Record did not. I’m far from an expert but my advice to newbies is to get familiar with parts and construction differences by comparing known higher end models so it’ll become easier to recognize the lower end lines.

The Stanley contractor or professional is definitely a step down from the comparable Bedrocks and Baileys. Stanley also had a “Handyman” and a “Defiance” line that weren’t quite to the Bailey standards, as well as other non-Bailey economy Stanley’s.

Sargent’s best is the “VBM” line (VBM supposedly standards for Very Best Made) ....AFAIK, those not marked “VBM” were a step down.

Millers Falls had an economy line that looked a little different and used a different numbering system. Their better line used a numbering system that identified the plane by length in inches…(ie: Millers Falls#9 is the Stanley equivalent of a #4, Millers Falls #14 = a Stanley #5). In the late 1950’s they introduced a cheaper #90 and #140. Other variations of the economy line followed in subsequent years…#900 and #814, and a teflon coated version were the #9790 and #9140 respectively, as well as a 8900 and 9814. Many used a decal on the lever cap instead of embossing in the metal.

Record tended to keep their same name and numbering systems which makes it harder to identify the eras of cheaper planes, but they definitely had some #04s that were crudely finished and eliminated the frog adjustment screw.

Stanley Handyman #5:

Here’s a non-Bailey “Stanley” #5:

Here’s a higher quality 1927 Stanley Bailey #5-1/2 type 13:

Millers Falls economy #900 (#4) & high quality #14 (#5):

A Record #04 from a “lesser” era…no frog adjustment, crudely finished.:

A similar looking, but better quality Record 04 from a recent era..this one has a frog adjuster and good fit and finish:

An older style high quality Record 04-1/2:

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

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4040 days

#4 posted 03-10-2010 03:45 PM

what is “contractor grade”.....I’ld like to know too, ?

what is wood graded at “best ever”....”premium”.....”deluxe” ..........”super special”....”professional grade”

all of it is marketing crap. systems that took centuries to develop, diluted to the point where nothing makes sense anymore in just a few decades.

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

View b2rtch's profile


4863 posts in 3195 days

#5 posted 03-10-2010 05:27 PM

Thank you for an impressive answer.
So” contractor grade” is kind of middle of the road quality wise, correct?

-- Bert

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3724 days

#6 posted 03-10-2010 05:35 PM

Scott always knows about tools. As for me Contractor grade says newer and low grade planes. Your better off buying a older used plane on e bay.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View b2rtch's profile


4863 posts in 3195 days

#7 posted 03-10-2010 08:02 PM

I was going to buy a new Stanley block plane with Wood Rivers I bought but it was over $100, I tought that was too much for a block plane.
Jim, I thought you told me that you will donate me one of yours, no?
Did I misunderstood you?

-- Bert

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