Learningi about values of old hand planes

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Forum topic by Brett posted 01-21-2011 06:26 AM 14660 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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660 posts in 2650 days

01-21-2011 06:26 AM

I’ve just been getting into woodworking over the past few months and am starting to learn about hand planes. In my reading, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of old hand planes for sale online and at antique stores. Where can I find out how much a particular plane might be worth, either as a collectible or as a user?

Also, here are three questions about specific planes:

1) Are old coffin-style, wooden block planes worth anything as collectibles?

2) I’ve seen several old metal-bodied planes that don’t seem to have any maker’s information on them. Was that common back in the day, or are they just too rusty or dirty for me to read the information?

3) I saw a Diamond Edge jointer plane that has a wooden body about two feet long and a metal top part that looks similar to a bench plane (as if someone had stuck a metal bench plane onto a 3×3x24-inch wooden block, and then inserted a plane iron long enough to reach through a slot to the underside of the wooden block). Anybody know about these planes?

I’m looking for an old plane to fix up and use, but I’d also like to know if any of the planes I see are worth buying and reselling (to help pay for my woodworking habit).

-- More tools, fewer machines.

7 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10276 posts in 3615 days

#1 posted 01-21-2011 07:59 AM

1) Not much. The bodies are usually knackered. Some may be valuable
due to the irons being very antique (as in pre Civil War era), but the bodies
are mostly of minor interest. Some can be restored to working condition
and may be fun to use.

2) Some smaller foundries may have cranked out unmarked cast iron bodies.
Sometimes you’ll run across copies made by foundry employees of other
planes. They may be rough around the edges but the really cool thing
is to note the size – since they were cast by making sand molds from original
planes, and because iron shrinks, they are a little smaller than the originals
they are copied from.

Some of these craftsman-made planes do have value to serious collectors
and enthusiasts. As with most antiques, its the provenance (the story
of the object and documentation of its history) that makes something
like this have special value.

3) It’s called a “transitional plane” and they were made by companies like
Stanley for a long, long time. They were cheaper than the all-iron planes
and some tradesmen may have preferred the wood bodies anyway.

Before machine planers became available to small shops, bench planes
got worked very hard and durability was a concern to many craftsman.
Still, the wood and transitional planes were significantly cheaper tools
back in the day.

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2965 days

#2 posted 01-21-2011 10:57 AM

Try these links. by Patrick A.Leech by handplane central by Bob Kuane

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

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2650 days

#3 posted 01-21-2011 04:44 PM

Thanks for the great info. I’m looking forward to being part of this forum.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View chrisstef's profile


17311 posts in 2974 days

#4 posted 01-21-2011 04:55 PM

Since no one has suggested it yet … “the Handplane Book ” by Garrett Hack is a great read and brought me up to date on just about everything to do with hand planes.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3729 days

#5 posted 01-21-2011 04:56 PM

Last Fall, at the WIA conference in Covington KY, Chris Schwarz, editor of “Popular Woodworking”, had an interesting comment about the value of old planes. He said that the most expensive planes on the antique market were those that were produced with the lowest production numbers – that the reason the production was low was because they weren’t very useful, so not many were purchased.

Arguably, Schwarz is the modern “guru” of hand planes, Check out his book “Handplane Essentials”.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3042 days

#6 posted 01-21-2011 05:18 PM

I’d like to comment on the first question. There is an implication that a collectable plane is a valuable plane.

I have a few older planes that I just like having. For me, they are collectables. They are all functional, but I never actually use them. I display them and I enjoy seeing them. But they are not valuable.

Perhaps the best example is a wooden plane from the Ohio Tool Company. From my research I know that it was made prior to 1870 and, for me, it is interesting to know that the Ohio Tool Company used prisoners for most of their labor in that era. While I enjoy owning this plane I know that it’s market value is less than $30.

FYI – Many of the no label planes were actually made by the woodworker. That is how all planes used to be made. The woodworker would get an iron from the blacksmith shop and shape the wood body himself. I have a couple of no label planes that I am quite sure were made by the woodworker – but researching them is virtually impossible.

Some woodworkers were recognized for the quality of the planes they made for themselves. Other woodworkers would ask them to make a plane for them. From this situation, many early plane companies were started.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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Chris Wright

540 posts in 3449 days

#7 posted 01-21-2011 05:48 PM

Old wood body planes can be quite valuable. Like every thing that’s collected, it comes down to the condition. Like Loren said, the irons are going to be the best part. If a wooden plan is used regularly the oils from the hands helps keep it from drying out and cracking, usually an old wooden body plane needs the sole either dressed or replaced. I’ve used wood body planes that are almost 100 years old and they work as good or better then some of the cast iron body planes I’ve used.

To your third question, Stanley and Ulmia i know for a fact made wood body planes with metal inserts to hold the irons. I used to have an old Stanley like that, sadly, lost it in a fire.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

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