Question or Two for the Hand Plane Users

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Forum topic by davidroberts posted 06-20-2012 02:01 AM 2369 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3688 days

06-20-2012 02:01 AM

I’ve developed a slight case of plane-itus having spend the better part of the past several evenings viewing page after page of old hand planes on ebay. Way to addictive. Will just look at one more then go to bed, right.

Initially I was in the market for a #60 1/2. I ended up winning a Miller Falls equivalent to the Stanley #60 1/2 this weekend. I’ve have an old knucklecap Cman equivalent to the Stanley #65 for years. I’m also looking for a #7 or #8, for shooting and general jointing work.

So on to my question. I had forgotten there were so many commercial plane makers back in the heyday. I saw a list where somewhere ranked the quality of old chisels by several maker. I was wondering if anyone knew of a similar list for plane makers? I’m to much of a neophyte plane user to have a preference, or an educated opinion for that matter. I’m sure more long time hand plane users must have a preference. Actually I read on a more popular hand plane site where the author was down on a certain Stanley plane # verses the better quality Sargent equivalent, I believe. I know to look out for cheap modern knockoffs of the Stanley/Bailey/Miller patents, but it didn’t cross my mind that someone in the 1920s may have thought the same about a Miller Falls or other brand.

Is quality related to a specific plane number or type?, i.e. Sargent makes a better this while Stanley makes a better that. Did one of the old line plane maker typically produce overall better quality, such as heavier, thicker, better casting? Is Stanley the absolute, hands down winner, every time? Or is the older Stanley, Keen Kutter, Record, Sargent, Miller Falls, etc all about the same, to each his or her own?

(Caveat – I’m talking older planes, maybe needs work kinda planes, not the gorgeous LN or Veritas or limited production infill plane makers).

Thanks for looking!

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

8 replies so far

View SteviePete's profile


226 posts in 3506 days

#1 posted 06-20-2012 02:23 AM

Get on some of the Old Tools Sites. WWers using manpower tools only refer to themselves a Galoots. There are several Old Tool sellers that will answer all your questions. Galoots seem to have a lot more social get to gethers than any other group I’ve noticed on Lumberjocks. You will get some good responses from LJs very knowledgable, information accurate, and not much smoke and mirrors. Good luck. Oh, I think the Bedrock line was the best. I have three from my late grandfather and father and two others. The rest (20+) are in line for tuning to become users or gifts for my extended family. Good luck, Steve

-- Steve, 'Sconie Great White North

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3688 days

#2 posted 06-20-2012 02:52 AM

Thanks Steve. I think a lot of hand plane opinions / bias is based on sentiment. I read several ads on ebay that started off “This was my grandpa’s Staney #3 and he sure loved it…” It seems Stanley is so synonymous with hand planes, that the rest had to fight for market position. That makes me wonder if some of that fight didn’t pay off with a better product. If nothing else Stanley was prolithic. Did others narrow it down to just a few really good designs, and manufactured them really well? The thing is, how many of us have had the opportunity to fully use and compare several brands of old hand planes, enough too really know the difference. We only know what we know. A guy making shaving with a LN anything will usually say that one is the best. Maybe for good reason. Maybe the biases of the more popular hand plane sites grows from opinion to “well known fact”. Just sayin.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18391 posts in 3878 days

#3 posted 06-20-2012 03:10 AM

Watch for planes with Stanely blades that are not Stanley planes when on ebay. Some sellers don’t know but others may?? ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15701 posts in 2821 days

#4 posted 06-20-2012 03:13 AM

—It is generally accepted that Stanley’s pre-war tools were of higher quality than pretty much anything they made after 1948 or so.
—To discuss preferences amoungst the planes made (and most commonly available to this day) between 1900 and 1948, galoots talk in terms of Types. Those Types identify the styles of knobs used, dates on the bed of the plane, logo (or lack thereof) on the lever caps, frog style, etc. Much of this is personal preference only.
—Bedrock vs Bailey is marketing. There. I said it. But others will disagree, some very strongly. The essential trait of bedrocks is the larger mating surface of frog to bed of plane. You’ll have to pay a premium most times to get a bedrock, and you likely won’t notice the difference. Leave those for collectors and/or the severely afflicted. :-)
—Within Stanley block planes is where you’ll find the biggest potential for clunkers, as the company mades scores of blocks and several aren’t good for much at all if you’re looking for a serious (and versatile) user block. Go to Patrick Leach’s Blood and Gore site to see and read more about stanley planes than you ever imagined. I’ve spend countless hours there, and learned alot.

All my comments are Stanley specific, as that’s what I know the most about. Not an expert, but an enthusiastic user of Stanley’s original Sweetheart era tooling. :-)

Good luck, and others will certainly add to the discussion!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View lysdexic's profile


5256 posts in 2825 days

#5 posted 06-20-2012 04:36 AM


Smitty’s comments are right on. There are other brands that some would say are just as good as the Stanley- Bailey line such as Miller Falls or Sargeant. Yet, Stanley’s are kinda the gold standard and I have been just too lazy to research the nuances. So as I beginner I stick with Stanley. I haven’t felt the need to pay a premium fr the Bedrocks.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View canadianchips's profile


2613 posts in 3200 days

#6 posted 06-20-2012 01:52 PM

” a slight case of plane-itus”
Not sure “slight” can be used. Sounds like being “just a little bit pregnant ”
The experience I have so far…...Other planes are just as good. I have different types, models, brands, they all have a unique feature that makes them work. To pick up an old “stanley” and say it is the best depends on the year it was made, who sharpened it previously, maybe iron was changed…whatever.
The favorite ones I find easiest to use are ones with skewed blades. I know you can skew the entire plane to make it cut but a skewed iron seemd to work for me. The one I grab the most is a 1” skewed wood body . (no name) has an iron that sharpens well, keeps its edge. Be like most of us…...try them ALL..

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

19014 posts in 2770 days

#7 posted 06-20-2012 02:13 PM

I think better is somewaht a personal preference. Overall, Stanley probably made the most good planes, but they had their issues as well. I personally like the Bedrock series the best, but I don’t believe they work any better than say a type 10-14 Bailey.

I’ve restored Stanley, Millers Falls, Unions, Sargents, Ohio Tools, Keen Kutters, Winchester, and many I’m not sure what they were. Overall I don’t see a big difference by makers or size, but each seemed to have a rise and fall of quality at certain points.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3561 days

#8 posted 06-20-2012 03:31 PM

Welcome to the slope!!:)) I have a few planes (probably around 200) and there are some brands that are great users and some brands that are junk. If you’re looking for planes to use, I suggest that Stanley (Stanley/Bailey), Union, Sargent and Millers Falls are all good to very good. If you come across brands like Solar, Fulton, Shelton or Mohawk, just walk away. Perhaps one of the best bargains out there are the Keen Kutters. They were made by Stanley and are Bedrocks in disguise

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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