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What makes a vintage block plane junk?

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Forum topic by ColonelTravis posted 09-12-2013 06:51 AM 1345 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ColonelTravis

1189 posts in 1355 days


09-12-2013 06:51 AM

Topic tags/keywords: stanley 120 block plane millers falls no 97

I bought a Millers Falls No. 97 in somewhat-crappy condition for a fair price to clean up and use. The equivalent Stanley is a 120, which, according to Mr. Leach should be used as a clay pigeon. In fact, that description was part of the reason I bought it – is this thing shotgun bad? Even though mine isn’t a 120, I guess it’s constructed pretty much the same. I like the challenge of trying to fix it up and seeing what it can do.

Anyone know why the 120 got this reputation? The question of my post assumes that any alleged junk plane has no structural defects (unless junk planes always ultimately become junk planes because they will develop defects?)

Anyone have a MF 97? I like mine because it’s one of the early ones with a red cap that hardly has any red left, but I can’t wait to see it cleaned up, which I haven’t done just yet. If it ends up being worthless with wood it will look nice on a shelf instead of in 9,814 shattered pieces in the middle of a corn field.


11 replies so far

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woodenwarrior

203 posts in 1656 days


#1 posted 09-12-2013 09:38 AM

I don’t own a MF 97, however, I do own a MF 75 that belonged to my great-grandfather circa 1930. Quite honestly its my favorite block plane. the iron sharpens very easily and holds a wicked good edge, it fits very well into my palm but is small enough to be an apron plane. It may be the sentimental value that makes me biased, but I love my little Miller Falls. That being said, I think with a little TLC and elbow grease most planes can be brought into a good working condition.

-- Do or do not...there is no try - Master Yoda

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Deycart

444 posts in 1719 days


#2 posted 09-12-2013 01:40 PM

My only guess would be because it lacks some of the fancy features of the more expensive planes. It has been known depending on the year made to have poor machining(Which you can fix with patience) The plane also has a fairly wide mouth which leaves out any super smooth planing from it, but if you use a scraper that is not a concern.

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Don W

17960 posts in 2029 days


#3 posted 09-12-2013 02:02 PM

The 120, along with other planes just like it, were built as, and was meant to be a lower quality block. The cap often breaks right at the fulcrum point, the iron is hard to adjust in both directions, and the mouth doesn’t have any adjustment. The bed of the iron is limited to a small area.

Now that I’ve given the reason why I believe Mr Leach would say that, I’ll have to say I really think he’s over exaggerating. Personally a #120 or equivalent will never be a go-to plane for me. But that doesn’t mean there are not a few floating around my shop for the occasional edge chamfer or trim. The iron can be adjusted with some practice (and yes, you’ll need to loosen the cap every time), know the limit on the cap and it may not break, and keep it set once it’s there.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

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JayT

4772 posts in 1672 days


#4 posted 09-12-2013 02:06 PM

Mr. Leach is definitely not shy with his opinions and has a colorful way of expressing them on B&G. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure he’s that far off in this case.

I have a 110, which is similar construction to the 120, just without the lever. It was my first block plane purchased for a very low amount. I used it a couple times before acquiring some more block planes, now it just sits on the shelf. I’d offer to give it to some newby just starting out, but don’t want to turn them off from planes altogether.

The problem is as Deycart mentions—there are no adjustment mechanisms. It all has to be done by tapping, nudging, prying, etc. and becomes a real pain when you are trying to set the block to make minor adjustments to a joint. It took getting a couple other block planes before I finally realized this.

Go ahead, clean it up and use it. If you are patient and use a delicate touch, you may be able to get it set right to work for you. As for me, I’ll stick to block planes with more features (Sargent knuckle caps in my shop, Stanley 18, 9-1/2 or 60-1/2 among others, would be good choices, as well) and possibly consider taking the 110 next time I go to shoot clays. :-)

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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Don W

17960 posts in 2029 days


#5 posted 09-12-2013 02:11 PM

The problem I find with the clay pigeon theory is the #120 just doesn’t fit in the thrower very well. A pigeon is meant to glide and maintain elevation. The #120 just drops.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

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JayT

4772 posts in 1672 days


#6 posted 09-12-2013 02:18 PM

Sounds like the voice of experience, Don. Any advice on how to get one to stay up in the air long enough?

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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Don W

17960 posts in 2029 days


#7 posted 09-12-2013 02:34 PM

I’ve never shot cowboy action but it Seems like a better fit than skeet for the #120.

I honestly don’t target them unless they are very early types, but if I get a few I just flip them. They really are good enough to use and if you’re on a tight budget they will work. They are great for the plane to loan out to the pain in the arse neighbor who you knows going to break it, and throwing in a tool box in the truck.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

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JayT

4772 posts in 1672 days


#8 posted 09-12-2013 02:47 PM

I shot Cowboy Action for quite a few years. The problem with using a 120 is the short target distances—angled surfaces lead to unpredictable ricochets. You need to be a bit farther away for safety, maybe 100 yard black powder cartridge rifle?

I actually have used my 110 when doing some building. Worked fine for rough work on treated lumber that I wasn’t about to use one of the knucklers on.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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ColonelTravis

1189 posts in 1355 days


#9 posted 09-12-2013 02:49 PM

Thanks for the input. Two weeks ago I couldn’t tell you the difference between a frog and a tote. Now all I do every day is think about freaking hand planes. I wondered why people were so attached to them, now I know.

We’ll see how this one goes. Gonna look for more planes this weekend at big flea market.

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JayT

4772 posts in 1672 days


#10 posted 09-12-2013 02:52 PM

Now all I do every day is think about freaking hand planes …... Gonna look for more planes this weekend at big flea market.

And down the slippery slope we go! Welcome to the insanity. Have you looked here to see how deep the sickness goes?

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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Don W

17960 posts in 2029 days


#11 posted 09-12-2013 03:08 PM

Luckily, I’m only partially insane. I’ve narrowed my search down to Stanleys, Sargents, Bedrocks, Millers Falls, Ohio Tools, Seigleys, Gages, and the occasional one offs.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

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