Episode 11 – Hand Planes, Part 1

A luthier's finger plane, NOT for planing your fingers...

Luthier's finger plane (NOT for planing fingers)

I have bad news for you. Although he was a brilliant inventor, Leonard Bailey was NOT the Messiah! What he did do was advance the art of plane manufacturing, combining efficient manufacturing, good design, and good business acumen (selling his patent rights to Stanley Rule & Level Co.) Later on, he didn’t do so well because he chose to compete against the very folks (the tool giant) he sold out to. Sometimes you get the chicken, sometimes you get the feathers. Nonetheless, hand planes have certainly felt his influence.


A sexy Stanley No.-4 from the WWII era.

This is the episode we begin to look at a huge subject, that of hand planes. Planes seem to have stirred the greatest interest of tool collectors for long enough that volumes of valuable information on history, manufacture, anomolies, and how to type many of the recognizable – and some a bit more arcane – is all readily available with a minimum expenditure of effort. As I researched information for this and the next podcast, I became increasinly impressed with the ingenuity of the Galoot; if something isn’t available, the Galoot made it. Sometimes that meant relying on the blacksmith, but it seems that, especially prior to the Civil War, that the Galoot would be so inclined to spend his own time with hammer and forge. The Bailey pattern plane, no matter what marque it bears, is the story of the Industrial Revolution and the shift away from widespread wooden plane use. We can almost track history; I offer exhibit B, a type-17 Stanley No.-4 smoothing plane with funky red-stuff handle that was painted black and the relatively tiny depth adjusting nut is made out of hard, black, rubber (recycled Jeep tires?) rather than the customary brass. This one here has become my po-boy scrub plane, which doesn’t work out real well because it still remembers it was made to be a smoother.


My Stanley 60-1/2 with racing stripes.

It’s very important to have a really good block plane, and I have one in my 60-1/2. I like it because its a stealth conversion; someone with brilliant forethought concluded that if he (or she) added the gold metalflake paint to this plane that made his (or her) AMC Gremlin model look so cool, then that would absolutely punch holes in its value (the plane’s, not the Gremlin’s) and some struggling Galoot down the road would be able to get full functionality at a discounted price. I know that there is a God because that someone with brilliant foresight was NOT me (anyone who knows me can testify to that) and that I’ve never owned either a Gremlin or a Gremlin model. I can do better than that, actually, because one of my girlfriend’s father had given her an orange Pacer stationwagon. Everybody said, “Oh, God!” as we drove past.


A cleverly conservative execution of a fantastic plane kit!

I will soon be blogging about my really cool Christmas present, but now is a great time for a sneak preview. My parents had obviously been peeking at Santa’s “nice” list (now just hold on a minute!) Anyway, under the synthetic, non-allergenic, non-asthma-attack-inducing genuine Canadian Pine fake Christmas tree there lay a package containing a plane kit from Ron Hock. Now, I’m one who loves to use wooden planes, but they always have been Other People’s Planes (OPP.) Now I have the chance to use one of my own, WOO-HOO! As soon as it’s finished, of course. It’s so much cooler for me now since Woodworking In America 2008, as I had the chance to meet Ron Hock himself, and sho’nuff, he’s one of us! In the podcast I make note of the fact that, like chisels, wooden planes are used in conjuction with mallets (for adjusting the plane, of course!) Here’s my set-up.

For Further Reading

Here are a few very important links for you to book mark for further study, illumination, and reference:

Patrick Leach, one of the original OldTools Listerv masterminds where he was (is) known by (among other things) the moniker, “The Merchant of Ashby,” is one of my primary dispensers of vintage Stanley iron and consequently one of the reasons I work. He has compiled a world-famous (world-wide-web famous?) cross between a subversive treatise, a hortatory sermon, and an old-time SNL feature on Stanley metallic planes known universally as Patrick’s Blood & Gore, and found here: Patrick’s Blood & Gore.

Yet another fellow Galoot, Jay Sutherland (who does not have nearly as many weird and humorous monikers as Patrick,) assembled a page in the 1990’s that breaks down the Stanley plane type study very clearly. Doing a type study on a given plane is fundamental to understanding an individual plane’s collector value (if you do that collecting sort of nonsense. I don’t.) You can find Jay’s excellent resource here: The Stanley Bench Plane Dating Page.

Patrick’s B & G, revised and illustrated by listmom Ralph Brendler and Allen Fisher here: Revised B & G

If you’re in the market for vintage Stanley baubles, I would highly recommend avoiding the eBay route where quality control can be “iffy” (yes, I know, eBay will make them play nice, etc.) I am militant in my belief regarding helping my friends prosper, so I will always recommend two Galoots I’ve had personal dealings with over the years, and have always been treated a lot better than just fairly. Patrick Leach, as already mentioned, is one, and Sandy Moss is the other (Sandy’s Tools-For-Sale page is here: Sandys Tools.) And just for the record, I’m not getting paid for this by either of these gents.

That’s it for part 1… here’s the podcast. Come back for more fun in part 2!


3 Responses to “Episode 11 – Hand Planes, Part 1”

  1. 25 February, 2009 at 8:32

    Not sure if you’re interested or not, but there’s now a website for Record Planes (link above) which I set up last year. It’s still a work in progress but most of the planes are now up on the site.

    I should also add that I’ve enjoyed reading your posts here. I haven’t downloaded any of the podcasts yet but I will do so shortly.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. 25 February, 2009 at 11:29

    Thanks, Cameron! I appreciate your involvement! I’ll be sure to add the link to my website (www.thewoodshepherd.com)

    Let me know what you think about the podcasts.

    Peace —


  3. 30 April, 2013 at 23:38

    Great blog from what I’ve looked at already. I’m Sandy from
    Mllersdorf, Austria and I am so glad to have seen this blog.
    By the way, I’d really like to get in contact with you. Will you make sure you drop me a e-mai?

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