Proper Price for an Old Plane

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Forum topic by SkiTique posted 08-01-2016 01:14 PM 931 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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47 posts in 2201 days

08-01-2016 01:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane

I have been interested in picking up a few planes, but haven’t been happy with the quality I have seen at local hardware stores, plastic handle sand loose fitting parts. I stopped at a local antique shop over the weekend and found quite a few planes available. There was a Stanley No. 5 that looked like it was in good shape and various sizes of Miller Falls. The planes ranged from $12 to $30. If I decide to pick up a few, is there somewhere I can send them to have them reconditioned, or is this something I should be able to do. My only experience is an Old Stanley No.4 that my neighbor gave me. I watched a few youtube videos to sharpen it the best I could.

Also curious what brands I should watch for and which ones I should avoid, my wife and I stop in antique shops all the time while traveling through Michigan.


11 replies so far

View b2rtch's profile


4921 posts in 4383 days

#1 posted 08-01-2016 01:24 PM

How much an old plane is worth to you?
how much do you need it?
How much do you like?
How much are you willing to pay for it?
and so on.
This will vary from buyer to buyer

” If I decide to pick up a few, is there somewhere I can send them to have them reconditioned, or is this something I should be able to do. ”
How able are you to work with your hands?
If you have someone else do the job for you, you probably be better off to buy new planes.
Planes are not rocket science and there are tons of websites to tell you how to do it step by step.

-- Bert

View jwmalone's profile


768 posts in 2037 days

#2 posted 08-01-2016 01:28 PM

I’m still fairly new to older planes myself. Tuning them up as its called you can do yourself. Stanley are great planes as well as millers falls, sargent makes a good plane. But I own these three brands. I own a couple most people said were no good but they were wrong do your own research talk to Aidan1211. It also depends on the year they were made. Most of them went to crap starting in the 60, But lots still made good ones. Lots of guys on here who buy and sell those things and are very knowledgeable. They will more than likely see this post and respond they seem to live for anything to do with a hand plane. They wont steer you wrong or even try to sell you one, that’s why the next one I buy will be from one of those guys. Aidan1211 and DonW are two guys on lumber jocks that can help you out, their good guys.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View JayT's profile


6445 posts in 3545 days

#3 posted 08-01-2016 02:02 PM

If you are going to use planes, you’ll want to learn to refurb and tune them yourself. Getting one or two early on that have been done by someone who knows how to properly sharpen and fettle (official word for tuning up) a plane is a good idea, as you will have a goal to shoot for when you are doing more on your own. It’s not really that difficult to tune up a plane, more just a matter of learning what to look for and do.

Brands are difficult. Stanley made some great planes, they also made some that aren’t so great. Same with Millers Falls and others. Plus, you can get into some “brands” where they were made by one company for another one to sell. Craftsman planes, for instance, were manufactured by Stanley, Millers Falls and Sargent through their history. You are better off looking at the individual pieces and construction rather than brand. Here’s a partial list:

  • A good quality plane has lots of brass and cast parts, while poorer ones use stamped steel parts. The more stamped steel, the lower the quality of the tool overall.
  • The frog should have lots of contact area for the blade, lesser quality planes have big voids to save on material.
  • Look for good quality wood that looks comfortable to use. If the knob and tote are plastic, painted or have sharp edges, especially on the tote, it’s a sign the manufacturer was cutting costs. Most of the best vintage planes used rosewood for these parts, though the better Millers Falls used goncalo alves at times.
  • The body should be thick, heavy cast iron with no cracks or breaks. Some of the later planes used thinner castings, so X shaped ribs would be cast into the body behind the tote to give a little more strength—you want to avoid these.

As far as prices, #5 planes were the most common size made, followed by #4’s. These sizes should be relatively inexpensive because of the vast number that are out there. I wouldn’t pay more than $20 for one of these sizes, unless they are in really good shape and look almost ready to use with just a good sharpening. As you go up and down in size from the #4 & 5 prices will go up.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View RandyinFlorida's profile


257 posts in 3402 days

#4 posted 08-01-2016 04:04 PM

Read the Handplanes of Your Dreams thread here in LJ (URL: 51,648 entries. You’ll be reading till your old and gray, or dead. But you will learn a lot.

-- Randy in Crestview Florida, Wood Rocks!

View MikeUT's profile


209 posts in 2694 days

#5 posted 08-01-2016 08:11 PM

Jay pretty much nailed it.

When I started searching for and restoring vintage planes I didn’t really stray from Stanley for a while. That was more because I didn’t really find anything else. I have since branched out and really enjoy looking for other brands. This is probably mostly because they are unique but also because they are also good tools by other companies. Planes from Union, Keen Kutter, Winchester, and the like were either made by Stanley or good enough to be purchased by Stanley, so they are worth a look. I would go back and buy up those Millers falls planes though, I think I like them as much as Stanley Bailey planes, maybe even a bit more.

As a general rule as you get going, stay away from the economy lines for the major brands. You can tune an economy line plane to be a good user but it is more difficult, just like it would be easier to get an old corvette to go 100 mph vs trying to make an old VW bug do it.

In my experience, stay away from these subsets:

Stanley: stay away from Stanley Handyman. Like Jay said, stay away from anything that looks like it has stamped parts.
Millers falls: stay away from bench planes that have a model number higher than 24. Most of these were the economy line planes with the exception of Buck Rodgers planes. If you find a buck Rodgers plane for cheap, sell it and you can buy several other planes to fill your collection a little faster.
I don’t have much experience with economy lines from other makers, including Sargent, so I can’t opine on them.

Surface rust is easy to fix and so are the wood parts. You can use that to try to haggle down a bit but I don’t worry about them much in my purchasing decision. Take a close look at the cutter though, a lot of surface rust and pitting on the flat side can make it unusable and buying a new or used replacement can cost you more than the plane itself. If it is in poor shape, push for a discount or walk.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20279 posts in 3902 days

#6 posted 08-01-2016 11:53 PM

I also have some planes for sale on the site. You can buy fully tuned or as found. I agree with JayT, Tuning a plane is the best way to learn how it works. You’ll find plenty of help on my site and this one as well.

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

View SkiTique's profile


47 posts in 2201 days

#7 posted 08-02-2016 12:10 PM

Thanks for the input, Ill head back and pick up a few to start, as most of you mentioned, it will give a chance to get a little more familiar with the planes in general.


View Aidan1211's profile


198 posts in 2160 days

#8 posted 09-12-2016 03:00 AM

Learning to tune your own planes can save you a boat load of money and will go a long way in helping you understand the tool better. The more you understand the tool the better you’ll understand how to use it. Its crazy how that works but its very true. As far as one plane over the other there are planes out there that some say stay away from and some that other people will tell you you must buy because they were the “only” one that made a good plane, truth and I mean real truth is ALMOST any plane can be tuned to work well. If you compare them untuned just sharp then yes there can be some serious differences between planes.

Bottom line learn to tune and get to know your planes or have someone do it for you and you will find out why so many of us “plane nuts” love planes so much. Don W is a great resource for help on tuning and selecting a plane and if you have any questions or want help selecting a plane I’ll be more than happy to help you if I have a free moment.

Just keep in mind some of your best deals are on planes that are OTS. (Other than Stanley) They cost less and work as well as or even in some cases better after they have been tuned.

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED THOUGH…... Going down the rabbit hole of vintage and antique planes can become quite the affliction. Its a slippery slope. Trust me I feel down it awhile ago and there is NO CURE!!!!!

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

View Aidan1211's profile


198 posts in 2160 days

#9 posted 09-12-2016 03:01 AM

Also look into MWTCA for info about old tools they have a ton of info available!

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

View BurlyBob's profile (online now)


9514 posts in 3600 days

#10 posted 09-12-2016 03:09 AM

Ski, I was just like you a couple of years ago. Once started it becomes an addiction just like Aidan warned you. So, Hi I’m Bob. I’m a plane addict! I read and watched everything I could find on the web. You should too! Watch Paul Sellers and Mitch Peacock. They’ve got good youtubes about plane restorations. A Veritas MKII sharpening guide has proven invaluable for me. Along with a granite slab for a countertop scrap pile. I use it and various grits of wet dry sand paper. I’ve got over 50 now! The herd just keeps growing.

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2820 days

#11 posted 09-12-2016 03:29 AM

For me, I would’ve killed for good planes in that price range.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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