hand plane brands

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by freerange posted 11-14-2017 04:15 PM 2167 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View freerange's profile


6 posts in 1912 days

11-14-2017 04:15 PM

I guess Stanley is King when it comes to vintage hand planes. But what are some of the other quality hand planes? Miller Falls, Craftsman, Dunlap, Record, there are many, how would you rank them, and what to look for in a “off” brand (other than Stanley) plane?

11 replies so far

View JayT's profile


6411 posts in 3059 days

#1 posted 11-14-2017 05:20 PM

The basics of what I look for are:

  • Heavy, thick castings with clean machining. Sloppy machining is a walk away.
  • Cast parts. Stamped steel is always a sign of cost cutting, especially on critical parts. There are planes out there with stamped steel frogs and lever caps. Those are virtually impossible incapable of performing at a high level.
  • Lots of surface area frog to base and frog to iron. More surface = more stable.
  • Quality hardwood, not cheaper wood that is painted or stained or even worse, plastic.
  • And to a lesser degree, brass. Brass is generally used in areas such as adjusters and nuts only on better quality planes. There are good quality planes that use steel in these areas so not having brass isn’t necessarily bad, just that having it is generally a good sign.

That being said, I have restored some great users that violate some of those, such as a stamped steel yoke instead of cast or stained hardwood handles. If a plane hits more than one, however, it’s time to reconsider.

As far as brands, there are so many good ones from early to mid 1900’s. Sargent & Millers Falls are probably the most commonly found after Stanley. Some others that made good quality tools (many of whom were later bought out by Stanley) would include Vaughan & Bushnell, Ohio Tools, Siegley, Rockford and Marsh.

You also have the brands that sourced their planes from the big manufacturers. From your list above, for instance, Craftsman never made a plane. At various times they had Stanley, Sargent and Millers Falls make planes with the Craftsman name on them. That is also true for Keen Kutter, Winchester, HSB&Co and many others.

Many manufacturers made planes that were at least as good as a Stanley, however I don’t know of any good way to rank them, there is too much involved. Personal opinion, manufacturing tolerances, how much use and care the individual plane has seen through the years, etc. There are people on the site that love their Sargent or Millers Falls. I’m a big fan of V&B planes and own and use others from the list above, even though I have mostly Stanley’s.

Many of those brands also had lower line planes, so you have to go back to knowing what the construction aspects of a good quality plane are and evaluate each on its own merits.

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

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 4945 days

#2 posted 11-14-2017 06:35 PM

I would add Union and Record to JayT’s list.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View corelz125's profile


1530 posts in 1824 days

#3 posted 11-14-2017 09:34 PM

A few guys swear by Sargents

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 4945 days

#4 posted 11-14-2017 09:52 PM

A few guys swear by Sargents

- corelz125

Some guys even swear that Shaw’s patent Sargents are better than Stanley Bedrocks “Gasp”.... lol

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View corelz125's profile


1530 posts in 1824 days

#5 posted 11-15-2017 01:23 AM

They are kind of similar in design arent they?

View fuigb's profile


583 posts in 3806 days

#6 posted 11-15-2017 03:52 AM

I have a couple of Unions that work pretty good. These were gifts from my wife -rummage sale finds- and so while I’d not likely buy Union on my own I restored and use these out of a sense of respect for my wife’s misguided good deed.
As stated above: stamped parts and plastic handles shout “door-stopper” to me.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Just_Iain's profile (online now)


328 posts in 1264 days

#7 posted 11-16-2017 12:21 AM

Funny thing is the first Stanley I purchased on my own was a #3 with plastic handles back in the 80’s. Still have it and will pass it on to my daughter as she is the practical and work oriented one. Not a bad plane in the end for people with small hands.

-- For those about to die, remember your bicycle helmet!

View corelz125's profile


1530 posts in 1824 days

#8 posted 11-16-2017 12:48 AM

first plane i bought was a newer bailey with the plastic handles i put a hock blade in it and did some tuning and it works pretty good

View Roy Turbett's profile

Roy Turbett

176 posts in 4428 days

#9 posted 11-19-2017 05:55 AM

Jay hit on most of the things I look for except that I prefer adjuster knobs with left hand threads like those found on Stanley planes since 1900. Because I’m right handed, I find it easier to advance the blade by pushing down (clockwise) and retracting it by pulling up (counter-clockwise). If I were left handed, I’d probably prefer a plane like an older Sargent or Winchester with a right hand threaded knob so when I pushed down (counter-clockwise) the blade would advance and it would retract when I pulled up (clockwise).

I also look at how well the frog mates with the sole of the plane. If it rocks, I don’t want to mess with it regardless of brand.

View knotscott's profile


8385 posts in 4224 days

#10 posted 11-19-2017 12:29 PM

Most have more than one line, so be aware that there are good and cheaper versions. Also, most weren’t the same quality throughout all eras. There’s more to know than brand names. Follow JayT’s tips.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Don W's profile

Don W

19697 posts in 3416 days

#11 posted 11-19-2017 01:31 PM

There are some with some subtle differences in some. A lot of Sargent’s were much better tuned from the factory. The Union x series were much easier to adjust and hold. Autoset could be removed and sharpened and put back to the exact same position.

You have the left or right handed threads mentioned above.

It’s actually quite interesting to use and learn the differences and finding your preferences. I personally find a frog adjustment screw not only unnecessary, but somewhat of a pain.

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

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics