Are LN, Veritas, Clifton, hand tools more Expensive than originals??

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Forum topic by RogerBean posted 03-19-2015 03:57 PM 3095 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1605 posts in 4241 days

03-19-2015 03:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I hear many laments these days about how overpriced today’s premium hand tools are compared to other alternatives. I am curious whether, inflation included, if this is actually true, or merely wishful thinking. So, I looked at my 1909 Stanley Tools reprint combination tools catalog and see that a #55 combination plane was priced at $18.

I then went to the website: to see what the price would be today. The index only goes back to 1914, but from then the increase in price would be $18 times 23.61 to get to a today price of $424.98. (Interesting that this in the neighborhood of a complete used #55 today). I would presume that if anyone manufactured a #55 today, that a NEW one would be more. But, they don’t, so it’s a moot issue.

Trouble is, I don’t have the prices at hand for block planes or smoothers, etc to compare to the current prices of Lie-Nielsen, Clifton, or Veritas, etc products. So: Are today’s hand tools unreasonably expensive… or are they a relatively good deal?

I actually don’t know. Does anyone out there have original price lists that would calculate to current prices using the inflation calcluator??? I’d be interested in the answers; probably a lot of others would be interested as well.


-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

15 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


7779 posts in 3008 days

#1 posted 03-20-2015 12:51 AM

Sure some tools are priced high, but the quality that can be produced due to more advanced manufacturing technology ultimately gives you more value. Sure you can buy a used, completely restored plane for about the same money today, but it isn’t going to be as strong as the castings available today and the iron almost certainly isn’t going to be as robust either. The big difference is there wasn’t any cheap foreign made stuff back then like there is today for cost comparison.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View lateralus819's profile


2243 posts in 3177 days

#2 posted 03-20-2015 01:22 AM

I just look at it in the long term. Sure $500 for a premium plane is spendy. But it’s not much spread over 30+ years of use. It only hurts in the beginning lol.

View laketrout36's profile


201 posts in 3314 days

#3 posted 03-20-2015 01:42 AM

Lateralus819- Your last sentence was funny if not sophmoric.

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1544 posts in 2921 days

#4 posted 03-20-2015 01:48 AM

Yeti, not sure what you are saying. Back in the day, they actually let the castings age.
Today, most don’t , they have rushed processes.

The old tools were and still are very good. I have both the only thing I really like on the newer ones are the handles, they are bigger.

I can make both new and old do the same thing.
I actually prefer old cutting irons, to the new stuff. I can sharpen them much sharper.

-- Jeff NJ

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4622 days

#5 posted 03-20-2015 07:20 PM

Hi Roger. Inflation might not be the best way to do this. I think the price of a tool compared to the average monthly or annual income income at the time the tool was sold would yield a more interesting comparison. Regardless, advances in technology make comparing the price a slippery slope, as many things we buy today are dirt cheap compared to what they cost in the old days.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View oltexasboy1's profile


257 posts in 2992 days

#6 posted 03-20-2015 07:42 PM

It’s hard for me to say but over the last year or so I have bought a lot of old Stanley planes because I like them. I don’t buy display quality and they need cleaned up some, but I get the full use out of them and as long as I am patient, I can get a pretty good deal on Ebay for the stuff I want. I have spent $600.00 or $700.00 dollars on the tools I wanted and I an pleased to say they work very well when the operator don’t apply too much Lone Star beer internally for his arthritis. One other advantage is that they are not loud, noisy, motor driven ,whirring machines that will ( I promise) cut part of your finger off before you can draw it back, I’ll spare you the pics. My son says everybody should own at least 1 LN tool, so he bought a holdfast. LN , generally speaking is out of my price range, even with inflation figured in I think they would have been past up by most woodworkers in years gone by.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1342 posts in 3222 days

#7 posted 03-20-2015 09:42 PM

All I know is that my LN block plane was worth every freakin dime. And I don’t doubt I would feel the same way about the rest of their planes if I had enough money to buy one. Some day…

I don’t know about other brands, but LN seems to be totally reasonable for what you get in my opinion. They are finely tuned, extremely well made American tools.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4241 days

#8 posted 03-20-2015 10:34 PM

Perhaps I was a bit unclear with my original post. I was not asking about comparing the merits or function of the new premium planes, but their “relative cost” to buy. However, I don’t have any old price info other than the #55 info I used as an example above. Inflation over nearly 100 years (or whatever period) would seem to indicate that in todays dollars, these current premium tools are not relatively more costly. Mike makes a good suggestion that perhaps cost relative to mean or average income would be a more useful comparison. I’m certainly open to that measure if anyone has any data to contribute.

Any new info would be helpful. Makes no difference really, just a curious question.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 3249 days

#9 posted 03-21-2015 01:16 AM

This thread got duplicated and I posted this to the other one.

I’ve seen some calculations like what you’re doing for smoothers. It basically works out that the LN and Clifton type tools of today are a little cheaper than most of the Stanleys back in the day and I think Stanleys commanded a price premium over say Millers Falls in planes, but I can’t confirm that. The other thing I’d be surprised if most working guys that were buying the tools were making even as much as the average wage back in those days. Laborers wages were notoriously low in the early 20th century. To top that off the average person in 1900 spent 40% of their income on food whereas we spend about 10% or less now, so they had much less to work with. All of that to say on a real equivalent basis those tools really cost those guys quite a bit more than what are considered high end tools of today cost us.

Oh and LN and Clifton really aren’t today’s premium. Things link Briese and Bridge City Tools are the real high end. Those are very high priced, but some would say worth the quality.

I’d love to say I was willing to research the wages of several categories of people that bought Stanley’s and compare that to current wages to verify my hunch above but I’m fairly confident.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20247 posts in 3855 days

#10 posted 03-24-2015 11:31 AM

in 1894 a Sargent #409 (#4 size) was $3.25
in 1910 a Sargent #409 (#4 size) was $3.25
in 1910 a Sargent #9 (equivalent to a Bedrock 604) was $3.60
in 1922 a Sargent #409 (#4 size) was $5.00

in 1872 a Stanley #4 was $5.50
in 1884 a Stanley #4 was $3.25
in 1892 a Stanley #4 was $3.25

in 1910 an Ohio Tools #04 was $3.25

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

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4241 days

#11 posted 03-24-2015 12:31 PM

Don W: Thank you for the info. So, using the inflation multiplier, a #4 that cost around $3.60 in 1910, would be something like $93 in todays dollars. A currently produced Stanley #4 seems to sell for around $65. Not totally precise, but gives us an idea. Mikes measure of comparing to avg income would likely provide a much wider margin, as 3 or 4 dollars in 1910 was probably nearly half a weeks wage for a lowly craftsman. Again, making todays tool prices seem a bit less exorbitant.

I googled avg carpenter wage in 1910 and came up with one period source that stated that the avg wage for a carpenter in 1910 was around $2.25/day. So a #4 smoother would have cost him a day and a half’s wages. Using this measure, a carpenter in my area charges about $35/hour, so $420, and even the LJ #4 is only around #350. So it would seem that even a LN would seem to be less costly than the 1910 carpenter would have paid.

Hardly iron-conclusive facts, but interesting. Perhaps we are not paying as much as we thought.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Don W's profile

Don W

20247 posts in 3855 days

#12 posted 03-24-2015 12:36 PM

the only argument I would have is if a carpenter charges $35/hr, that’s not his wage.

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

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4241 days

#13 posted 03-24-2015 01:49 PM

In our area most of the carpenters are independent and that is their hourly rate. It is admittedly not their “net” but I would hesitate to try to estimate their equivalent costs. Any employed by larger firms would earn somewhat less, surely. Another quick search yields avg “wage” for carpenter as $44980, or about $205/day. So, by this measure the day and a half plane cost would be around $300.

Again, these are pretty rough numbers, but even here that old Stanley #4 would cost about $300 if it was a day and a half of “wages”, even at the lower avg rate.

But, Don, your comment is fair and reasonable.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View MrRon's profile


6214 posts in 4531 days

#14 posted 03-24-2015 05:59 PM

Whether it’s planes or hamburger, everything goes up in price. There are many variables that affect price. Cost of material, cost of shipping, cost of a workman’s wages, cost of improvements in production and on top of that, inflation. It would be difficult to single out any one area that would drive cost. It is a combination of varying amounts all the factors.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20247 posts in 3855 days

#15 posted 03-24-2015 08:51 PM

another important point to consider in the discussion is back in those days a majority of the craftsman buying the tools were earning a living with them. I would bet the highest percentage today are hobby workers who don’t need to make a living with the tools.

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

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