Sorby bench plane treasure

Not many finds in the way of tools turn up unknown planes for me. From Norris to Spiers and Gabriel to Mathieson I think I know of them all in some greater or lesser measure. That doesn’t make me an expert so much as fortunate to have had them pass through my hands.

Last week I noticed an unusual plane come up on eBay as I have been buying #5 1/2 jack planes for the school and filming. I usually buy bargains in that class for between £15-20. This plane was not one I had ever seen or heard hint of before. I SORBY. Did Sorby make planes like the 5 1/2 type Stanley and Record? Obviously they did.

I wanted this plane more than any other I had ever bid on for two or three reasons. 1: I simply wanted to see it close up. 2: I wanted one that improved on what was currently available yet was no longer available. 3: I wanted to compare it to it’s counterparts. I was prepared to pay much more than the £65 I paid. My investment proved worth every ounce of effort.



 My new I Sorby 5 1/2 in action


I was surprised to find all of the paint in tact and that the plane had been used so minimally. The sole was thick and dead flat. The cutting iron was not. A great surprise when the plane came from one of the best known UK Sheffield plane iron makers in the world.

Needless to say I love this plane and will use it for the remainder of my life. I would love to know if there was an I Sorby 4 1/2 smoothing plane made too, but, as with the 5 1/2, I haven’t seen one in 47 years of woodworking.


 Close in it looks as good


I have seen grinding angles stamped into on plane cap irons made by Record planes but this method is a first for me. Most unique!

 This feature could be handy. The funny think is that one time I saw the angles stamped into the actual cutting iron!













  1. Martin on 2 October 2012 at 6:59 am

    I have a 22″ I Sorby metal plane, it is red not black.

    • Paul Sellers on 2 October 2012 at 11:57 am

      I have a #4 I Sorby that’s red too. Is yours in good condition. I love my I Sorby jack plane. V rare

      • Martin on 2 October 2012 at 7:03 pm

        yes it is in good condition, i bought it 33 years ogo but have not used it for 20 years or more.I cannot find much info about these planes but i have not seen any of these planes before. I noticed a 4.5″ one for sale on E Bay the other day for 150£ .I collect old tools and find them fasinating.I bid on an old I sorby saw at a sale last week but did not get it. It was about 1840 and in good nick.

  2. Martin on 2 October 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Mine is a 22″ jointer and is in very good con. The blade is the same as yours but made by stanley. I bought mine 33 years ago but have not used it for about 20 years .

    • Paul Sellers on 3 October 2012 at 12:11 am

      They are good planes. I really like my jack plane.

  3. Martin on 3 October 2012 at 6:39 am

    Do you think these I Sorby planes are rare? I think Record made them ,maybe they just did not sell well and people preferd record or stanley.I will try and post a picture of my 22″ jointer.

    • Paul Sellers on 3 October 2012 at 11:33 am

      Great. I do think that UK Record engineering standards were higher than UK Stanley; marginally anyway. They both ent down the tubes eventually. Record in the pre Irwin days did try to make a comeback. if they had stuck it out they might have made it had they not tried to cheapen what they had by supplying Lowes in the US at such low prices in the 1990’s.

  4. Paul Sellers on 3 October 2012 at 11:35 am

    I don’t really collect them. if I see a plane at a good price I buy and pass on to students at the price I pay. Don’t like losing a good plane when it can be used.

  5. Martin on 3 October 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I have a 4.5″ record and i find it is far more comfortable to hold than a stanley.My father collected planes such as Noriss, Speirs,Matheison,and many others which i now own myself.I have them in a display cabinet at home.

  6. J Guengerich on 4 October 2012 at 4:04 am

    Paul, if you get a chance, look at the new cover for Lee Valley & Veritas’ woodworking catalog. ( September 2012) They have a varied collection of planes and some of them I can’t identify.
    I wish they would include the information for each tool inside the pages of the catalog.
    Lee Valley should offer it as a poster, whoever arranged the photo did a great job.

    • Rob Young on 4 October 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Rob Lee at LV is quite good about answering questions of their collection. And I believe he is responsible for the acquisition of a large portion of it. So I suggest emailing him to find out the mystery planes’ I.D.

      • J Guengerich on 5 October 2012 at 2:47 am

        Thanks Rob, I’ll send him an email. I appreciate the idea!

  7. Jamie on 3 January 2013 at 4:41 pm

  8. Gurnam singh on 13 February 2017 at 5:14 am

    Hi I pick up a I . Sorby no 3 cap for a plane , and have have just purchased s 4 1/2 of e – bay does any one have the no 3 ?

  9. Ed Blomme on 1 September 2017 at 11:59 pm

    I have a wooden “coffin” style plane with an adjustable mouth and an I. Sorby iron.
    It is 8 inches long with W.J. Ashford stamped into the front of the plane. It was bought for two pounds at a boot sale. Can anyone offer any information on this item.

  10. Mike Skrakowski on 15 February 2018 at 10:56 pm

    I have just acquired an I SORBY 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane. It is rusty but nothing that a soak in vinegar can not rectify.

    I am looking forward to refurbishing it and taking its first shavings in my workshop.

    Probably nearly 100 years old and still perfectly useable..