Buying tools for Christmas gifts makes gift-buying quick and simple, especially through eBay and online buying. This is the reality of woodworking. The price can be matched to any budget from a few pounds and on into the hundreds.

I am glad there are so many Stanley 4s and 4 1/2s on eBay I wanted to say that though this may make a Christmas gift inexpensive, there are things to watch for in purchasing.

There is nothing wrong with putting one of these on your Christmas wish list, either now or for the future. To prevent price hikes, I suggest an option. Every time I do a blog on the Stanley smoothing planes, or any other for that matter, there is no doubt that prices go up for a period because more people take the advice, looks and finds one, and bids at the same time. Consider another option, which is to give a promissory note and extend the bidding period into January or later. Usually there are several pages of these planes and they vary in price from several pounds to well over a hundred. Many prices are too high. Avoid new planes. They have plastic handles that break soon after purchase And replacing them with wooden ones makes the price all the higher. New Stanley’s are not the same as old ones. They are miserable to use and are not the quality of older models. Some say pre-war models are best, but don’t dismiss post war ones. Mine, the ones I bought in the mid 1960’s, have been wonderful planes and still work perfectly after 50 years of continuous daily use. Not many modern planes have been through what my planes have and so I have no hesitation in saying this. These are readily available via and most likely will be forever as there were so many made they just cycle though. In the USA eBay Stanley’s go for much higher prices and there are often much fewer planes available. I cannot say that I have had the same success buying in the USA as the US prices are higher and the number of planes fewer. I also think that the US was far more advanced into accepting machine methods using power equipment than Britain was.
Look for the shiny black look on the handle and knob. This usually shows that the handles are plastic. Any and all new planes will have plastic handles except those that are both old stock but new and unused product. The yellow Stanley box is not a sign of none plastic handles. Don’t use that as confirmation. Look at the handles for yourself and ask questions of the seller as needed. Avoid broken handles. The price is not usually much less when repaired and rarely is a repair permanent unless the repairer knows his or her plane stuff and used the right glue, cramping pressure and so on. Rosewood is better glued with an epoxy and even then a good one. I use West Systems epoxy for such things. Beech handles do repair well with PVA so use these two adhesive types for the different woods. I think it’s true to say that all of the UK Stanley’s had beech handles and the USA Stanley’s had rosewood. I may be wrong on this but some of you may know more than me on this. I love the rosewood handles. They are often slimmer. More graceful and feel really nice in the hand.

Another thing to look for when buying is the height of the cutting iron in relation to the lateral adjustment lever. This image will help you see what I mean.
Here is a link I did some time back on a blog on buying planes via eBay. I think most if it is still good.

Now eBay is not the only way to buy. There are many secondhand dealers out there and though they charge a higher price, they also ensure that the plane is functional and clean.


  1. jmpurser on 7 December 2013 at 12:13 am

    I was on ebay this morning and I thought I noticed a big jump in prices for the 4 1/2s and the 5 1/2s. I put it down to Christmas but maybe it was the “Seller’s Effect”.

  2. Eric Potter on 7 December 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Paul, et al,

    Where would you recommend getting replacement irons that are not too hard/thick, but still well-tempered and reasonably flat (in the US)?

    • Paul Sellers on 7 December 2013 at 5:01 pm

      I know replacement blades can be prohibitive and sometimes they are too highly priced. But then again I don’t know what goes into them. I think you just have to bite the bullet or in the UK at least look out for a plane you can cannibalise one from. Making one is possible but without the right equipment and buying O1 flat stock the cost will be prohibitive.

      • Eric Potter on 7 December 2013 at 7:37 pm

        Thanks, Paul. I’m not overly concerned with the price as I got the plane itself for next to nothing. Mostly wondering if there’s a vendor out there selling a high-quality replacement iron that is not extra thick. If not, then Lee Valley here I come.

      • Graham Hall on 7 July 2017 at 5:09 pm

        You can buy them, and the chipbreaker from a well known tool supplier in the south of England at a reasonable price. Good quality too. just search for “Stanley plane blade”

  3. Dave on 23 December 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Excellent article. Thank you Paul.

    Just a suggestion for those looking on ebay for a good No 4s or 4½ plane. Don’t rule out or forget searching for good non-Stanleys too, such as Marples (M4, M4½), or Woden.

    There’s also Record (or Record-Marples, which are slightly later ones, after Marples was bought by Record in the 1960s) – I don’t have any personal experience of using either of these so can’t comment, sorry.

    I personally really like my old Marples M4½.

    Any other good manufacturer suggestions anyone?

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