Questions Answered – Why Buy Old Not New Planes

Hello Paul,
I wondered why you reference more about buying old planes than new ones. Is it a nostalgic sentiment or is there really some advantage to buying secondhand planes?I want to know what you feel as I am considering buying a plane and have money to buy a new one if I choose to.
Thank you,
John A

DSC_0099

The answer is simple for me and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, especially if they have bought into the heavyweight, thick-ironed planes advocacy. I saw the trend begin 30 years ago and at the same time saw that no one was countering it. I think lightweight planes like Stanleys are readily available at affordable prices and that with careful setup with no retrofit they will produce what their more expensive counterparts will produce and do it just as well if not better, with less effort at a fraction of the cost. With that said, there are many other reasons, reasons I think to be even more important.

It’s about patina

When you buy an old tool of any kind you are re-presenting something of the old into the forward thrust of the craftsman or woman that formerly owned and/or used that tool. In my view it’s as much about continuum and less about nostalgia. DSC_0062Patina is that timeworn texture of emotion developed unconsciously by a man working quietly and diligently with his hands. That worn-down but not worn-out softness new tools just cannot have comes often not so much from your life’s investment using this tool but someone else’s , or perhaps three or four someone else’s. I just bought yet another well-worn Woden 4 1/2 as a buy-it-now for £23. It would take me 50 years to put into that plane what the former owner put into it and in my estimation it will take another 50 years of use easily. You see this craftsman’s work life came to an end. When he expired he expired long before the tool itself could fulfil its fullest potential in use, so it was passed on via eBay or a tool dealer to a new user.

Patina for me is much more than nostalgic textureDSC_0055

Patina is timeworn texture that remarkably reflects the grace of life itself mirrored only in secondhand well-used hand tools and never in new ones. I see it this way: It was my 64th birthday yesterday. Some might see me kindly as an older woodworking craftsman in his 60’s. However, who I am today is not who I was when I was say 15 or 20. The difference is patina. Patina has something of a confidence about it. An old and well used but cared for tool of any type exudes a quiet air of solidity about it. It has had all of the hard corners literally knocked of of it. Sweated gritty hands and fingers abraded brass and steel knobs and thumbscrews over decades to leave them silky smooth and responsive.
Patina is a record of life. It’s what’s happened to any object over the course of time, and it’s time and use that alters and redefines the original condition of an object. Especially is this so in the use of tools because hand tools are the definitive extension of the person that used them. DSC_0058The nick in the sole of the plane, a scratch here and there, the atmospheric moisture in the shop, the crackling of a finish on a tote or handle or a glaze on the surface of a sharpening stone. These gentle wear patterns on plane handles and the rises on the sides of planes make them unique to the previous owner or owners. All these things add up to create a softer look, subtle color changes, a character. Patina is built from all the diverse effects that impact the tools life AND the owners life, natural and man-made, that create antiquity and record the life of the former owner-user.

Flexibility and versatility
It’s sometimes hard to imagine how some things can improve with ageing but most often they do. We call this wearing in. Shoes, wine, door handles, gloves, slippers a leather belt or chair. When they do, they wear ‘to’ us. DSC_0104It’s a question of that thing I call reduction. I have my planes from my youth, saws too. Personally, I think and feel that they are better today than when I bought them brand new. Back in 1965 there was no world wide web and you rarely came across a good quality plane because people who owned them used them and would no more sell them than fly to the moon. Not so today. With the advent of eBay we now have access to planes and tools in general at cheaper prices than ever before. For this I am grateful. WHat I am saying is that my now old planes  have aged with me. I think that they started to feel like they were ‘me’ after I had used them six days a week for 20 years. What I like about eBay buys is that with just a little restorative TLC (tender love and care), less than an hour, they feel as near as possible like my own. New planes don’t give me that relaxed and comfortable confidence, even though I like the good engineering behind them.

DSC_0087Consider this. If I bought my plane in the mid sixties, which I did, I and I used it on average for three hours a day, six days a week, my Stanley plane has been used for 45,000 hours. I have gone through 3.5 cutting irons and I never grind my irons on any kind of machine grinder unless I nick the iron badly. That should give you some idea of how long a Stanley or a Record smoothing plane should last you. Six lifetimes???
DSC_0086You shouldn’t worry too much about buying a lemon. I have bought several hundreds of planes since I began working wood. Some I have kept, some sold and some passed on as presents. I think more about buying into the continuum of the tool. As I said! most of the tools I buy never reach their full potential until I buy them and then use them. When I pass, these tools will be sold or hopefully passed on to others. I like that!

Of course I still think you should buy new planes. I just don’t want people new to woodworking  to think that the new plane resolves age-old problems of planing. They don’t. I own several new planes by different makers –  the best and the worst. I suppose as I feel the need I will keep buying them.

41 Comments

  1. Bill Schenher on 5 January 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I have used many vintage plane, still own several that I use on a daily basis. My only concern with sending someone down the trail of vintage is their knowledge and skills. It is simple for some to restore and use old planes. I haven’t purchased one that worked correctly. I have always had to fidget with it and tune it until it worked right. But, I know what it is suppose to work like. I know how it is suppose to glide over the work, what the blade sharpness feels like vs. the bottom is still out of wake. But, many beginners don’t. Many beginners don’t have the experience with good tools to know how they should work. This is why I personally only recommend they buy a vintage plane if it has already been tuned up by someone else who knows what they are doing. Or, buy something new. Besides the many vintage Stanley’s I own and wood body planes, I also have WoodRiver at work, Lie-Nielsen and Veritas at home. I personally recommend people buy the new planes. The level of frustration that can come with a vintage tool is too much for many, and sometimes too much for me. As far as the heavier planes and thicker blades. I think it is more of a generational thing if you like them or not. Personally, I like light planes for heavy work like thicknessing, but for everything else the heavy planes are an advantage, you don’t have to push down as much when smoothing for one.

    Just my opinions. I spent years working with vintage tools until I had the money for better ones. Once I switched I will never go back.



    • PhilM on 5 January 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Replying to Bill who advocates buying newer planes.

      I have gone the route of buying vintage planes. Having never had a perfectly tuned hand plane, it started with my ability to produce any shavings. Once I figured out how to sharpen the blade and adjust the depoth of cut, I was learning then nuances of planing just with practice. The vast number of books, blogs, and videos you can access makes this easy if you can accept failure and step up from there.

      No matter what, if you don’t master the techniques of adjusting your tools, they will be a source of frustration. Hand tool skills can be acquired with practice and good instruction.

      Buy new planes or vintage, the demands of hand tools is practice.



      • Bill Schenher on 5 January 2014 at 7:54 pm

        I go agree with that. Obviously you still have to learn the skills to use the plane or tool. But, many people get into woodworking to work on wood, not work on metal. And I know several woodworkers who do just fine working on wood, but happen to destroy almost every hand plane they have tried to refurbish. Rehabbing old planes and tools is not for everyone. Hence why I would rather see someone new buy a new tool and get to work learning woodworking and not spend the first several months of their time working on their tools more than their projects.



        • Bill Schenher on 5 January 2014 at 7:55 pm

          that should be “i do” not “I go” , oops.



        • Paul Sellers on 5 January 2014 at 8:38 pm

          Can I suggest that saying the first several months of their time working on their tools infers that it will take several months to restore a plane or two and some other basic equipment. We have found that most tools can be bought in good working condition and need little if any restorative work. In our plane classes it takes about two hours to fix up a #4 smoother and ten out of ten students end up with good and serviceable planes. What you are saying is that most people fail. I haven’t really found that at all. Most of the relief work is not nearly so intense. Removing dirt, grease and rust is fundamental, takes half an hour to an hour depending on condition, and any and all woodworkers can do this. Sharpening takes about an hour if the iron is bad, so a honing guide is a good additional piece of equipment as it removes all risk. I know also that most planes do not need to be flattened within a thou’ to work and work well. In fact, most planes can be cleaned, lightly sanded, oiled or waxed and be back in the running with a little routine adjustment. In our instruction we use about ten hand tools to make just about everything. Most people could clean and restore ten hand tools in a few hours I think.



          • Bill Schenher on 5 January 2014 at 9:21 pm

            I agree you can get an old tool working in a hurry. What I meant by working on it for a couple months is this. Even after your classes I am sure over time the individuals that have fixed up their planes have needed to do more work on them. Not all issues jump right out. Some may have needed to work more on the frog mating to the body, some maybe spent more time fidgeting with other worn parts that just didn’t work all the well after the class. Its the little things that you discover over time that continually make you return to stopping woodworking and working on your tools. And I’m not talking about sharpening and normal adjustments, that goes for all tools and really is a non argument for new or old.

            I think the biggest thing is truly knowing when you have tuned up the old plane. In a class there is someone there that can guide you, show you what sharp is, make you aware of the twist, cup, or banana shape in you sole. These things can somewhat be taught through the internet or through books, but mostly they need to be experienced.

            The great majority of my tools are vintage. Most of the are 100 years old or older. But, when I fixed them up and cleaned them I knew how well they should work, I knew what I had to do to get them working properly, because I have used well tuned tools and had something to base my goals off of.

            That is the thing that holds me back from always suggesting a vintage tool. The majority of the time I suggest people buy already tuned up vintage tools so they don’t have to deal with it. Regular tool maintenance will be learned no matter what, but I don’t think people need to know how to hand mill the parts of their planes so that they work properly.



          • ajsikes on 5 January 2014 at 10:01 pm

            I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, having inherited Grandad’s Bailey #5 and his really old #71 (before Stanley added a depth stop to the tool). Getting them into working shape didn’t take much more than brushing off the accumulated dust and a little rust, a quick sharpening of the iron and back to the bench I go. Of course, that’s not going to be the case with all vintage tools found at yard sales, etc.

            I found a #4 at a thrift shop a while back for cheap. It needs a good bit of work, but will be a great help when I start tackling bigger projects. I don’t mind how long it will take to get it into shape though, as I’m an amateur hobbyist. So I can see how a professional woodworker or even a serious hobbyist might be put off by the idea of restoring old tools. You want to get working, not spend your time fiddling with gear and the like. And it does take time, experience, and teaching to know if the tool you’ve found on the cheap will be worth your time or not.

            Even the greatest tool manufacturers have turned out some real stinkers, or end users have left tools to sit uncared for and in bad conditions, leading to things like ruined soles that no amount of at-home flattening can correct. You’re better off buying a new one, premium top-of-the-line or otherwise.



          • philm on 7 January 2014 at 5:53 am

            I have three Stanley 4, two Stanley 5 and a fulton 4. I never paid more than 20 for any of them. I also have a couple of Stanley 60 1/2 and a #45. I probably spent a day cleaning them. I didn’t obsess about the flatness or shine. I did pay attention to blade and cap iron assembly, simply because clogging with shavings was obviously interfering with my joy.

            To anyone who is reading these exchanges and wondering if buying vintage planes and leqarningto getting them to work is worth the trouble, consider this. It is really not that hard, it is satisfying to get tools in working order. Even if you buy lv/ln, you will surely reach a point when you need these skills to fine tune them. Unless you are the type who takes factory perfect plane, produces a thin shavinfg and puts the plane back in the box to be sold on smc after a few years 🙂

            I only wish Paul had started this blog before I bought four routers, work sharp 2000 and 3000, biscuit joiner and coutless jigs. I now use my tablesaw and jointer for milling lumber and joinery with hand tools.p Paul’s wise words showed me a safer and more satisfying way to pursue this hobby and for that I will be forever grateful to him.



    • dean on 3 August 2015 at 3:44 pm

      I do not feel this to be the case , I know squat about planes , but I have bought two off Ebay and both were rusty hulks , I oiled ,sanded and cleaned them up . watched paul . sharpened and tuned, and they work just fine , working them over and fixing them up was like being introduced to a future good friend , I now know the tool works and I know why it does, so when it balks I have an idea of where to go to get it running again, you dont get this with a new set up tool , but it will get to the same point as an old used tool and you will have to learn its secrets any way,the 300$ I saved I can spend on wood.



  2. francine on 5 January 2014 at 4:58 pm

    what does the number ( 4 or whatever..) mean????
    thanks and a very happy and healthy new year to you and your family!!
    francine from quebec,canada and quite new at woodworking..



    • Paul Sellers on 5 January 2014 at 8:49 pm

      It’s not so much a logical pattern but identifies a smoothing plane. Stanley numbered their planes all the way through the range. In the bench plane category they started with a tiny #1 and continued in length or width to #8, #8 being the longest plane they made. Bench planes is a category of bevel-down planes with a lever cap, cap iron and cutting iron held in a cast steel body. The most commonly used of all planes. We use them for straightening and squaring rough-sawn stock and then finessing the surfaces with the shorter smoothing planes. We also use the shorter planes, mostly #3, #4, #4 1/2 (4 1/2 is same length as #4 but slightly wider) for trimming and fitting aspects of work, work such as drawer fitting, cleaning up and levelling jointed areas, fitting doors and so on.
      Thanks for the question.



  3. Ray Huntley on 5 January 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Paul, I agree. To me it is as if the previous owner of my old planes left their hand prints on the tool. Worn areas are these hand prints. This allows one to have a connection with the past. Find a good user and rehab the tool. It’s not rocket science and it makes the tool a favorite.

    Ray



  4. Anthony Wilson on 5 January 2014 at 5:46 pm

    In my opinion Paul, one should invest in a quality new hand plane as their first acquisition.

    After handling that new plane and experiencing what it is capable of, only then should one attempt to “TLC” a used plane.

    As an analogy – I don’t want to restore an old classic car before I can even learn to drive! Get me behind the wheel of something reliable and get on with the driving! I will learn to deal with maintenance issues as they come up.

    To each their own, but I think a craftsman should earn that patina.



    • Paul Sellers on 5 January 2014 at 6:26 pm

      New planes need sharpening and adjusting from new, usually. High end planes come sharp and sometimes ready to go. These cost 6-10 times the cost of a secondhand user. This is prohibitive for most new woodworkers, not all of them. It’s a temporary fix to the real problem and most people spending that amount does not want to mess up theory new plane. An hour or two after us the plane needs to be both sharpened and adjusted. The two planes, old and new, are no at the same level. Both of them are in need. Often, in almost all cases, new Record and new Stanley planes are in much worse condition than secondhand, craftsman owned planes. They often have flaws due to poor manufacturing and assembly work. That being so, I feel a great starting point is secondhand planes.



      • ajsikes on 5 January 2014 at 7:00 pm

        Couldn’t agree more. Having recently inherited my grandfather’s collection of Stanley planes, and chisels from English and American makers, I’m learning through slow and steady practice how to employ the tools to their fullest potential. And I know that even in my lifetime that potential won’t be reached. Hopefully I can lay down enough good patina for when my kids pick up the tools later.



      • John on 6 January 2014 at 4:10 am

        I read somewhere one should buy a new, high quality plane to learn how a plane should work. Then you can buy second hand planes. So I bought a Lie Nielsen low angle jack plane. It’s beautiful; a work of art. It was almost a shame to use it. Soon after I started using it I had to sharpen it. It took many tries but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Then I bought a Stanley #3 from eBay. I cleaned it up but was confronted by the task of sharpening again. Just like my jack plane, it took many times before I got the hang of it. Now it takes shavings as well as my jack plane. It’s beautiful in a different way. When adjusted properly it sings like Paul’s #4. The expense of a new, high quality plane, the toil of buying a used plane, and the time put in learning how to sharpen and use your planes are the cost of tuition. Embrace it.



    • Denise Gaul on 6 January 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Anthony , this is exactly what I did. My first plane was a beautiful 4 1/2 from LN. My secondd plan was a Stanley Bailey #3 (type 14) for $65 from EBay. I have used them both and like them both for different tasks. To my surprise, the LN plane is now rarely used. I’ll be buying more vintage Stanley planes for most of my future needs. I’m sure my ability to restore a vintage plane is quite basic at this point in my woodworking experience, but the vintage plane I have takes a fine, even shaving quite well.



    • Marvin McConoughey on 20 December 2014 at 10:24 pm

      I happen to like diesel cars and diesel engines in general. But I would never try to restore one. Life is too short. But all of the used hand tools I’ve bought have been restorable with only moderate effort and sometimes not even that. I do avoid the ones with deep pits from many years of rust.



  5. chuck on 5 January 2014 at 6:09 pm

    The answer to the question is really a yes and no. Yes, if someone can’t afford a new plane but possesses the necessary knowledge and skill to use an old one or turn it into workable conditions. No for those who are starting out and end up using a plane not in the functional condition and think their skills cause the plane not to work as they are supposed to. Such frustrations can cause them to drop using handplanes if not hand tools altogether.

    Chuck



  6. Greg Hislop on 5 January 2014 at 6:50 pm

    As a novice woodworker I followed Paul’s advice and bought a used Stanley # 4. I didn’t have any experience with planes before this, but after following the instructions in his book and the related blog posts and videos I ended up with a terrific plane.

    The process itself did not feel like a chore and was in fact very satisfying.

    The only “hiccup” was that I spent far to long trying to flatten the sole of the plane.

    Paul addressed this (I guess I wasn’t alone) in a future blog post saying (if I remember correctly) that he doesn’t spend more than a half hour on this part of the job.

    My advice to anyone is to go ahead and don’t let the thought of frustrations stop you.

    Greg



  7. Roger Davis on 5 January 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Francine:

    Go to Patrick’s Blood & Gore for a complete (if opinionated and somewhat smartaleck) coverage of the Stanley line by the numbers:
    http://www.supertool.com/StanleyBG/stan0a.html

    RD



  8. Juan Moreno on 5 January 2014 at 7:31 pm

    From my experience thus far, as someone who 6-8 months ago had zero experience tuning up or repairing any used hand tool, I think that there is a fairly fine line between the satisfaction of tuning up and using a second hand tool, and the possible frustration of it all. I had only the internet and my own common sense to help me avoid the latter; thankfully, so far so good 🙂 .

    Ultimately I think it is up to end user to evaluate their own willingness and patience to do what it takes to make old tools work, and of course finances get mixed into the decision as well. My first plane was a #4. It cost me 25 bucks shipped. It took me at least a week to bring it back into working condition. The first shavings I took with it were quite satisfying. I quickly began to see all the things I could now do with this thing, and that I could rebuild another one if I had to.

    Fast forward to today, my patience for buying and fettling old tools is running pretty low. So I’ve decided to take my savings and buy my first new “plane”, a Veritas spokeshave. Not that I couldn’t make an old 151 work, but the time feels right to make this purchase. At least to me it does.



  9. bloksav on 5 January 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I couldn’t agree more to the description of the feeling of using old tools.

    I think Paul has a good point in that if you buy a new plane, you will be reluctant to alter anything on it, after all it is brand new. If you have just paid a hefty sum of money for a plane, and it doesn’t quite do what you expect it to do, maybe because of an assembly flaw or a bad adjustment – then it would be a logical thing to blame one self that the thing doesn’t work.

    If the plane instead was a bargain, I know from myself, that I would be more willing to try to fix the problem. If I screwed up something it wouldn’t be an economical disaster.

    Another thing is that I feel privileged to be able to work with old tools just for a hobby. Often I can’t stop thinking that these tools once provided bread and butter for an entire family.

    Happy New Year
    Jonas



  10. Jonas Jensen on 5 January 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Sorry, a book landed on the keyboard, please delete the comment
    Jonas



    • Ron Harper on 5 January 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Paul is right period. I am not mechanically gifted and I have several old Stanley planes that are wonderful tools. None of which did I spend more than an hour on. Others may choose another route, that is OK. Paul is trying to explain that you do not have to be wealthy to put together a sufficient kit of tools.



      • Anthony Wilson on 6 January 2014 at 1:04 am

        What did new Stanley top-of-the-line planes cost 100+ years ago? I’m sure in comparative monetary terms, Lie-Nielsen, Clifton, and Veritas are a fair deal these days.

        If you enjoy restoring metal tools, by all means grab that $20 Stanley vintage bargain – but my idea of woodworking is running a quality plane over some beautiful wood, not grinding away on sandpaper trying to flatten a plane sole.

        That being said, Paul is definitely the man with a plan when it comes to vintage tools.

        As always, to each their own.



  11. Marc Parenteau on 6 January 2014 at 2:23 am

    Experience come with experiencing.Hand plane are the same as wine . We have to experience both of them old and new to fully anjoy the perfectly tuned hand plane.



  12. Ed on 6 January 2014 at 2:16 pm

    The original poster said that money was not an issue. In that case, the route I’d take would be to buy the old tool and then give the money saved to a local craftsman to teach you how to tune the tool and teach you what the tuned tool should feel like. Nothing will beat this option. If it adds $100 more to the cost, I’d still do it in a heartbeat.

    I’ve done both old and new. The advantage of new is you do not suffer the frustration of the search nor suffer wondering if you are buying something useless. The advantage of the old is that every single struggle is worth its weight in gold. You must master the tool and the tool fettling process. The good news is that the new tool will probably force you through this process anyway. (Remember to relieve the arises.)

    One tool for which I am hesitant to suggest used tools is saws. Saws have been a struggle for me because they tend to be found with tooth problems that I’m not sure I’m yet skilled enough to tackle. I am finding saws much harder than edge tools. That being said, I think I have finally overcome this with a fine tenon saw and the satisfaction and sense of confidence are priceless.

    My final comment is to perhaps reduce your expectations. It may be better to spend time with an imperfect tool and let it and your skills grow together, as long as it is passable. A perfect tool may not make you attend as much to you work because it just works. On the other hand, a perfect tool can reveal more nuances. Start in on some projects and don’t expect perfect work. Some issues may be your skill, some the tool. Let them grow together. (I’m a hypocrite in writing that since I always try for perfect work, which slows me down, but I do recognize the flaw in myself 🙂

    There’s no right answer here but my suggestion is to get the old tool and give the difference in cost to someone to teach you to fettle it.



  13. Steve Massie on 6 January 2014 at 11:41 pm

    This is a great post and I will add my $.02. Obviously Lee Valley ( Veritas ) and LN ( Lie Nielsen ) make excellent planes and you will pay the price.

    I personally don’t own any new planes and for that matter 99% of my hand tools are vintage. I didn’t really get into Hand Tools until I retired 4 years ago. A few of my friends gave me some tools to get me started in this fine hobby.

    I like to tinker ( comes from my Engineering Background ) but as mentioned this is not for everyone. Being retired I am on a budget and have don’t have the extra money for new planes, saws etc. so vintage works for me.

    I like History and would love to know what person owned these tools and what they did for a living back 75 – 100 or so years ago. So fettling an old tool not only saves me money it gives me great pleasure and something to do, but most importantly I have given New Life to a tool no telling where it may have ended up.

    I feel my tools work as well as most new one’s and yes I have tried and used them at friends homes, Wood Working shows etc.. I love my Stanley’s, Bedrocks, Keen Kutter K series which is identical to the Stanley round side Bedrock. I just recently purchased a #3 made by Union and once the blade was sharpened it performs flawlessly.

    One thing a person needs to do wether new or old is learn how to sharpen properly, if you can’t sharpen that $400 + plane will not perform period.

    I also like Paul like Patina and not necessarily bright and shiny.

    Steve



  14. wasmithee on 7 January 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t have time to restore an old plane as woodworking is not my day job (yet). I really enjoy my Veritas planes. They work right out of the box and only need the standard adjusting and sharpening one can expect for a quality tool.

    That said, I would have nothing against investing the time to recondition a classic tool. In truth I’d probably really enjoy the process. At this point in my life my time is more valuable to me than the extra cost of buying new quality planes. Perhaps once retire I’ll find the cost equity has switched.

    Hopefully I’ll leave these new planes of mine in great shape so whoever gets them after me doesn’t have to recondition them and can have that “work right out of the box” experience and the patina to boot.



  15. gav on 8 January 2014 at 12:17 pm

    To date, with the aid of Pauls information I have brought back to life three handplanes and several saws. The saws in particular were a bargain as I purchased them from the waste disposal centre for $4 a piece. One was only good for parts. The other two are nice tenon saws one nameless but very similar to a set of saws my father used to use which were I believe to be English in origin and my daily worksite tenon saw. The other a No 13 W Tyzack sons and Turner for home workshop use. A little work on the handles, a small amount of corrosion to remove and going slightly crosseyed with the sharpening was a good learning experience. It also saved them from being eventually destroyed judging from the reaction of the bloke I bought them from. I still like the idea of buying a really nice quality brass backed tenon saw from new but to be honest I don’t have a great pressing need currently and the second hand ones keep coming a few at a time from various sources and some have a lovely cut with use. The others serve as spares or a bit of practice.



  16. Mats on 8 January 2014 at 5:18 pm

    My Stanley 60 1/2 performs as good as or better than my new Lie Nielsen low angle block plane, after only cleaning. This is the only good new plane I own, so I cannot compare the other vintage planes I own with anything.
    But, I own about 20 metal handplanes and only ONE performs unsatisfactory, again after only cleaning.
    And what I spent on those vintage planes would get me no more than one new handplane of good quality.
    The only things I think is important for a beginner to know when shopping vintage is what brands of steel and which brands of planes are (where) of good quality.



    • Paul Sellers on 8 January 2014 at 8:51 pm

      For Britain, I know of three quality makers that are generally accepted as holding the standards of good engineering using quality metals and wood capable of holding up for a full century of daily use. I cannot endorse any Stanley planes after the 1970 models or any plastic-handled planes.
      We live in an age that has proven the efficacy of what the original Stanley or Record companies achieved. Their planes are still in use. My own 50-year-old plane a Stanley, has been used six days a week on a daily bases for around, conservatively, 2 hours a day. 30,000 hours. That’s a top-value plane for a production-line tool. Record and Woden match the quality of Stanley, plus some, not much, just an incalculable bit.



  17. Neville on 18 January 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Paul,

    And a hello to all the other readers, I am just getting into hobby woodworking and I have been following Paul’s internet efforts for some months now and I just have to say a big “THANKS” from me to him.

    Now a couple of questions, one really to Paul and the first poster, what’s all this about heavy planes and pushing down on the plane? One of my smaller planes is 2.5” x 9.5” which gives just shy of 24” sq ins of sole, logic tells me there is no way I am going to be able to make much impact in pushing down through 24”sq on anything but the softest of woods. 1st poster mentions “I know how it is suppose to glide over the work” and then “you don’t have to push down as much when smoothing for one” surely gliding and pushing down are diametrically opposed as statements? Why not just give a tad more blade instead of pushing down which should give you the same effect, and you then retain the fine control of the plane? I may be wrong on that and stand to be corrected.

    Secondly another poster opens with “I do not have time to restore an old plane” and “At this point in my life my time is more valuable to me than the extra cost of buying new quality planes” I do not know the poster but can only guess that they have an incredibly well paying job otherwise their maths make no sense whatsoever.

    I live in the UK and the difference between a second hand and new plane can be as much as £150 and more and from what I can see it’s similar (relatively) in the states and Canada. Now to me £150 out of my take home pay equates to two shifts that is 16 to 18 hours paid work as opposed to two to three hours spent leisurely sorting a second hand plane.

    So my maths see this as three hours spent on second hand plane to save £150 is £50 per hour, if you really value your time you have to be earning in excess of £1750 per week (average 35 hr week) to make the buying of a new plane the time/money economic option. Again I stand to be corrected on this.

    I for one go for the recycling option every time bright and shiny has never swayed me.

    Sorry this post is a little long.



    • Paul Sellers on 18 January 2014 at 6:29 pm

      I don’t really understand what you are saying but ;et me try to answer anyway. It’s not a question of taking off more by increasing depth of cut but talking off the high spots by successive strokes until you reach the low areas.



  18. Neville on 22 January 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks for the reply Paul, you just confirmed what my fading memories were telling me.

    I am right behind you age wise and my last structured woodworking was school woodwork some 48 years ago, I have recently decided to take it up as a hobby which could possibly develop into a pension supplement in the next year or so, so I started reading and researching only to read several articles about heavier planes and “bearing down” on the plane.

    As the first poster mentioned this very thing I thought I would ask, obviously my typing is much like my thinking, only clear to me.

    You have answered my question nicely, I will continue to let the plane do the work and will just push in the horizontal until the peaks are level with the troughs.

    Thanks



  19. Steve Brook on 25 January 2014 at 12:06 am

    Hello everyone, I’m a first time poster so go easy on me!!

    Great debate that you have going on here. Throwing my hat into the ring I’d suggest that those of you choosing to preface your posts with “Paul’s right” or “Bill’s right” are actually BOTH right. Who amongst you doesn’t love the idea of unwrapping a virgin tool, taking in it’s new ‘car’ smell, and being the first to introduce it to the medium in which it’ll work for the next 4 or 5 generations? Similarly, who can deny the comfort bred from familiarity that each of us feel for our favorite chair, plane, or pair of jeans? Whoever mentioned contempt in the same sentence with familiarity clearly wasn’t talking about their hand tools.

    Ultimately, I’m inspired by both types of tools in equal measure, and whether the smoothness of my plane’s handle comes from 320 grit and can of shellac or a century of rhythmic handling is immaterial because at the end of the day I’m using something without a power cord and I can actually listen to my children’s laughter while I work.



    • Paul Sellers on 25 January 2014 at 8:30 am

      Welcome Steve, good to hear from you. And Yes, we all have different perspectives that aren’t as conflicting as we think some times.



  20. Brian J. Stafford on 26 January 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I read some of the comments, but not all, so forgive me if this is a repeat.

    I would consider myself a neophyte in the world of hand tools. With the exception of a handful of files, rasps and guides, all of the hand tools that I own are antiques; including hand planes. I have never even held a new hand plane.

    When I used to use power tools (I have a hearing condition that prevents me from using them now), I would purchase almost everything brand new and they usually worked perfectly as described, but when the time came to sharpen them or do other tuning on them, I was almost afraid to do it, because I thought that I would make a mistake and ruin the tool or part, and void the warranty. In the case of replaceable bits and blades, I would usually just purchase new ones, rather than risk sharpening one improperly (with my limited knowledge) and have something go wrong at very high speeds and injure myself or someone else. Also, there was a certain mystery about the tools because I had no intimate, working knowledge of what details made them perform properly.

    When the necessity arose for me to abandon the power tools and begin to use hand tools, I was shocked at the price of many of the new tools. The thought that spending hundreds of dollars on a brand new Lie-Nielson plane that I would eventually have to flatten or sharpen caused me great concern. “What if I ruin it?” was the omnipresent question running through my mind whenever I thought of spending that kind of money on a new hand tool.

    I have seen countless videos and read a huge number of books and articles on how hand planes and other hand tools (new and vintage) are supposed to perform when they are tuned up properly, so I thought that spending from $5 to $25 on an older tool was more comfortable; if I make mistakes, I can keep working on it until I get it right, and if I do something to it that is beyond fixing, I am only out a few dollars. The only thing left to deal with would be my conscience for ruining a piece of history. I have not had this problem as of yet.

    As a beginner, by starting with vintage/antique tools, I have enjoyed an intimacy with the tools that I could not have imagined. With the freedom of working on them without worrying about monetary losses, I am allowed to truly discover, enjoy and understand the techniques that work, the ones that don’t and why. There is a magic that that happens for me when I go from struggling with a tool to that moment that I finally get it right and the tool miraculously transforms into a glorious woodworking device. For me, that moment is not too dissimilar than finally being allowed to give a gentle kiss to someone you have loved from afar for a long time.

    I cannot imagine that a new tool could provide the same sense of connectedness to past craftsmen as old tools do as Paul so eloquently described in the original post above.

    If someone is purchasing a new hand tool because they are impatient, then I am a bit curious as to why they are interested in working with hand tools. Personally, I find that starting with vintage/antique tools deepens the understanding, appreciation and connectedness to the tools and to the craft in general.



  21. Jim Thornton on 14 February 2019 at 5:16 am

    I’m way late to this party, but after reading all the comments I had an interesting thought: If buying vintage is really the way to go, then where did all of these old vintage planes come from? After all they were new at one time, so somebody back then was buying a lot of new planes.

    I had another thought: Will someday folks be saying “don’t buy a new plane…….go find yourself a vintage Veritas or Lie Nielsen and restore it?”



    • Paul Sellers on 14 February 2019 at 11:11 am

      I doubt whether we realise just how many users there were of these hand tools. Up until the 1950s there were hundreds of thousands of woodworkers professionally using hand tools. It was around the 60s when the decline really began because mass manufacturing was at its zenith in every western country at least. If there was no more hand tool manufacturing taking place there will always be enough good hand tools to cycle through with the deaths of users at the current rate. As the number of users is in constant decline then tools will always be around as they really never wear out with such minimal usage.