It seems to me a universal problem with hand tools. I don’t really know who owns who these days. I don’t know who’s out there that might have been involved in making these. I do know that they should all be ashamed. No country seems to be exempt from the demise but as it is with many things seemingly unchangeable, mostly its based on some sort of premise that they have a good name. As it is with Stanley planes and saws, gauges, sliding bevels, such like that, the workpersonship (I know, it’s not a word.) is truly shameful as is the quality control, labeling, packaging and everything surrounding the tool. This is representative of Sheffield’s tool making. Not the whole of it, obviously, but anything Stanley. Working on this as a brand new from the plassy-bag start would likely take about 40 minutes to an hour. Even the ground bevel was equalled only by something like a vintage can opener.

The difference for me was I knew what the standard was and I knew how to fix the shoddy work. The cast iron lever cap fit where it touched, had deep pock marks along the leading edge and had a round to the same edge too. The ground bevel should never have been sent out as is. If you had a grinding wheel it would have been quicker to fix but why should anyone have to go out and buy a grinder to fix a new product.

Unfortunately the Veritas equivalent is now £90 otherwise I would send you there. It is indeed getting harder and harder to find the right tool and it all revolves around one issue. It’s not the materials, nor is it the production methods, it’s using unskilled and uncaring staff, supervisors and managers. Funny thing is though. They are not ashamed at all!

96 Comments

  1. Chris on 13 December 2019 at 2:54 pm

    This seems like a good analogy for general society and politics, Paul.

    • Paul Sellers on 13 December 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Yup! Intentionally!

      • Arie van den Ende on 13 December 2019 at 4:41 pm

        If I have to spend any time upgrading a new tool, I rather choose to look for a solid brand old tool and do the upgrading. In the end, you got a better tool for less money.

      • Rick Williams on 14 December 2019 at 3:10 am

        I have a Stanley spoke shave just like the one pictured. I get mad every time I use it because of the shoddy production of this tool. I spent a good deal of time setting it up when I bought it and it is still inferior to my “antique” ones.

        • Harry on 16 December 2019 at 7:45 pm

          Ditto. Got it to work but requires more fine-tuning. Terrible out of the box.

      • John Cunneen on 16 December 2019 at 10:50 am

        Although it always leaves a bad taste like you have paid for something and not received all of what you paid for it can also open a window to something else. A few months ago I decided to finally build my workbench. I had bought a Handyman plane, new in all its plastic bubble. My grandfather’s old Mathieson was not tough enough to tackle Australian hardwood reclaimed from a floor joist with it saw marks of over 100 years ago. I bought a second hand 6, cleaned it flattened it, sharpened it. I took to the Handyman, following your videos, spent hours going through the papers. It was not successful at first. But I kept going. I have renovated other planes,can old 5. I took the Handyman out on the weekend. I had ended up with a 25 and a 30 degree micro bevel. It went really well. Even the worst Stanley can be brought to work. It takes me back to when I was a labourer in a factory during the vacations as a student. I ended up sometimes assisting the tradesmen, the toolmakers who kept the old presses going. It can be done.
        My workbench is up. I fashioned a Deadman that can be removed and used old cut off of Oregon as block.

        • Harry on 16 December 2019 at 7:48 pm

          My first plane is a Handyman. It cuts well. No problems.

          • Trevor Pope on 21 December 2019 at 1:37 pm

            My first plane was a Handyman 12-204 if I recall correctly. Maroon, from the 1980’s. Bought to trim a pine door. In any wood harder than pine it would chatter. I remember that Paul said that planes don’t chatter. These do, and many years and lots of planes later, I had another go at sorting it out. The problem is that the frog doesn’t seat properly. The surfaces where the frog mates with the sole are painted, not machined, and there are gaps. In my example there is about half a millimetre gap at the front. So you can imagine what happens when you push the plane forwards. With any significant cut, the blade dives and you get chatter or a divot. Some careful work with a file will sort it out, but I have left it as is to show. If you are a novice, I can just imagine your frustration trying to make one of these work! Caveat emptor!



          • Paul Sellers on 21 December 2019 at 2:00 pm

            Just as a qualifier, I was talking about the standard Stanleys and Records and not the Stanley”Handyman‘ plane versions as people really bought so few of them compared to the scale of their traditional version. You can find any plane will chatter if they are not set up correctly.



    • Alwyn Pecy on 16 December 2019 at 9:06 pm

      I agree with every comment made regarding quality. Manufacturers assume that the ‘new generation’ have no knowledge of how tools should perform; remember we are in a throw away society. I recently bought an original Sheffield 4 1/2 plane at the local recycling centre for $35 in good condition. Lots of good quality tools are appearing as the older generations pass and nobody seems to have any knowledge of tge value of old fashioned quality. It takes very little effort to restore good qualty tools and they will last for another generation if we all have the will to do it

  2. Steve on 13 December 2019 at 3:14 pm

    The other thing is that the companies don’t seem to care about bad reviews. When i was looking for one, there was so many mixed reviews that I wanted to see it in person. Luckily Rockler had one in stock so I picked it up, and i would say my OXO brand can opener is much better quality. I ended up buying an old Record version of that from an online reseller and the quality is much better. I think consumers have slowly been trained that they need to do the final prep and finish on a lot of products now. Whether its screwing together cardboard-core “furniture”, filing and sharpening “tools”, taking a pizza home to bake yourself, ringing up your own groceries, etc. The machine’s plan are coming to fruition.

    • michael michalofsky on 13 December 2019 at 4:27 pm

      and my shoprite supermarket
      now wants to get away with giving a receipt only showing the total of your purchases
      if you want the original detailed receipt they send you to the service desk
      but i dont stand for that
      if they dont give me a detailed receipt i will stay at the cashier until i get it
      btw i find lots of mistakes in over billing

    • Lionel on 15 December 2019 at 2:32 am

      Highly representative of the fact that most of brand owners are more proud about the annual income than the quality of what is sold under their brand. Being a financial group or an individual, looks like they have no shame to have their names associated to crap if the bonus and incentives are there at the end of the year. And unfortunately it is not limited to tools but to almost anything you can buy nowadays.

      L

    • Lou Carreras on 16 December 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Carvers always had to do a lot of prep to get a good tool: bad bevels, no edges. In recent years that all changed and everything is sharp, but still with bad bevels. Still lots of cheaply made in Asia junk, and some very sweet Japanese tools if you can afford the cost.

    • Daniel Batts on 16 December 2019 at 9:07 pm

      I recently bought an old Record 151 off ebay. It only needed a little cleaning up and fine tuning, which didn’t take long. I’d never had a spoke shave before and I knew that The Record 151 had a good reputation. I’m glad I didn’t buy the Stanley one instead. It’s sad how most modern tools are junk unless you pay big bucks. No pride in quality anymore.

  3. Craig Medvecky on 13 December 2019 at 3:35 pm

    I bought that exact spokeshave and I was confounded at why it didn’t work. I spent hours filing the mouth and trying to shape the blade. Unlike Paul I had never owned a spokeshave before; it was my first purchase. I had no idea what I was doing and couldn’t even properly assess what was wrong with it. I think I made it a little better, but I still cringe when I have to reach for it. I am making the stool project now, and I really prefer to use a card scraper and block plane when I know I should be using this. I suppose one day I will pay for a decent spokeshave or make the one Paul showed us in the videos.

    • Sharon Casa on 13 December 2019 at 4:33 pm

      Mr. Medvecky, making a wooden spokeshave using Veritas’ kit is a great option. It’s a bit expensive, but so worth it. Even with my not so accurate drilling, mine works like a dream. It gives me great JOY every time I use it. I skipped the brass part, so I prepped 3 blanks (just in case I mess up and also for when the sole wear out). Mr. Seller’s detailed instruction was a great help to a newbie like me.

      • Jeff Murray on 16 December 2019 at 12:43 pm

        My youngest daughter got me the Veritas kit a couple of Christmas’s ago and have to agree with everything that you have stated. However, I only prepped 2 blanks because that was all of the mahogany that I happened to have or I probably would have made 3 blanks also. Paul’s instructions of setting the iron from a light cut to a heavier cut was genius and it works like a champ.

    • Oscar Orozco on 16 December 2019 at 8:23 pm

      Exactly what’s happening to me right now, got this one delivered to me on friday and the iron just doesn’t go through the mouth, it’s gonna taje a lot of my file to get it to work… so stanley México is in the same if not worse condition… sooo upsetting

      • Paul Sellers on 16 December 2019 at 8:48 pm

        I did warn everyone there in the USA, years back.

  4. Mark Garstang on 13 December 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Oh no. I’ve just got home from work and mine has just been delivered. Looking forward to using it and now not sure what to do.

    • Paul Sellers on 13 December 2019 at 4:22 pm

      There are a few videos on youtube that I have done but start here.

      • John2v on 13 December 2019 at 6:17 pm

        I’ve just started to make a few picture frames ……using a mahogany draw front, from pre-war “utility” furniture.
        Stock cut to size using a pre-war rip saw…..sharpened following Paul’s advice.
        Rebated using Paul’s poor man’s rebate plane with my addition of depth and fillister……using old 3/4″ chisel and beech wood from a pallet……perfect finish
        And using a beautiful moulding plane ….circa 1833….formed a lovely smooth shape to edge……then with my home made mitre box cut the corners at 45deg…….followed by a tickle on Paul’s shooting board.
        Then burnished with wood shavings……..all of this without electricity.
        YES I’m a bore…….all of these tools have and will last for years and cost me nothing

        • John2v on 13 December 2019 at 6:21 pm

          Oh and I hasten to add….rebates and moulds using a sticking board…….I have several lengths…..all made from scrap wood

      • Jay Gill on 13 December 2019 at 10:19 pm

        I purchased the Stanley and was very disappointed. But Common Woodworking saved the day. After following their directions and photos, my spoke shave is working fine in my hands. Of course given my experience that might not be saying much. (https://commonwoodworking.com/sharpening-a-spokeshave/)

        A question – How much setup is reasonable. Somehow right out of the box sounds like a short-cut and walking through setup (as for the spoke shave above) helps me come to know the tool better.

        Before the industjayrial revolution all tools were built by hand. I’m wondering if these old hand made tools required a lot of setup. (FYI – thanks for the series on making tools)

        Not saying that it’s right for people to trade quality for profit. Awful when it’s shoddy hand tools, down right evil when it’s health care in the US

        • Panos on 16 December 2019 at 2:22 pm

          In case it’s not clear, “their” directions and photos is Paul Sellers once more.

        • Evan on 16 December 2019 at 9:06 pm

          New out of box should need little more than a sharpening to task. Today all but the most high-end vendors seem to sell tools-as-kits instead of functional tools.

          The better you get with the tools and the more you spend time tuning up older ones the more obvious this becomes. When I have to spend less time on a tool from 80 years ago than one new out of the box there is something wrong with quality control.

  5. Bytesplice on 13 December 2019 at 3:43 pm

    So its not just me. I’m relived. I bought a new Stanley 151 two years ago, and spent an enormous amount of time following your articles and guides to make it work, but never got the performance I see in your videos. I thought it was me not “getting it” – in spite of much practice.
    A few months ago I decided to treat myself to a Veritas from Lee Valley, since a vintage 151 was $50 – $60 USD, and I could return the Veritas if it did no better than what I had. What a difference! The Veritas is a real keeper!

    The Veritas took 2 minutes to hone out of the box and gives me outstanding results – no grinding, reshaping, or flattening required. So I figure it is worth $109 USD.

    The Stanley 151 now collects dust – I was thinking of buying a Veritas replacement blade for it, but that might be throwing Perls to swine..

    • michael michalofsky on 13 December 2019 at 4:28 pm

      pls dont sell your stanley on ebay
      i may be the one who purchases it!

    • Don Trust on 13 December 2019 at 8:41 pm

      I did exactly that – bought a Veritas replacement blade for the Stanley 151 I bought recently (well, a few months ago). I highly recommend that. The difference is amazing. You still need to flatten the sole of the Stanley, and tweak the cap a bit, but the Veritas blade makes it into a new tool for about $25. Part of the problem with the blade that came with the Stanley is that it’s too darn thin and it just doesn’t work well with the way the opening of the spokeshave is.

      To even get the original blade to work at all, I put in a small plastic shim of about .025″ thickness. That at least made it usable. The Veritas blade makes it really work well. Nowhere near what my veritas spokeshave does, but usable, at least. Maybe try the plastic shim first to see how that wroks for you.

      • Paul Sellers on 14 December 2019 at 8:02 am

        I’m sorry,Don, but I don’t want people to think that they must spend $25 of anything just as an upgrade to a thicker iron. The difference may be marginally better but I have both Veritas spokeshaves and 151 by different makers and they are all comparable with thick or thin irons. In fact I still reach for the 151 over other high end shaves. I am sure that you must understand that for most of the whole world adding $25 makes it prohibitive. It’s easy to give the impression that the thicker iron is the answer. I don’t at all want anyone anywhere to think that the slightly thinner irons don’t work and work well because I have used them for 55 years and indeed they do. Admittedly there are minor tweaks that improve the performance but that includes high end spokeshaves as well and that’s because they each have their own idiosyncrasies you must learn about by experimentation and use.

    • Blaz Grapar on 20 December 2019 at 7:22 pm

      Dictum has veritas copy for 45 Eur.

  6. Scarlett on 13 December 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I bought that very Stanley spokeshave as my first one and never used it. I have ground that lever cap with all of its pick marks for such a long time, flattened and sharpened the blade and still it seems to clog immediately. I don’t use it, I would love to get it to a working condition but for now I use a vintage one.

  7. Hetzal Hartley on 13 December 2019 at 3:46 pm

    It is sad and true. I have limited my tool purchases to Ebay and find tools made in the golden age of workmanship. Pre-1980’s. My favorite planes, shaves, and gauges date from the pre-WWII years. Any modern junk in my shop, I give away or lend to friends with no expectation or desire for its return.
    Merry Christmas to you all.

  8. ajens on 13 December 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I bought a “Stanley” “spokeshave” just like this about three years ago. Luckily and thanks to Mr. Sellers’ videos i knew what a spokeshave should look like and how to function, so I got me a well working spokeshave for the cost of only a small amount of money and some hours of grinding and polishing. For one who doesn’t know how to fix those pieces of iron the “Stanley” “spokeshave” is no less than worthless.

    So agreeing with Mr. Sellers, I think “ashamed” for that misuse of the Stanley name and brand is just the right word. But I my self feel a little ashamed for buying that thing, because in a way I’ve encouraged the makers and sellers to produce and bring to market one more of those shameful – but innocent – tools. Thinking like that I can only encourage others to view Paul Sellers’ videos and make one them selves. Or buy a Veritas if the economic situation allows that.

  9. Mike Bullock on 13 December 2019 at 3:57 pm

    I work for a large corporation. The people here are actually great. Everyone means well. People work honestly to deliver good products. A big challenge is that companies, especially publicly traded companies, are incredibly short sighted these days. Everything is about next quarter’s results. The most important thing is hitting numbers- and hitting them 3 months out vs 3 or 30 years from now. Inevitably this leads to unfortunate decisions. Someone gets asked to find an extra $100,000 or extra $1,000,000 for Q1 2020 and things get squeezed. Ultimately something gives and often it is on the cost side of the equation. Material costs are cut back or labor cost. The consequent loss in quality or efficacy with the product is rationalized away. Do this again and again over time and everything devolves to a sort of level of minimum viability. Add to all this pressures from internationalization of labor markets and you get what you see. Ultimately the only thing that will ever fix this broadly is for customers to revolt and refuse to pay for poor quality goods. In the end, this is tough because customers only have so much to spend and have become accustomed to paying prices at a level that simply can’t sustain quality in the long run. At a macro level you can see how all this drains the value of historically strong and reputed brands. As competition drives everything to this level of minimal viability the value of brands diminish over time and people eventually figure out that there is nothing really special about a stanley vs [insert competitor]. The people that control these business see this happening and they sell off the brands before all the value is lost. Lots of this has happened in the tools space. Set hand tools aside and walk into a Home Depot in the US. You’ll see half a dozen brands for drill drivers and such, but under the hood there are really only one or two manufacturers anymore. The only distinctions left are marketing distinctions designed to drop products into price ranges for segmentation and contrast and to give consumers an appearance of choice. Hand tools are such a small business these days that for the most part the only interesting work is being done at the boutique level (think Veritas, Lie Neilson, etc) where they target a market segment willing to pay a high premium for items.

    • Ray on 13 December 2019 at 4:17 pm

      I too worked in marketing manufactured consumer goods. Our retail sellers are fixated on the cheapest quality and not regarding quality as a primary, or for that mater a secondary, consideration. I had one retailer tell me that the quality of one of my products was too much since it raised the cost above another maker. His response was he did not care if the part failed in one season since he expected his customer would be forced to buy another from him.

      Retail strategy revolves around three things, PRICE, PRICE, PRICE. I am a firm believer in buying the best you can afford and have a product that will last as you expect it to.

      There is an adage from an American radio show for car repair from several years ago. “It’s the stingy man who pays the most.”

  10. Randy Ewart on 13 December 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Me too, I do the same thing. Also, if what I was looking for was not available on eBay, I just waited until someone offered those desired items for sale. This in itself has served to take a considerable amount of time, in some cases, to find properly solid tools to assemble for myself and my endeavors. But it has proven to be worth my patience in the long term. I agree wholeheartedly your general statements ….

  11. Tracy Sanders on 13 December 2019 at 4:22 pm

    I applaud you for externalizing your thoughts on this subject so strongly. A friend once told me that some of my photos had merit. In the spirit intended then, this article has definite merit as well.

  12. Randy Cates on 13 December 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I recently purchased a new Stanley miter box from Home Depot. It is “pretty” good, in that the 45 degree marks cut a true 45 degrees, the 90 degree also accurately. Only needs a little cleanup of the saw fuzz on the shooting board or donkey’s ear. The saw that came with it is a pretty good saw, not thrilled with the blade seeming to have hardened teeth, which I assume, means I won’t be able to sharpen them. What I’m not particularly happy about is the back fence is only about inch and a half high, necessitating me to add higher walls when cutting box sides. And there weren’t any screw holes to attach them.

  13. Kent HANSEN on 13 December 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Paul, another direct strike to the head of the nail! Allow me to suggest that all too often we want a good or better solution without a commensurate cost. How many of us will spend a night out with our spouse or significant other and spend $100 or £90 on dinner? We happily lay down our money for but a brief moment of satisfaction but are reluctant to spend that same £90 on an implement/tool that will give us tens of years of satisfaction while returning to us also many times over in profits. To me, it’s simply a matter of priority and commitment to ensure we work with and enjoy a higher level of quality in out tools!

  14. YohannM on 13 December 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I have a ‘Stanley’ 151 that I bought new off an online retailer. It is exactly like the one you bought, Paul. Poor casting, shoddy fitting and no quality-control whatsoever. Since I had watched all your spokeshave videos as well as those of many other YT contributors, I knew how to make it work. It took time to get it to work at all, and more time to get it to work reasonably well (the big issue being the gap between the lever cap and the blade, which would trap shavings and clog the mouth).

    I then got lucky and found a vintage Record 151 and a couple of 51’s on Craigslist. They were cheap in price but the moment I picked them up I could see that they were so much better than the new one. These only took a little bit of honing to become excellent tools. I use them all the time. The new Stanley 151 looks pretty on the wall of my shop, but it stays there collecting dust.

    I’ve seen this with other new tools too. I bought a new (pretty expensive) block plane a long time ago and it was not very good (though it wasn’t horrible). It took a while to tweak it to perform well. Then a friend gave me a ‘new’ #4 plane. That really sucked. I have not even taken the time to try and make it work. I will probably scavenge parts off the thing over time.

    The quality of a lot of the vintage items I’ve found is great and the prices remain low(ish). I may need to wait for a while to find what I’m looking for, but there’s no rush.

    The one exception is the Stanley #62 Low-angle jack. After considering buying one for about a year, I broke down and bought a new one. It is really a decent plane. Sturdy, nicely fitted and well-made in general. It works brilliantly. I love this thing on end grain. The handle could use some shaping, but I have yet to get to it as it is not bad as-is. It is not as nice as the Veritas, but it is still really good.

  15. Paul Stephen (Toronto, Canada) on 13 December 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Bear with me, I may seem to be off-topic at first, but I’ll get there.

    A few years ago, I said to the fellow I was dealing with at an appliance parts outlet, “I just don’t understand how a company like General Electric can put out a garbage toaster oven for $19.99 and risk their reputation in such a cavalier fashion.”

    He responded by saying the the places that sell those poor-quality goods are frequented by people who don’t know any better; they’ll buy the cheapest thing they can find because they don’t understand quality.

    I suspect that, most who would buy a hand tool at a big box store probably don’t know what to expect, wouldn’t know whether it was working properly or not. And for 20 bucks or so, most wouldn’t make the trip to return the item. Well, the women might, but the men won’t. 🙂

    These people don’t search out mentors like Paul Sellers to help them perfect their skills. And as a society, we have been conditioned to accept that the corporate world has all the control. Most of us feel that we’re there for them, not the other way around.

    So it’s really down to the individual consumer to not accept shoddy merchandise. The short-lived, underperforming products we buy, that end up languishing on a shelf or in a landfill add just as much to our carbon footprint as quality ones. This alone is enough reason to rebel, to be vocal, to not let up until they get the message. And to support small, local, businesses that require the kind of personal contact that fosters the shame that keeps them honest.

    • Jay GIll on 13 December 2019 at 10:33 pm

      Unfortunately it’s more often the case that they can’t afford “quality”. The most likely are working 2-3 minimum wage jobs to survive. People are not empowered to make. We can whinge all we want, but that won’t fix the issue, or help move us towards a world that slows down until it finds the harmony in what is done (thanks Paul).

      So- here is where we can help, call your local Habitat for Humanity and help build a house. While there pull some folks aside and work with them to build some furniture for their new house. Once people are empowered to make, they will demand quality and an affordable price.

  16. Russell lowe on 13 December 2019 at 5:41 pm

    When buying the so called vintage, as eBay sellers like to put it, I expect to have to do a little tuning here and there, due to the life span of the tool, and the fact is, these ” vintage” tools come in better shape, most of the time, than these new ones relying on their name,they should come ready to use out of the box, with maybe just a sharpening with 600 1000 then stripping.
    But that’s the age we live in, people want everything for nothing, and don’t want to put any effort into it, they want to pay the lowest wage, that’s why free movement is a thing, the rich get richer, well I’ll stop there, as I’m just about done, whoopty doo, Boris is pm again, he still won’t deliver on the referendum result, because they are all self serving

    • Alexander on 16 December 2019 at 4:19 pm

      Politics? This is not the place. Stop Doing This. Do not pollute this site. Thank You.

  17. Richard King on 13 December 2019 at 6:00 pm

    Thirty-five/forty years ago, just after I bought my first house, I wanted (and needed) to start buying tools. There were power tools in plenty (not all of excellent quality), but finding decent hand tools was a real problem, verging on the impossible. Then, along came Lee Valley Tools offering a wide range of top quality hand tools: problem solved!
    Sure, the tools they offer today seem a bit pricey; but AT LEAST THEY OFFER THEM! I have many Lee Valley/Veritas tools in my shop and, while my skill in using them may vary, I have never been disappointed by the quality! They are worth the price, in my view.

    • Paul Sellers on 13 December 2019 at 6:34 pm

      My comment was for those who could never spend £90 on a spokeshave or hundreds of pounds on planes and such, not a criticism of tool sellers or toolmakers. Look deep enough and you will see that I have supported many makers through the years. My comments are to help those looking to get started but have no or little money. So, there really was no need to shout! EBay also offers the good quality vintage models too and at highly competitive prices.

      • Dan on 15 December 2019 at 4:22 am

        I agree fully. No one trying to learn any skill should be offered the junk that some manufacturers are selling today.
        My first new plane was a Stanley #5 made in England that I purchased in the late 70’s for a cost what was then about 3 hours labor. The most recent new plane I purchased a few years ago was a Veritas low angle jack for what was then about an equivalent amount of working time. The bottom line is that good tools have never been cheap. This however is not an excuse to offer the poor quality we see today from previously good makers. I still use that Stanley #5 and for some reason I have the original box, the only one I have ever saved.

        • Keqn on 16 December 2019 at 6:20 pm

          My single son with a lot of disposable income lives two blocks from Lee Valley’s Ottawa location. I have tried to introduce him to vintage tools but it is a hard sell. Since he is learning woodworking I think he is better off learning to refurbish some older tools. I have provided him a Stanley Bailey no 5 that I cleaned up and a mint prewar Stanley no 4. He bought a no 7 and has fettled both of them.

          • Dan on 17 December 2019 at 3:37 am

            I’m with you, but I doubt it will be easy to convince your son just yet. Most of my tools are vintage with a few exceptions, most of which were purchased at closeout or deep discount. This is a true advantage of being an amateur. We can wait for a sale or do without until a vintage tool comes along; and have the free time to fix it up. And I do mean free in terms of money. I have made or refurbished many a tool that if you included the dollar value of the time spent, buying new would make so much more sense (ignoring knowledge and experience gained in the process).



  18. Jurandyr on 13 December 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Is this a worldwide problem? Old tools are expensive on ebay and other sites, at least here in Brazil, and the new ones just don’t have the slightest quality. I think that the manufacturers only give importance to the electric tools, because the demand for the manuals is little.

    • Samuel on 14 December 2019 at 12:26 am

      This is the same in Australia on the whole. If you know what you want it can be useful to wait it out and buy in from eBay UK – or eBay Brazil may turn up something over the course of time.
      Postage is mega still but you are happy with purchase.

    • Kent HANSEN on 14 December 2019 at 4:17 am

      You’re spot on!

    • Russell lowe on 14 December 2019 at 5:56 pm

      Everything is expensive in Brazil

  19. JEAN CLAUDE PEETERS on 13 December 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Funny. I bought one and it works fine, it really does. But the next one they had in the shop looked horrible. (they only buy one at a time, apparently…)

  20. Don Trust on 13 December 2019 at 8:53 pm

    Unfortunately, it’s not just the small inexpensive tools that are suffering the poor design and shoddy workmanship problem that is rampant in all industries.

    About 13 years ago my company (a powdered metal tooling specialty manufacturer) bought a high speed horizontal mill for producing intricate graphite electrodes for our EDM machines. This machine came for a highly respected machine manufacturer and cost us $165,000 US. It did it’s job, but the leadscrews was so woefully undersized that they needed replaced every 1-1/2 years at a cost of approximately $12,000. Because of the design of the machine, there was no way to avoid this. (they should have been in an oil bath) A couple different design choices, not the least of which would have been leadscrews of double the diameter, would have prevented that while only increasing the machine investment by maybe $15,000. But that would have meant the leadscrews would have lasted decades before needing replaced. The manufacturer just didn’t care. (or maybe they designed in the obsolescence?)

  21. David R on 13 December 2019 at 9:45 pm

    How about we all buy a Stanley spokeshave online and send it back due to lack of quality? If enough people do that, there’s a chance someone will listen eventually.

  22. Steve D on 13 December 2019 at 10:13 pm

    That looks like a counterfeit of a Stanley.

    I also worked for a worldwide consumer products company. For many years the company was known for it’s iconic product which was also incredibly low priced. Eventually, the market demanded more diversity of products and newer technologies that had perceived value. The staff could not keep up with the design and manufacturing rampup in the US so the development went outside the company.

    They managed pretty well because they kept close tabs on the end product but in the case of Stanley, they probably don’t sell a lot of spokeshaves when they are good. Forecasted profit from spokeshaves is probably quite thin so the resources aren’t allocated.

    They still manage to make a fine tape measure but so do a lot of other people now. I’ll keep buying the Stanley tapes so long as they are US made and a quality product.

  23. Andreas on 13 December 2019 at 11:58 pm

    I bought a Stanley 151 some time ago and was appalled by it’s poor quality. It took me at least an hour to get it into a decent working condition, but now it is a great tool, doing everything I need. It is, after all, a relatively simple tool and conceptually sound. Considering the very low price tag, I probably got the kind of quality I had to expect. Would I sell such a product if I owned the company? No, I would be embarrassed.

    On the other hand, the “bargain-hunting mentality” of customers (such as myself) reinforces the tendency to sell cheap and poorly manufactured products. My consumer behavior changed in recent years after I realized that every high quality tool I am buying today will certainly last me for the rest of my life (an perhaps the generation after me). I now tend to pay more attention on the quality of tools, even though they may be more pricy and I am certainly not a wealthy person.

    I am generally very satisfied with the quality of tools that I bought since from “premium” manufacturers. Also, I like the idea of supporting companies that care for their products. Am I am paying too much? Yes perhaps, and it hurts at first. But the pain goes away quickly.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 December 2019 at 8:14 am

      I don’t think people are necessarily looking for a bargain so much as a fair and honest product at a fair and honest price. This time of inferior products being made under what were once highly respected brand names is worsening; two cherries saws, Kuntz scrapers and planes, Stanley, Record Irwin and so many more. It is pure arrogance when a manufacturer and distributors fail to uphold the standards and then refuse to make changes of improvement to fulfil their obligations to their customers. Such is the reality of global distributions and markets. But, we have seen the giants of empires come tumbling down through the use of the internet of late.

  24. Samuel on 14 December 2019 at 12:12 am

    The whole way everything is run is as if everything is infinite. Time, natural resources, processing waste. If the economy slows, recruit people, dig a hole, invade, evade.
    I have found some awesome spokeshaves online when I start hunting but have stuck with the one I already have…, I did want one as a gift at one point.
    I have a Falcon 151.

  25. Joshua Hohnerlein on 14 December 2019 at 12:15 am

    I couldn’t agree more Paul. It’s shameful that these companies think it’s okay to sell a product that of such quality. That’s one thing I’ve noticed when I first began getting more and more into hand tools, if I can’t find a vintage hand tool on eBay, I’ll wait it out until the right one comes along. Very rarely do I buy new tools anymore. However, if I do buy a brand new tool, I will either buy from Veritas or Lie Nielsen depending on what I’m buying. I’ve been fortunate to find the Aldi chisels that we’re held in such high regard on eBay. I grabbed me two unopened packages of them. I’ve opened one for use and saved the other for when I need new chisels. I hope that someday a company will come forth to produce a quality tool that I don’t have to pay an arm and leg for.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 December 2019 at 8:08 am

      I think that the Aldi chisel is well proven proof. I’m the one that introduced them to the woodworking world as a serious chisel and for ten years Aldi stocked them and sold them more than they ever could have done without my nudging them each year they came out. What did Aldi do? They thought they were the tail wagging the dog. They thought that they could then tell their customers their plassy-handled, metal-capped brute-beater ones could replace them and dropped their winner.Some buyer somewhere on the fourth floor of corporate switched and he or she knew nothing more about chisels than flying to the moon.

      • Joshua Hohnerlein on 14 December 2019 at 6:23 pm

        That’s the unfortunate sad truth of the corporate worlds. I absolutely love my wood handle Aldi chisels. They’re very comfortable and maintain such a sharp edge. I would much rather support a family/small owned businesses that actually listened and provided a much higher quality product.

        • John2v on 14 December 2019 at 8:57 pm

          I’ve a box full of lovely vintage steel wood chisels AND just two Aldi …….only two because my son just stopped these being thrown away at our council tip!!!!…..just missing the other two from the set……..they are my favourite go to wood chisel
          Never been able to buy a new full set.
          A wonder if Aldi will remake them.

  26. Keith Clark on 14 December 2019 at 1:04 pm

    ” It’s not the materials, nor is it the production methods, it’s using unskilled and uncaring staff, supervisors and managers. Funny thing is though. They are not ashamed at all!”

    The only point in this statement that I disagree with in this statement is “uncaring staff”. By all means direct your very justifiable ire at the senior management of Stanley. They are the ones directly responsible for the decisions leading to these results. Not the men and women that execute the orders coming from above. I have worked for two outsourcing companies over the last two decades. My personal experience is that the manufacturing cost is the all important factor and the human cost is usually the most significant portion of this and is to be pushed down wherever possible. This leads to underbidding and a corresponding reduction in quality due to time pressures. But those staff actually manufacturing the products are not necessarily uncaring. They have targets to meet and processes to follow. They are not allowed to think outside of the box. If their targets are not met, they are out on their ear and the next poor sod takes their place on the production line. They do not get time to care and they do not get paid to care. They are human beings simply trying to earn enough to keep their families fed and housed.

    • Thomas Redfern on 17 December 2019 at 2:36 pm

      I think the point he is making is not that the staff are malicious in making inferior products, but that they are indifferent to the process/product entirely.

  27. Russell lowe on 14 December 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Lee Valley, veritas and like sure have suckered in the suckers,

    • Paul G on 15 December 2019 at 12:48 am

      Tiresome Russell. If you’re not trying to complain about British politics and Brexit, you’re making out that people are fools for being able to choose a modern, capable, conscientious manufacturer of woodworking tools. Give it a rest, won’t you?

    • David Laurie on 17 December 2019 at 3:05 am

      Russell Lowe is the fool here, looking at his inspid and inane commentary…

      If he had the intelligence to look at how much good quality tools cost 50 or 100 years ago — relative to an average weeks pay — he would find that many of those “top shelf” items may have actually cost double or more what an equally good item costs today..

      Then again, a lazy critic like Russell probably can’t even be bothered.

  28. Bob Lawson on 14 December 2019 at 9:08 pm

    I too have suffered from buying a red Stanley 151 from new, and wondered why I ended up using older simpler ones I later acquired. Reading Keith Clark’s comments reminded me of a manager telling me that “The job expands to fit the time available”. I long since discarded this in favour of :
    “The quality of the job is curtailed by the time available.”

  29. William Simpson on 15 December 2019 at 1:36 am

    Does Stanley actually MAKE tools anymore?
    I thought they just bought Names, sourced cheap materials from China, cheap labour from Mexico, then put [STANLEY] stickers on them?
    It’s an Umbrella Company. 30+ Names and counting; Stanley, Record, Irwin, Marples, Mole, DeWalt, Black & Decker… and you thought you had a choice?
    Saying “Stanley make tools”, is like saying “Tesco make cornflakes”.

    How could Sheffield tool companies realistically employ skilled craftsmen, making quality tools, which sell at just £15 a pop? Each employee has a £300,000 mortgage to pay. Something has to give.

  30. Al on 15 December 2019 at 4:09 am

    The real problem is that on a global scale, the demand for hand tools is just too low to be able to produce high quality products at a low cost. We can criticize the manufacturers and complain about shoddy workmanship, but the real issue is economics. Manufacturers need to make a profit to stay in business, and quality comes at a price. High production volumes can allow a manufacturer to achieve economies of scale which will yield reasonably high quality at low costs (consumer electronics being the most obvious example). Alternately, producers like Veritas or Lie Nielsen or Auriou can deliver very high quality at low volumes, but at a higher cost.

    We are very fortunate that many vintage hand tools are still available and that you can still find high quality vintage tools on eBay at a reasonable price. But even on eBay, the price for good quality continues to rise (the Stanley 71 router plane is a great example here). As these vintage tools continue to make their way into the hands of collectors, scarcity will continue to drive up the price. The trick is patience. If you keep looking, you will eventually find a good deal.

    • Paul Sellers on 15 December 2019 at 8:08 am

      Good economics would be a more balanced approach to general business and customer service and quality. Good economics would have been for Stanley to spend 50 pence more on wages for the worker and to raise their price by 50%. Woodworkers would readily pay £30 for decent spokeshave that would have lasted for a century. My first spokeshave cost me two day’s wages.

  31. Tom Bittner on 15 December 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Wow! What a great topic.
    I bought a well known brand snowblower in the 1980,s ( think orange) and after 20 years it wore out. Without thinking I bought another one believing it was the same machine only to find out the company had gone the “ price conscious” route. The new machine fails me every season at the most inopportune moment ( think middle of a snowstorm). A machine of the same quality as the first machine costs a lot more to make after 25 years. In this case after some due diligence I found one that will cost me twice as much. You have to look for value not price. That doesn’t mean it will cost more all the time, you just have to educate yourself. This thread is a great example of gaining awareness.

  32. Trevor Hosken on 16 December 2019 at 11:06 am

    Mmmmm. I bought two flat spokeshaves from Toolstation thinking they were good value for money. They were totally unusable. No chamfers on the adjusting nuts so that they jammed in the slots, the slot in the cap iron we’re not long enough so that the iron jumped out. The cap iron front was square edged so that shavings jammed. The soles needed flattening and of course the blade needed further work. All in all it took me a good hour on each to make them work. Crazy.

  33. Andrew Churchley on 16 December 2019 at 12:01 pm

    If I buy an object or have a job done in the home, very often now, I regard it as a sort of kit. I expect to be forced to do further work on it, to perfect it to my standards. An exception was my used Stanley no 4 plane at £15 inc p&p. Very little fettling was needed. Judging from images on the internet, it is a 1950s model. Looking at the fine grinding pattern on its surfaces, it appeared never to have been used since there were no smoothly-worn regions. I think it was bought, put away and allowed to rust slightly over the years. So I am in hearty agreement with readers who have been delighted with their carefully-chosen second hand purchases.

  34. Gordon on 16 December 2019 at 12:58 pm

    It is ultimately our fault. All of us likely own Stanley, or a piece of it (or a company like it). We may not even know it if it is a part of a 401K program stock fund. We could know it if we bothered to read the prospectus that comes in the mail ( or email) rather than tossing it and then follow up by researching the chain of ownership (as Paul points out). We might even be able to do something about it if we used the voting proxy to elect corporate officers that are responsible or at least vote against those that are not. But the bonus of the decision makers are tied to the stock price and we (or our fund managers) keep on validating the decision to favor profits over quality. And some of us (at least) are validating the system by choosing the low-price crap over the high price, well-made, hand crafted stuff.

  35. Bill on 16 December 2019 at 1:32 pm

    When I took up woodworking after a rest of 60 years my wife bought me a lovely new Stanley No 6 plane (the bevel up one). I could not get it sharpened nor the back of the blade flat because of the significant machining marks on it. After complaining to Stanley UK they speedily sent me a new one after I sent them pictures of the offending article. They did not want the old one back and new blades are not available.

    It turns out that the new plane was sharp and lovely and flat on the back of the blade. It is nice to use and cuts beautifully.

    I had some metal work done and through a contact there I found someone who flattened the back of the blade of the damaged one for me for free. So thanks to Stanley for their excellent service after a faltering start.

  36. Keith on 16 December 2019 at 1:36 pm

    The IKEA of hand tools?

  37. Brian on 16 December 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Used tools have gone through the roof from collectors trying to make money off of producers. Many needed tools now out of range.

  38. Russ Bartlett on 16 December 2019 at 3:31 pm

    While the demise of Stanley (New Britain CT) can be traced back to the 1960’s their demise in quality became rapidly accelerated when John Trani of GE took over as CEO. Other contributing factors have been a lack of skilled labor not only in the construction industry but also that of manufacturing. Those intelligent individuals that would have once taken up an apprenticeship are now being encouraged into taking an academic college degree. Compounding all of this is that a good majority of folks haven’t a clue about what constitutes quality. Stanley here in the US was once the Cadillac that other manufacturers would attempt to emulate.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 December 2019 at 4:00 pm

      Compounding this is the assumption of parents and universities telling their kids from 15 years old that to get that good job you must have a university degree and that security is always measured by the size your pay cheque brings and this is most often said without words. No vocational calling or feeling of what you might want to do. It’s the piece of paper with a university logo in the top corner that matters to the parents even when you can’t get that well paying job after three years hard slog. The plumbers, electricians and builders I know today just so they can prove they were told this or that jump through the same qualifying courses but at least they pay as you go without any assumptions that their education should be paid for by a third party.

  39. Bill Smithem on 16 December 2019 at 5:39 pm

    Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and their ilk have become the only sources for decent tools at a decent price. I did pick up a Harbor Freight No. 33 Windsor for a whopping $12 (with coupon). Put a 3″ radius on the reverse ground (I’m not kidding) iron with the grinder, open the mouth up with a file, and it makes a decent scrub plane.

    The major demise in quality world wide took place back in the 80’s when the MBAs took over the world with their “maximize profits for a couple of quarters, earn the big bonus, and leave the husk of a once reputable company behind before it collapses” mindset.

  40. bill a on 16 December 2019 at 9:07 pm

    things change over time, not as many people interested in hand work. after all
    it’s work! in a culture that glorifies leisure & consumption. good tools can be found, new or [thanks to the new tech of internet] used. one thing i’ve learned
    is that over time the quality of ebay old tools declines with popularity. buyer
    beware as always. Paul Sellers is a blessing when for how-to learning, for making some old tools well-known, not so much. the ebb & flow of life.

  41. Joe Xaver on 16 December 2019 at 10:47 pm

    I bought a new spokeshave from Axeminster (Rider brand) a couple months ago and am pleased with the quality. The casting is good. The blade needed sharpening of course, but even before sharpening I was able to make decent cuts with it. I don’t have any old 151s to compare it with, so I’d be interested in hearing if anyone else has purchased an Axeminster/Rider and what they think. The cost was $23, and I think shipping from the UK to the US was about $13. They were out of stock the first time I tried to order one, but I requested (and received) an email notification when they received new stock.

  42. Jim Foy on 16 December 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Stupidly I bought a new low angled block plane from Stanley,you could strike matches on the sole and I gave up trying to flatten the sole after 7 hours. I tried to throw the damn thing away but it kept coming back the base was so bent.

  43. Robert W Mielke on 17 December 2019 at 12:00 am

    I always seek quality over price. There are still a few tool makers out there that care about the quality of their work. I have relied on Lie-Nielsen for the last couple of years and am will to save up for their heirloom quality tools. I also own the Veritas small plow plane as Lie-Nielsen doesn’t make one.

    I guess all this leads us to why we, as woodworkers, are willing to hand make our projects. We care about the quality, fit and finish of our labors.

  44. Joseph Farrugia on 17 December 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Hello everyone,

    First of all I wish to thank Paul for his informative videos and wish you all the best for Christmas and next year.
    Secondly, do you know if the Kunz brand spokeshavers are of better quality? I was thinking to buy one. Thanks.

  45. Flemming Aaberg on 18 December 2019 at 11:37 pm

    Irwin Record spokeshave bought here in Australia last year was equally crap. They, like Stanley, come under the Stanley Black & Decker portfolio. With a lot of effort (and the courage to do it after watching Paul initialising various tools) I now have a spokeshave that works OK.

  46. Walaa Hamad on 19 December 2019 at 6:23 am

    Hello Paul. I don’t know what a Stanley “Shuttle Plane” “Stanley No HFL L2082E” is or what it is used for and is it worth getting one. They are rare and on Ebay they cost about $1,000 or more. Please advise. Thanks

    • Alec Garner on 19 December 2019 at 12:47 pm

      They’re an extremely specific plane used in the making of shuttles (‘a bobbin with two pointed ends used for carrying the weft thread across between the warp threads in weaving’), they are also used in conjunction with a sub frame which locks onto the plane; which I believe is harder to find than the planes themselves. You categorically would never need this plane in the workshop, and would only be a worthwhile purchase if you collect rare planes, or as an investment.

  47. Julia on 20 December 2019 at 11:06 am

    I’ve just learned the hard way why it’s so important to learn to sharpen your own saw: Last week, I sent my brass backed Spear and Jackson ‘Mermaid’ to a company I’ve used before to be sharpened. What they tried to return was a vastly inferior S&J tenon saw. I can’t prove that the saw I gave them was a Mermaid, and somebody somewhere has my saw with no intention of returning it. To say I’m gutted doesn’t even begin to cover it. The company keeps asking whether I’m sure that what I gave them was a Mermaid. Funny that – before I retired, nobody questioned whether I was ‘sure’ they were having a heart attack on the grounds that I might have got my pretty little head muddled.

    • Paul Sellers on 20 December 2019 at 12:35 pm

      Such a shame and then not to take the right steps to recover it. Surely it is not that difficult to find out where they went wrong. UK, Europe, USA?

  48. Don Hummer on 21 December 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you Paul for publicly denouncing Stanley!!! They deserve it. They I believe, in buying Bostitch ,have also suceeded in the downward spiral of that companies products.
    If Stanley would do what they have done with their Sweetheart line with all of their products I believe they would see a turnaround in their sales.
    Here, as an american carpenter and hobbyist woodworker, Irwin is taking over their share of the market place because the products are better.

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