Currently, there are 11,500 moulding planes listed for sale on eBay UK. There are a couple of Japanese versions and a half a dozen from the USA, other than that, they are all UK made between 1750 and 1950. In some ways they are collectable and in some ways, they are not. The demand for them is quite low. In times past, the late 70s, early to mid 80s, I scoured the newspapers for people selling ‘Dad’s old tools for sale in wooden toolbox.’ A drive to some lost village in Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire would take an hour or two over the weekend or on a cold, dark winter’s night and you never knew whether the box would be full of rusted junk or a treasure trove of vintage tools. It was on nights like this where I found some of my vintage moulding planes. Hit and miss though it was, and mostly miss much of the time, I enjoyed rooting in someone’s cellar for the tools I loved and they just wanted rid of.
Moulding planes are exceptional value for money. They sell generally for between £10-20 and occasionally go higher if they are collectable and made by known makers. Almost all of them will be handmade in the 1800s, so you can indeed own an antique tool in excess of a hundred years old for very little money and that will usually lead to you owning a working model to boot. With the advent of eBay, I made my first bid in the UK for a gathering of 100 moulding planes with a starting bid of £1 in an isolated part of the Welsh Snowdonia mountain range where you might find it hard to imagine anyone might live. That was in 2010. They listed it as a “buyer collects” and it was midwinter with snow and ice on the ground many inches deep at the timing when the bidding ended in an hour’s time and no one had so far bid; it was most unlikely that anyone would want to do a remote drive and all the more in that kind of weather. At two minutes before, I put in my bid of £1 and the 100 moulding planes were mine. Of course, seeing 100 moulding planes stacked in a box did not really identify what I got. Many of the planes were in good to excellent condition and at a penny a piece I had no complaints. The seller was as happy as I was and I did give some extra money to him. All they had really wanted was two things, the freed-up space, and for someone to use them.
eBay has indeed simplified buying tools of every kind for those of us who use hand tools and especially those no longer made. To me, it seems one of the fairest of ways for sellers, users and collectors to exchange them for cash and also to generally keep them in circulation by cycling them through our hands and lives. Dealers too play their part in this, of course, but that’s not at all a negative. Collectors and users will find their specific descriptions useful for buying a particular tool type to suit their woodworking or collecting. With 11,500 moulding planes out there right now for sale on eBay, we can hardly be touching much more than the tip of the iceberg. My buying is first for user-planes and then, possibly, collectability. It is nice to collect specific makers and many of us amateurs will always use them in place of setting up power routers because, well, all we want is a simple groove or two or some moulding to trim or decorate an edge and corner of our project, perhaps to make a picture frame or gift for `Christmas. We’re not looking for two hundred feet of anything. If we were, surely we would indeed use a machine of some type. Another thing I like is finding one of the good and well-known makers from the past who were prolific makers known to make quality planes. You can still research and pick a style to your liking, which is a way of getting the best value and the best collection too. Collecting planes is very interesting anyway but collecting them to use just adds icing to the cake and it is great fun too.