Vintage wooden block plane

Vintage wooden block plane DEFAULT

Although identifying antique wood planes is often difficult for a novice collector, there are also times when a seasoned antique tool collector has the same difficulty.

The Antique Wood Plane Collector

Of all the antique hand tools made, the wood plane is one of the most highly sought after by tool collectors. They browse antique shops and online auction websites, search through the tools at thrift stores and rummage through boxes of old tools at garage sales and flea markets hoping to find a hidden treasure that would be a perfect addition to their growing tool collection.

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For many of these collectors coming across an antique wood plane during one of their treasure hunts is exhilarating. Their minds fill with excitement as they wonder if the tool is a rare Stanley woodworking tool such as a Stanley No.11 bull nose wood plane, a valuable Zenith Marshall Wells No.2 smooth plane or a No.50G wood plane made by Thomas Norris & Sons. If the plane is priced in the collector's budget, the excited collector takes his special find home to research it and identify the antique tool's rarity and value.

There are a vast number of antique wood planes in existence often causing confusion surrounding their identification. Often makers' marks, company names or other identifying characteristics have worn away with time and use.

Resources for Identifying Antique Wood Planes

Excellent resources exist both on and off line to help tool collectors with antique plane identification.

Price Guides and Identification Manuals

One of the most useful types of books for antique plane identification is a good price guide for antique tools. Price guides generally have excellent descriptions, pictures or drawings of the various wood planes in addition to the current retail price of the plane. There are price guides written expressly for wood planes. Other antique tool price guides have generalized sections on woodworking tools or a specific section on wood planes.

Tool price guides from past years should not be overlooked as a valuable source of wood plane identification. These price guides are often found at garage sales or online auctions at reasonable prices. Although the retail price is no longer current, all of the rest of the information remains the same.

Tool identification manuals do not include the current retail value of items. They do offer excellent information regarding specific tools including wood planes. Pictures, sketches and parts drawings are often included in these books. Many also include patent year charts and tool manufacturing company information.

The following are several price guide and identification manuals:

Online Identification Resources

The Internet provides valuable information to identify antique planes. The websites of many experienced tool collectors and antique shops provide helpful pictures, measurements and other valuable information used to identify wood planes from years gone by. The following are a sampling of these websites:

Additional Places for Antique Wood Plane Identification

If you have an antique wood plane and need assistance with its identification, there are other options available to you.

  • Most antique shop owners will offer help if antique tools are one of their specialties.
  • Many communities hold antique appraisal events where identification and appraisals are provided free or for a nominal fee.
  • Check the website of the Antiques Roadshow and see if they are going to be in your area
  • There is generally a fee to have an item identified by an antique appraiser, either on or off line.

Collectors Enjoy Identifying Antique Wood Plans

Although the world of antique woodworking planes may at first seem confusing to someone just beginning a collection, most seasoned collectors agree that part of the fun of this interesting hobby is identifying antique wooden planes that they find on their treasure hunts.

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Getting the Gist of Wooden Planes

Wooden Hand Planes Might Be Old Tech, But They’re Not Outdated

I think for many people wooden planes bring nostalgia and a nice sense of tradition but don’t necessarily seem relevant to use today.

We get used to a very different tool with metal planes, especially with some of the highly developed options now available, and so the techniques needed to set up, adjust and use them become further apart.

I use a mix of metal and wooden planes, and perhaps surprisingly it’s the wooden planes that I favour when I have a heap of boards to work, as their lighter weight is much less tiring. They’re always comfortable to hold and no one can deny the dreamy sound that they make as they glide across the wood, there’s none of that awful squeaking of a metal planes sole when it hasn’t had enough wax.


Using Wooden Hand Planes

For general board preparation I only have three wooden planes that I use all of the time.

It’s not a grand collection, but it’s all I need to take a rough board and make it flat and smooth. They’re certainly as quick as any metal alternatives, and my wooden smoothing plane can take on anything a metal plane can, leaving a far superior finish.

If you like the romantic appeal of a wooden hand plane but never thought them to be all that practical then don’t be too quick to dismiss them.

If your used to working with metal ones then there’ll be a few things that seem more complex and difficult, and I’m not going to deny there’s quite a heavy learning curve. But like most things if you persevere then all of a sudden it will ’click’. It’s not an easy thing to be taught as its more a case of getting the feel, but with a bit of patience you’ll soon start to appreciate to joy of using them.

To Learn How To Adjust Wooden Planes & Set The Iron Without Frustration, Then Have A Read Here.
Different types of wooden hand plane, the long try, wide mouthed fore plane and coffin smoother

The Different Types Of Wooden Planes: The long try plane for straightening. The jack or fore plane for rough, heavy material removal – note the wide open mouth for allowing the thick shavings through. The short coffin smoother with tight mouth to keep control of tear out.

Buying Old, Second Hand Wooden Planes

If you’re keen to give it a go without spending a fortune,  then I’d still avoid the temptation of buying an old smoother from a car boot sale. They’re small and you should be able to pick one up extremely cheaply, but these planes are used for the final finishing work – they need to be set very finely to give good results, and trying to set up something rough and worn without any experience could quickly put you off wooden planes altogether.

Instead opt for something like an old fore plane, to start. These can be set for a range of heavy or fine work and will be much more forgiving when you’re starting out. My fore plane (a real rough jack) looks like its been chewed on by a pack of dogs, and the iron doesn’t really match the bed, but it works great as a roughing tool and I’ll never part from it.

Buying New Wooden Planes

I’d always be happy to source an old jack for the rougher work, but if you want to treat yourself then I would say a new try plane would be the ideal one for starters.
You’ll be setting up for a medium to fine cut, with a medium camber on the iron so there‘s some challenge compared to the rougher fore or jack plane. This way you’ll easily build up the skills of setting up a wooden plane without having to be too precise, and once you’ve got the gist of it you’ll quickly be able to transfer you’re skills to the finer smoothing planes.

Shavings from the different types of wooden planes

Shavings from the different types of wooden planes

Once you’ve mastered it, a wooden plane is in a league of it’s own for simplicity, and with this comes efficiency – there’s no screw drivers every time I need to touch an iron up, just a quick clunk with a mallet.
For me wooden planes can never be outdated as I need to use them daily for my job, and I certainly know I couldn’t earn my living without them. There’s a lot to cover on them; I could fill a book on this subject so I’ll be bringing more about wooden planes soon.

See All Articles On Hand Planing

Filed Under: Hand Planing, Woodworking Hand Tools, Woodworking Techniques

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Wooden Planes

Explanation of Our Condition Grading System

Frequently Asked Vintage Tool Questions

for British, Canadian, & European Wooden Planes

American Wooden Planes

Sandoe & Edelen, Manuf., ShellebagerSandoe & Edelen, Manuf., ShellebagerSandoe & Edelen, Manuf., ShellebagerSandoe & Edelen, Manuf., Shellebager

D.R. Barton, Rochester, NYD.R. Barton, Rochester, NY

Sandusky Tool Co., OhioSandusky Tool Co., Ohio

Sandusky Tool Co., OhioSandusky Tool Co., OhioSandusky Tool Co., Ohio

J. Killam, GlastenburyJ. Killam, GlastenburyJ. Killam, GlastenburyJ. Killam, GlastenburyJ. Killam, GlastenburyJ. Killam, Glastenbury

Winstead Plane Co.Winstead Plane Co.Winstead Plane Co.Winstead Plane Co.Winstead Plane Co.

C. LindenbergerC. LindenbergerC. Lindenberger

W. Cooley, Blackstone St. BostonW. Cooley, Blackstone St. Boston

L. TownsendL. TownsendL. Townsend

H.L. Kendall, Washington, DC

for top of American Wooden Planes

British, Canadian, European & Other Wooden Planes

McVicar, PerthMcVicar, Perth

Mathieson, EdinburghMathieson, EdinburghMathieson, Edinburgh

W. Dibb, YorkW. Dibb, York

King & Compe, HullKing & Compe, Hull

W. Dibb, York

I ScofieldI Scofield

Antique Wooden PlaneAntique Wooden PlaneAntique Wooden Plane

Early Carved PlaneEarly Carved Plane

Antique Wooden PlaneAntique Wooden Plane

Irons and Cap Irons (Blades and Chip Breakers)

John GreenJohn Green

Roberts & AshRoberts & Ash

W. ButcherW. Butcher


Alexr Mathieson & Son, GlasgowAlexr Mathieson & Son, Glasgow





A Mathieson & Son, GlasgowA Mathieson & Son, Glasgow


Atkinson & SonsAtkinson & Sons


Fred Green, SheffieldFred Green, Sheffield

J& R. DodgeJ& R. Dodge


Ohio Tool Co, Thistle BrandOhio Tool Co, Thistle Brand



James Cam James Cam

James CamJames Cam

Humphreyville Manufacturing Co.Humphreyville Manufacturing Co.


Colonial WilliamsburghColonial Williamsburgh

Whitman & Mill?, W. FitchburgWhitman & Mill?, W. Fitchburg

L&I.J. White, 1837, Rochester, N.Y.L&I.J. White, 1837, Rochester, N.Y.

Auburn Tool Co

I & H. Sorby

A.D. Green. Warwick




Gleave & Son, Manchester


A Mathieson & Son, Glasgow

I. Sorby, Punch Brand

W. Butcher


W. Marples

W. Butcher

W. Butcher, SheffieldW. Butcher, Sheffield

W. Marples

W. Marples & Sons

W. Butcher

W. Gilpin

Hancock Tool, Extra Steel

Providence Tool Co.

Sandusky Tool Co

Robert Sorby

Hearnshaw Brothers

To the top of Wooden PlanesSours:

How to Choose a Wooden Hand Plane for Woodworking

Bill Anderson Using A Wood Plane Or Hand Plane To Flatten The Face Of A Board

Some traditional woodworkers really prefer using all wood hand planes or transition planes (hybrid: metal plane w/ wooden sole). Some people use them because they love the traditional appearance. Some love them because of the unique feeling in their hands. And some love them because they are lighter than metal or transitional hand planes. Most traditional woodworkers love them for all of the above reasons.

© Joshua T. Farnsworth

But even if you use metal hand planes, chances are that you are still in the market for wooden molding planes, beading planes, etc. Some incredible reproduction wooden hand planes are on the market today. Here is one great company that makes them. But due to the time involved in making wooden hand planes, the prices are pretty high.

This leads most traditional woodworkers to look for inexpensive antique wooden hand planes. But the problem with many of the antique wooden hand planes is the condition. Here’s what to look out for when buying traditional wooden hand planes:

1. Cracks & Splits


Cracks & splits are the most common problem to avoid on old wooden hand planes. Closely examine the plane’s body (especially the heal, toe, and sole) for cracks. Handles & totes can be replaced (if it’s worth your time) but the body of the plane cannot. Just walk away from wooden hand planes that have major splits & cracks.

2. Loose strips

{photo coming soon}

Box wood strips on the bottoms of molding planes and beading planes have sometimes separated from the plane’s profile, and can greatly affect the accuracy of your cut.

3. Smashed parts

© Joshua T. Farnsworth

Traditional wooden hand planes are usually adjusted with small taps of a hammer or mallet. This has left many vintage hand planes with a “mushroomed” heal, toe, or wedge. This problem doesn’t always affect performance, but can reduce the aesthetics of the plane…which might be a good thing if you’re purely interested in function.

4. Worm holes


5. Warped / Twisted

Old wooden hand planes, especially longer jointer planes, can be tested with a straight edge (see my straight edge making tutorial here) and winding sticks. If laying the straight edge along the sole reveals serious warping, then you probably can’t plane or sand it flat. If the sole’s warp or wear is minor (which is typical) then you can easily remedy it with a flat surface and sandpaper (or another plane). If your winding sticks reveal that the plane is seriously twisted, then you should probably look for a different plane. Minor twist can be remedied.
If you’re interested in learning more about wooden hand planes, or building your own, check out these resources.

6. Properly fitting Iron / Blade

Make sure that the iron actually fits the wooden hand plane. On molding planes make sure the iron’s profile matches the profile on the bottom of the plane.



Block vintage plane wooden

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How to restore Wooden Planes

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