In a former life, before telling The Man to KMA, I was a software dork. There, I said it. One of the requirements of being such a dork is that you must cruise the internet, or what the media pundits have labelled "The Information Superhighway." I'm also a tool fanatic. These two afflictions led me to that place where I could converse with similar sufferers - rec.woodworking, aka rec.norm, the news group for those computer literates who also have a life.
This effort was prompted by several folks asking me about the Stanley planes that they own, or saw while out cruising for tools. I found that many of the questions they asked were the same ones asked over and over. For the sake of consistency, and for the economy of my time, I decided to do a 'brain dump' of what I know about Stanley planes - what they look like, what they do, what common parts are missing, what flaws they suffered during use, etc.
All of my effort was done as a lark. I never once thought that what I was writing would ever evolve into a 'cult classic.' The first version of this effort was done in the pre-dawn darkness while my eyes were propped open with toothpicks; there were glaring errors of omission and misinformation most of which I can attribute to the early morning cobwebs that cluttered my mind. So, after having chucked the software gig, it was either sitting in front of the tube while watching Jerry Springer and strumming my lips or doing something constructive. Opting for the latter, with the donnybrooks of Springer as background noise, I embarked upon a rewrite of Blood and Gore to make it more thorough and accurate. It will never be a work considered done as new information about the company and the planes that they produced seems to surface daily.
The style of most of what I write is tongue in cheek, but some of it very serious (like the information about the #45 and #55). Afterall, a source of information about the tools should include the good, the bad, and the ugly, all of which Stanley managed to make.
The physical data of each entry was referenced from Alvin Sellens' pioneer work, The Stanley Plane (now out of print), and from John Walter's current book, Antique and Collectible Stanley Tools. Both of these books cross-reference the original tool catalogues and literature produced by Stanley as the source for their information. Other than that, everything that follows each listing is from the dark corners of my mind.
This information is not so much offered to indicate the rarity or collectability of each tool, even though some mention of that is made. It's hoped that the information within will be used as a field guide while doing the tool hunt. If it is possible to classify Stanley planes into two groups (hey, the legacy of being a former computer dork still makes me see the world with a binary modus operandi), where one group may be considered as common, and the other not so common, then the booklet can serve a useful purpose given the aforementioned distinction. An asterisk, represented by the ascii character '*', found at the end of each listing indicates that the plane falls into the not so common category. Its value is entirely up to you.
The booklet also ignores the cheaper brands of Stanley planes. Remember, this originally was a guide for those guys who intended to use what they purchased. I can't, in good conscience, recommend that someone use a Four Square or Handyman plane over a Bailey or a Bed Rock. In my disturbed mind, Stanley's lesser planes were the first trickle of oil to grease the slippery slope of the decline of handtool quality, which now leaves us with the junk manufactured today.
A few things to mention that will spare me some typing - all length measurements are for the soles, and all width measurements are for the irons. The weight of each plane follows its measurements, which is in turn followed by the years the plane was offered. The planes may not have been in production for the timespan listed, which is usually the case for the rarer planes. It was often that these 'braindead' planes were offered until they sold out the initial production run.
Most of the planes have their number cast into them. Those that never had their number cast into them are noted. The "C" designation means that the plane has corrugations in the sole; the "C" doesn't appear on the plane.
It's inevitable that once something becomes collectable or valuable, it also gives rise to fakes, copies, and repairs. These planes are no different than that of any other field of collecting where unscrupulous, get-rich-quick, ought-to-be-making-license-plates-for-a-living, types abound.
Fortunately, the fakes are few and far between. These are covered, in sufficient detail, in the relevant listings. Copies are also somewhat small in number, but they are not made to fool anyone. Other copies are those tools that were made directly from an original tool, usually by a patternmaker for his own use. These are rather easy to spot since they are smaller than the originals and often have a grainier texture to their non-machined surfaces.
Repairs are the real bane of collecting. It's been going on for decades in other fields, and is now part of the tool scene. If it's easy to repair, and to fool collectors of, mechanical banks, then it's a relative picnic to do the same with tools. Chips and missing chunks of castings are very easy to fill using finesse welding. The welds are colored to match their surrounding and then are machined to be unnoticeable. These are very difficult to detect, and one should always be suspicious of repairs to areas where the tool is susceptible to breakage. You're on your own when examining the tool. An honest person will point out repairs, so know your source!
Another area of concern is the tool's finish and its originality. There are many starving artist would-be Picassos in this field, where taking a beat up tool and 'metamorphosizing' it into a work of art worthy of some champagne and brie gala preview, is becoming more commonplace. The re-machining of surfaces and the re-japanning of painted surfaces is often used to make the tool appear as something it's not. Usually, a close scrutinization of the piece will reveal a slip-up by the 'artist;' a drop of paint someplace it shouldn't be, a small area of rust found in a hard-to-reach place, a replacement part that doesn't match the vintage of the tool, etc. As with repairs, know your dealer. If you have any questions about the tool you're buying, get it vetted by a third, fourth, fifth party. It's your money you're spending, afterall.
There are a wad of Stanley planes, many of which fit into nice categories. Blood and Gore was written in numerical sequence following Stanley's bizarre numbering system from #1 to #608C. Fortunately, some of Stanley's efforts fit into categories, and Blood and Gore treats these planes as a separate listing; e.g., the Bailey line of planes, the transitionals, the Bed Rocks, etc. In total, there are 15 major parts of Blood and Gore. You can visit them sequentially, or jump right to the part in interest simply by finding the number on the tool in question and referencing it against the hyperlinked categories listed below. Eventually, I hope to make this queryable, where you can enter a category or a plane number and get back just the listing for the tool(s). Stay tuned.
It's important to note that these files are loaded with wads of images and will likely take time to download. I hope you find that time well spent. If you don't, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with complaints, suggestions, questions, attaboys, tools for sale, etc. Furthermore, if you'd like to see the author of this blather stammer, bumble, and otherwise look like a total chump live on videotape as he describes these Stanley planes, follow this link to my chum Anatol's page for more info.
Pick a Plane, any Plane......
Copyright (c) 1998-2012 by Patrick A. Leach. All Rights Reserved. No part may be reproduced by any means without the express written permission of the author.