Shopping for Planes

Whether you’re looking online or in a store, flea market, antique mall, or your neighbors closet, there are some things to consider when shopping for planes. Experience is the best teacher, especially when it’s someone else’s experience learn from THEIR mistakes… such as mine.

MISTAKE #1: Excitement can grab you by the short hairs and turn you into a slathering motard in an instant. Before you know it you’re throwing money down on something you probably shouldn’t, or you’re paying way too much for something. I almost made this mistake with a Stanley #3 Type 9 I purchased this week on a trip over to a little antique mall. I was giddy when I saw it, turn around and barely even noticeable but there it was and I had to have it even though the price tag said $70.00 on it. Take a look at the pics below and see if you can spot the big problem right away…

In all of my excitement I ALMOST forgot to notice one big thing was missing from this plane that should have been there… The lateral adjustment lever.

Stanley #3 Type 9 – Broken Frog

As you can see in the picture above it’s gone, and not just the lever itself, the whole top of the frog is gone. Now, that’s not the only thing. It wouldn’t show up in the pics but the blade is stamped 1992, so there’s no way it belongs with this plane which was made no later than 1928 I believe it was. The solution, two things popped into my head…. eBay for spare parts and talk them down on the price. Now that $70.00 Stanley #3 Type 9 becomes a $20.00 Stanley #3 Type 9. This gives me the money to get a whole new frog and proper blade for the plane and it’s good to go.

This was an instance of being able to spot things and look at it hands-on. But what if you’re shopping on eBay or something? NOTHING CHANGES.

Take a look at the pics below, this is from an eBay auction I was recently bidding on for a Stanley Defiance 1203 I think it is… price was right, $10.00 plus $8.00 shipping. What do you see from the pics, the seller did a really nice job of taking some good pics. I say it’s a 1203 because of the length and width which you can see thanks to the seller adding the tape measure in the pics… this helps go a long way in identifying the plane.

The problem with this one is the same thing as my #3, the frog is broken off in exactly the same place… makes you wonder if the same guy had them lol.

So what do you do if you want something on eBay or where ever and you can’t tell? You contact the seller and ask for more pics. If they’re not willing to provide more pics then they’re hiding something and you should just walk away unless it’s just something you absolutely have to own and you don’t mind if it’s damaged and know for sure you can get parts for.

So excitement, don’t let it cloud your vision, on eBay or even Amazon, add it your cart or watch list and come back in a bit and look it over again. I just did that with a couple of transitional planes and ended up deleting them because the cast iron plates were broken. With that being a key component and costing way more than I was paying for the planes, I just chose to pass because I was able to purchase a higher quality one for the same price without the broken pieces.

MISTAKE #2: Don’t get fooled by the paint… In one of my earlier posts I thought I had a Stanley Victor, which to me I thought was just cool as could be because it as red, little clean up, touch up the paint, and yeah, kick ass red plane. Nope… I was wrong. Turns out that what I actually have is a Stanley Handyman H1203 which is basically a cheap version of the #3. I discovered this when I finally got around to taking it apart and I removed the knob and tote as well as the frog. I’m quickly learning these are the 3 places that hide the secrets of the plane.

On several of the planes I’ve purchased second, third, or fourth hand they’ve all been “restored” or painted to some degree to “improve” their appearance. Sure it might look nice but it can hide some things and make actually identifying it confusing. Remove the knob, tote, and frog and you may find the original paint or jappaning underneath which can tell you a whole different story.

In the case of my misidentified Victor, once I got the frog off I saw the dark blue paint of a Stanley Handyman. From what I have read up to this point, the Handyman series was the only ones with this blue paint on the base and a red frog from the factory. I’m not mad, not upset at all. I got 3 planes in the deal and the one I wanted was the large Defiance 1205 which I got and restored. Now I have the Handyman to restore to the way it was and can add to my collection.

MISTAKE #3: FRANKENPLANES !!!! Coming up shortly I will be making a resource page linking several very valuable resources that can help you identify planes. I’ve found this very useful in the past week alone when looking over planes on eBay and at the antique malls because I was able to identify Sargent lever caps on Stanley planes and other little things that might not seem like a big deal, but when you want a homogeneous collection or a complete plane, it does make a difference. Will a Sargent lever cap work on a Stanley plane, sure it will and do just fine so if you’re looking to get a plane just to use it then go for it. But if you’re looking for a complete all one brand plane, you’ll need to research and learn to identify what the different brands are, some of the things that separate them from one another, some of the different lines each one has.

Stanley alone has several such as the Bailey, Sweetheart, Bedrock, Defiance, Victor, Handyman, and others… so keeping it all in your melon cradle can be a headache and I’m hoping you’ll bookmark the page I make so you can pull it up on your phone or tablet while you’re out shopping and use the links to help you get what you need or want.

There’s nothing wrong with Frankenplanes… if you’re wanting them to use, but if you’re trying to collect, watch out. Ask for better pics, try to get identifying marks, etc..

And with that I’m off for the night, hope this helps a little bit and hope you can learn from my “mistakes” or “happy little accidents”.