The Stanley #1 Fake and a note on Shrinkage

So the reason I’m sharing this is twofold, the first is because I find it vital to promote and retain honesty in the world of collectibles; secondly is because as of late I’ve been having to use measurements to confirm some of the planes were in fact what I was looking for and needed for my collection to try and avoid purchasing duplicates.

Here is the original article I found while doing some research, this particular bit concerns the very rare and highly sought after Stanley No. 1 hand plane. It’s a tiny little plane that would look more like something designed for a child, and is far to small for even an average adult to really use. Still, many people want one for their collection and given its scarcity it easily commands figures over $1000 or as much as $4000.

Just this past week I was able to find about 12 postings on various places offering Stanley No. 1’s ranging anywhere from $800.00 starting bid up to $3500 buy it now with $10.95 shipping. For a plane so rare and sought after, to find that many in one week alone, does raise questions. One listing even offered not one, but two of these in the same lot !!! But if I were to ever be fortunate enough to have the money to buy one of these, I had better be able to put hands on it and confer with some friends over video chat as we go over it.

Here is a link to the original page I found, and I’ve also included the whole page below because we all know how pages can just vanish:

(Webmaster’s note: This article was scanned from the October 1988 issue of ToolTalk. No author is credited, although the drawing was clearly done by Herb Kean eight years earlier.  According to the issue, it is a modified version of information distributed at an MWTCA meeting. Herb Kean may have been the originator, since his drawing is part of the article.)

If you look at each part of the fake Stanley #1 next to an authentic one, it’s hard to believe that anyone would not detect the fake. But, by itself on an auction block, or under the excitement of a bargain, it is possible that the fake could pass, which is exactly what the perpetrator depended on. The defects, errors, and sloppy workmanship involved wore allowed only to the extent that they did severely detract from the overall impression. To this degree the duplicator kept smoothing down the roughly cast parts until they were passable. The fact that they were made considerably undersized by doing this did not bother him. No one thought of measuring, and it wasn’t too likely that they carried Sellens’ book at that precise moment anyway.

So today there are a goodly number of these fakes floating around, and possibly more to show up as owners realize what they have purchased. Listed below are the incongruities. BODY -Overall length to rear of handle extension is only 5 ½”- (approximately ½”short). Also the handle extension is flat with the sole instead of being upraised approximately 1/32″.

KNOB & HANDLE STUDS – Wrong pitch.

KNOB -Too small, and made of two pieces.

HANDLE – Too short.

KNOB & HANDLE NUTS – Poorly machined with hacksawed slots, wrong pitch. Handle nut – too short (prevents tightening.)

LEVER CAP – Too small all around, and porous. Rivet is brass instead of steel. Lever slot is far too deep.

CAP IRON – Tang hole filed instead of punched. Tension radius is too small and non-functional..

CONNECTING SCREW – Raggedly machined and doesn’t fit through mating hole.

PLANE IRON – Stamping out of square, and letters are not all correct size.

FROG – Outline very rough and sanded fully on sides.

FROG SCREWS – Standard round-head instead of Stanley round-head.


LEVER CAP SCREW – Standard round-head instead of Stanley oval-head.

ADJUSTMENT KNOB – Heavy porosity. No sign of finishing except with file.

ADJUSTMENT KNOB STUD – Diameter and pitch. wrong.

WEIGHT – 7/8 1b. instead of 1 1/8 1b.

Based upon the markings, the reverse key slot in the plane iron, and the right hand thread in the adjustment knob stud, my guess is it was copied from a true #1 of the 1880 vintage. I feel it was directly cast and smoothed undersize. The “just-get-by” attitude and the “for-profit” motivation rules out the making of patterns. Also, the direct casting (and its resultant shrinkage), would account for a part of the undersize conditions.

Hopefully the information above will help in preventing any further sales of these fakes.

Now given that measurements are typically the final defining aspect in determining just what plane you might have or be looking at, there is also something to be said about shrinkage. This should almost be a no-brainer but metal expands and contracts as it cools, these planes were also not all manufactured at the same plant, at the same time, and different molds and dies wore at different rates. SO, there can be shrinkage which can be confusing but I’ve been fortunate enough to learn how to take several other things into account.

I found this article over on:

Stanley 1 smoothing plane     

offered 1867 – 1943

5 3/4″ long

with  a 1 1/4″ cutter       

Without doubt the most famous of all Stanley planes. Never had a lateral adjuster, never had any number markings. Some models have B or S cast into the bed, others have no markings whatsoever. Early types have a beaded rosewood front knob and a short handle spur. Later types have a slightly longer handle spur and a lever cap embossed with the Stanley name.

Problem areas: fork and (depth) adjuster nut damaged or not working. More obvious damages include: overhang under handle broken off; chipped or enlarged mouth, cracks and chips to sides, damage to top of frog. That one sounds obvious but I’m just as dumb as the next guy when it comes to checking a plane. No matter how good it looks: Always take the lever cap off and check the frog, always turn the plane over and check the overhang under the handle and the mouth. 

Restoring/cleaning: Replacement handles and knobs are available from different sources. The modern rosewood is not always a good match, you’ll have to shop around. The front knob and hardware can be sourced from a No 98 or 99. It’s not an exact match but very close.

planes marked Damaged in the Stanley factory usually have minor flaws in  the casting.

Enlarged and chipped mouth. Mouth opening should be 3.5 – 4mm

Not all planes are the same size.  Don’t get too carried away with  exact measures! These are not  scientific instruments and foundries didn’t work with 1mm tolerance!! Instead, expect anything up to 1/4″ variance in the length of any Stanley plane.

These two #1s are the same vintage and differ by 1/8″ in length

The one on the left is in original condition, the one on the right had the handle replaced and is partially cleaned.

Fakes and reproductions vary in quality. The one on the left is of poor quality. It could be improved with a rosewood handle and knob. Note the angle of the adjuster screw. Stanley would never have produced such a flimsy tool.  However, if you’ve never seen one you simply wouldn’t know. The best fakes are partial reproductions and the master of them used to operate in Western Australia, let his name rest in peace.  He fooled better men than me. He used original parts like frogs, lever caps etc and made the rest from scratch in the workshop. His plane bodies were close to perfect but the overhang was always level with the rest of the sole, even in early models. Luckily for us, he  made only a limited number of copies for his friends. One of them ended up in one of my early auctions. I sold it as original because I didn’t know any better.   Be vigilant and if possible, buy off a dealer who knows his stuff. There are a lot of sharks circling eBay. Yours truly has been fooled by fuzzy pictures and even fuzzier descriptions time and again. Pay particular attention to the lever cap, it can fetch up to A$ 400 on its own! Quite a number of crap planes can supply a stand-in that looks pretty good in a picture!

Too good to be true: reproduction parts are available for most Stanley planes.  Not every dealer will tell you that he fitted a plane with a brand new handle, sporting a reproduction 1920s SW decal. If it looks too good it usually is not an original.

Now that this post has actually become much larger than I anticipated, I wanted to mention what I do when looking for specific Stanley Defiance and Eclipse planes.

  1. Length of the sole, generally I have not noticed very much in shrinkage on these planes and the general measurement I am looking for is 9.25″ or 9 1/4″. There’s a couple other ones with different sole lengths but the majority of these fit into the above. The problem then comes from what people actually measure, some of them don’t count that little nub under the tote on the back of the sole, so when I am asking for measurements I specify for them to include it.
  2. Width of the sole, much the same as above and there is more variance here because they had different iron widths.
  3. Width of the iron, another important measurement for me, right now that can be the determining factor between the unicorn or the pig so I always ask.
  4. Pictures, ask for more pictures, it never hurts and if the seller doesn’t want to include more than I would be a bit more skeptical about buying from them. I turned a plane just the other day because the seller outright refused to show me pictures of the sole of the plane, so much to the point they took the listing down and refused to answer any of my questions about it. That right there tells me something wasn’t right. Why would someone refuse to show a picture of the sole when you have someone about to drop $100 in your PayPal account ??? One simple picture would have sealed the deal because everything else seemed to match up.

A note on pictures, there are a LOT, and let me say this again, THERE ARE A LOT of people selling planes on eBay and the Facebook Marketplace and Etsy that have absolutely no idea what they have or what you’re wanting them to take pictures of. This is patience comes in, and also try hard not to be a condescending know it all. I’ve even walked a couple of people through things and then offered to pay them more because what they listed wasn’t what they had, and what they had was worth more than what they listed. I consider this part of being a responsible collector.


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