I enjoy making a useless tool useful again. Old Stanley hand
always fun to restore.
They are plentiful, low cost
and can be made into a magnificent tool with a little time
and effort. These planes are well documented, it is easy to
find the age and changes made thru their production history
at sites like
Patricks’ Blood & Gore and
Hyperkitten has an
excellent plane dating flowchart on his website if you are
curious about a Stanley plane you have. There is also a lot
written about restoring them and tuning; videos you can buy
too. To make one work well is not too hard if you know what
to look for and how to deal with the problems you might
Try to start with the best
plane you can, it will save you time, effort, and money in
the fixing up process. Buying individual parts can get
expensive, a lot of times you pick up a broken plane with
parts you need cheaper than buying an individual piece. On
the flipside, I would not buy a NOS in the original box
plane for a user, let the collectors fight over those.
is a lot of talk about individual types of these planes
being better than others (particularly type 11). In my
experience most any type as long as they were made before
late 1950’s will do just fine. My personal favorite
smoothing plane I have is a 4 ½ made during WWII, with the
ogee or Coke bottle type frog that most seem to think is not
as good design as some of the previous designs. I also have
type 11 4 ½, I can’t tell any difference in the performance
between the two when sharp and set correctly.
The two planes that I will be
working on here are both type 6 Stanley’s, made between 1888
and 1892. These are both pretty rough and unless you just
enjoy fixing up old planes I would recommend finding
something better to work on. I chose these planes to show
what can be done with a little elbow grease.
One is a number 4 smoother that
I picked up at a local antique store while back. When the
lady at the store rang it up she charged $4, I told her the
price on the tag was $9, she looked at the plane and then at
me and said “I think four dollars is enough for that thing”.
The other is a number 10
carriage maker’s rabbet plane that I came from
tools-O-rama above the Woodright’s School.
The first thing I usually do is
take the plane completely apart. Check all the bolts and
threads, particularly in the plane body. Stripped threads
here are tough to deal with, you can use thread repair
inserts such as helicoils. This will necessitate getting new
bolts as well. The thread pattern on the original bolts
don’t seem to be a standard size in my experience, I read
somewhere that Stanley had their own custom thread size;
this seems to be true.
If the plane you are working on
has stripped threads in the body it might be just as
advantageous to find another plane. Look over the body for
cracks too, particularly around the mouth and the sides or
wings. Here again if you find a crack you will probably want to
round up another to restore. I would not spend the time and
effort involved to fix up cracked plane.
Look over the frog
for cracks as well, especially the area around where the
lateral adjustment lever mounts and the depth adjustment
fork pin. If the plane passes inspection, reassemble,
tighten down the frog and handles, put the blade and lever
cap on and back the iron all the way up.