Stanley Bench Plane Type Study
The following pages can help you determine roughly when a Stanley bench plane was made. I didn't create these pages, but I have added to them. I encourage you to read the history of these pages for some background.
Plane Dating Flowchart
Scope and Limitations
Getting started Ever wanna date Stanley planes without having to serve time in the big house for trumped up charges of rhynkenological abuse? Well, read on.
Scope The types are listed for the #4 size bench plane. Most of the other bench planes follow the features listed below, with some minor differences. One of the most easy to spot is the location of the number designation cast into the bed of the plane. The larger ones have their numbers cast behind the tote, whereas the smaller ones have it cast at the toe (in front of the knob).
Hybrids One thing needs to be stressed — some planes are hybrids of the types I’ve listed. This is for the simple fact that parts on-hand were used up. It would have been wasteful and costly had Stanley decided to chuck the castings they had on-hand when subtle changes were made to the planes. Most of the parts were made well before the planes ever were assembled. Stanley had a huge replacement parts business, and there was no way they could anticipate how many of any particular part would be ordered. Thus, they made batches of them for replacements and for new planes. Any leftovers, which could be used on the next batch, which may have had a subtle change made to them, would naturally be used up. So, if your plane has a part from an adjacent type, or a part from a type within a few years of a particular type, it’s more than likely original to the plane, provided the patina and wear match the rest of the plane. To date your plane accurately, it must have all of the stuff listed for that particular model.
Limitations Things that are hard to describe, like the shapes of totes, are not listed here. You’d have to see pictures, or examples, of the planes to be able to detect the subtle differences.
There are some hybrid models, and sub-models, which aren’t fully documented, but what follows are the ones you’re most likely to encounter. Some are extremely rare, and bizarre, like the true first model with its three screws to secure the frog to the bed. These hybrids surfaced after the type study was made, too late to be included into it.
Acknowledgements from the Original author: The information in this Web page is derived from a type study done by Roger Smith, in his book "Patented Transitional & Metallic Planes in America." Patrick Leach reformatted the type study and added comments based on his experience with Stanley planes. I converted the type study to hypertext and added the plane dating flowchart and feature timeline.
Some History of the Stanley Bench Plane Dating Web Pages
The Stanley Bench Plane Dating pages were created by a gentleman by the name of Jay Sutherland in the mid 1990’s. Jay created these web pages to help people identify and establish the date their Stanley bench planes were manufactured. He based his pages on the work of Roger Smith and Patrick Leach. Patrick’s Blood and Gore contains detailed descriptions and commentary on each of the numbered Stanley planes. Roger’s work was published in his books PATENTED TRANSITIONAL & METALLIC PLANES IN AMERICA (PTAMPIA) volumes 1 and 2. Jay’s plane dating pages were easy to use and became a valuable resource to the Old Tools community.
Some time in 2000-2001 Jay’s Stanley Plane Dating pages went offline. Jay had finished his graduate work and the pages were lost when his web server account was closed. The pages were unavailable for at least a year. In early 2002 several members of the email list, myself included, undertook to rescue Jay’s work and make it available again. We used the WayBack machine to access archived copies of the pages. Eventually we were able to get all of Jay’s original pages back online and the information spread across multiple web servers to prevent them from being lost again.
Jay’s Stanley Bench Plane pages remain very popular today, getting several thousand unique visitors every month. I had a conversation with Jay a few months ago and conveyed the appreciation of the many people who have contacted me to tell me they found his pages useful. These days jay isn’t doing much work with old tools, but he told me he looks forward to rekindling his hobby when time permits. Jay reiterated his gratitude toward people like Patrick and Roger who did a lot of the early research and type studies related to Stanley planes.
I’m now beginning to re-write some of the Stanley Bench Plane Dating pages to make them a little more user-friendly. I’m trying to remove the frames, tables, etc. and incorporate more modern technologies while attempting to preserve the original flow of Jay’s pages. The content remains the same, and the original pages, in their original format are available here. I hope you enjoy these pages and find them useful! –Joshua