Wood planes, vital woodworkers’ tools that date back to the Romans, have not changed much since Leonard Bailey patented his first design in 1855. How can you tell if your wood plane is an antique, a replica or a new piece manufactured by a century-old company? Whether you are a craftsman, an antique tool collector or you just want to know if the plane in Grandpa’s tool chest is the real thing, a few basic insights can help you spot an antique wood plane.
Identify the material from which the plane is made. Antique planes have a wooden body and an iron cutting edge, and cast-iron bodies first appeared around 1860. Other materials indicate a newer plane.
Look for any maker’s marks. Before the 1800s, most craftsmen made their own planes that were either unmarked or had personal marks that may be worn away from use.
Identify the manufacturer name and/or numbers. In the mid 1800s, companies began to manufacture planes, and a few became extremely popular. Stanley Works started in 1843, and most Stanley planes are clearly numbered. Sandusky Tool Company operated from 1869 to 1929, and Ohio Tool Company (which also used the names Scioto Tool and Auburn Tool) made planes from 1851 to 1920.
Examine for signs of wear and use. Smooth knobs, body and a worn finish indicate a frequently-used tool, and rusty or weak spots are common on antique planes.
Measure the plane. Copies of antique planes are usually smaller than the originals. Bench planes should measure between 14 and 24 inches long and block planes range from 3 to 8 inches long.
Compare your findings with a price guide or identification manual for definitive identification of your plane.
A dull cutting edge may not signify an antique, as a new but neglected or misused plane will also become dull.
Consult a professional before making restorations or repairs to an antique plane, as these can affect its value.