An Observation on Vintage Handplanes - Popular Woodworking Magazine

An Observation on Vintage Handplanes

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs


Note: I started writing this blog entry more than a year ago. I shelved it and have revisited it several times since. Each time, I thought: I don’t need this kind of grief. For whatever reason (four beers, perhaps?), I offer this as an observation based on teaching students, both amateur and professional.

For the last decade I’ve had the privilege of teaching woodworking students all over the world about hand tools. I’m not the best teacher, but I am a good listener and observer.

At the beginning of every class, I make an offer to the students: “You are welcome to use my tools. You don’t have to ask. Just take them and return them when you are done.”

I own a mix of vintage and new planes – mostly old Stanleys, Lie-Nielsens and Veritas. I keep them sharp, but they do not have any special modifications. They are just planes right off the shelf that have been sharpened.

In almost every class, there is a student (or several students) who own vintage handplanes that they have restored and souped up with aftermarket irons, chipbreakers and sometimes knobs and totes. A certain percentage of these planes have been surface ground and look better than new.

I’m always eager to look at their planes because I started out by restoring old planes well before there were nice modern bench planes available. I love the old tools and the way the tote feels in my right hand. I like the patina that comes from hard work and care. So I like to take their vintage planes for a test drive – planing against the grain of whatever nasty stuff is lying around.

Now, the mantra that almost every teacher repeats (including me) goes something like this: It doesn’t matter if you have vintage planes or new planes. Both can be tuned to a high level. Vintage planes require time. New planes require money.

It sounds like a reasonable statement, but I don’t know if I believe those words anymore.

And that’s because I’m a good observer.


During my classes I watch my students closely. It’s all about interpreting their body language. Are they frustrated? Are they about to throw a tool to the floor? (This really happens.)

What I have observed is this: The students with the super-tuned vintage handplanes almost always tend to use – over and over – my Lie-Nielsen and Veritas planes during the class. They will wait for me to sharpen them and then pick them out of my tool chest. They put their vintage planes below their bench or back into their tool bag. I have even seen some of them order a Veritas or Lie-Nielsen plane on a cellphone during a class while holding one of my planes in their other hand.

I can feel the bile rising out there. You might be thinking I “push” the new planes on students somehow. Nothing could be less true. I want to believe that the old planes are just as good. I used to believe the old planes were just as good.

— Christopher Schwarz

Get a ton of handplane information from my book “Handplane Essentials,” on sale in paperback at

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Showing 41 comments
  • Hillwilly

    I am just a neophite here but my entire interest in woodworking came when I was given my first dilapitated radial arm saw and made it work for me. My daily driver is a 41 year old truck that was a mess but I made it work for me. All my woodworking tools are low dollar yard sale tools and I love the feeling when I have made them usable, even if they arnt pretty. I LOVE the feeling of the first time that old truck fired up, and the time that first “tryon’s” plane iron cut a nice curl for me. Even when I have the money, for some reason I DON’T spend it on new planes. It’s a feeling inside I guess. What do YOU feel inside???

  • 61chrysler

    I have a couple of LN bench planes and a few vintage Stanleys- 602, #3, 605.5 and #7.

    I always reached for the LN planes until I sent the Stanleys to Iowa for flattening and squaring. They all sing the same song now. I know there are people that blow off the flattening of plane soles as unnecessary, but it changed my attitude toward vintage planes.

  • dbarbee

    Occasionally I have someone who gives me a call and want to come to my home and learn about hand tools. I let them use my old planes and my new planes. I can’t remember anyone preferring the old Stanley’s. Some prefer bevel up or bevel down but everyone finds the new planes a joy to use. I suggest to everyone that they should get new planes when starting out. How is a guy new to woodworking supposed to know what a properly tuned hand plane feels like? After a guy has some experience under his belt he can try to tune up a old plane. This doesn’t mean that old planes aren’t as good necessarily. It just means they have a higher learning curve. In my opinion, most guys trying to get into this craft get discouraged because there tools are not sharp and/or tuned correctly. Some or maybe even most just give up.

    I have seen Chris have to take someone’s plane during a class and tune/sharpen it because the person is having issues. I’m sure this happens with every class he teaches. Cleaning the rust off of a plane isn’t tuning, just restoration.

  • Mike Hosimer

    Last summer I attended a class at Marc Adams School of woodworking taught by Megan Fitzpatrick who made her tools available for the students to use much like you. Of course I used
    her sharp shiny LN #5 plane. It was really nice. I have not put my vintage 605 bedrock up for sale and made the LN splurge. If a tornado blew away my shop and I had to replace all of my tools I would consider buying modern hand planes, but for now I am happy with my old paid for tools.

  • Brian

    As always, thanks Chris. But I would be interested in knowing more about the innovations that LN and LV-V have made to the bedrock line. After scouring your Handplane book (and a few others), I was left with little appreciation of the innovations that have improved top-quality hand tools over the past 60 years. Most of the ink seems devoted to historicizing just how similar today’s planes are to european and roman (or even egyptian) ancestors. While it may be the case that LN or LV have done more than journalists have documented, it really seems to me that the best hand plane has yet to be invented. I’m looking towards leaders like you and Tom to update hand tools for the 21st century. (You have a much more inventive mind than you give yourself credit for, at least in ink.)

  • Bowyerboy

    Mr. Schwarz,

    You should spend less time at the lust-house before you post. I DEFINITELY don’t need the headaches this post is going to cause ME from having to wade through every sillytonian comment it will generate in the woodworking web world about the inferiority of old tools. This is a topic that should have remained a tacenda. They are inferior to the LN and LV equivalents in most ways. However, they get the job done. Inferior doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it just means there is something better out there. Cars are a good comparison. A 1974 Corvette is going to be inferior in many ways to a 2014 Ferrari but the Vette will still go fast and be a blast to drive (though it might require more maintenance). Back to woodworking. If some strange woodworker came up to you with a finished piece of furniture and you had no idea what tools were in their shop, could you tell if a vintage Stanley or new Lie-Nielsen had ever touched it? You could tell if the edges were true or the joints were sloppy or any number of things about the woodworkers skill level but the brand of tools that person used? If the furniture is good, what does it matter? Not one quintillionth of an iota. It doesn’t matter if you use a LN, LV, Clifton, vintage Stanley, Sauer & Steiner, or three sharp rocks and the jaw bone of a water buffalo if you are making good things with those tools. So can we please talk about furniture or wood or historical techniques on this blog and leave the tools alone before you begin to look like a morosoph?

    More in sorrow than in anger,

    Doug Fulkerson

  • Warped And Splintered

    When it comes to vintage planes I have found in my experience that they do tend to require a lot more love to nudge them into cooperation than their modern brethren. That being said, my favorite plane in my chest is a type 2 #5 Bailey. A friend of mine had picked it up in a bin of 15 or so other planes in various states of disrepair and offered it to me for free as it was missing the knob and lever cap. There was no refusing this deal, so after several hours of frog fitnessing and sole lapping, I slapped on a reasonably compatible knob, a spare lever cap and an older Stanley blade/breaker then went at a piece of white oak. The results were quite pleasant. Good weight, good response and very comfortable in use. I hope to source out the missing original components to make it whole again one day.

    I own just as many new planes (Veritas, LN) as vintage and appreciate them immensely, but some days I’m in the mood for using a transitional jointer. I am a strong believer in rehabilitating or repurposing old tools; some are worth it, others aren’t. Whether or not a beaten up 100 year old plane will perform remarkably after hours and hours of tlc, I believe the experience of taking the time to get it even somewhat functional is worth what you learn about the tool and how it operates. For me, tool repair is a joy, even when it borders on masochism.

  • asdtg2

    I’m glad I read this. I have a Stanley #4, #5, and #8. I was about to buy a Hock blade and chipbreaker for the #4, but after reading this I think I’ll put that money towards a low angle Veritas. I don’t think I’ll replace the #5, and #8 (and I’ll hold on to the #4), but I think it would be good to have a well performing smoother, as it will hopefully be the last tool to touch the wood.

    Of course, nothing against Hock’s blades, I have one in the #8 and it is a night and day difference.

    Also I’m sure the sides of the Veritas will be square to the sole, which will be excellent for shooting (in addition to the low angle)

  • gdblake

    At age 14 I was taught to use a beat up Stanley #5 for everything. It took me two years to get reasonably profficient with it. I don’t remember when it all clicked, some time in my mid twenties, but eventually I learned how to properly setup and use any handplane. The same was true for saws and chisels. I spent 10 years struggling to develop a decent level of skill with poorly made tools. It wasn’t until I gave up on the then “new stuff” and started buying vintage tools that I improved as a woodworker. So it irritates me when I hear or read some blow hard say it is better to learn woodworking with inferior tools because it forces you to truly become skilled. Nonsense, it forces you to learn to fight the tool to get any kind of result.

    Now the new “new stuff” is even better than the vintage. Which is why I own and use several new tools. Makers like Lie-Nielsen, Varitas, Ron Hock, Ron Brese, Larry Williams, Bad Axe, and others are turning out better tools than could be had 50 or maybe even a 100 years ago. Thanks to all you guys for investing your time and money, taking huge risks to supply us with great tools. We are all better off for it. So yea, I encourage folks to buy the “expensive” new tools when they can because the tools really are better and will last beyond your lifetime. And yes, it is easier to develop skill with a good tool than a bad tool.

  • luce32

    I use them both but I suffer less with the newer planes by LN. Maybe it is the backlash or just the balance. Maybe I am not the restorer I think I am. But at least the old planes have a second life and are not sitting on a junk shelf. They look good and are useable. Why just the other day I was using a number 5 Stanley and actually enjoyed it; the wood was very forgiving. I am trying to become more of a hand tool person. I like it better and feel it is doing my body good but I also tend to grab a LN plane to work with. They are slick. I am not a money person so I got one a year for a few years. Now I am retired and they are purchased less often but I still get something from LN, like your book and CD. Good stuff. Thanks.

  • tsstahl

    I have to admit that I feel like I’m missing something. I have very few planes by comparison (9), and just over half are vintage. I’ve been modelling my hand tools based on Wearing’s The Essential Woodworker, David Charlesworth, and of course Mssr. Schwarz (minus the hollows and rounds).

    Chris has a high angle bronze or brass monster smoother I’d like to try some time, but I think I’m pretty content otherwise. 🙂

  • EmilyBrown023

    I just want to ask What to Look for When Buying Vintage Hand Planes? My husband is a collector and I wanted to surprise him on his birthday.

  • Eric

    You could call me a plane freak (LN, Hotltey, Daed, Veritas, Bridge CT ), granted,I own too many planes and probably don’t deserve them( will have to do some cleaning up some day but breaks my heart just to think about it…), and I think that, as many posted before me, the fact is that new planes have less backlash. They simply adjust more easily. I own 2 A5 Norris planes with new LN blades and they are not that easy to adjust. I use them sometimes because I feel bad. Not much.
    And there is the mythical thing ( like Krenov said ) that for any reason one plane will never work…I have 2 4 1\2 LN. One is always perfect, the other, well, it gather dust.

  • DanWyant

    But of course, CS…when I drive my beat up, old pick up to one of your classes I’m certainly going to take you up on your offer to test drive your new Cadillac Escalade. It’s not going to get me and my junk around any better, but it is sure nice to sit in your heated leather seats.

  • Steamdonkey

    This blog post had me scrambling to find my password.

    I have a lot of planes, some might say I have a problem. Veritas, LN, old, older, handmade, I have them. My modern planes all work great and are solid. On some levels they are way better that my best tuned vintage user, but nine times out of ten I reach for the old Stanley with replacement Hock iron and chip breaker. Patina, warmth, soul, whatever you want to call it – the best old Stanley’s have it.

    I do still reach for the Veritas BU jack when shooting end grain – sometimes you just have to be practical.

  • GoodellPratt

    I started out using old Stanley Baileys that I restored then gradually moved to Bedrocks, then Bedrocks with aftermarket irons. Over the past few years I have gotten more serious about woodworking and now use about 75% L-N and Veritas and 25% Bedrocks and other Stanleys (the No. 46 is a favorite). My experience agrees with your observations – I generally tend to use the new planes even though I love the look and feel of the old ones. One big reason I prefer the new planes is the small amount of backlash on the depth adjusting nut.

    BTW, you are a brave guy to post this considering the “Sponsored by Lee Valley and Veritas” in the title block of your blog.

  • sawdustdave

    I don’t have lots of planes – one #6, three #5s, some 4’s, one 3. All of these are vintage, except one Wood River. My LV are specialty planes, and I’ve a couple LN small planes, as well.

    I find that I like the old tools. Are they better? Don’t know if I’m good enough to know. I can tell a good piano from a bad one – I spent decades learning and playing. Planes? Well, hours and hours. But there is something about the aura of a tool older than my granddad. A dignity, perhaps, for having bested the test of time?

    Thanks for the opening salvo! (Maybe that’s why you spent so much time on campaign furniture – for the handplane wars?)


  • cptproton77

    I consider myself pretty rookie when it comes to woodworking. I have spent a lot of time buying a mixture old and new planes. I have spent way more time on my tools then I have woodworking. I have purchased old bench planes and newer joinery planes( I have a LV router plane and a LN Large shoulder plane). This seems to be a good mix. The old router plane I had was better off as a door stop in my hands than to try to true up a tenon or dadoe. However this past week I finally flattened my old stanley number 4 which took quite a while and with my freshly sharpened Hock blade and chip breaker I took some amazing shaving. (It was just on some soft pine that I’m using for my current project). I’m quite sure that a bronze LN #4 would be much better with the bedrock style plane but what it did was teach me about setting up a plane. I probably would have no idea how a plane even works if I just bought (or could afford) all LN planes starting out. So maybe one day I’ll upgrade but until then I’m going to keep working on my tuning and sharpening skills.

  • GAtoolaholic

    I cannot imagine a better way to heap abuse on oneself than by posting a blog like this. Chris, you could have likely brought less of a firestorm upon your self by wading into the relatively calm waters of religion, politics or child sacrifice.

    With that said, I appreciate your efforts to help us. For those of us who don’t get to do what we love for a living, reading your blog usually makes the tear soaked stains on out pillowcases each night a little less bitter.

  • abt

    Any time Chris or another professional woodworker instructor said ‘or just find a vintage plane and tune it up’, I always bit my tongue. My modern planes, a mix of LN and LV planes, always outperform my few restored vintage planes. My older planes mostly gather dust.

  • Srennells

    BAH!! What’s next? O1 sucks, chuck ’em and buy A2??

  • David Randall
    David Randall

    When software comes out that is “cutting edge”, the wise thing to do is wait until other people have tried it – think of Windows 8 or Vista.
    Planes are different – not only are the old ones from antique malls that survived heavy use tried and tested and good value, but the new ones I’ve bought as soon as they became available have been well worth the money. A lot of research and development goes into the new ones, while the older metal planes settled in after the Bailey design came out and everyone copied it.
    There are surprises too. A cheap import block plane bought at Ace Hardware, with a mouth you could throw your clogs through, served me amazingly well for three months while my “proper” tools were in transit from England to Seattle, and I still use it. My dad always used a Stanley 130 with a broken off back end as a block plane. I have it now, and wouldn’t part with it.
    A flat-ish sole and a sharp iron are still the main requirements, whatever you use.

  • msiemsen

    Is it possible that your planes are just sharper?

  • Justin Tyson

    Personally, I have settled on vintage bench planes and modern joinery planes. I did have to get a vintage jointer that was precision ground- I probably went through 5 vintage jointers and not a single one was flat enough to work properly. No such requirement for my smoothers and fore planes. The soles are just as I found them and they work brilliantly.

    I feel that joinery planes are one place where the undeniably greater precision of modern planes are worth the extra money. But if I took one of your classes, I would surely take one of your Lie-Nielsen bench planes for a spin. How could I not? 🙂

  • TikhonC

    I might be echoing some comments above, but repeatedly in my experience when learning a new thing in woodworking (and elsewhere), it’s only when using a very high quality tool that I can get even the sense of how a tool SHOULD perform, and of how to do the task well. Which leads me to conclude that while a great crafts-person might be able to make an old plane perform very well indeed, anyone short of that skill level is unlikely to get more than moderate performance out of an old plane. That’s certainly been my experience. Except, of course, when I only need moderate performance for handyman-type work, for which I would never use my LN planes! And since I will probably never rise to the level of a great crafts-person, I choose to use only the highest quality tools when I strive for an excellent outcome.

  • SergioTS57

    I think that when one starts in woodworking, and does not have one lot of money, it is a good idea to acquire a good pre-World War II plane, and try to make it as functional as possible; perhaps that tool does not make shavings as well as one would like (mainly because oneself is not very skilled), but it is a good start. Once one has matured its skills, and have also tested some premium planes (and also have the money!), one may be willing to make an upgrade, if the feel is OK.

    Warning: As Chris Schwarz advice in his “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” book, it is not a good idea to be an early-adopter of any new tool; let that manufacturer perfect it (based on the feedback from the owners), before you buy that new model.

    • GAtoolaholic

      I couldn’t agree more. Let the novice begin with an older plane and reap the benefits of the learning curve that comes from tuning it up. With relatively little investment, they can then gain the experience needed to make educated purchasing decisions in the future after they have determined their particular tastes.

  • BLZeebub

    The “new” tools are better made for sure. Mr. Lie-Nielsen understood that about the Bailey designs and Stanley’s diminishing efforts after 1932. He simply “improved” upon the originals by addressing their shortcomings. Shortcomings deemed necessary to stay competitive/profitable. Bed Rocks notwithstanding, the average Stanleys were never meant for precision [think: Handyman]. If they had, they’d have looked like infills and none but professional or deep pocketed hobbyist could afford them. Maybe back then Spiers or Norris would have adopted cast iron and Bailey or Traut designs? Oh wait, I forgot about Clifton. My bad.

    In my own twisted laboratory of ligneous and iron delights, I have struggled to make sound then improve the performance of many a flea market find. To date, my results are measured [think: Handyman]. It did end up with a spiffy paint job and most important, went to live with someone else. I now have tuned and maintain a small cross section of bench planes, all are type 3 Bed Rocks with Hock blades. I would sell them if I could but they all have scars. This alone has endeared me to them and their measured performance envelopes. They are now old friends. And just like the living, breathing and drink-all-your-good-whiskey types, they too have their limitations and talents. I can count on them all to do what they do. Expecting anything more is like kicking a puppy then scolding it for not getting out of the way. If you want to get to work, then buy the best and get on with it. Otherwise, settle in for a perilous learning curve and no shortage of little epiphanies that can be had no other way. [think: Handyman]

  • ondablade

    While I’ve no particular expertise Chris it’s probably unsurprising that this should prove to be the case. Precision machining, materials quality and component design seem likely to be the important issues – and modern premium tools made to a generous budget that permits access to high end modern capability should be well ahead in respect of the first two – and have had known design problems eliminated.
    The sorting of vintage stuff is down to motivated and gifted individuals (with sometimes the assistance of non specialised machine shops) handling specific tasks to a budget, working mostly with hand tools, with little by way of serious metrology equipment, and with only the knowledge they themselves have managed to gather for the project to on a once off basis resolve issues.
    Even setting aside the contextual limitations there’s by definition places where modern materials and components can be substituted, but many where not if the original tool is not to completely replaced by modern parts.
    Put another way – it’s no doubt wise given the emotional charge that surrounds the topic to have approached it cautiously – but we shouldn’t really be surprised. Something would be wrong if (exceptional restorations aside) modern premium stuff didn’t generally perform better and more consistently…

  • chucksdust

    Well done sir! The pants are off! I, personally, would not trade my MF no.14 for the world, it has done everything I have ever asked of it and then some, but my no.4C Stanley…sorry puddin’ you have been replaced. My no.14 is for coarse and medium work and it excels at it but if I need dead on, low feddling, non complaining goodness then my modern planes it is.
    Old iron has its place in my shop and I still love them…sometimes…

  • pmac

    Maybe they just want to test drive a tool they don’t own. Maybe they’d rather dull your tool and not their own. Maybe, by using your planes they think some mojo will rub off onto them. OR maybe the purpose of this post is that you are conducting an experiment on the ” Schwarz Effect” and are trying to determine if you can affect the price of vintage tools in the opposite direction by not being as keen on them. Let’s see if the price of planes drops.

  • mandrake1951

    In fifteen years of trying, I still cannot make an older Stanley perform as well as my Lie-Nielsen.
    The day I picked up a Lie-Nielsen at a tool show and took it for a test drive, I realized I did not have the talent or the knowledge to restore a vintage plane well enough to get the same results. I bit the bullet and invested my hard earned cash and spend my time attempting to be a better woodworker rather than a better plane restorer.

  • apbeelen

    I’m not surprised by this observation, or the comments. I cannot speak of Veritas, since I’ve never used one, but Lie-Nielsen makes exceptionally high quality planes, without trying to overmodernize them. I like that. As a hobbyist, I’ve chosen to use wooden bodied planes for my work, and in the last 15 years have gathered a variety of planes in good to great condition for their age. They perform the tasks that I need them to very well, although all have needed some initial tuning. I suppose I got tired of trying to tune up the old metal planes, since it seems like the vast majority out there have been abused and/or neglected, or fetch collector prices. I’ve tuned a few over the years, and they work well, but they are no match for their Lie-Nielsen couterparts that I have. I enjoy the wooden bodied ones better. One thing better about newer and/or metal planes is the variety available. In some cases when I need to remove a lot of wood, I know my wooden jack will get the job done, but it’s hard not to reach for my LN scrub, since that gets the work done fast and it’s fun to see the thick shavings fly! My LN low angle block is also smaller and heavier than my wooden miter plane, and for some work it’s just a better tool for the job. On the other hand, my grandpa’s well cared for Millers Falls jointer that he bought after the war is waiting for me to sharpen it up and put it back in use, but when I’ve got an exceptional 30″ wooden bodied jointer with a flat sole and sharp iron, that Millers Falls will probably continue to gather dust. I am glad there are companies out there making high quality metal planes, and I think the quality justifies the cost, but understand that it is still prohibitive to some. I now hope that more quality wooden plane makers will emerge, and will drive prices down, since I think the cost of the new ones are still prohibitive to most.

  • WilliamDavis

    I am in line with Karlfiife’s comments. Today’s best plane makers can and do exceed the old stuff.
    I was at a Lie-Nielson event and it was probably Deneb Puchalski who stated that L-N uses thicker iron in some areas that the older planes. He mentioned the side walls I believe. We tend to think that cast iron is totally rigid but that is not true. Just put a straight edge on the sole of a shoulder plane and watch what happens as you tighten and loosen the cap iron adjuster.
    Of course things have been learned since the early Stanley days. Metallurgy continues to progress. And L-N didn’t redesign its chipbreaker just for laughs.
    The old planes are fine tools that are good enough for most of us. Just don’t try one of the new ones if you know what’s good for you.

  • gumpbelly

    Manufacturing, Engineering, and just a better basic understanding of the geometry at work should always make the new planes capable of being better than the old. That said, understanding, experience, and even the belief that this old Stanley is as good as a plane can be, goes a long way toward making them “just fine” for a lot of folks. I do like those after market Hock blades though 🙂

  • Nikk

    At a planing essentials course at Dictum in Germany, I had the opportunity to work with different Veritas and mostly Lie-Nielsen handplanes and I really liked them. But in the end I found myself returning to my own type 11 Stanley smoother and jack that I brought with me. Maybe mine where sharpened better? I’m not sure. Also the Stanley’s are a lot lighter which I seem to prefer.
    If I’m ever able to attend one of your courses I’ll give your planes a thorough test drive!

  • St.J

    This may be an unfair generalisation: your students are, by definition, less experienced and expert at setting up, sharpening and tuning tools than you are. Of course the freshly sharpened tools straight out of your chest work better than theirs. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t.
    I’m building a small project at the moment that requires a lot of work with block planes and spokeshaves. On my bench I have a “vintage” Record 018, a “vintage” Stanley 65, a Veritas low angle block plane, a Veritas spokeshave, a James Mursell spokeshave and a “vintage” Stanley 151 with a convex sole and a “vintage”, unnamed wooden bodied spokeshave.
    I don’t have a dedicated sharpening bench so when I need to sharpen something I have to get the stones out on the bench. This means that I don’t sharpen each tool as often as I should and rather than break my work I swap from one tool to another. Guess what? With each change of tool the work is easier.
    The Veritas plane is by no means the best of the bunch. The wheel tightening mechanism always moves the iron slightly. It’s fiddle and annoying to set up but when I get it right it works beautifully. The 65 is a much easier tool to set up and was less than the half the price. The 018 has a bent lateral adjuster. It’s irritating. I should fix it. But when it’s sharp and properly adjusted it does excellent work. The more I use these tools the better I can make them work. I’m not there yet. The wooden bodied spokeshave still doesn’t work as well as the rest.
    You suggest two variables to the way planes perform: time and money. Perhaps you should add experience and expertise?
    Interesting post though, thanks for sharing.

  • ike

    I would have to agree with both comments here, but me i get what i can afford. It makes no sense spending $200+ on a new plane if its jus gonna sit around an wait to be used. I have all older model planes which i take very good care of an in return they do the same for me but i use mine for hobby tools so they dont get a ton of use if i was to start makin furniture to sell all the time then maybe i would think about getting a new plane other than that i jus think their way over priced for what they do. So u wount be seeing one in my tool cabinet anytime soon!

  • Jim McCoy

    One of the maxims I have heard you say is “buy the best tools you can afford and then learn how to sharpen them properly.” I not only have a blended shop with respect to power and hand tools, I also have a mix of new and vintage hand tools. Learning how to sharpen, and what really sharp truly is, has made all the difference for me with respect to the enjoyment I get from my tools whether new or old. Your observation that the students waited until after you had sharpened your plane before trying it out is kind of telling. What would their frustration level be if they were to try the plane before you sharpened it, and would they realize that it needed sharpening? Restoring an old plane and getting it to produce those beautiful, wispy shavings provides a lot of satisfaction but always having to futz with a tool can also be exasperating. While it may sound like succumbing to the allure of consumerism and the onslaught of ever newer technology, I think it is more likely that, if anything, we are succumbing to the gratification that comes with learning and applying the knowledge we gain from it. Part of that gratification comes from improvement, both in ourselves and in the tools we use. Another part of the gratification comes from the act of creating and building, and the tradition of making useful and/or beautiful things ourselves. I guess I will buy new, high quality tools when I can but I will take old, high quality tools over new, low quality tools any day. And new or old, I will strive to keep them sharp and ready for use. That’s my observations, for what they’re worth.

  • karlfife

    In my opinion, this should come as no surprise. I’m as nostalgic as the next person but let’s revisit the axiom that “They just don’t make them like they used to”. Horsefeathers. Truth is simply “They *usually* don’t make them like they used to”. Maybe it’s because for decades, the cheap tools have been so much more profitable, they’ve squeezed many ‘quality’ tools right off the store shelves.

    Enter the age of the internet, where thought leaders like “The Schwarz” as well as ordinary hobbits (like me) can share ideas and concepts about cost, utility, satisfaction and value. I remember learning (and seeing) how a 9” Buck Bros. smoother is a criminal rip-off at $30, and a Lie Nielsen LA Jack plane is an bargain at $245!

    It seems the organic sharing of opinion, knowledge and preference may have enabled (or boosted) an entire new era of quality tools and independent toolmakers. Maybe its again a viable business proposition to simply built tools with the absolute best of modern tooling and materials, and charge the market what it costs to do so. People will still buy them because trusted users and thinkers will recognize and share the story of their value.

    Yes, the old tools are excellent, especially when tuned, but there’s every reason to think the new ones (the premium ones) would outperform. Still, you’ll only get my vintage Stanley Jack plane from me when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I find it satisfying to resurrect the old ones, but that’s just me.

  • stjones

    Yes, such blasphemy will be punished, but I agree completely, at least as far as planes are concerned. After trying a Veritas skew rabbet at WIA, my Stanley 289 went away and made room for a pair (LH and RH) of the Veritas models. I own a 4 and 4-1/2 in good fettle, both with quality aftermarket irons, but I reach first for my Veritas bevel-up smoother. My shooting plane is a Lee Valley LA jack; with the addition of a Veritas small plow, my Record 043 will find a new home. A Veritas medium shoulder plane will soon replace my Stanley 93. I figured out I’d rather use tools than restore them. And rather than add to the learning curve and set-up time required to overcome the shortcomings built into many old tools – especially planes – I often prefer new ones where the shortcomings have simply been designed away.

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