Restoring Handplanes: All About Stanley Planes
Rollie Johnson talks about the history of Stanley bench planes and explains what to look for when buying one.
Smoothing a board with a handplane is one of the most pleasurable processes in a woodworking shop. There is nothing like the feel of a well-tuned plane gliding across the surface, with whisper-thin shavings rising from the tool’s throat. And there is no faster way to create a glass-smooth, dead-flat surface for finishing.
A common misconception among new woodworkers is that you need an expensive plane to get the job done. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to catch the hand-tool wave.
Rejuvenating an old Stanley Bailey plane, whether it’s a garage-sale find or an eBay purchase, is a great way to get started handplaning without breaking a slim woodworking budget. Tearing down a plane to its bare chassis and building it back to blueprint specs not only creates a great performing plane, but also gives you an insight into how these wonderful bench mates work. Rollie Johnson has rebuilt dozens of Bailey planes over the years, and he has given more than 100 seminars on the subject. With his step-by-step approach, you’ll turn a clunker into a classic. Best of all, you don’t need special tools to get the job done.
In Episode 1 of my video series on restoring vintage planes, Johnson talks about the history of the Stanley line.
Why Baileys are a bargain
Stanley was making two styles of bench plane in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the Bailey and the Bedrock. The Bailey came first. It was considered a working man’s plane, so it was produced in significant numbers and had a lower price point. The more refined Bedrock followed and because there were fewer made, the tool was more expensive than the Bailey. Today, that price differential remains.
When a bargain becomes a bummer
A used handplane is a bargain only if it’s serviceable. Inspect the plane for obvious flaws. Buying from an online source such as eBay is tricky because you have to rely on photos and the honesty of the seller. Some damaged or missing parts, such as knobs, totes, chipbreakers, and lever caps, can be replaced easily. A lot of the tools will have some rust, which often is easy to remove and repair. But if it’s so bad that parts have seized up or are seriously pockmarked, you may want to pass on the tool.
For more information on the history of Bailey bench planes:
Webinar: The history of Bailey handplanes – Join Joshua Clark for a fascinating look
at the history of handplanes, and the progression of the Stanley plane through the decades.
Videos in the Series
January 27, 2021
January 27, 2021
February 3, 2021
February 10, 2021
February 17, 2021
February 25, 2021
March 3, 2021
March 10, 2021