The question comes up now and then from folks investing in one of their first vintage planes… What’s the difference between Stanley planes, Bailey Planes, and Stanley Bailey planes? The earliest known examples of the woodworking plane have been found in Pompeii although other Roman examples have been unearthed in Britain and Germany The Roman planes resemble modern planes in essential function, most having iron wrapping a wooden core top, bottom, front and rear and an iron blade secured with a wedge One example found in Cologne has a body made entirely of bronze without a wooden core.
The chief difference in action between a chisel and a plane in paring is this: the back of the chisel lies close down on the surface of the wood that is cut, and acts as a guide; whereas, in the plane, the cutter is elevated at an angle away from the surface of the wood, and only its cutting edge touches the wood, and it is held and guided mechanically by the plane mechanism.
Block planes are characterized by the absence of a chipbreaker and the cutting iron bedded with the bevel up. The block plane is usually a smaller tool that can be held with one hand and is used for general purpose work such as taking down a knot in the wood, smoothing small pieces, chamfering edges, and making the end of a sawed board square and smooth.
After Stanley’s initial success with Leonard Bailey’s patents and the acceptance of metal bodied planes by America’s working craftsmen Stanley added new designs and innovative models to their line of metal bodied planes including many different rabbet planes, dado planes, compass planes and other specialty planes in addition to standard bench plane lines.
The bullnose plane has a very short leading edge to its body, and so can be used in tight spaces; most commonly of the shoulder and rabbet variety. The designs and patents of Leonard Bailey, Joseph Traut, and others, however, still live on in many of the hand planes available on the market today. J: The frog is a sliding iron wedge that holds the plane iron at the proper angle. Of course, if you are primarily a power tool user, this wouldn’t be a big deal as your hand plane use would be limited.
When it comes to metal planes, it takes some doing to distinguish between the antique Stanley models and the contemporary versions—look for the Stanley name cast into the plane body or on the adjusting knob. Stanley Baily No. 7 hand plane all tuned up new lee Valley PM-V11 Iron in it. Cuts great. The iron is held into the plane with a wooden wedge, and is adjusted by striking the plane with a hammer.
The sliding cut is much easier than the straight cut, and hence there is a constant temptation to turn the plane at an angle perhaps at an expense of the flat surface desired. However, in 1880, Stanley took over as the sole agent for Bailey’s Victor planes. The Bailey planes comprised Stanley’s basic bench plane line and the company made millions of them. The premium No.4 bench plane has the base and frog cast as one piece to reduce chatter. One of the interesting things is that these clones usually have some form of identifying mark somewhere on the body of the plane – usually hidden. All replacement plane irons are made from chrome carbon steel which allows a razor sharp edge to be honed.
Companies like the Birmingham Plane Co.” were in business for only 15 years, so it’s not surprising that their planes are rare. He also co-hosts a weekly radio-style podcast called Wood Talk, available at He has contributed articles and video content to Popular Woodworking Magazine, , Wood magazine and Woodcraft magazine. The No. 92 is a dual-purpose plane used in joinery applications that require precision when working up against a shoulder. Most planes are broadly categorized as either bench planes, block planes , or specialty planes.
If you’re not a carpenter, you should know that even in this age of all sorts of sophisticated power tools, there’s no replacement for a quality block plane. Planing wood along its side grain should result in thin shavings rising above the surface of the wood as the edge of the plane iron is pushed forward, leaving a smooth surface, but sometimes splintering occurs. This is a solidly built block plane that will give you years of service once you spend a little time and tune it up right. When I first ventured into the world of hand tools, I assumed I would eventually need every bench plane available.
I: The finger rest knob Block planes are held in the palm of the hand while the tip of the user’s index finger rests in the indentation on top of the knob. He fought several unsuccessful patent infringement fights with Stanley and lost a significant battle in 1878 when the Stanley company won a decision against Bailey and the Victor line of planes.
In their 1914 catalog, Norris planes (manufactured by T.Norris & Sons of London) described a series of chariot planes, and two iron thumb planes (5″ in length, one with a rosewood wedge, the other with a gunmetal lever and screw), but no block planes. So if you are looking to be an exclusive hand-tool user, you may not be able to get away with using this plane as your only bench plane. An inexpensive plane is a good tool that, in most cases, just needs clean-up, adjustment, sharpening and tuning.
Summer 1878 – Stanley wins a court decision against Bailey and the Victor line of planes, the result of which is for Bailey to sell the Victor business to the BAILEY WRINGING MACHINE CO. of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to move there and produce both VICTOR and DEFIANCE planes and tools. It may be due simply to the fact that the cutter is dull or that it projects too far below the sole of the plane. The tactile feel and light weight make wood planes irresistible to lovers of hand tools.