Many of the best mechanics prefer the Wood Bench Planes to the Iron and combination iron and wood planes, but have been compelled to use the latter, owing to the poor quality of the wood bench planes commonly sold. 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.
Stanley’s metal bench planes were first numbered based on size—the No.1 was 5 ½ inches, the No. 8 was 24 inches, and so on. Many of the company’s planes and tools became standard for every woodworker’s tool kit, including the No. 80 scrapper (used to give wood a glass-like surface), and the classic No. 45 combination plane, which is like a plow plane, but also cuts various curved molding forms.
I actually use both A2 and O1 blades in my planes, now the biggest difference is I make my own wooden planes so changing and / or pulling a blade takes about 30 seconds for me. (With a bit of practice you can replace and tune a blade in a wooden plane before they other guy gets his blade out of a western plane) I keep a few Hock blades of various widths around and swap them out as needed.
Some planes like circular or compass planes have curved soles to carve curved surfaces, while still other planes like molding or shoulder planes make steps (called rabbets or rebates), bevels or chamfers, window sashes, door panels, convex, concave, and beaded molding patterns, and jointing features like dadoes, tongues, grooves, mortises, and dovetails.
Judging by the numbers still out there, these were very popular planes, so popular that many of Stanley’s competitors decided to make their versions of wood bottom planes (makers such as Sargent, Union, Birmingham, Siegley, etc.). When sold originally, they were at a price somewhat less than their iron counterparts making it possible for the average Joe Meatball of the day to afford a plane that came equipped with the Bailey patented features.