Antique Stanley Tools

Stanley Planes & L-Square
Stanley Planes & L-Square

Antique Stanley tools are often sought after for their aesthetic value. Handles were made of beautiful woods such as Brazilian rosewood, chosen for its durability, and the metal surfaces were often highly detailed. This combination means that many of the tools still around today have held up well and can be in demand.

Where to Buy Antique Stanley Tools

Bob Kaune Antique Used Tools

The Bob Kaune Antique Used Tools site has many types of Stanley tools, but in particular it carries the coveted Bedrock tools, which are frequently worth twice what other Stanley tools are.

Rosewood and Brass

Rosewood and Brass has both information and tools for sale. As the name implies, they also carry the unique, rosewood-based Stanley tools.

The Best Things

The Best Things has numerous Stanley tools for sale. The description of each tool includes a grade of its condition and any flaws that are apparent. Their stock changes frequently and contains bevels and planes.

Patented Antiques

Patented-Antiques sells many types of antique tools, including those by Stanley. They are conservative in their condition estimates and list new items frequently.

Jim Bode Tools

The Jim Bode Tools site specializes in rare and collectible tools, including those made by Stanley. They separate their tools by category, not by manufacturer, so you may have to dig to find those by Stanley. Some tools carried include a mint condition level sight and several varieties of planes.

Collectible or Not?

While some antique Stanley tools are valuable, the vast majority of them are not. If you plan to begin a collection it is a good idea to get a current price guide. Generally, the earliest Stanley tools are more valuable than later models. Most tools that you will commonly find are going to be worth about 50 to 70 percent of the current retail price of the product.

Stanley Adjustable Concave Circular Plane
Stanley Adjustable Concave Circular Plane

There are certain tools that are very old, very rare and very desirable. These are often difficult to identify. Sometimes the only difference in a valuable collectible and a four dollar vintage Stanley plane is one of the numbers on the patent. While it can be difficult to determine the difference between an antique and a newer or even knock-off Stanley tool, there are some things to look for, including:

  • The detailing on the metal. Stanley tools are in part collectible because of their extreme attention to detail. The most collectible tools are those that have decorative elements engraved into the sides of the metal.
  • Slightly higher or larger handles. While Stanley used predominately rosewood for its tools, it also made some out of beech. The thing that sets Stanley tools apart from other companies is the slightly higher or larger set of the beech handles, which help make the tools more comfortable to use.
  • A patent number. Not all Stanley tools were patented, but the most sought after tools are older models that have been patented. A patent number on a tool dating back to the 1940s is more valuable than one from the same era with no patent.

Determining Value

Antique tool values are based on four major factors:

  • The rarity of the tool
  • The condition of the tool and the box (if available)
  • The tool's desirability
  • The provenance of the tool (history of ownership)

The Fine Tool Journal Classification System

To determine the condition of a tool, most collectors refer to the The Fine Tool Journal Classification System. This system lists criteria that must be met for a tool to be classified into one of the following categories:

  • New
  • Fine
  • Good+
  • Good
  • Good-
  • Fair
  • Poor

A copy of the classification system is provided by Tool Timer in the article A Beginners Guide to Collecting Antique Tools. The classification criteria are approximately halfway down the page.

Another method used by some collectors to grade tools is a 1-100 rating system. This rating system is provided just below the Fine Tool Journal Classification System.

What to Look For

As with any other collectible you should only collect what you are interested in and passionately love rather than collecting as an investment. However, there are certain things to look for when you are considering buying an antique Stanley tool:

  • Original packaging or box almost always adds value
  • Rust stains may detract from the value
  • Cracks in the wood, handles and parts decrease the value
  • Missing parts and pieces also take away from the tool's value
  • Repairs and too much cleaning needed may take away from the value

Popular Antique Stanley Woodworking Tools

The Stanley Company manufactured hundreds of different hand tools, many of them used for woodworking. One exquisite example of metal detailing include this Stanley #45 combination plane. Many other types of planes offer the same detailing, which is a trademark of Stanley tools, and one of the reasons they are so popular today.

Woodworking Planes

For many antique tool collectors, the most desirable Stanley woodworking tools are planes. However, according to the Stanley numbering system, there are more than 608 models of woodworking planes. These include planes of companies acquired by Stanley that were made under the Stanley Company name such as Bailey bench planes or those patented by Miller. Antique Stanley planes include:

  • Bench plane
  • Block plane
  • Combination plane
  • Fore plane
  • Dados
  • Scrub plane
  • Plow plane
  • Tonguing and grooving plane
  • Router plane
  • Chamfer plane
  • Rabbet plane
  • Cabinet scrapper
  • Wood scrapper
  • Dovetail plane
  • Adjustable beading plane
  • Chute board plane

Stanley Bedrock Planes

One of the more in demand antique tools by Stanley is the Bedrock plane. These all metal-planes were produced between 1898 and 1940. They are often worth twice what a standard Stanley plane would cost from the same era, if all other factors such as condition are equal.

More Antique Woodworking Tools by Stanley

  • Rounding tool
  • Rulers
  • Levels
  • Clamps
  • Jointer gauge
  • Bit stop
  • Bench brackets
  • Chisels
  • Saws

Resources for Collectors of Antique Woodworking Tools

  • Super Tool - The Super Tool website, called Patrick's Blood and Gore, is a detailed work on antique Stanley planes. This excellent resource, by Patrick A. Leach, includes pictures, a detailed history, evolution and use of many planes.
  • The Mid-West Tool Collectors Association - This is a resource site for members and tool collectors alike. Look here for information on what Stanley tools are the most coveted, but also for ads from dealers who may have what you're looking for.
  • Union Hill Antiques - Union Hill Antique Tools offers a lot of information on antique tools, including Stanley. They have a limited selection of tools for sale as well.
  • The Museum of Woodworking Tools - The Museum may not be the place to purchase antique tools, but they do have resources available to help you determine if the tool you are considering is authentic and what you are looking for.

Start Your Collection

If you already collect antique tools, or you want to start, Stanley antique tools make a wonderful addition to any collection. Antique Stanley woodworking tools are available, affordable and useful. Combined with their exquisite detail and durability, they are tools worth having.

Antique Stanley Tools