Identifying Antique Wood Planes

Terry Hurley
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Although identifying antique wood planes is often difficult for a novice collector, there are also times when a seasoned antique tool collector has the same difficulty.

The Antique Wood Plane Collector

Of all the antique hand tools made, the wood plane is one of the most highly sought after by tool collectors. They browse antique shops and online auction websites, search through the tools at thrift stores and rummage through boxes of old tools at garage sales and flea markets hoping to find a hidden treasure that would be a perfect addition to their growing tool collection.

For many of these collectors coming across an antique wood plane during one of their treasure hunts is exhilarating. Their minds fill with excitement as they wonder if the tool is a rare Stanley woodworking tool such as a Stanley No.11 bull nose wood plane, a valuable Zenith Marshall Wells No.2 smooth plane or a No.50G wood plane made by Thomas Norris & Sons. If the plane is priced in the collector's budget, the excited collector takes his special find home to research it and identify the antique tool's rarity and value.

There are a vast number of antique wood planes in existence often causing confusion surrounding their identification. Often makers' marks, company names or other identifying characteristics have worn away with time and use.

Resources for Identifying Antique Wood Planes

Excellent resources exist both on and off line to help tool collectors with antique plane identification.

Price Guides and Identification Manuals

One of the most useful types of books for antique plane identification is a good price guide for antique tools. Price guides generally have excellent descriptions, pictures or drawings of the various wood planes in addition to the current retail price of the plane. There are price guides written expressly for wood planes. Other antique tool price guides have generalized sections on woodworking tools or a specific section on wood planes.

Tool price guides from past years should not be overlooked as a valuable source of wood plane identification. These price guides are often found at garage sales or online auctions at reasonable prices. Although the retail price is no longer current, all of the rest of the information remains the same.

Tool identification manuals do not include the current retail value of items. They do offer excellent information regarding specific tools including wood planes. Pictures, sketches and parts drawings are often included in these books. Many also include patent year charts and tool manufacturing company information.

The following are several price guide and identification manuals:

Online Identification Resources

The Internet provides valuable information to identify antique planes. The websites of many experienced tool collectors and antique shops provide helpful pictures, measurements and other valuable information used to identify wood planes from years gone by. The following are a sampling of these websites:

Additional Places for Antique Wood Plane Identification

If you have an antique wood plane and need assistance with its identification, there are other options available to you.

  • Most antique shop owners will offer help if antique tools are one of their specialties.
  • Many communities hold antique appraisal events where identification and appraisals are provided free or for a nominal fee.
  • Check the website of the Antiques Roadshow and see if they are going to be in your area
  • There is generally a fee to have an item identified by an antique appraiser, either on or off line.

Although the world of antique woodworking planes may at first seem confusing to someone just beginning a collection, most seasoned collectors agree that part of the fun of this interesting hobby is identifying antique wooden planes that they find on their treasure hunts. .

Identifying Antique Wood Planes