Photo essay: beautiful old tools

Author: Rob Brown
Stanley #78 Rabbet Plane

I inherited beautiful old tools from my grandfather.

Last week I talked about the Stanley 9 1/2 block plane I inherited from my grandfather. While taking some photos of it for last week’s column, I realized how beautiful some of his other tools are.

I thought I’d take some nice shots of these, too, and share them with you this week.

I’m not an antique tool expert. In fact, I’m not a tool expert of any kind. My specialty is designing and making furniture, not knowing everything there is to know about old woodworking tools. Having said that, I can appreciate their beauty and know many of you may have a tool or two very similar to one of these. It’s likely sitting on a shelf, waiting to be reached for. In some cases, I’m sure some are likely displayed in a home instead of a workshop not only because of their beauty, but also because of their heritage and meaning to their current owner.

 

If you have any photos of what you think are attractive old tools that you’ve inherited, share them with me.

Stanley #78 Rabbet Plane
For at least the first half of the 20th century, rabbet planes like this were extraordinarily common in a woodworking shop. Today, with table saws, shapers and routers, they’re less common. They’re still a very useful tool to have around.

Stanley #78 Rabbet Plane

Made in Canada
Closeup of the heavy patina where the plane is labelled.

Made in Canada

Good Grasp
The textured handle on my #78.

Good Grasp

Sharp Point
The three-point spur and blade edge on my #78.

Sharp Point

Stanley #7 Plane
This long plane doesn’t get much use in my shop, but it’s sure a beauty.

Stanley #7 Plane

Keep the Front Down
Closeup of the knob on my #7.

Keep the Front Down

Fine Adjustments
The brass adjusting nut on a #7 plane.

Fine Adjustments

Name Names
“No 7” on the rear end of the plane.

Name Names

Stanley
The manufacturer’s name on the lever cap.

Stanley

Side to Side Adjustments
The lateral adjusting lever above the handle.

Side to Side Adjustments

Wooden Spokeshave
Made of beech, this spokeshave consists of a wood body and a blade. The blade has two tangs that are inserted into square holes in the body for use.

Wooden Spokeshave

Just Right
Though it’s a very simple tool, it still had to be made with a fair amount of precision to work well.

Just Right

Square Hole
A square tang protruding through a hole in the wooden body.

Square Hole

Lots of Wear
The durability of beech was the reason it was used to make this spokeshave’s body.

Lots of Wear

Folding Wooden Rule
Though pushed out of use by the tape measure, the wooden rule used to be in every craftsperson’s apron. It will open to 24" in length, but folds up to only 6" in length.

Folding Wooden Rule

Protect the Ends
Brass tips were used to protect the ends from damage, otherwise the scale on the rule was all off.

Protect the Ends

Nice Hinge
A simple hinge mechanism in the center allowed the rule to be extended straight or folded in half.

Nice Hinge

Fold It Up
Each hinge has fingers that extend into a 6" long section of the rule, allowing it to work for years if treated properly.

Fold It Up

Stanley #4 Plane
A shop workhorse, this plane gets a fair bit of use in my shop. It’s probably seen lots of use in other shops, too.

Stanley #4 Plane

Shop Workhorse
The “No 4” name printed on the front of the plane.

Shop Workhorse

Stanley Sliding T-Bevel
Used for measuring and marking angles, this sliding T-bevel with rosewood body has a nice patina on it.

Stanley Sliding T-Bevel

Lock It Up
The brass wingnut allows the user to easily apply or remove tension on the blade.

Lock It Up

Sweetheart Logo
The Stanley Sweetheart name and logo are stamped on the blade.

Sweetheart Logo

Brass Ends
To ensure long-term accuracy brass ends are attached to the body.

Brass Ends


Published:
Last modified: April 20, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

5 Comments

  1. Great review of some great tools. The No. 4 is a workhorse. I have one that works as well today as it probably did 100 years ago.

  2. If the woodworking doesn’t work out you could always fall back on the photography! 😉 Great shots. Really helps give an appreciation for the craftsmanship in the tools.
    Thank you.
    Pete

  3. I have a number of these, including the rabbet plane, No. 7, and the bevel gauge, and they all get regular use in my shop after I’ve restored them. However, I’ve tried my hand at restoring others, such as a Stanley 5 1/2, and it just does not hold up to some high quality, modern versions of these. I’d never do without my Lie-Nielsen 4.5! Essentially the same design, made with a higher quality than Stanley ever put into their tools. The blade on the 4.5 alone is so much beefier than the Stanley, and if you’re going to pay auction price for a vintage tool in decent condition, upgrade to a Hock or other high quality blade, then put the time into restoration, you may as well buy new. A new LN or Veritas, will likely be around for someone in the next 100 years.

  4. My goodness when did you sneak into my shop and take pictures of some of my old tools? True gems and still use some of them.

  5. The 78 is a duplex plane, not a rabbit(rebate) plane. There is depth stops for side and bottom that truly make this a useful plane.

    Btw the seven is about 1930 era and the four is about 1950. The seven is a jointer plane and are tough to use as they are heavy.

    To those that falsely believe that new planes are better than old Stanley’s…well whatever new metal plane you are using really is a knock off of the old Stanley planes. Bailey made the first metal plane, Stanley made a few improvements that took over the handplane market.

    Thick blades make for sloppy work, original blades work best but you can get some good real stanley blades still. With the chip breaker setup correctly you can get tissue paper cuts. Also without modifying the old Stanley’s a thick blade won’t fit.

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