There are many articles out there that will give you the full run down for the history of Stanley tools so if that’s what you are looking for you may as well visit Wikipedia as its highly likely the full story is on there. This article is a bit different in that i’m going to focus on what collectors should be looking for and what tradesmen should consider as an genuinely better option over there modern counterparts.
Collectors of Stanley tools or particularly Stanley planes should concentrate their efforts in finding items that are rare. Planes that were not especially popular back in the day are usually the most valuable ones as they were only produced for shorter periods compared to some models that were in production for 60-70 years although there were subtle changes during this time. Early types in do have a premium but look out for the made in USA or sweetheart versions if you want a higher quality planes but condition is everything here.
Rare items include planes such as the No. A45 aluminum combination plow and the No. 444 dovetail which had relatively short periods of production as did the 101 1/2 and the Stanley number 1. All Stanley tools are numbered and each plane type would have a standard size so it’s important to know whats what as there has been rumours the number 1 has been copied.
To illustrate how long some items were produced the Stanley No. 45 was produced between 1884 and 1962, and is still used today by woodworkers as it’s a very good design and it works very well in the right hands. Later on Stanley released an improvement on the model, the No. 55, which was praised by carpenters at the time as it had even more blades and options, but most of the ones found today have had little or no use for some reason, perhaps the weight and complexity of the tool wasn’t as practical as its predecessor. All said and done, woodworkers should learn to use a tool like this and the no. 50 modern counterpart is a relatively cheap option to start with, as for collectors look for a complete model of other the no. 45 or no. 55 as this plane is a wonderful example of Stanley’s ingenuity.
Craftsman should consider good examples of used Stanley planes over there modern counterparts as they not only offer better value they are genuinely better quality, take the modern no. 7 for example which has a reinforced ridge shaped like a Y to strengthen them whereas the older versions didn’t need this as the steel was better, this also applies to the blades that stay sharper longer.
When it comes to other Stanley metal planes, it takes some time to fully distinguish the difference between the antique Stanley models and the contemporary versions, on tip is to look out for the Stanley name cast into the plane body or on the adjusting knob. Low Knobs, rosewood handles, kidney shaped lever caps, pre-lateral types are all indications of the earlier type models.