Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Planing - Stanley

< Home < Tips Area < Planing < Stanley


Wayne Cattanach says use a Stanley 9 1/2 or clone plane and I have seen that Harry recommends them in his series. However, what's the difference between the 9 1/2 and the 9 1/4 ? Also there is a whole series of Stanley planes in the 6-7" length and 1 5/8" width, why is the 7" one better than a 6 or 6 5/8" one? Also, what's the deal with the manual adjustments on the 247 and 253 compared to the 020 and 920?  (Larry Puckett)

    The key to making a plane work well for our needs as rod makers is that the front foot must be adjustable.  The front foot is that portion of the sole in front of the blade.  By loosening a screw and sliding a lever, the gap can be narrowed or widened depending on the task at hand.

    I can't tell you all the differences between the model numbers you mention, but can say for sure that the 9 1/4 doesn't have the adjustable front foot.  It's okay (only okay) for roughing out, but isn't suitable for final planing, taking off only a few  hairs of bamboo per pass.  You might enjoy studying Patrick Leach's Blood and Gore Stanley tool pages on the web, but I don't have the url handy right now.  Perhaps someone will chime in with the address.  (Harry Boyd)

      Thanks for the info on the planes. I found Patrick Leach's site and will look it over. At this point I am starting to get the tools together and learning more than I ever wanted to know about planes, scrapers, etc. Unfortunately winter is a bad time to look for flea market bargains so I am having to resort to eBay and they don't tell you much in their descriptions.  (Larry Puckett)

    Please keep in mind that very few out of the box planes, will have the throat filed so that the blades does not sit at an angle. If the blades is tilted any at all, it's like tilting your plane while you are planing, & that will create a triangle that in an equilateral! I worked with my Stanley 9 1/2 forever, finally made it OK, then bought a Lie-Nielsen high angle plane, that I did not have to work with at all. It was just fine right out of the box. (Jerry Andrews)

    I used block planes in rodmaking for years, believe me, it is a lot easier using a bench plane and clamping the strips down in the forms so you can use two hands with the bench plane. Keeping the plane level is easier, and your wrist, elbow and shoulders will thank you.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    P.S. I use a 2 and 3 size bench plane.

    All you really need to keep in mind is you want a high angle of attack for the pane iron edge because too low an angle slices too fine and will lift the bamboo while too high an angle reduces the slicing but increases the force needed to plane, like everything you're looking for the right compromise. If you don't have an adjustable throat you can't control the length of the chip as it passes through the mouth of the plane after it's been cut without moving the frog the plane iron sits on. Some planes don't allow frog adjustment but even when they do it's a hassle so the adjustable throat is the best. There is a direct relationship between the depth of cut and the width the throat should be set to. Too fine and the throat clogs, to wide and the chips are allowed to pass too far before they are forced up and broken forming curls which allows the chip to run too far ahead of the cutting edge causing tears no matter how sharp the iron is nor how fine you have it set.

    Darryl Hayashida is correct in saying a bench plane is superior for rough planing. The job is done much faster as the iron is set at the right angle for along the grain planing (block planes are made to plane across the grain thus their plane iron low angle) and you can use both hands, as a result and as this is only rough planing you can go a lot longer before having to re sharpen the iron.

    Just as an aside, I made a high angle block plane with the iron set at the same angle as a Bailey and with an adjustable throat. It works great but you need to have arms like Popeye and fingers of steel with a grip like a vise to use it even with a freshly sharpened HSS cutter.  (Tony Young)


I have a Stanley block plane.

Instead of having a quick release, it has a knurled knob similar to the one in front that opens and closes the throat. It's definitely a 9 1/2 size, but it is NOT a 9 1/2. I want another because it really locks the blade down tightly. Anyone ever seen one, and know the designation?

And yes, I checked some web sites with photos of Stanleys. It doesn't quite fit any of them. Not homemade either, the blade lock down had a Stanley decal. It sort of looks like the type of plane that might have been made for high school shops - simple and easy.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I think its a 9 1/2 and the last model made in the USA. The only place usually marked 9 1/2 is on the blade but sometimes it will be marked 9 1/2 on the cap sticker. The sticker has 12-020 on it for a model number on most. All the knobs and the adjuster wheel are steel. The cap screw and adjuster posts have screwdriver slots. The cap itself may be aluminum or zamak, its sure not iron. The lateral adjuster just sits on the cap screw and is not threaded on like earlier models. If you go to the Stanley web site for parts its the USA made 9 1/2 they offer parts for.  (Joe Hudock)

    My Stanley #9 1/2 block plane, purchased from  a local hardware in 1978 (had to be ordered), fits the description of the knurled knob configuration. The #60 1/2, purchased from the same source, at the same time, has the other style blade lock-down. When using the knob, I 'semi' tighten it while adjusting the blade, then tighten it more when the blade is set. Does require loosening the knob slightly for interim adjusting, but find that not to be a great inconvenience. Really good planes IMO.  (Vince Brannick)

    You mean like this one?

    Gruver, Plane

    If so, it's the military version of the 9 1/2.  The difficulty comes in trying to figure out of your plane was sold to the public as surplus, or "liberated."  (Paul Gruver)

      Another Stanley #9 1/2 that I've seen, (purchased by Dr. Nash in Binghamton, NY in 1987) also had the knurled knob blade tightener, but the knob on this one was bright brass, not steel. What constitutes a "military version"? My plane was purchased through a normal hardware jobber.  (Vince Brannick)


It's said that antique versions of the Stanley 9 1/2 are better that the modern production. Is that just a matter of better blades, or something else besides like adjustablility?  (Mike McGuire)

    The pre-WW-II blades were a bit harder and held their edge better.   The plane bodies them selves are almost identical.  (Paul Gruver)

      The steel people will tell you that modern steels are better because they have better control of the alloys and the grain in the steel is more uniform.  All that said, that's their story and they should stick to it!  My experience with antique edge tools is that they just work better -- they're also harder to sharpen.  I have several Buck chisels I've picked up over the years, along with several tools I inherited from my great grandfather.  I'll take them any day over the stuff you get from Sears today.

      I also feel the old plane bodies were better finished, so the new ones take a lot more tuning to make them work right.  Some of the old planes are tuned already too... (Neil Savage)

        My wallet has seven or eight antique irons and 2 Hock blades for my 9 1/2s.  I have found that, properly sharpened, the antique blades are excellent!   I believe the Hock blades are better than the old irons, but maybe only by 20% based on number of sections planed per blade before needing sharpening.   (Reed Guice)

    I have read that plane blades once were of laminated construction and had a thin section of "cast steel" brazed onto a softer steel that made up the bulk of the blade material. I have noticed this lamination on one or two blades where the lamination for some reason was more noticeable. Supposedly after WW II alloy steel came into use and the whole blade was then made of the same material. I don't think it was a complete switch at the time since I do have a couple Stanley block planes from the 50s/60s that I think have laminated blades. The lamination isn't visible to me but the upper part of the blade is definitely softer than the cutting edge part and can be filed to extend the slot so that more of the blade can be used up.

    A 70s or so vintage Stanley that I have definitely has an alloy steel blade and filing the slot when the blade becomes worn to get more use from it is out of the question. This blade also dulled faster than the older Stanley blades when planing cane. Its not a problem now since I don't use it anymore.

    I think that replacement blades for the block planes from Hock, LN and Veritas are better than the old Stanley's. My preference is for the LN blades just because they fit the Stanley block planes better. Woodcraft used to sell a laminated steel blade from Japan that worked as well as, if not better than, these blades on bamboo even though it is high carbon steel and nothing exotic like the O-1 and A-2 blades made on this side of the ocean.  (Joe Hudock)

    I suspect that part of the reason that old planes seem to work better is that their owners fettled their planes, polishing the throats and the bed where the plane iron rests.  I'm sure a matter of pride, and hey, there wasn't any tv...

    I'm a bit of a block plane nut; last count was over 20, and most made before I was. I use them all.   9 1/2's, 9 1/4's, knuckle planes, Stanley's Records, and a few L-N's.

    Most of my old planes I had fettled by Nick Obermiere in Lompoc, the guy can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, but I still stick PSA paper to a plane iron and polish the throat.  From Nick out of the box, I get a measured shaving under .002, after I polish and sharpen, under a thousandths on a good day.  (Leonard Baker)

      I hope I'm not kicking sand in your eyes here, but a tool maker explained the change to me one time. My question was basically " Why screw up a perfectly good blade?"

      He explained that when planes were newer on the scene, they were used all day long, all year long. Eventually, after power tools became popular, planes became used rarely, and stored in the tool boxes of pickups where they rusted badly. That's when they introduced more chrome into them, to stop the rust, but it ruined the high carbon ability to carry a great edge.

      So I found that it not only wasn't a nefarious reason, it made sense in a really crappy way!  (Art Port)

        No offense taken and i completely agree.  I was assuming a replacement blade from Ron Hock, or one of the blue steel babies from Japan Woodworker or Hida tool to replace the iron of a big box store block plane.    The larger chrome atoms (atomic weight 51.9961) (correct me if I'm wrong here Jerry) makes the steel "gummy" and the carbon atoms (atomic weight 12.0107, in the form of carbide) in a good plane iron like Hock allow the iron (Fe) to be sharpened to a keener edge.

        Just for giggles and an educamation, find the old Scientific American that discusses the rediscovery of Damascus steel and it's cutting properties.  (Leonard Baker)


Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store