In the United States, the words “tools and hardware” and “Stanley” are almost synonymous. The company began modestly in 1843, when Frederick T. Stanley founded a door-hardware company in New Britain, Connecticut. In 1857, Henry Stanley, Frederick's cousin, launched the Stanley Rule and Level Company, which acquired Leonard Bailey & Co. in 1878. Bailey held numerous patents on such mainstay tools as planes, which Stanley Rule and Level augmented with mitre boxes, rulers, hand drills, hammers, and, of course, its lines of wood and iron levels. By 1920, the two Stanley firms had merged.

While the Stanley name eventually became associated with everything from toolboxes to hinges to garage-door openers, it is perhaps best known as a plane manufacturer. Stanley entered that market in 1869, and by 1900 it was the dominant player, often buying out competitors.

One of the keys to Stanley’s success was to continually put tantalizing new products in front of consumers, whether they needed them or not. Frequently, many of these so-called “innovations” were surface changes that didn’t necessarily make the product better or easier to use. Thanks to this policy, Stanley released more than 300 plane models.

Two of Stanley’s most premium models, the No. 42 and No. 44, were made of gunmetal. The company also made six aluminum models, which have the letter “A” before their model numbers.

Interestingly, the planes that were not especially popular back in the day are the most valuable ones to contemporary collectors—they were only produced for around 15 years as opposed to the 60- or 70-year run of a normal Stanley product. These include the No. A45 aluminum combination plow and the No. 444 dovetail.

All Stanley tools were numbered; Stanley’s metal bench planes were first numbered based on size—the No.1 was 5 ½ inches long while the No. 8 was 24 inches. Many of the company’s planes and tools became standard for every woodworker’s tool kit, including the No. 80 scrapper (used to give wood a glass-like surface) and the classic No. 45 combination plane, which is like a plow plane but also cuts various curved molding forms.

The Stanley No. 45 was produced between 1884 and 1962, and is still used by woodworkers. When Stanley released an improvement on the model, the No. 55, it was praised by carpente...

When it comes to metal planes, it takes some doing to distinguish between the antique Stanley models and the contemporary versions—look for the Stanley name cast into the plane body or on the adjusting knob. Older metal tools were japanned (coated with black pigment), while later planes, like the Stanley No. 49 from 1898, were nickel-plated.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Old Antique Stanley No. 2 Smooth Plane Tool**vintage Early TypeVintage Stanley No 8 Jointer Plane, Vgc, 1910-18, Rosewood HandlesVintage Stanley Bed Rock No 604 Wood Plane - Very Nice!Vintage Stanley No.1 Smooth Plane Sweethart LogoStanley No 62 Low Angle Plane May Be Over 100 Years Old No ReservePristine Stanley No. 62 Low Angle PlanePair Of Side Rebate Planes Stanley No 98 And 99Stanley Sweetheart #45 Wood Working Plane Complete And In Box OriginalVintage Stanley Plane Chamfer #72W20 "the Big Momma" - Stanley #8 Jointing Plane - Us Pat Apr 19 10 - Great CondOld Antique Stanley No. 8 Corrugated Jointer Plane Tool**older VintageStanley Bailey No.7c Jointer Plane - With Triple Date - Nice Cond - Wood & MetalAntique Stanley No. 608 Bedrock Jointer PlaneAntique Stanley Bedrock No. 607 Plane In Excellent ConditionStanley Plane 55 Cutters, 4 Boxes, Collectible Carpenter ToolStanley No 34v 4" Machinists Level, And No 79 Type 1,side Rabbet Plane In BoxesNice Lot 8 Vintage Stanley Wood Planes: 3, 4, 4 1/2, 40, (4) No. 5, 1 CorrugatedStanley 45 Combined Plough And Beading Plane, With 2 Boxes Of Blades,Vintage Stanley 604 Bedrock C Flat Top Wood PlaneLot Vintage Stanley No 5 Jack Planes (8) For Parts Or Restore No ReserveAntique Stanley Bailey # 606 Bedrock Wood Plane Patent 1910 Vintage Stanley No. 2 Sweetheart Smooth PlaneStanley 9 3/4 Adj Mouth Block Plane Type 1 Leonard Bailey 1872 To1875 Rare PlaneVintage Mini Plane / Palm Plane. Stanley Rule & Level Co. Usa. Pre 1941Old Antique Stanley No. 7 Jpomter Plane Tool**older VintageOld Antique Stanley No. 57 Core Box Plane With One Extension*sweet Heart VintageFine Stanley Bailey #7c Jointer Plane, Type 12 (1919-24) ~ Tuned, Sharp & Rtu!Stanley "sweet Heart" No. 48 Tongue And Groove Wood Plane. Made In U.s.a.Rare Stanley No 5 Pitch Adjuster W/original Box And No 9 1/2 Block Plane BoxVintage Stanley No 40 Scrub Plane With Original BoxStanley 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane, Sweetheart 1910 PatentStanley Russell Jennings Auger Bits Set 32 1/2 Quarters No 100 +box Most UnusedStanley 113 Compass Plane, Excellent Cond.Stanley 603 Bedrock Sweetheart Plane Collectors Must See !!Antique Cabinet Scraper Plane Stanley 112 Fulton Cutter Woodworking ToolAntique Stanley #72 Carpenter’s Plane Rosewood Woodworking New Britain Ct ToolVintage Stanley No.71 Router Plane In Very Good + Condition ..original BoxVery Rare Ww1 Pair Machine Gun Corp Captain Ralph Stanley Willmer Medals & TinVintage Stanley No 40-1/2 Scrub Plane With Sweetheart Logo 1922-35Vintage Stanley No.2 Smooth Plane Very Good + ConditionVintage Stanley Plane #2Stanley Bedrock 605c Corrugated Bottom Jack Plane. Type 7. C. 1923-26 Good User!Stanley 10 1/2 Carriage Maker's Rabbet PlaneVintage Antique Stanley No 113 Compass Plane (t)Stanley No7 Jointer Plane 21" 7/8 X 2" 7/8 Pat-march 25.02 April 19.02 (baily)Stanley/bailey 8 C Plane- Type 12, 1919-24,-sweet Hart-user5 Stanley Everlasting Chisels Usa Tool Antique Cabinetmaker Carpenter Tool UsedLow Angle Stanley Block Plane, Adjustable Mouth, No 60 1/2Stanley Plane # 2Stanley #2 Smooth Plane Orange Frog 1920s1960s Grain Belt Premium Beer Stanley & Albert Vac-u-form Back Bar Sign RareVintage Stanley No.71 1/2 Router PlaneVintage Stanley Bailey No 4 1/2 Wood Plane - Very Nice!Old Stanley, Sargent Combination Plane ?, Cutters , Mix Lot, No-reserve ($1.00)Stanley No. 2 Plane In Original Box VintageVintage Stanley 45 Plane With Many Cutters And Parts!Scarce Van Camp No. 4 1/2c Corrugated Bottom Heavy Smoothing Plane. Stanley MadeVintage Stanley No. 2 Smoothing PlaneStraight Side Coca-cola Coke "stanley" Bottle - Albemarle, NcStanley #2 Smooth Plane. Type 4. Scarce Pre Lateral.