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]

Vintage Machinery

Vintage Machinery

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, also includes a large database of manufacture… [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]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Little Used Stanley No.71 Router Plane - Complete In Original BoxLie Nielsen Tongue And Groove Plane - Based On Stanley No. 481930's~stanley Bailey No. 4 Smooth Bench Plane Type 16~antique Woodworking Tool~Old Vintage Stanley No. 10 1/2 Wood Working PlaneAntique Bedrock 605 1/2 Corrugated Plane Patd Apr 2 95 Apr 19 10 No Stanley MarkStanley 55 Universal Combination Plane Complete W/ Blades, C. 1922 SweethartStanley No 278 Rabbet & Filletster Plane Fine Condition & Original BoxStanley No. 71 Router Plane - Made In England - Antique Vintage Woodworking ToolStanley No.750 Wood Working 2" Bevel Edge ChiselStanley # 85 Scraper Plane W/ Tilting Handles Super Condition Antique ToolNice Vintage Stanley Usa No. 71 1/2 Router Plane Script Logo 1901 PatentVintage Stanley Bedrock Plane No 603 Vintage Stanley No. 71 Router Plane Good Used Condition With Original Hardware.Stanley No 10 Rabbett Plane Sharpened & TunedStanley 71 Router Plane. Made In England. Great ShapeVintage Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2 Smooth Plane, Type 17 (1942-1945)Very Little Used Stanley No.50s Combination Plane In Original BoxElightful Lie Nielsen Scraper Plane Stanley 212 Size Fly Rod And Instrument MakeStanley Bailey No 7 Jointer Plane 22"l.has 99% Of Original Dark Blue PaintStanley 67 Universal Spokeshave - Sweetheart - With BoxStanley Bailey No. 7 Type 8 Sharpened & TunedStanley # 131 Double Ended Block Plane Antique Woodworking Tool W/ Ls / NrVintage Stanley No. 71 Router Plane Patented March 4, 1884 From Working ShopAntique Stanley Iron No 289 Skew Rabbet Plane,with Fence & Depth Gage 1878-1910Vintage Stanley No. 45 Combination Plow & Beading Plane Wood Tool W/cutters /boxStanley 4 Piece Chisel Set ( 2 ) 750's And ( 2 ) 750 CopiesStanley No. 2 Wood PlaneAntique & Collectible Stanley Tools Hard Cover By John Walter 885pgs.# 605-1/2 Stanley R&l Co Bed Rock Plane New Britain Blade Pat Apld 1895Group Of Nine Used Stanley Chisels Black Handles No. 40 And No. 50Stanley 58 1/2 Boxwood Arched Full Brass Bound Six Fold Rule Stearns, Chapin Vintage Stanley Bailey No. 7 Wood Jointer Hand Plane 22" X 3" Used Vintage Stanley # 71 Router Plane With 2 Cutter Blades Pat. Date March 4-84Stanley No 289 Skew Rabbet Plane Tool Sweetheart 1936-41 Last Production Rare! Vintage 10” Yankee No.2100 Ratchet Bit Brace North Bros. Phila. (pre-stanley)Vintage Clean-used "stanley" #71 Router-plane Type-14 With 3-cutters, NrVintage Stanley No. 113 Circular Compass Plane - Type 8, 1936 To 1942Stanley Bedrock # 605 1/2 C Corrugated Bottom Extra Large Jack Plane Ls / NrStanley #56 Core Box Plane Antique / User Woodworking Tool W/ Ls / NrVintage Stanley No 113 Circular Plane ~ Woodworking Tool ~ Sweetheart BladeVintage Stanley No 45 Combination Wood Plane And CuttersVintage Stanley 60-1/2 Low Angle Block Plane, Freshly Sharpened And Shop Ready!Vintage Stanley No 40 Scrub Hand PlaneVintage 1902 Stanley Bailey No.7 Woodworking Jointer 22" Hand PlaneVintage Stanley Plane No. A 78 Plane Pat 6-7-10 Sweetheart Blade With RailStanley No. 55 Universal Combonation PlaneStanley Smooth Plane No.4. Type 11 With Three Patent Dates.Vintage Stanley Bailey No. 4 Smooth Bottom Plane Late 1940's-50'sVintage Stanley No. 90 Bull Nose Rabbet Wood Plane Nice Nickel PlatingVintage Used 2-boxes Of Cutters W/sw-logo For A "stanley" #45 Type-5 Plane, NrAntique Stanley Bailey No 7 Iron Jointer Plane Pat Date Apr 1902 21 1/2" Lomg#8 Stanley Bailey Block Plane Pat Apld 1892Stanley Bailey No.7 Jointer Plane - Sweetheart BladeAntique 1910 Stanley #605 Bed Rock Smooth Bottom Plane Carpenter's Woodworking Vtg Stanley No. 78 Rabbet Plane W/ Fence And Depth GageVintage Stanley Plane No. 71 Router Nickel Finish Nice CondStanley Bailey No. 6-c Type 8 Sharpened & TunedStanley #65 Block Plane New Old Stock In The Box Stanley No. 720 - 1/2 In. Bevel Edge Socket Firmer Chisel Stanley # 5 Plane Hardly Used Its A Beauty.