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    

Huge Lot Over 400 Planes Stanley Winchester Sargent Miller Falls & MoreVary Rare Stanley Sweet Heart #850 Walnut Chest Cabinet & Tools Vintage 1922Stanley No 7 C Corrugated Bottom Jointer Plane, Excellent Condition,Stanley No 10 1/2 Cabinetmaker's Rebate / Bench Plane, Vgc,Modern Chrome Plated Stanley No 71 Hand Router Plane, VgcLeonard Bailey Boston No. 3 Plane, Three-screw Frog, 1867 Only, Pre - StanleyStanley/bedrock 605 C-flat Top, Type 5a, 1911-userStanley No 50 Plough And Beading Plane, With Set Of 17 Cutters In Original BoxAntique Stanley Bedrock 605 1/2 Plane Woodworking Hand Tool Usa Corrugated CleanAntique Frank Stanley Herring Black Americana, Young Girl Portrait Oil PaintingNew Stanley Sweetheart No.62 Low Angle Jack Plane In The Box Stanley Bedrock Plane 604 C Type 6 1912-1921Stanley #605 Bedrock Bench Plane Flat Top Sides Nice No ReserveStanley 10 1/2-rabbet Plane-userVintage Antique Stanley No. 10 1/2 Wood Plane Usa Woodworking Tool Carpentry GucStanley Bedrock 604-1/2 Corrugated Plane NiceStanley Plane Planes 55 And 45 And Lots Of ExtrasAntique Stanley Corrugated Wood Plane No.10 Nice Clean Condition Stanley Type 13 Bench Plane 4 1/2--- Good Stanley No. 45 Combination Plane ----Antique Bailey No.8 Low Knob Jointer Plane- Original Stanley Blade Vintage Stanley 71 Router Plane, 2 Blades. Excellent!Vintage Stanley Chamfer Plane No 72Stanley No. 2 Wood PlaneStanley No.238 Weather-strip Plow Plane - With Seven CuttersA Stanley No.71 Hand Router.....................................................Stanley No. 4-1/2 Plane Type 9 1902-1907 Parts Or RestorationStanley Plane 62Vintage Stanley Router Plane Made In Usa Very Nice 2 Extra Cutters No.71Vintage Stanley 602 Bedrock Plane 1917 Very Good User Or Display Tool LookStanley Bailey No. 3 Type 3 Plane Victor Style Blade Support C. 1872, Prototype?Stanley No. 8 Jointer Plane - Back From The Dead!Stanley 112 Scraper PlaneStanley No. 112 Scraper Plane Stanley Plane 112 Scraper, Toothing Cutter, Collectible ToolStanley No62 Low Angle Plane......"very Nice Indeed!!Stanley No. 71 Router Plane In Original Box With Manual. Made In England. Mint.Vintage Stanley Plane No.602 Nice Old Plane For Workshop Or DisplayStanley Sweetheart Sw No. 3 Plane, Type 13 C. 1925-28Stanley Router Plane #71 In Original Box With All The Parts UnusedStanley No 6 Fore Plane, Vgc,Vintage Stanley Bailey #7 Jointer Plane, Type 9 (1902-07) ~ Tuned, Sharp & Rtu!Vintage Stanley 55 Sweetheart Plane Woodworking Usa Molding Blades Cutters 45 ?Stanley No. 60 1/2 Low Angle Adjustable Block PlaneStanley Low Angle Block Plane No. 63 Older Rare Nice No ReserveStanley No. 7 Jointer Plane: Restored & RefurbishedStanley No 92 Rabbet PlaneLot 5 Vintage Stanley Draw Knife Wood Planes 51 52 53 64 & UnknownStanley No 39 3/4" Antique Dado PlaneDecent Shape Stanley Tools No 40 Scrub Woodworking Carpenter SweetheartStanley Jointer GaugeStanley Wood Plane No 7 Patented Jointer Bailey Smooth BottomVintage Antique Stanley No 71-1/2 Closed Throat Router Wood Plane Tool Stanley Gage Plane #3Stanley 5 1/2 Bench Plane Type 11Stanley No 39 1/4 Antique Dado PlaneStanley Cabinet Makers Edge Plane No 97Stanley Bedrock No. 604 Plane, Corrugated Bottom, 2 Patent DatesVintage North Bros Div. Of Stanley Tools Yankee No. 2101a-12 Brace Drill AugerStanley 77 Dowel Machine Cutter