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    

Stanley No.71 Router Plane - With Throat Closing Attch. & Fence Original Box Antique Brass Binocular Microscope By Stanley, London. Cased. For Restoration.Stanley Bedrock No 604 Flat Top Plane With Nice Rosewood Knob & ToteStanley No 7 Jointer Plane, Rosewood Handles, Excellent Condition Lie Nielsen 7 Plane Stanley 607 Bedrock Style Brand Spankin With Cherry WoodVintage Stanley 46 Skew Cutter Combination Plane 1910-1919 Full Box, 11 Cutters Fabulous Antique Complete Set Drawing Instruments By Stanley, Very ExtensiveStanley No 10 1/2 Cabinetmaker's Rebate / Bench Plane, Vgc,Modern Chrome Plated Stanley No 71 Hand Router Plane, 3 Blades, VgcStanley 750 Chisel Set, 6 Matching Woodworking Chisels 1/4" To 1 1/2" Excellent!Stanley No 6 Fore Plane, Vgc Rare Stanley No.46b Skew Plow Plane Traut Patent March,4,1873 With 10 CuttersStanley No. 7 Jointer Plane - Free ShippingComplete Vintage Stanley No. 71 Woodworking Router Plane With Three IronsVintage Stanley R & L Co. Bedrock # 607 Plane April 2 1895 21Stanley No. 40 Scrub Plane Stanley 55 Combination Plane, Tilting Fences 50 + CuttersSpecial Obsolete Best Lock Co. Huge Padlock / Solid Brass Lock / Stanley LockStanley #10 Carriage Makers Rabbit PlaneVintage Stanley Bailey #7 Jointer PlaneUsed Stanley 71 Router Plane, In Box, 3 Cutters, Instructions, Nice Clean ToolMillers Falls Level 6" Triangular Rare Antique Davis Stanley Vintage OldVintage Stanley 112 Cabinet Scraper Plane W New Steel Fine Shape See More ToolsVintage No.2 Stanley Wood Plane Carpentry Tool Woodworking No Patent NrStanley Tongue & Groove Plane No. 48. Sweetheart Mark. Rswd. Knob. Good Plating.Stanley Plane Number 1 One Smooth Plane Antique Old Vintage RareStanley No 93 Cabinet Maker Plane " Extra Nice Used Condition "Small Smoothing Size Stanley No 2 Wood Plane Parts RestorationVintdage Stanley No 66 Hand Beader "mint" IobAntique Stanley No. 2 Bench Hand Plane Vintage Smoothing PlaneDavis Level 6" With Box Antique Cast Iron Old Level Millers Falls Stanley Stanley No 8 Jointer Plane, Type 4, 1874-1884Stanley No 9 1/2 Adjustable Block Plane Old Woodworking Plane Tool Stanley #55 Plane With 82 Cutters (78 Different) And 4 Original BoxesStanley No.7 Jointer Plane €Stanley No.112 B Casting Cabinet Scraper Plane- No Blade & Broken Ball HandleStanley No. 67 Universal Spoke ShaveVintage Stanley No. 2 Sweetheart Bench Plane - Wood Working Tool - CarpentryVintage Stanley No 605 Bedrock Jack PlaneVintage Stanley Rule & Level #98 Carpenter's Adjustable 9" Long Vials IntactSargent No. 407 Plane - Similar To Stanley No. 2Stanley #71 Vintage Router Hand Plane No.71 Woodworking Stanley 605 Bedrock Plane, Type 6, V Trademark, 1914-18Working Set Of 9 Stanley 750 Style Chisels 2 1-3/4 1-1/2 1-1/4 1 7/8 5/8 3/8 1/48 Old Used Hammer Heads, Stanley, Evansville Acme, Mechanic, Blacksmith ToolsStanley 45 - Combination Plow And Beading Plane In Original Box And Cutters Great Set Of Used Stanley Chisels Carpenter Woodworking Duck Decoy Carving ToolsStanley Bailey # 5 1/2c Bench Plane, Type 11 (1910-1918), Fully Tuned UpRare Stanley No 40 Everlasting 2 Inch Wood Chisel Antique Vintage Old ToolStanley/bailey 6 Plane-type 13. 1925-28, Cocobolo Rosewood-userAntique Stanley No 90 Steel Cased Rabbet PlaneStanley Bedrock 605 1/4 Junior Jack Plane Very GoodStanley No. 98 & No. 99 Side Rabbet Planes; Left And RightAntique Vintage 1911 Stanley No 95 Edge Trimming Block Plane Type 1 Excellent !Stanley Bedrock No. 604 Vintage Hand Plane Sweet Heart CorragatedStanley No. 386 Jointer Gauge Plane Attachment Vtg Old Cast Iron Antique Tool5 Medals Awarded To Stanley Chapman (palestine, Defence, Police, War, Ambulance)Antique 1910 Stanley Bailey #4 Wood PlaneMillers Falls 6" Level Antique Davis Stanley Vintage Old Cast Iron Level AntiqueStanley Plane 110 Block Plane Shoe Buckle Cap Rare Old Antique Davis Cast Iron