Back in the day, people used a lot of different woodworking tools that help them create precise, smooth, and higher quality products, to be more precise wooden furniture. What is great about these tools is that they are always made out of extremely quality materials so they can withstand frequent use.
That is the main reason why antique wood planes are still very popular among manufacturers and collectors as well.
The thing is that many collectors have a hard time identifying the model and origin of the particular plane which enables them from determining its real value. Luckily for you all, in this article, we will discuss how to identify antique wood planes and which factors will affect their value and the final price.
History Of Antique Wood Planes
Many of you know that this is a woodworking tool, but many of you don’t know what exactly is an antique wood plane. This is a type of hand tool that was used by carpenters and woodworkers to help them process the wood the best they can.
This was a very popular tool in the past, in fact, there were over 100 different types of wood planes in the 17th century. Every type was designed for a specific use, but the most popular ones were those used for smoothing and shaping, flooring, and paneling.
Today, antique wood planes are prized by collectors and woodworkers thanks to their unique design and craftsmanship. However, some craftsman still favors wood planes over modern woodworking tools.
Types of antique wood planes
As I already mentioned there are over 100 different types of wood planes, however several of them were and still are very popular among wood makers. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types and learn why are they so popular:
- Bench wood plane – This is a type of tool that was used to smooth large wooden boards. It was mainly used in conjunction with a bench that offers support. These planes are generally larger and heavier than other types so they can handle more material with each stroke.
- Molding wood plane – A wood plane specialized for making molded surfaces on wood. These are typically fitted with a curved blade that is set in a fixed depth to match the desired profile of the cut. Sometimes it was also used for flattening irregular surfaces and cutting rabbets.
- Plough wood plane – This is a tool used to cut grooves into the wood and it has an adjustable oscillating cutter attached to the bottom. This helps you control the width and depth of the groove. These planes are used for a variety of tasks, rabbets, mortises, dadoes, and for creating decorative effects like inlays or marquetry.
- Rabbet wood plane – Logically, this wood plane was designed only for cutting rabbets. Rabbets are joints that help to assemble two pieces of wood. The plane has a wide, flat sole that helps to keep the edge of the rabbet flush and create a clean, precise cut.
- Bull-nose wood plane – This specialized type of plane was used for creating convex or half-round edges. The blade on these panes is fixed at a 45-degree angle which allows easy maneuvering. What makes them special is that they can be used with one hand so they are ideal for working in tight spaces and making delicate cuts.
- Chisel wood plane – This is a small hand tool used for creating smooth, even surfaces on wood. This chisel cuts through the wood easily and precisely thanks to its steep angle blade.
- Combination wood plane – This is the most versatile type of wood plane and it can be used for a wide variety of projects. It features an interchangeable cutting blade so you can adjust the tool to your task requirements at any time.
- Compass wood plane – A wooden plane with a curved sole that allows you to plane concave and convex surfaces easily. You can also create rabbets and moldings with it and level off uneven surfaces.
- Fore wood plane – This is a long, narrow plane similar to a bench plane and it is also used to smooth wide boards. Since its blade is set at a low angle it is ideal for working with hardwoods.
- Scrub wood plane – These are wood tools with short and stout bodies that are accompanied by wide blades set at a steep angle. Thanks to this design they are perfect for removing excess wood. Any woodworker will tell you that this is an essential tool for quickly preparing wood for further shaping.
- Jointer wood plane – These wood planes are the longest among all planes which makes them ideal for shaping long and curved surfaces. Its blade is set at a 45-degree angle so the cutting is sharper and more aggressive which allows you to quickly remove large amounts of wood. Because of their length, they are much more difficult to control.
- Kanna Japanese wood plane – The name says that this is Japanese highly specialized tool that has been used for centuries by Japanese carpenters. This is as well on of the most essential tools that allow you to cut across the grain of the wood. Kanna wood plane is ideal for creating smooth and very accurate surfaces.
Most Valuable Antique Wood Planes
In the following few paragraphs I will mention some of the rarest and most expensive wood planes that were sold at auctions on the Martin J. Donelly Auctions a web page dedicated to selling antique tools.
Unfortunately, for some of them, we couldn’t find the exact trace of the auction and the price so we will respectably mention these price tags. Make sure you don’t take these prices into consideration when trying to determine the final price of your wood plane.
Nicholson wood planes
Francis Nicholson is America’s first and most famous wood plane maker. He is the one that first imprinted his name on a tool he created. Since Nicholson lived from 1683 until 1753 all the planes that are made by him are extremely valuable and pricey. One of his wooden planes was reportedly sold for $5,140 at auction.
Norris wood planes
Thomas Norris was a wood plane maker from England. His wood planes were very attractive and still are because he worked with exotic woods. Unfortunately, many of his wood planes were destroyed during WW2 however some remain untouched.
Those remaining have become valuable because of their rarity and their utilitarian value. Here is the list of some of his most valuable woo planes:
- NORRIS A-7 Adjustable Shoulder Plane – 91141U currently selling for $9,800
- NORRIS No. 11 Miter Plane for BUCK – EXCELSIOR 101627 currently selling for $5,995
- NORRIS No. 31 Brass and Steel Thumb Plane – 91235U currently selling for $5,500
- NORRIS No. 28G Chariot Plane in Gun Metal and Rosewood – 93023UR currently selling for $3,995
- NORRIS No. 4G Smooth Plane – EXCELSIOR 82740 currently selling for $3,995
- NORRIS No. 20E Shoulder Plane – 91258U currently selling for $2,500
- NORRIS A22 Shoulder Plane – 82393U currently selling for $2,400
Milton B. Tidey wood planes
Milton B. Tidey created some of the most complex wood planes. This is the main reason why wood planes that are manufactured by him are very sought-after among collectors and woodworkers. Some of the most valuable examples:
- B. TIDEY July 4th, 1854 PATENT Double Beveling Plane * EXCELSIOR 89125 * currently selling for $13,995
- B. TIDEY 1854 Patent Double Beveling Plane – 73952U currently selling for $11,995
- B. TIDEY Double Beveling Plane by JIM LEAMY – EXCELSIOR 98891 currently selling for $2,995
Davis wood planes
Leonard Davis was famous for creating several inclinometers that help you measure angles. One of his most famous products was a double inclinometer with two levels. Since these tools were rarely produced their price on the market is extremely high. Here are some of his most valuable planes currently on the market:
- Rosewood DAVIS Jack Plane currently selling for $1,650
- DAVIS PATENT Smooth Plane – 95288 currently selling for $795
Millers wood planes
Charles Miller was a famous planemaker whose wood planes were very rare and expensive even back in the days when he was making them. This naturally means that his products nowadays cost much. Here is one of his most expensive planes MILLERS 1872 PATENT No. 50 Ornate Plow Plane – 93464R currently selling for $11,995.
Carpenter wood planes
Emanuel W. Carpenter was famous for creating innovative tools. His plow plane has become one of the most attractive and essential tools that every carpenter would need in his workshop. Here is the list of his most valuable planes:
- W. CARPENTER Patent 1838 Rosewood & Boxwood Handled Plow Plane – 93521U currently selling for $8,995
- W. CARPENTER Plow Plane in Applewood & Rosewood by JIM LEAMY – EXCELSIOR 98926 currently selling for $2,995
- W. CARPENTER IMPROVED ARMS PATENT Plow Plane – EXCELSIOR 99526 currently selling for $2,500
- W. CARPENTER IMPROVED ARM PATENT Plow Plane – 99525 currently selling for $1,650
Chaplin wood planes
Chaplin wood planes were manufactured by Towers & Lyon company from New York between 1872-1900. Their most famous tool was a patented wood plane which comes in two different designs – the original and improved design. Here are some of his most valuable planes:
- CHAPLIN’S May 7, 1872 Patent No. 3 Size Plane with Iron Handles sold for $795
- CHAPLIN’s Patent May 7, 1872 No. 4 (No. 3 Size) Smooth Plane with Iron Handles sold for $695
- CHAPLIN’S Patent No. 7 Jack Plane – 62881U currently selling for $595
- CHAPLIN Patent May 7, 1872 No. 5 (No. 4 Size) Smooth Plane with Iron Handles sold for $525
Leonard Bailey wood planes
Leonard Bailey patented several planes whose design is still in use even nowadays. He was the one who first build a metallic plane and reportedly this plane was sold at some auction for $7,920.
- Bailey Split Frame Smooth Plane Ca. 1856 – 104590 sold for $6,995
- Bailey Vertical Post Smooth Plane Ca. 1860 sold for $1,795
Ohio Tool Co. wood planes
Ohio Tool Co was famous for its No.1 wood plane. Most manufacturers didn’t want to make this plane because of its size – it’s only 5 1/2 inches long. In fact, there are only one or two of these planes left in the world, which makes it extremely rare, however, we do not have any information about them. In case you are the lucky one who has this golden grail in the attic you are sitting on a goldmine.
Anyhow, their most valuable plane is this Ebony OHIO TOOL CO Number 112 Center Wheel Plow Plane – One of Three Known * EXCELSIOR 94154 that was sold for $24,995! Below is the list of some other valuable planes from this manufacturer:
- OHIO TOOL CO Rosewood Center Wheel Plow Plane circa 1851-1913 FINE – EXCELSIOR 80835 sold for $4,995
- OHIO TOOL CO 1907 Turntable Smooth Plane SUPER RARE! – 94193R sold for $3,495
- OHIO TOOL CO. No. 110 Boxwood Center Wheel Plow Plane – EXCELSIOR 99790 sold for $2,600
Stewart Spiers wood planes
Stewart Spiers was a small but innovative plane-maker from Scotland. He founded his company in the early 1840s. The company was most known for inventing steel dovetailed planes. Here are some of the most valuable planes you can currently buy:
- SPIERS No. 5 SKEWED Improved Pattern Miter Plane Skewed – EXCELSIOR 104826 currently selling for $9,500
- SPIERS No. 7 Smooth Plane with Gunmetal Sides * 76663U currently selling for $5,995
- SPIERS IMPROVED Miter Plane Screw Sided – EXCELSIOR 102987 currently selling for $4,995
- SPIERS AYR Miter Finger Wood Plane – EXCELSIOR 101600 currently selling for $3,500
- SPIERS No. 27 Gunmetal & Rosewood Dovetailed Smooth Plane – EXCELSIOR 104987 currently selling for $1,895
Factors That Will Determine The Value Of Antique Wood Planes
Like with any other valuable collectible item, there are some crucial factors that will affect the value of antique wood planes. Antique wood planes can be very difficult to identify, however, if you do some thorough research it is possible to do it properly.
The following factors will affect the final price:
- Date of Manufacturing – The older the item is the more valuable it is. Of course, not every old plane is valuable, but the ones dating back to the 1700s and early 1800s are considered antique wood planes and they are extremely valuable and rare.
- Condition – The condition is important since this is the factor that goes along with age. Nothing can damage a collectible item as much as time and bad storage conditions. Naturally, some minor damages that occur with time will be tolerated, but these will diminish the value.
- Rarity – The date of origin will affect the rarity. Items that are made centuries ago are extremely valuable and rare since not many of them can withstand the tool of time and remain in great condition. But not only extremely old planes are rare some newer models are labeled as rare as well since there are only a few examples ever crafted.
- Demand – The higher the demand for some item the higher the selling price. When something is in high demand, it will gain value no matter the date of origin, rarity, etc.
- Origin – An antique wood plane that belonged to someone famous or was manufactured by someone famous will immediately jump in value. Also, antique wood plane’s value and desirability will increase if it is marked with the logo of the manufacturer.
- Restored or not – For most collectors the original state of the wood plane is what counts the most, however, many of them are refurbished. Refurbished wood planes are great for those who want to invest money in an antique wood plane and use it in their work.
How To Identify An Antique Wood Plane?
Identifying an old wood plane is no easy task. There is a big difference between wood planes made in the U.S., the UK, and the rest of Europe. European wood planes are the most difficult ones to identify. No matter from where your wooden plane originates, here are the steps you need to follow to be able to identify it.
Look for the manufacturer’s marks and initials
The first thing you need to do when identifying an antique wood plane is to look for the manufacturer’s mark. Only a custom-made wood plane won’t have some kind of company mark, logo, or at least initials.
Some wood planes will also feature additional information like model number, date of manufacturing, and blade width. In most cases, the maker’s mark is located on its base.
In case there are no markings you should check the lever cap. A horn-shaped lever cap means that the wood plane is most likely made before 1860. Check the tote as well, if it is made of beechwood and is curved you are looking at an antique item. Screws will also tell you a lot, if they are hand cut the plane is most likely antique.
Remember that antique planes show signs of extensive use, with markings all over the body of the tool.
Consult the identification guides and resources
If your plane has markings and you know who made it you can start identifying it with the help of various identification guides and resources. Look for relevant books such as the 1983 “A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes” by Thomas L. Elliott.
Also, you can look for a guide specific to the manufacturer of your item, however not all manufacturers were so popular to get their own guidebooks. But you can always try your luck with online resources. There are many available options online such as
Visit a specialized shop
If you still can’t identify your wood plane then there are a few more options to take into consideration. Visit your local antique or pawn shop and see if they can help you.
Also, try to connect with some passionate wood plane collectors they will for sure know how to help you out, or if they can’t they will direct you to someone who can. The best option is to hire an expert to identify the wood plane instead of you.
Where Can You Sell Or Buy Antique Wood Planes?
When you decide to invest in something so old and specific such as antique wood planes none of the usual buying places won’t meet your requirements. Of course, you can always search on platforms like eBay, Etsy, 1stDIBS, Ruby Lane, Live Auctioneers, etc. But what you want to find won’t be there. Online platforms are full of wood planes of a bit newer age, from the 1900s and up.
The first choice should always be auction houses that are specialized in selling antique tools. Also, make sure that you visit from time to time your local antique and pawn shop.
Will restoring affect the value of the antique wood planes?
Yes and no. Depending on what is your purpose, in case you want to use it actively restoring might be a good idea so you avoid further damage that occurs due to usage. However, if you want to keep it as a collectible item you can decide whether to restore it or not.
Anyhow, before restoring confirm the age and rarity, if your plane is very old and valuable restoration must be done gently and by someone who is very experienced in this field.
Are antique wood planes better working tools compared to new ones?
One thing is for sure they are made from a material that is much higher in quality than the ones we use today. However, this those not mean that antique ones are much more effective when put to work. Some people prefer antique wood planes while others will rather choose new-age models.
Should You Start Collecting Antique Wood Planes?
Collecting wood planes is not as popular as some other hobbies, however, you would be surprised how many people are interested in it. The antique wood planes that are valuable and rare nowadays originate from a few centuries ago so you need to be persistent and patient if you want to get your hands on one of these.
All you need for collecting antique wood planes are money and some basic knowledge that will help you recognize antique and rare items from the ones that are fairly new. Determining whether your wood plane is valuable or not can be difficult but we hope this article has provided you with all the necessary information you need to get this task done.
As usual, I will ask you to leave your comments in the comment section below. We are eager to hear about your experience while searching for rare and antique