Is this plane worth it?

I am trying to build up my hand tool arsenal and was shopping around for a nice used plane on EBay and came across this:


as you can see, it sold for $150 (I had bid $70). I hesitated to increase my bid because I don’t have a lot of experience with these older hand tools. My question is what is something similar to this worth?

Hi Dara,

Thanks for your question and here is my two cents worth of opinion.

Old Stanley planes can be very satisfying to use and Stanley generally set the standard for quality planes. Buying used can be a gamble when you cannot examine the tools in person, but it always means that you will need to do some work to tune them up. I enjoy doing that work but it can take a few hours to tune to it’s potential and not everybody wants to do that.

There are a couple of companies in North America that make excellent planes that work right out of the box. Buying from them gives you the certainty that your tool will work for years and you have access to their customer service if there is a problem. Of course, the best does not come cheap, but in my opinion, one working plane is better than three different sizes that are a challenge to keep in tune.

If you only want to buy one plane that you can use immediately and forever I would recommend the Low angle # 62 Jack Planes made by Lie Nielsen or the 62 1/2 by Veritas. There is a Lie Nielsen 62 at the shop and you should check it out. It is in the locked cabinet.

If you are still inclined to go the old plane route here are a few buying tips.

I think you made the right decision to max out at $70.00. Old number 5’s are pretty common and you will see plenty of opportunities to buy one in the future. At $70.00 It would have cost you $100.00 or more with shipping and tax. Buying older tools on ebay is challenging because one is not able to examine them really closely but here are a few tips based on my experience.

I looked at Stanley #5s on Ebay, saw a range of prices and saw several that should be rejected out of hand because of condition, damage or youthful age.

Try to find out how old the plane is. Most sellers will post pictures of each part of the plane and that is a help because you can look for cracks, dings and other damage as well as finding an approximate date of manufacture. Sometimes the seller will already know the type # which is very helpful for dating. The following link is to a very easy tool that can help you to identify the age of old Stanley planes

How to Identify Stanley Hand Plane Age and Type (Type Study Tool) | Wood and Shop

The best planes were probably produced before the second world war as demand and quality declined after that time. If you would like to borrow an old Stanley #5 I would be happy to lend you an old (c1907) one I have and rarely use these days. I would not sell it as it has a crack in the body, but it works very well.

I hope this is of some help and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can help further. Choosing a first plane is daunting, especially when you are buying used and if I can be help with advice or opinions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for the very comprehensive response. I am glad I stopped bidding on that plane at $70 given your comment. I did look at both Lie Nielsen and Veritas planes and they are certainly nice, but with my current hand tool skills, I think I should start with something a little less expensive and work my way up to the good stuff. I don’t mind having to do the work to tune up a plane. I fact that is skill that I want to develop (especially sharpening).

I am intrigued by your suggestion of starting with a low angle jack plane as a starter, but I guess it makes sense, as low angle planes work better with hardwoods and probably be just as good as standard planes on soft woods. I’ll try the one in the shop the next time I am there and might take you up on the offer to borrow your #5.

Before COVID, I guess the alternative to shopping for used tools on EBay was to go to the various swap meets, but if you know of another source for finding used tools, let me know. I guess I should give Craigslist a shot too.

Also thanks for the link to the Stanley guide.

BTW, what’s your take on corrugated versus smooth sole?

I’ve liked a lot of what Paul Sellers has to say, and here are some of his thoughts on corrugated: Questions answered - On corrugated soles - Paul Sellers' Blog. Also, he has said he goes with a three #4’s scrub, finisher, and over all planer. Like Paul D above, Rob Cosman (another person worth watching) on Youtube tells people to go for the 5 1/2 Jack Plane (He’s also created a blade that fits into an old Stanley that is more robust, which I think is around $80 of itself). In addition to what Paul has recommended above, I think Rob has also recommended the Woodriver 5.5 if you can find one used in your price range. I’ve been using a 4 mostly (figure if it works for Paul Sellers, it can also work for me) but am also trying to find a good 5 1/2 jack plane.