Friday, April 29, 2016

Understanding Type study's

Hand tools, unlike most power tools, do not have any serial numbers or other distinctive markings to help dated a tool

Among collectors, in an effort to help date or more correctly narrow down to a more specific time period a given tool, for years now, they have come up with Type studies.


They are the results of examining numerous examples in order to group various distinctive changes or features into categories (Type) then trying to attach specific dates as to when such changes or features took place in the tool long history of production.


Most of the current type study we see today were developed before a little thing like EBay came into being.  Suddenly, as numerous examples came to the front it had a ripple effect on type studies, price list, rarity and etc.
Some tools that were thought to be rare became more common once the collecting of tools started to become more trendy in the last decade or so and more of them became available thru sites like EBay.

Along with the larger quantity of tools being available, new features and changes became apparent Type studies had to be updated to reflect this.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that relying on catalog and advertising copies in magazines and such is often misleading because companies recycled their "wood cut" (carved block, inked to print tools outlines and such) throughout numerous years. Millers Falls for one was notorious for that, but so was Stanley and al...

You also have to realized that at the time all these tools were produced, their manufacturers had no idea that someone would be trying to pin point a date of manufacture by the various features down the road.  In addition they would used up their inventory of parts as they went. Therefore not all the tools came out with the same parts during the in-between time periods.

And then we have a more modern phenomena, since a lot of these tools are now being restored to be users, some parts are replaced to make them functional or replace missing parts and etc. The cutter blades being used up eventually are often found replaced for example.

In addition since tool collecting has become quite popular, with an increase in prices (they are after all in a limited supply) Some unscrupulous vendors will change parts or modify them to pass as more collectible and rare "types".

One of the most commonly referred Type study is probably the one covering the Stanley bench plane No 4.
It is often used indiscriminately across the whole bench planes models No 1 to 8

There are of course some caveat to doing this:
The No 1 was in short lived production and because of its diminutive size, did not had all the "new features". For example they never had corrugated sole.
It does have its own Type study BTW

The No 2 to 8, similarly, did not had all the features of the No 4, and to add confusion to the unwary, it was based strictly on the Made in USA models.

Stanley also produced most of these bench planes in Canada, England,  Australia and possibly Germany (?)
Again, not all of these will "fit" the American type studies.
All that to say, Type studies should be used with a grain of salt and not as the absolute definitive answers.

Are they still relevant? YES, as long as their limitations and usage is understood.

I will share with you my own Type studies features that I compiled thru the years with pictures (mostly collected off EBay) whenever time permits.

I did this years ago to make sense of all the sometimes confusing descriptions of the features in question.

First I must dig them out of my computer backups then clean them and "massage" them as time permit

I am currently pretty well on full time nurse duty right now.
But not to worry I have lots of support at home, from the palliative care nurses, doctors, home support workers and of course our numerous friends.

Stay tuned.

Bob, dusting his old files while waiting for Rudy to finish his "beautification program" (doggy grooming :-)


  1. Nice looking herd of planes. It looks like it represents the time span of Stanley production +/- 20 years. It looks like all you are missing is a #1.

  2. Correct no No 1, incorrect +/- 20 years, I believe it is more :-)
    Also No 5-1/2, it is missing in action for this mug shot.

  3. I find the Stanley type studies to be a little clearer than some of the others, such as Sargent or Millers Falls. This probably is because there are a lot more of them and as well I think they are more commonly collected.

    But, as a general rule, I'll benefit from that knowledge. For example, I once bought a Stanley #4 for $25 on eBay because it had three patent dates in the photo. Sure enough, it was a type 11. The seller could have made more on it if he had known that and advertised it as such.

  4. Bob,

    As I have posted before, there are no words that can express the sorrow and pain I feel for you and Heather. God Speed.

    At some later date we must exchange photos of our rust collection. I've tried to complete a type 9 collection and have most of the major planes (#3-#8). I doubt it will ever be complete, I have neither the time, money, nor driving interest to chase down the missing planes. In addition they are all "users" most with after market irons and chip breakers. All that said, it is nice to have most of what I feel was the peak of the Stanley/Bailey type plane.


  5. Hi Brian
    Indeed, Stanley's were very prolific, more so than eveyone else. Stanley, the toolbox of the world, wasn't just a saying for them, it was their motto on their way to world domination in tools.. :-)

    There are Sargent's, Millers Falls and Record type studies out there, among others.
    I too have benefited from that lack of knowledge off EBay :-)



  6. Hi Ken
    Thank you for your kind words, it is indeed painful to watch someone you loved for so long die slowly under your eyes. I would not wish that upon my worst enemy...!

    The good news is that she is well managed by her health care team and she is not suffering. As of yesterday, she is off her pain meds in pill form and now on a pump, so it is even more constant delivery.

    Yeah, that sound like a good idea, my "ahem, assortment" cover a variety not just a specific type (the collector thingy in me) but my all time favorites old Stanleys are indeed type 9-11. I don't ever had much use for the mouth adjustment feature (screw in back of frog) but I like my frog to be solid, not Swiss cheese.

    Full disclosure, I like Swiss cheese, I actually had some on home made bread this morning :-)

  7. "Some unscrupulous vendors will change parts or modify them to pass as more collectible and rare "types"." I'm shocked to hear this! Shocked, I say! Anything for a buck (for some people) ...

  8. Sadly, yes...
    Sometimes it involved grinding off the casting to remove newer features then repaint, or adding grooves to the sole to makes them corrugated soles.
    The more you know, the more it is easier to spot the fakes.
    But sometimes the sellers are totally ignorant, like calling a broken off nose on a smoother plane: Rare bull nose plane ... Yeah really!

  9. My favorite groaner on EBay is calling a hunk of rust: Working condition, just need a honing on the blade.... Or in good condition for its age :-)