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Evaluating a second hand plane.



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  You're standing there with a Stanley 9 block plane in your hand.  You've picked it out from among a pile of other used tools.  It's price tag is $15.  Your hand is itching.  The wallet in your hip pocket feels heavy.  Do you buy this poor abused fellow or walk away, sadder but wiser?

Buying a used plane can be an emotional experience. There's just something about used tools that cry out "Save me!  Save me!"  The problem is, how do you tell the true bargains from the real junk.

Today collectors have driven up the price of most older Stanley 9 block planes that are in good, very good, or excellent condition.  Those planes will bring as much as, or more then, a new plane.  It's a fact.  Most planes that are sold in a flea market are in less then good shape.  Doesn't mean they're to be avoided.  It just means that you need to be a little selective.

For the most part a used block plane for $20 or less is a bargain.  I've never come across one that I couldn't bring back from the dead. That doesn't mean that you should buy any or every block plane in sight.  There are some thing you need to consider before you decide you want to invest the TIME in this particular plane.  Of course, that's what this is.  You're replacing money with time.  If you're into the "Zin of rod building," time may be something you want to spend on something you enjoy.  If not then you may want to look elsewhere.

Where to start?  I don't worry about rust unless it's attacked any of the moving parts.  Rust is one of the easier problems to deal with. Do check the pitting that rust usually brings.  Pitting isn't usually a problme when flattening a sole, unless it's excessive and around the mouth of the plane. You'll end up with a flat and shiney sole with a few imperfections in it. 

Scars along the side of the body make the plane less valuable to a collector, but don't affect function.  (I have one plane that looks like it was attacked by an arc welder. it has a 1/16 in scar down one side, destroying it's collectable value.  It cost me about $12).

Look at the plane.  Is it all there?  If not, do you want to spend the time (or money) replacing missing parts.  Is it working?  By this I mean can you adjust it and will it stay adjusted.  That means check all the moving parts, the toe, the lateral adjustment bar, the wheel that adjusts the blade.  While your at it make sure the blade makes contact with the arm that will move it in and out.  How is the blade held under the cap?  Almost every block plane ever built has a quick release lever on the upper end of the cap.  (I have one plane that had this lever broken off.  I replaced the device with a 1/4 hex screw.)  How much travel does the toe have?  If it's stuck, I try to take off the adjustment screw and remove the toe from the plane body.  If I can get it free,  I examine the inside for problems.  The area that makes contact with the toe should be smooth and free of obstructions.  How far will the throat close?  Will it hold it's position.  Is the Eccentric toe adjustment lever there?  (I bought a plane without the toe adjustment lever  and replaced it with a washer that I filed to a concentric shape.  It works.)
 

Once I've decided that the parts are all there (or I can replace them) and that the plane is in working mechanical order, I turn it over and look at the sole.

The adjustable toe should be flush with the rest of the sole of the plane.  More then a thousandth above or below the sole means something's wrong and will take special consideration.

I look at the general condition of the sole.  It will probably be scared.  This may or may not be a problem.  The area we're interested in is the area in the Green rectangle.  That's the part of the sole that will be touching the bamboo.  Anything outside of  that area will be resting on top of the planing form.  As long as it's flat it can be scarred, chipped or scratched. 
If, on the other hand, the area inside the green rectangle is scarred, chipped or scratched.  I'll want to look very closely at the extent of the damage. 

The scars on the sole of most block planes run in the direction of movement, vertically as we look at the sole of this plane.



Let's look at some plane soles.
Grab These if you can

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