A tale of two wooden planes.

People often think that just because a plane is vintage, then it automatically must be valuable, right? Unfortunately the reality is not so. Sometimes, planes were, like everything else, mass-produced so their value is limited – except of course in a historical context. Here are two examples.

The first plane is a 16″ wooden razee jack plane made by Greenfield Tool Co. of Greenfield Massachusetts (1851-1883).


Fig 1: Greenfield razee jack plane


This plane is a more mass-produced entity, with less regard to quality. This is evident in three areas of the plane. Firstly there are a series of vertical cracks in the toe of the plane, the largest of which travels towards the strike button, and continues through to the mouth of the plane- indicative of a weakness in the structure of the plane body. Secondly looking at the recess in the blade bed to hold the chip-breaker bolt-head, it seems somewhat poorly constructed. The closed handle offers another indication, where the inner edge shows a lack of finishing. These were likely utilitarian planes, not meant to last 100 years. Wooden plane bodies could always be replaced, blades could be re-used.


Fig 2: Defects in the Greenfield jack plane


These planes were often made of beech. Were the plane body made of straight grain (vertical), the sole of the plane will not wear easily, but had a tendency to crack. Were the plane body made of flat grain (horizontal), it will wear quicker, but not crack as easily. This plane has flat grain, so it shouldn’t have cracked as badly as it did, suggesting that the wood was not entirely dry before the plane was built, and blows to the strike button caused cracking over time. The plane may have some value as it sports  the less common closed type tote which is rarely seen on a jack plane.


Fig 3: Pearce No.109 jack plane

The second plane is a J. PEARCE NEW YORK No. 109 jack plane with an open-style tote. This “2nd” line of bench planes was sold to New York tool stores and wholesalers by H. Chapin’s Union Factory (1828-1865). Now this plane could be older, but its construction is much better. It is likely also made of beech. There are very few defects in this plane. The most prominent damage to the mouth of the plane is caused by wear, resulting in shavings that would not be very fine – which may be okay if used as a roughing plane. This can be fixed by replacing the section with a hardwood inlay. There are also some minor radial cracks in the body – the body is composed of a a block of quarter-sawn wood with the tree rings radiating out from the top-left corner of the toe.


Fig 4: Defects in the Greenfield jack plane

Both these planes are worth somewhere between $10-20. Actually the tapered blade of the Pearce No. 109 may be worth more than the plane itself. At some point I will restore both planes, and post the process.


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