Buying vintage planes online

Buying tools online can be a tricky experience. Buying them from a reputable dealer like Jim Bode Tools is always a great experience (you just have to be fast sometimes!).  Other selling sites are a mixed bag. It’s not that there are people trying to falsely sell items, but rather people who maybe don’t have the knowledge to advertise items properly. It’s usually a case of advertising the plane based on what information they find on the plane. Take for example a recent ad I saw on eBay for a “Hearnshaw Brothers John Bull brand wooden 2¼” plane”. The blade certainly was a Hearnshaw.

The Hearnshaw Bros trademark

The body of the plane however was an EMIR, made in the UK. From the stamp it indicates a No.404. EMIR is a trademark of Emmerich(Berlon) Ltd., which made planes  in the UK from 1932-1965 (Emir still exists and makes workbenches and looms). Hearnshaw Bros. was a plane iron maker from Sheffield which operated from 1881-1960 (or from their advertisements “Manufacturers of light and heavy edge tools, of every description“. It seems from some exploration that the EMIR planes contained blades from numerous manufacturers.

Plane toe markings.

The same can happen with metal block planes, that on closer inspection show signs of being cobbled together from different planes. This happens with block planes, where a newer lever cap has been added to an older body, maybe as a replacement – with the end result being a plane which is no longer representative of the time period it was built. It can also be found on British infill planes where an iron and lever cap from a well-known company has been coupled with an unknown makers body.

The worst thing is when they try and sell a tool as “rare” – rare because it never existed. A good example is a wooden plane with a metal sole. They may have been added to extend the life of a plane which likely needed resoling. The problem is that they are most often attached using screws (6-8) in countersunk holes. These countersunk holes provide a perfect place for the plane sole to snag – not ideal. Easier to resole with a hard wood like lignum vitae.


An example of a steel-soled wooden plane, and a badly repaired sole split.

You also have to watch out for repairs, especially on wooden planes. One example are wooden inlays used to repair plane mouths that have become too wide because the sole has been worn down (repaired properly there is nothing wrong with this). Repairs like splits in wooden plane bodies are more problematic. With metal planes, cracks in the sole that have been welded should be avoided.

One thought on “Buying vintage planes online

  1. Salko Safic says:

    Yes Jim is good but he’s also careless intentionally with his words “it’s in mint condition” his definition of mint and my definition of mint are two different meanings. However, the dealer at best things his name escapes me will rarely use the word mint unless it truely is mint. Other than that Jim’s products are great, he won’t sell you anything dodgie

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