The following quote was a post  made by Casey Benton on a Facebook conversation. I thought it would be good to add some thoughts and post it where it can be found for future reference. This was an answer to the Question, “When speaking of Bailey type hand planes as users, the difference between a high quality plane and a lower quality plane is the difference in time it takes to tune it. Do you agree?”

“I agree that most Bailey pattern planes can be tuned to provide mostly equivalent results. I would take Stanley Bailey just based on the number of them available. As a new user, not a lot has to be done to get acceptable results and with just a bit more effort can work almost as good as the premium planes offered today. Easiest I have found to tune would have to go to Sargent. The least work and generally at a price point of 2/3 of the Stanley. In my experience Stanley will generally take a couple of hours to check and get tuned. With Sargent I normally just sharpen the iron and go. If it doesn’t work as I like, then I will tune, and the needed time is less than an hour. I find that Sargent irons take a bit longer to sharpen than Stanley but hold an edge slightly better. Union is right there as well and right now in today’s market if I were looking for a plane that I can buy for the best price and achieve the best results it would have to be Union. People generally pay you to take them away as they can’t even give these things away. Stay away from the post Stanley ones as the quality drops really fast after Stanley bought them. A pre-Stanley version will tune relatively quickly, and the irons are pretty decent. The only issue with Union that I have found is that for whatever reason they are usually terribly abused, and it might be hard to find a nice one with no issues. The cheeks on the early ones that I have looked at seem to be somewhat thin and in fact I have 2 No 5’s with cracks in the cheeks so make sure you look them over carefully before buying. I haven’t yet tried Ohio or Millers Falls so can’t give you my opinion on that but someday soon I will give the MF a try. Moving over to the non-Bailey patent planes the 3 contenders in my mind are Stanley Bedrock, Sargent Shaw’s Patent and Union X-plane. All 3 of these are solid user planes but the performance/cost of any of these 3 planes isn’t any better in my opinion than a well-tuned Bailey plane. That being said though there are some distinct advantages over Bailey planes. The Union X plane has an amazing Iron/cap iron combo that is second to none and in my mind comparable to what you can get from today’s manufacturers. The iron adjustment is simple and straightforward and if you want a plane that requires next to nothing for tuning pick this plane. Second would be Shaw’s patent. Smooth as silk and stupidly easy to adjust. With a better iron the Shaw’s patent would challenge the X plane as the best IMO. Third on my list of must haves would be the Bedrock. I really don’t find a lot of advantages to buying a Bedrock over a Bailey with one exception. The Bedrock flat top is by far the coolest looking plane on the planet but that is only my opinion. On the negative they do need more tuning than the other 2 and you will spend a couple of hours getting it right. Really too bad that Stanley didn’t put a better iron/cap iron in the bedrock to distinguish it from the Stanley Bailey. With a better iron/chip breaker the Bedrock is as good as any LN/Veritas made today. (Sorry LN fans but that based upon using a Bedrock with a hock iron/cb and a LN) From the 3 listed above I would pick the Bedrock but only because of how many that Stanley made. Break a Bedrock and parts or a replacement are relatively easy to get. Break a X plane or a Shaw’s patent and you will be waiting a long time to find parts or a replacement and be prepared to open your wallet.”


I think most of us will agree that Stanley was the obvious leader in vintage hand plane sales. There are far more Stanley hand planes to be found than any other vintage brand. The name is best known, usually the first brand we encounter as a vintage collector or for restoration as a user plane in the unplugged market. That tends to make them the standard for comparison.

Using Stanley Planes as a standard will sometime lead to the impression that I (or we, because I know Casey agrees) don’t like Stanley-Bailey hand planes. This is far from the truth. Anything pre type 18 are great planes and make perfect users. The point being, they were not (in our opinion) of the highest quality out-of-the-box in most given time frames. Our point is the other manufacturers should not be over looked when trying to find good hand planes for the bench, and in some cases, there may be better options for several reasons that can range from cost to tuning time and others that may include personal differences.

Stanley is by far the most popular, easiest to find, easiest to find parts for, and can be found just as inexpensively if you’re willing to look as any other maker. All brands tend to see a cycle of up and down depending on who’s talking about what, but almost any of these planes can be made to work very very well and they all have subtle differences that make them become a personal favorite of woodworkers.

For instance, the typical Stanley user will like the type 10 or later for the frog adjustment screw. I typically feel the frog adjustment screw was a fantastic marketing event and is not only not needed, it can often be a hindrance. Once again, just a personal preference of mine.

The type 4 (VBM) and later had mahogany knob and totes instead of Rosewood. This obviously has nothing to do with performance, but some prefer the looks of rosewood. I love the looks of refinished mahogany, so it’s a wash.

Sargent planes (especially types 4 and 5) do not typically require any flattening other than possibly the back of the iron. This is seldom the case with Stanley planes (and most others for that matter) unless your lucky enough to find one that was previously flattened.

The following is our (Casey’s and My) opinions on how long it TYPICALLY takes to tune the plane FOR SMOOTHING. This time obviously varies due to several factors, including the planes past life, was it already tuned, was it misused, what is the intent (smoothers need more than jack planes etc).

Listed in order of tuning time TYPICALLY required. The least time is always first.

Casey’s list:

  1. Sargent
  2. Union (pre-Stanley buy-out)
  3. Stanley – Bailey (type 5-18)
  4. Union (post Stanley buy-out)
  5. Stanley – Bailey (type 19 and on)

Non Bailey

  1. Union X plane
  2. Shaw’s patent
  3. Bedrock

 

Listed in order of tuning time TYPICALLY required.

Don’s list:

  1. Sargent
  2. Union (pre Stanley buy-out)
  3. Stanley – Bailey (type 5-18)
  4. Millers Falls (early type 3 and earlier)
  5. Hercules (Early by Sargent)
  6. Last version of Sargent
  7. Union (post Stanley buy-out)
  8. Defiance (early) and similar Stanley lines
  9. Millers Falls (early type 4 and later)
  10. Stanley – Bailey (type 19 and on)

Non Bailey

  1. Union X plane
  2. Shaw’s patent
  3. Bedrock