Discovering A New Tool

Vintage Hand Tools / Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Stanley #71 Router Plane
Stanley #71 Router Plane

Last Saturday the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association held their semi-annual national tool meeting in Des Moines, IA and I had the opportunity to go. For those with even a passing interest in vintage hand tools, I highly recommend checking out this organization, and if you get the opportunity, one of their Tool Meets. You won’t be disappointed.

I can easily say the trade floor included the largest selection of vintage tools I’ve personally seen in one place, and I had a lot of fun simply browsing the tables. One of the tools I had hoped to find was a vintage router plane, and I was able to pick up a beautiful Stanley #71 in excellent condition.

My previous experience with these planes had indicated that the #71 came with an open throat (the area in front of the blade), while the #71-1/2 came with a closed throat. I was a bit puzzled then that this particular tool (as you can see in the photo) has a closed throat, but is clearly stamped #71. It wasn’t until I returned home that I was able to clear up the mystery.

Fortunately there are some excellent online resources available for Stanley hand planes, and one of the best that I know of is HyperKitten Tool Co. Thanks to the router plane type study posted there, I discovered that when Stanley introduced the #71 in 1884, it was only offered with a closed throat. The open throat wasn’t introduced until 1892. The #71-1/2 was later introduced, bringing back the closed throat.

This meant the plane I had purchased was even older than I suspected. It appears to me to be a type 3, manufactured between 1888 and 1892. There’s something rewarding in the thought that I represent the latest chapter in a history that spans some 125 odd years. All that’s left now is to sharpen the blade and make some shavings!