A plane graveyard

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  • #18807
    John Purser
    Participant

    Listen my brethren and you shall hear
    of the Craigslist ad that caused a tear

    So I’m perusing the Craigslist ads for old tools and come across one of those “There’s something wrong here” ads. This guy has pictures of several lovely “Stanley Bailey Planes” but the prices are insane. He wants hundreds of dollars for a size 8 but only $35 apiece for two 4 1/2s. And he’s got the sizes listed as lengths, then the size number.

    Okay, something fishy but I have to check this out.

    I get to his house and meet a very nice retired gentleman who walks me around to his back yard and shows me the remaining “Stanley Bailey 4 1/2”. My heart leaped at first sight from across the patio. The proportions were right and it looked good! $35!!! How did I get so lucky? Then I get closer.

    First off it’s not a Bailey. It’s not even a Stanley. It’s a Miller’s Falls. Okay, frankly I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a Miller’s Falls plane. They just look so darn pretty. It’s not a deal killer. I pick it up and something, not the handle, shifts a bit. Okay, he doesn’t have it tightened up so. I’ll handle it carefully so I don’t drop anything but again, not a deal killer. Then I start going over it.

    The iron and iron cap (chip breaker) are held on by a screw that doesn’t have a wide enough head so it’s augmented by a very thin washer. Okay, may need to hunt down a few parts, but still, beautiful plane. Then I look at the totes. Plastic. Okay, missing parts and plastic totes? Time to slow my roll and go over this thing carefully.

    Not a speck of rust on it, the “japanning” (not sure it’s called that on a Miller’s Falls) is, if anything, TOO perfect. But missing parts? What the….? The iron is installed upside down so I ask if I can correct that and look it over off the plane. No problem, my host cheerfully takes me into his shop.

    Side note here: There is not one scrap of sawdust, no stacks of wood, or sign of any wooden projects in the shop, on the back patio, or anywhere else. Red Flag, Red Flag, Red Flag!

    Inside he hands me a screwdriver and I pull the irons and separate them. Again, not a speck of rust but the blade has the texture of small curd cottage cheese over most of it’s surface. I realize the soul of the plane feels the same way. I’m trying to figure out how the heck that happens without losing one flake of the finish on the plane bottom. It’s like rust pitting but very very smooth. Do I need to say “Red Flag” again?

    So the deal’s off but I’m curious about how this guy got all these planes as well as how the planes got into this state because the whole lineup in his shop appears to be in identical condition.

    Well, it seems someone gave him a Highland Woodworking catalog. And inside is the list of Lee Nielson planes and their prices. This is where his pricing structure comes from and how he “knows” how valuable planes are. He’s not a wood worker at all. But he found out what planes “are worth” and knew where he could get a bunch of cheap ones. So he buys them in any shape, grinds/buffs them until all the rust is gone, repaints the plane bottom, then tries to figure out how to put it all back together. His daughter puts and ad on Craigslist for him because he doesn’t own an computer.

    And he’s going to make a PILE of money!

    You can’t even use these planes as parts planes anymore without making SURE the part on that plane goes to that model (as well as manufacturer and version) and hasn’t been ground out of spec. His planes rattle when picked up because nothing really fits any more. I was heartbroken at the dozen or so on his bench but on our way out he proudly showed me a tall, four drawer filling cabinet. Every drawer was FULL of bench and block planes he’d already done this to.

    And he’s going to make QUITE a bit of money selling these planes because they didn’t cost that much and he can still undercut Lee Nielson prices!!!

    Long sad drive home.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #18819
    Steve Follis
    Participant

    Wow! (a moment of silence) Wow!

    Memphis, Tennessee

    #18876
    Joseph Sellers
    Keymaster

    That is really strange and (for a woodworker) disturbing.

    #18894
    Jim Mount
    Participant

    What a great idea! I was looking for a little pin money to supplement retirement, and this will be just the ticket. I can start with some of rusty leftovers from my ebay “lot of hand planes” purchases, and grind them suckers down til their SHINEY. The price structure is just “plane genius”

    #18904
    Charles Cleland
    Participant

    That’s craigslist in Washington for you… I talked to a guy today that is selling a table saw for 100 dollars less than it sold for new… That is 4 years old and is missing several accessories.

    Washington State, USA
    My own humble blog:
    http://toolsofourfathers.wordpress.com/

    #18907
    John Purser
    Participant

    Up until now I kind of resented collectors who take perfectly good usable tools and warehouse them. At least they aren’t VANDALS.

    It did motivate me to pull one of my “I’ll get around to it” planes, strip it down, take off the sawdust and grease, and get it into the Evaporust. I’ll get two or three of them ready to fettle and make a day of it.

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #19323
    Scott
    Participant

    Eeek! Frankenstein Planes.

    If this gentleman had internet access, he might have received plenty of good information and healthy respect for the planes he alters. A good book, DVD, and price guide could steer him in the right direction.

    -Scott Los Angeles

    #19327
    STEVE MASSIE
    Participant

    Wow I don’t know what to say, obviously he is living in a dream world. There are deals to be made sure, but you must buy from some one who knows something also.

    Steve

    Steve Massie, I live in the great State of Florida, US

    #19358
    John Purser
    Participant

    The problem Scott is that in order for good information to do any good you have to be willing to change your mind. And he REALLY wasn’t. I tried to point out the errors in his plan but he instantly had a “reason” why that didn’t matter. He had these reasons so fast I’m pretty sure others had tried to tell him before but he wasn’t having any of it.

    Did you know that ALL planes were made in the same factory but different names were put on them so all the parts are interchangeable so no one cares what plane they came off of? Yeah, neither did I. But he was REALLY sure.

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #19618
    John Purser
    Participant

    And he STILL got me!

    Last week I bought a plane off Ebay from WAY North of where the plane butcher lived. No chance it was the same guy. I thought. Until I opened the package. Yup, sure enough.

    Every screw head has flattened places where he ground the rust off. In the case of the lever cap screw the head has been ground down so the bottom of the head is no longer flat and the sides aren’t wide enough to engage the lever cap. It’s also jammed in there HARD which makes me think it’s not a Stanley part at all but one from another plane he just shoved in there and cross threaded. The iron, cap iron, and lever cap have bizarre patterns of polished/ground areas going in all directions where he apparently ground and then did some pretty heavy handed “polishing”. None of the surfaces are flat or meet correctly. The top surface of the lever cap now has a sparkly silver finish which I’m pretty sure Stanley never got around to adding unless they did a “Christmas Edition” one year.

    So how am I SURE it’s the same guy? The guy I met had all the irons upside down and the top iron slid over the end like it was some kind of edge protector or something. Same deal with this plane. I’d say it’s a signature.

    Oh well. Too good to be true (but not by much) was. Now begins the return battle.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #19619
    Scott
    Participant

    John-

    Sorry about your woes.

    You have a link to the Ebay auction? I would like to know who to avoid buying from…

    -Scott Los Angeles

    #19621
    John Purser
    Participant

    Scott,

    I’m not sure I BOUGHT it from the same guy. I’m just sure the same guy “reconditioned” it. The plane butcher lived in (I believe) Eastern Seattle while this guy is in Marysville, WA which is quite a ways North. It was also the only tool he had to sell so hopefully he’s not much of a threat. Still, if you’re looking at buying a Bailey #6 from North Western Washington you might want to look out for this guy:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=190907334830&ssPageName=ADME:X:AAQ:US:1123

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #19622
    BarryB
    Participant

    The ebay auction may have been one of the “grinder’s” not so happy customers unloading his bad purchase …

    New Brunswick, Canada

    #19624
    John Purser
    Participant

    Barry,

    Yes I thought of that. He (the plane butcher) also said his daughter was listing the planes on Craigslist for him as he didn’t even have an e-mail account so perhaps this is a friend selling them for him on Ebay. Who knows?

    I did go back to the original ad and look for red flags I missed. I still don’t see any. The pictures are just fuzzy enough to hide the damage but that could simply be bad photography. Given the way this plane was put together I really don’t think the seller had any idea what terrible shape it’s in.

    John

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC

    #19631
    Scott
    Participant

    Thanks for the link, John.

    That eBay seller does not regularly sell tools it seems, so your suspicion about where they obtained the plane could well be correct.

    Looks like the lever cap is older than the plane body. I believe it should be a lever cap with a kidney shaped hole, not the older type with the snowman shape. It is possible with a kidney lever cap the current screw may work.

    Hard to tell if the frog is a correct match. Are the STANLEY letters on the red painted(!) lateral adjustment lever running vertically or on their side? Do the knurled grooves in the depth adjustment knob run diagonally or do they run parallel to the body?

    -Scott Los Angeles

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