I’ve been collecting antique tools for almost 30 years. It started when my Grandfather gave me a little German made jeweler’s drill press when I was 13. I thought it was coolest thing in the world and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. When I was a teenager I would spend my weekends going to antique shows with my parents looking for old tools that I could fix up and use.
Never having that much money, I would always buy common woodworking tools; planes, chisels, measuring tools, etc.. I would hardly ever spend more than $60 on any given tool, being that if I made a bad purchase, I would only be out $60. I’ve kept that rule all the way through today. So, when I saw an old Stanley #3 for $35.00 at an antique show last summer, I knew it was in my budget for it to be added to my collection.
As soon as I picked up the plane and turned it around to look at the top of the frog, I knew it was a pre-lateral plane since it didn’t have the lateral lever behind the blade. Seeing that the blade was a later type and not a pre-lateral blade didn’t bother me, because often the blade would be the only thing that would be replaced during the life of the tool. After all, these things were meant to be used, not to sit on a shelf and collect dust.
I offered the the guy $30 for the plane and he agreed, so I pulled out some cash and paid him. I then went to find my wife somewhere on the fairgrounds. A few minutes later after meeting up with my wife, I decided to inspect my purchase more closely. I pulled off the lever cap, took out the blade and cap iron and Eureka! I just bought a Stanley #3 Type 3 plane! I couldn’t believe it. I’ve heard about them, and seen them in antique tool books, but I’ve never seen one in the flesh. I yelled to my wife “I just hit the jackpot”!
Stanley made these type of planes that look like half of the frog is missing for only a couple of years from 1872-1873. They were considered a failure because of the fragile design of the frog making it prone to breaking. They’re called Type 3’s because of a Type Study that Roger K Smith wrote in his book called Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America Volume 1 that detailed all the subtle different designs that Stanley produced in their planes between one year and the next. I first ran into his type study when I bought John Walter’s book Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools Guide to Identity and Value. Today you can find a digital Stanley type study by visiting http://www.hyperkitten.com.
Ever since I bought this plane last summer, I’ve mulled over selling it. I’ve even taken pictures and came very close to listing it on eBay last month, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. I’ll probably never find another one. It’s not worth what I think it is anyway, especially since it doesn’t have it’s original blade, so I think I’ll just hold onto it for the next twenty years.