Transitional Planes

The Stanley ‘transitional’ planes, combining a wooden body with a cast iron frame, frog and standard adjustment mechanism, were made between 1870 and 1940. You see these things pretty commonly in antique shops and flea markets. According to those in the know, they are not particularly valuable in the collectors’ market (which is why you see so many of them, and so few #1’s). Still, a plane is a plane and a potential working tool, so I set out to find a restorable one for a friend who had expressed an interest.

Stanley 26

The Stanley 26 in pieces

I ended up buying this #26, a 15″ plane that dates (a far as I can make out) from 1898 or so. I got it off eBay for about $25 (inc. shipping), maybe not as cheap as could be but the same you would expect to pay in an antique shop.

Stanley 26

"Parts is Parts"

The beech body was in very good shape, an exceptionally dense piece of timber that had none of the severe bottom scoring or end-checking often seen in these things. The metal parts were coated with light surface rust, but cleaned up nicely. Most of the remaining black ‘Japaning’ came off in cleaning, but that’s only important to collectors. The iron and chip breaker turned out to be a little later vintage, about 1910 (based on the imprinted logo), but were in good enough shape to polish and sharpen for normal use.

Stanley 26

Takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Once the metal parts were cleaned and the iron tuned up, I reassembled the plane and trued the bottom (it had just a slight twist in it, again attesting to the quality of the piece of beech). I took a couple of shavings with it, and these pictures of it, and passed it on to my friend who was pleased to get it. He plans to use it as a shooting plane, which would be a nice fit for it given the heft of the beech body.

Now I’m looking for one for myself!


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7 Responses to Transitional Planes

  1. keith lyon / joiner says:

    Could you shed any light on my “SPIERS” jack plane made in AYR Scotlond 13.5 inch x 2.75inch base . STEEL SHELL , EBONY INTERIOR AND HANDLE , CAPTIVE BRASS LEVER CAP.STEEL CAP IRON & BLADE 2.5 INCH WIDE

  2. Dave F says:

    Hi Keith — do you have a picture of your Spiers? Sounds like it’s typical of the Spiers line in general, at least the ones I’ve seen. I’m not too familiar with them, and have only handled a couple. They are heavy, beautifully made, the irons of good steel, and highly sought after. Sounds like you have a gem!

    Thanks for the inquiry, wish I could be of more help.



  3. Art says:

    Beautiful work! I’m restoring a Stanley #27 I got off of eBay. I just put the metal in a vinegar bath this morning.

    Curious, did you experience any problems with the threading of the screws that hold the iron body to the wood block? I took the whole thing apart VERY carefully, and I don’t think I stripped anything out, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen when I go to put it back together.



    • Dave F says:

      Hi Art — no problems with the screws in the plane I restored, but obviously that could be an issue under some circumstances. There are various ways to repair stripped theads in wood, so you should be OK even if there is trouble. Let us know how it turns out for you!


  4. Art says:

    Turned out WAY better than I ever could have anticipated. I’ve done a few now and I love restoring these things!

    Is there a way I could post photos?

  5. Daniel says:

    Hello, i recently bought a stanley #28 at a flea market and my excitement overwhelmed me because of the price. I didnt notice it did not have a chip breaker or cap iron (whatever). Would you know where i could find one? The blade is 2 3/8″ wide. Thanks!

    • Dave F says:

      Hi Daniel,

      The iron and chipbreaker for the #28 are 2-3/8″ wide. The #28, #29, #30, and #31 planes share the same iron/chipbreaker/cap iron sets. The cap iron is also called the lever cap.

      In the standard Stanley bench #4-1/2, #5-1/2, #6, #7, and #8 planes all use 2-3/8″ irons and chipbreakers. The standard cap irons are smooth castings, whereas the transitional planes used a textured surface. Functionally, they are probably interchangeable, but I haven’t tested that theory.

      As for the plane iron and chipbreaker, I think that any Stanley 2-3/8″ stuff would work as a replacement — vintage or new. There are also replacement sets on offer from Hock Tools (, Lie-Nielsen (, and Lee Valley-Veritas (

      Again, it’s possible that a cap iron from any old Stanley #4-1/2, 5-1/2, 6, 7, or 8 would work. That’s a guess. If you want the real deal (i.e. an original transitional plane cap iron) you can try eBay, or email Patrick Leach at Superior Toolworks ( Patrick is a well known buyer/seller of old tools, with a huge inventory. I’ve dealt with him numerous times.

      Good luck!


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