Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sandusky Tool Company - Panel Plow Planes

Folks, the flurry of comments (ok, two) on my blog has inspired the first post of 2016. Robert M., thanks for your question on the Plow planes to get us started.

Today we are going to discuss the joy of owning a Sandusky Tool Company Panel Plow Plane (STCPPP?!?). I picked up a 132 Boxwood, with Handle a few years back and it came with all 8 original irons. Here she is in all of her grubby glory.
Still dirty as I found her, just a light wax...

 I picked up my 132 with 8 irons for a low bid in an online auction - I can't remember if it was MJD or Browns.
Very often I see these with the upside down stamp. Any ideas why?

There are great little details that just aren't found on many tools today. Check out the knurling on the wooden nuts.

These are probably the most well known of Sandusky planes, and the rarer, more ornate center-wheels have fetched a pretty penny. Brown Tool Auctions sold a Presentation Center Wheel for just under$115K.

In both catalogs (1877 and 1925) the plow planes share the range of 116 to 143. The full range can be divided in the following subgroups:

  1. 116-124: Beech planes, 2 threaded arms, some with fancier wood for arms or fence
  2. 125-137: Boxwood/Rosewood/Ebony planes, 2 threaded arms
  3. 137-143: Boxwood/Rosewood/Ebony planes, Center Wheel (AKA Self-Regulating)

From a hand-tool user standpoint, there are great values to be had in the first range, although planes in excellent condition can still fetch more than a new Veritas Plow plane. The second range has a good mix of user planes and collectibles on the open market, again driven mostly by condition. The third range generally run into the thousands for nice specimens.

For a decent user, make sure the threads are still intact enough to be locked down anywhere in their full range. Check the fence for warping; the best case is perfectly straight, although you can work around a bow as long as its toward the blade. A cup towards the blade can mess up the beginning and end of your cut. I also recommend a handled model, as they are a little more comfortable to use for a longer session.

If purchasing for more than just a user - look for all irons to have matching patina, an original and fitting wedge, no cracks in the handle or horn of the handle, free movement of the wood screws/ fittings, and proper patina on all screws - especially those attaching the fence. These can be freshly stripped if the seller pieced things together from different planes. Purchasing an expensive center-wheel is probably best left to expert collectors, and is beyond my hands on experience.

The good news is (for buyers, anyway) is that the market for the 3rd tier of planes had been soft lately, and I recall seeing a few plow planes go for well under their estimated value in recent auctions. There is no time like the present to blow your grandkids inheritance on a glorified chunk of wood.

One very important note - Boxwood can react with anti-rust paper, also known as VCI (Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor) paper or wraps. While this stuff is wonderful for storing your metal tools, it will permanently stain old boxwood.

Here's a more detailed breakdown for the Type A guys and gals out there. Some notes on the table:
  • Where no wood is listed for the Fence or Handle, it matches the main body material
  • Boxed Fences have a strip of boxwood inlaid into the main fence material
  • STC did many custom jobs in the Plow Plane range and sold 5 types of arms separately, so you can run across a harlequin now and then - this will not affect usability but could impact its value as a collectible

#MaterialIronsStopArmsFenceHandleIvory TipSelf Regulating
130Box or Rose8screw
131Box or Rose8screwYes
132Box or Rose8screwYes
133Box or Rose8screwYesYes
138Box or Rose8screwYes
139Box or Rose8screwYesYes
140Box or Rose8screwYesYes
141Box or Rose8screwYesYesYes

Well Folks, thanks for making it through another long winded post. I have a few more in the pipeline, including a full rundown on all the un-handled Filletster planes.

I know, the anticipation is killing you - until next time,