To Restore or Not

Stanley type 9 #4 smooth plane.

Stanley type 9 #4 smooth plane.

Recently I was reminded that there have been a lot of newcomers to woodworking and especially to hand  tools. My philosophy on tools is quite simple. Tools were made to be used. Before you get your feathers ruffled, I am not against tool collecting. It is just not for me. Tool collecting serves a useful purpose in that it preserves tools for the future. One of my main objectives for this blog is to show people how to preserve antique and vintage tools with the purpose of making them available for use to a new generation of woodworkers. And I emphasize USE.

The pic above shows my Stanley #4 smooth plane. This is the plane I use for all smoothing work in my woodshop. It was made in the very early 20th century. I completely restored this plane with no regard to its collector value. But I didn’t go into the restoration blind.

I am often asked “should I restore this tool?” That is a complex question with no simple answer. So here goes. It is my opinion that the owner of any item has the legal and moral right to do anything they choose to with said item. A person may feel that preserving a vintage or antique item in its original condition is a moral obligation, but it is not. If you choose to do this that is fine and dandy, but you are not obligated to do so. So if you choose to restore an antique tool that is nobody’s business but yours. Some antique tools can be worth hundreds even thousands of dollars. If you were to restore one of these tools its value would drop dramatically. Therefore, you would probably not want to restore such a valuable tool.

Before you decide whether or not to restore a tool do some research. There is a wealth of information online to help you determine the value of a tool. For Stanley planes you can start here. In general, with Stanley planes, the older, pre 1900, specimens are the most valuable. Once you have an idea of the value of your tool you can make an informed decision as to whether or not to restore it. The idea is to preserve a tool for another generations use. If you do that by a good cleanup, a complete restoration, or wash it and put it on a shelf with the rest of your collection matters not.

As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment. Oh, I have a feeling I’m going to hear about this one 🙂


Professional furniture maker and restorer. Dealer and collector of vintage and antique woodworking tools.
This entry was posted in Woodworking Hand Tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to To Restore or Not

  1. shawndugay says:

    I agree completely. A tool is meant to be used. I get that some people want to collect but that’s not for me either. As always, thanks for the insight Bill

  2. Ive been “collecting” tools for over twenty-five years. When I was younger, I always thought of my tool purchases as investments. After watching tool prices over the years, especially after the eBay effect, I’ve realized that the true value in old tools is to restore them and put them back to work.
    Just look at the prices in John Walter’s “Stanley Guide to Identify and Value” book from the 1990’s and see how little prices if any have grown.

  3. runamokwoodworks says:

    I agree. I like old tools and so have several, but they are all used on a regular basis and are kept clean and etc so they can be used and are maintained so they can be used. Because tools are meant to be used in the pursuit of another goal.
    Thanks for documenting what you do.

  4. Johne706 says:

    Link exchange is nothing else but it is just placing the other persons weblog link on your page at proper place and other person will also do similar in support of you. bkfbecfeckkd

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