One tool that I regularly use in my workshop is the ‘Stanley Bailey’ No7 hand plane. This vintage tool has a very good heritage and has been favoured by many a woodworker for it’s the ability to true longboards of wood.
Why use a Jointer Hand Plane?
Woodworkers use a jointer plane to true the edge of a board usually for edge to edge glue-ups. A jointer hand plane is either a handtool such as the Stanley Bailey No7 or a jointer planing machine.
How Long is the Stanley Bailey?
The Bailey No7 jointer has a long 22″ sole which guides the plane accurately over the edge of boards removing thin shavings until the plank is perfectly straight. This makes the 22″ jointer hand plane the perfect choice for truing boards so they mate perfectly together.
Stanley Bailey N07 vs Electric Jointer?
So if I want to true a timber board for a tabletop glue up I reach for my Stanley Bailey No7 but if I want to batch thickness, multiple boards, I often use my electric Jointer to true the first face then finish with the No7. The electric plane leaves knife marks but the Stanley leaves a perfectly smooth finish.
Stanley Plane History
The Original tool foundry ‘Stanley’ was founded by ‘Frederick Stanley’ in 1843 in New Britain. There was some connection in the design of the castings with another toolmaker ‘Leonard Bailey’ who patented several designs. Respecting Leonard Bailey, the name Bailey was cast into the sole of later Stanley planes.
My blog on ‘The History of Stanley Handtools’
Why The Stanley Bailey No 7?
There are other jointer planes which are also very capable such a the Woodriver but also Grizzly puts their name on a jointer that is much cheaper. But why the Stanley? It is simple really as the Stanley Bailey has been around for many years I have seen cast into the sole patents displaying 1902! Because these plane have been cast for so long there are thousands of them kicking around and so bargains are often found. Just because these planes are old does not mean they are useless in fact they are far superior to many tools costing more.
This ‘Stanley Bailey’ No 7 is a 22“ long sole plane primarily used for the truing of longboards prior to joining. This plane is also known as a jointer.
Stanley plane irons were laminated
Early Stanley jointer planes were outfitted with laminated plane irons. It wasn’t until the Second World War when Stanley decided to stop including these composite plane irons. Some people call the plane iron a blade!
I Pimped My Stanley Bailey Jointer
Although the original Stanley Bailey is a good tool. I have pimped my Stanley Bailey for better performance and ergonomics. I upgraded the Plane Iron and chip breaker with hand-forged iron by ‘Victor’ and new custom made handles. The sole was machined well by the foundry but I fine-tuned it for my own hand. Remember hand tools should never be loaned out to friends or family. Your tools will be an extension of your hand and your hand only! We wear our tools to fit our work technique.
I have had bad experience lending tools. People generally do not respect other people’s tools or not skilled enough to use them correctly.
Sharpening the Stanley Bailey number 7
This hand plane is very similar to most of the Stanley hand planes you can buy. Sharpening is done in a very similar fashion to other hand planes. This plane is wider than a number 4 by half an inch or 12.7 mm this extra width is useful but makes sharpening a little harder as most sharpening stones are 2″ (50mm).
Sharpen Plane Iron in a (Figure of Eight)
I sharpen on my oil stones using a figure of eight motion which makes it easy to sharpen wide plane irons. This motion also helps to prevent uneven wear of the oil stone.
Norton India Oil Stones are ideal and cheap
I use a Norton India oil stone for sharpening my plane irons. I have a set of 3 plane irons mounted in boxes fixed to a board I have made carriages that carry the plane iron at the correct angle. Each oil stone is of a different grade including course, fine and superfine.
I use this method for regular grinding and sharpening to maintain the correct angle. But when I just want to put a quick edge on a dull plane iron I use a basic Norton India oil stone to touch it up.
A sharpening guide will help
So why not use a simple sharpening guide? You can purchase a sharpening guide or make a system in wood. These guides come in many forms from a simple roller guide to complete sharpening systems such as the Tormek water-cooled sharpener.
Which honing guide should I choose?
If you decide to go for a simple sharpening guide I recommend the Veritas honing guide or the lea Nielsen honing guide. These tools are expensive but very accurate. If you cannot afford this premium brand then the Eclipse honing guide will work just fine. Otherwise, just make one as we describe in this video. it’s better anyway. When using a horning guide it is a good idea to make some simple wooden angle setting guides so every time you put the plane iron into the guide you have the same length of blade protruding. A digital angle finder is a good idea for checking the grind angle. Such as in our blog on Digital equipment.
Use a leather Strop to get a ‘Crazy Sharp Edge’
When you have finished sharpening on the oil stone and hand stropping it does not end there. First, you grind your primary bevel then you hone a second bevel which makes your cutting edge but now what? You can make that second bevel much fine thus sharper. You have seen the movies with characters such as Sweeney Todd honing his cut-throat razor on a leather strap attached to his station. Well us woodworkers often do the same thing but without the throat-slitting! I use a leather strop mounted on a board and use some green oxide compound paste. I simple rub my plane iron about 20 times per side away from the edge so it does not dig in and cut the strop.
Stropping the palm of the hand with the Bailey No7 iron
When we sharpen on an oil stone or diamond sharpener a wire edge or burr is formed which needs to be removed. If we do not remove the burr it will fold over the edge and guard the sharp giving the impression that it is blunt!
Maintaining The Stanley Bailey Hand Plane
Like any tool made of iron, the humble woodworker’s hand plane is no exception when it comes to being vulnerable to corrosion. Keeping your tools free from surface rust comes part and parcel to using hand tools.
Regular use of the Bailey will preserve it
If you use your tools on a regular basis then you will probably find your hand tool collection will remain rust-free.
If like so many who love their tools but don’t get a chance to use them as often as they like. This lack of use allows the acids we have on our skin long enough to corrode the iron.
Lube your Tool!
A simple solution is to wipe the tool with an oily rag or spray with a water displacer such as WD40. There are propriety tool protectors such as Liberon tool lubricant wax. I use both oil and Liberon wax but for different purposes. If it is a tool I use on a regular basis then I use Liberon wax as it also makes the tool glide over the workpiece. The problem with oil is the oil residue which needs cleaning every time you want to use the tool.
Too much lube will make your tool too dirty!
Dust will stick to oil and grease so use oil liberally. It is not only the metal surfaces of the Stanley tool that require care but also the moving parts. While you have the oil to hand remove any dust and oil the screws and other moving parts.
With a little maintenance above and beyond sharpening, your treasured Stanley Bailey No7 will last a lifetime.
Is the Stanley Bailey number 7 a great tool straight out of the box?
If you buy a new tool you will need to check that the sole is true. Sometimes the sole can be a little out of true and so will require a little truing.
Why wouldn’t it be true?
I know it sounds a little daunting and why wouldn’t they check it at the factory? Well, I agree as they have managed to machine it, so why not machine it 100% flat? I know that there would be some additional cost but I don’t believe it would be much.
How do I check my Stanley for true?
Testing for true is easy, all you need is something 100% flat like a piece of glass and some abrasive paper. Draw squiggles on the bottom of the sole with a sharpie then grab the plane with both hands and make several passes over the abrasive paper. Areas, where the ink is still clear to see, depicts hollows and areas that are sanded are the highs. To grind flat just continue with the sanding until the entire surface is ground and no Sharpie marks can be seen.
Victor’s hand-forged plane iron
These plane irons are a real improvement to the original plane iron. I use these on a regular basis and is my go-to modification to the basic Stanley or Record. Upgrading to Victor’s hand-forged plane iron is a simple but massive upgrade. Until you try this upgrade you will not appreciate how much better the plane will perform.
Can’t find Victor Handforged?
If you can’t find hand-forged Victor plane blade then you could try the Clifton plane iron instead.
Clifton plane blades are also very good quality and can provide a super sharp Edge. Clifton chip breakers are also a one-piece design.
If you have not managed to upgrade your Stanley Bailey number 7 or any Stanley Bailey with Victor hand-forged plane irons. you can still get a good edge with the original Stanley plane iron or blade as it is otherwise known.
Stanley Bailey number 7 jointer plane versus a budget version.
There are some lower-cost alternatives to the Stanley Bailey. Although they are cheaper generally around half the price. Such as budget brand ‘Faithfull‘ or the ‘Axminster rider’. Personally, I would recommend that you either buy a new Stanley Bailey or find an old Stanley Bailey jointer plane for restoration. I find that the original Stanley Bailey is actually much better quality even if you do not upgrade the plane iron.
Are new Stanley No7 Jointer planes any good?
I do not own a new Stanley Bailey but I do have some experience of it after being loaned one from a friend. I wish I photographed the new and the old Stanleys side by side as the difference between them is quite significant. When you compare a vintage bailey to the new offerings you can clearly see the cost savings made by Stanley in 2020. You would do better with a Bench Dog No7 or an old tool.
New Stanley Planes are:
- New Stanleys have a lighter casting
- Thinner plane irons
- the blade assembly is not so well-engineered
- machining to the sole is not always flat
The soleplate on my new Stanley Bailey is not flat
Don’t despair because this can be corrected. You can take it to a local engineering shop which they can put it on a milling machine and very quickly skim the bottom of your soleplate until it’s perfectly flat. Not much material will need removing, it will only be thousands of an inch. Alternatively use the sandpaper on the flat glass as mentioned earlier on in this article. It will take a while but I have done this many times and it works very well.
You get what you pay for!
If you have the money then go for a Lie Neilsen, Wood River (Bedrock Pattern) or Veritas but otherwise. Us mere mortals have to look at cheaper alternatives seeking the best value possible for limited budgets.
The Axminster rider jointer plane isn’t a bad piece of equipment but equally is not as good as the original bailey. The same goes to the faithful jointer plane in that it’s not quite so well finished than the bailey and requires flattening to the sole but it is a good tool and stupid cheap, I have a list of Faithfull hand planes here.
I have put together some affordable planes
A tool for life
The hand plane is considered a “tool for life’ I have got hand planes I have owned for over 40 years. My grandparents had tools that they used in their trade pretty much all their lives and handed them down to me so they are very well used but still perform perfectly well.
My point being is that sometimes spending more on the hand tool (when you consider how long they last)shouldn’t really be your main consideration, it should be the tool itself. And its ability to do a good job quickly. This is fair to say especially if the tool is to provide you with an income as a part of your trade but the hobbyist doesn’t really need to consider high-end hand tools.
Tool Tarts or not a Tart?
Brands such as Festool, Lee Nelson and even Clifton demand high prices and can be considered a kudos. There are ‘Tool Tarts’ out there who buy these tools pretty much for the basis that they are badge names like Nike etc. Not necessarily for the quality of the tool itself or it’s function. But yes these are status symbols but they are equally great pieces of equipment.
I lean towards my Stanley Baileys because they’re modest and competent but it doesn’t mean to say that I wouldn’t love to own a full set of the Nielsen and planes.
Traditional tool Construction is better than new?
One thing to watch out for when buying a hand plane (this goes for all hand planes) is that the handles are not made from plastic. Plastic handles and knobs tend to cause the hands to sweat and sweaty hands do not grip well. Hardwood handles (or a tote as they’re called) are best to be made from wood and in my opinion. If your wooden handle is varnished and shiny remove that varnish and just oil the wood. Raw timber on the palm is far better than varnished timber. The reason for this is that gripping sealed surfaces for long periods of time don’t grip because of sweat. I prefer to make my own handles to suit my working practices and neanderthal hands!
Are modern materials ok for a Handplane?
Traditionally the hand plane is made from a block of hardwood or mater it was more practically made in cast iron. Modern materials such as Carbon Fibre with machined stainless steel soleplates is a possible design concept for a hand plane but personally I like the old Stanley Bailey N07.
Buying a used Stanley Bailey number 7 jointer plane
Buying used a Stanley Bailey plane. There are things you need to watch out for.
Avoid the Baily No 7c
The Stanley Bailey jointer came as the model Number 7 and 7 c. The Bailey 7 c Stanley jointer plane has a corrugated soleplate. Unless you really want a corrugated soleplate on your plane do not choose this model unless it’s very cheap.
The corrugated model is quite rare because it wasn’t very popular and design was for the purpose of reducing friction. For me, the problem with this plane is that the additional machining for the corrugation weakened the soleplate around the mouth area of the plane. Corrugated soles are easy to break if dropped. If you are looking for a Stanley Bailey number 7 jointer plane look for a standard unspoiled version.
Find the base for a good Jointer refurb
Start with a good tool, in the beginning. It would be much easier to end up with a fantastic tool with some tweaking. Check that all the fixtures and fittings. Are all the screws and the knurled adjustment knob and the plane iron etc there. Obviously having a complete tool to start with will help guide you in creating a better one.
Things to watch out for when seeking a Stanley Bailey No7
- Excessive rust, cracks and severe pitting should be avoided so move on and carry on your search for a No7 plane
- Missing parts, plane pieces are available but not always cheap
- Using a Lupe check casting for cracks it is a sign that it has been dropped, Walk away if there are hairline cracks or lumps missing
- loose handles, but you can make new handles easily
- Seized screws
- Stiff or seized blade adjustment
- Is the sole flat?
If it is very cheap you might still want to consider the tool for restoration or it might be good for parts when you find that perfect example of the Stanley Bailey No7
In an ideal world where I had a wonderful money tree and no longer had to worry about paying that next bill, I would buy the best most expensive and capable Hand Plane available. I might even buy every No7 hand plane out there because I can! but in reality, this dreamy concept is just a pipe dream. So like many other woodies out there, I tend to seek out tools from yards sales or second-hand sites online.
This has become an adventure for me through necessity but also I get a huge amount of pleasure from finding vintage gems and restoring them. With a little work and sometimes creative thinking I am very happy with the outcome. I feel in reflection that the fact I get pleasure from the process and a successful result, restoring an old vintage Stanley Bailey No7’s is a better option than buying a new tool. This is enforced further when a new hand plane often requires some tinkering.
New alternatives to the Stanley Bailey No7 Jointer
The Stanley Bailey is becoming hard to find as their true worth is being recognised. Woodies like me seek them out but don’t fear because there are some lovely jointer planes available. Faithfull tools manufacturer a full range of reasonably priced hand planes including a Jointer N07 which I have an article here.
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