2012-08-17 An Old Stanley Block Plane

We went shopping at an Antique Mall.  Last time I was at this place I got a Case knife for a good price.  This time I found a little Stanley Model # 220 Block Plane for $16.00.  It's a great price and the plane was in decent shape, only minimal rust and no missing parts.

They stopped making this model in 1973 but you can still find them new on eBay for about $30.00 plus shipping.  The cheapest ones in decent shape go for $20.00 to $25.00 plus shipping.  This model is a low angle block plane (21 cutting angle) on a machined, cast iron base, a rosewood knob, and a knurled steel adjusting screw.  It's 7 1/2 inches long by 1 5/8 inches wide.  

In case you're wondering what's the difference between a bench plane and a block plane, I had to look it up too.

Wikipedia says bench planes have the cutting iron bevel facing down and block planes have the cutting iron bevel up.
They also say block planes are usually a smaller tool used with one hand for general purpose work like smoothing small pieces.

The first thing I did was take it apart and wash the parts.  I had to remove cobwebs.  It's been sitting up a while.
It's pretty simple with few parts, not complex like bench planes.  There's only the cast iron base (on the left), the blade (or "iron" at top right), a depth adjustment screw (that long screw thingy with the knurled knob on the end), and the heel which is called a "lever cap."

Yeah, I know.  that's only 4 parts and there are 5 parts in the photo.  Let me explain the remaining part.  It's a nut or threaded knob (not to be confused with the wooden thing that's called a "knob").  It goes over the screw post in the center of the cast iron base.  The blade, is under it.  You loosen this, adjust the blade depth, then screw it tight to hold the blade in place while in use.

Planes most often use a lever and cam instead of a screw or nut.  Move the lever and the cam releases pressure so you can adjust the depth of cut.  That's why the heel is called a "lever cap" because it covers the lever and cam.

Here's the little 220 block plane on my work bench next to my Stanley RB5 block plane which I hate.

You can tell the 220 is only an inch longer and just as handy.

The reason I hate the RB5 is because it's dirt cheap quality.  The heel is plastic, the adjustment screw is pot metal, and the blades are the throw away kind just like everything else in today's society.  The base is metal but I'm not sure what kind.  I long ago lost the plastic toe cover for this POJ.  At least it came with a spare blade.

It works but just barely.  Like on all other block planes, you have to release the blade tension to adjust depth of cut.  The little screw on the right is for that.  Unfortunately, when you release the tension the blade falls out.  You're on your hands and knees trying to retrieve it.  Then you have to figure out how to keep it from falling again while you put the dumb thing back in.  Now you know why I hate it.  it doesn't cut very well either.  I can think of other reasons why I can't stand this thing but you get the idea.

The old Stanley block plane cuts very well, just like a plane is supposed to.  All I had to do was remove a bit of rust and sharpen it on my diamond hone for a few minutes.  Here's the evidence of how it made short work of smoothing a test piece.  It seems to cut just as well against the grain as with it with very little gouging.  

Here's a closeup of the cast iron base with the serial number.  It looks better after I oiled it to protect it from rust.

And here's a closeup of the iron (the blade) stamped with Stanley's Brand and the model number.
I'll enjoy using this tool a lot more than the piece of junk RB5.  I think "RB" must stand for "Really Bad."

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and may all your tools work as well as this one.

If you're interested in lengthy reading about planes, here's a website from a guy who seems to know more about them than anyone.  He discusses the model 200 series at length and compares previous models:
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