Are older hand tools really better than those manufactured today?
The quality of most older hand tools remained at a high level up to about 1960. Since 1960, the quality of materials and manufacturing has declined throughout the industry. There are a handful of quality manufacturers that are exceptions to that statement: Bridge City, Lee Valley, Lie-Nielsen and Starrett are examples of manufacturers still doing it right.
What makes most pre-1960 hand tools better?
Prior to 1960, hand tools were manufactured to exacting standards to meet the demands of persons who used those to make their living: tradespersons of all kinds. For example, castings used in planes were seasoned before the metal was machined and finished. Many of the newer, post-1960 planes are made from "green", unseasoned cast iron which tends to warp and be untrue. While the feel and appearance of a particular hand tool is a subjective thing, the fit and finish aspects can be quantified as well as how the tool performs without a lot of after-market tweaking and tuning by the owner.
Will using an older hand tool reduce its value?
It really depends on the vintage tool. If it is a fairly common item, such as a No.5 Jack Plane, circa 1935 or later, you don't have to be too concerned. An earlier version of the same tool, a No.5, might require more care and minimal use if you were concerned about wear and tear on a less common item. If you own a scarcer tool, such as a No.164 Low Angle Plane, you might carefully consider how much you really would want to use something that could lose a lot of value through prolonged use.
How can you identify old tools and find out how much they are worth?
There is no single reference for identifying and appraising antique and used hand and one has to consult various guidebooks, published pricelists, websites, auction catalogs, etc., especially if you are new to tool collecting.  In using guidebooks, it is best to remember that they are guides only and you have to factor in some important criteria in appraising the value of old hand specific current market vs. the "book" price, vintage, overall condition, missing or defective parts, repairs, etc.  The best comprehensive reference for Stanley items is Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools Guide to Identity & Value (out of print), 1996.  885 pages, by John Walter, P.O. Box 227; Marietta, OH. 45750.  Otherwise, Google is your friend in the search on the Web for answers to your questions about identification and current values.

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Bob Kaune - Antique & Used Tools - 511 W. 11th - Port Angeles, Washington 98362
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Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2021