The Nicest Plane You’ll (Probably) Never Buy

If you’re in the market for a smooth plane, chances are you’ll probably consider one of two options. Buy a new one from a top tool-maker like Lie-Nielsen or Veritas which can set you back $200-350, or buy an old Stanley and fix it up. However there should be a third option on your list.

The Millers Falls No 9 smooth plane is one of the nicest production smooth planes you can buy for the money. In most cases, you can buy one for a lot less than a comparable Stanley No 4 plane and get the same quality of plane.

The differences between a Stanley No 4 and a Millers Falls No 9 are minimal. Both planes use 2″ wide blades. Both are about 9″ long and weigh about 4 lbs. They both have a frog adjustment screw in the back (some older Stanley’s don’t have this feature). In fact, the only main difference between the two is that the Millers Falls uses a two piece hinged lever cap that supposedly holds more pressure on the blade and chip breaker reducing blade chatter.

Both planes are about 9″ long with the Millers Falls being 1/8″ longer. If the bed is pitted a little bit it’s not a big deal as the pits won’t affect the plane’s performance. Consider them micro corrugations.

These two planes both have a frog adjustment screw in the back making it easier to adjust the opening of the mouth for the blade. Stanley’s made before 1907 don’t have this feature but I don’t think it’s a really big deal since once you set the opening of the mouth, you rarely reset it.

The handles on Millers Falls are made of beech hardwood with some older ones being made from cherry. In my experience, these are actually better than the rosewood Stanley used. Although prettier than the stained beech, a lot of Stanley’s with rosewood handles tend to break at the tip since the rosewood is more brittle than beech or cherry.

The nicest difference the Millers Falls No 9 has over the Stanley No 4 is the price you can pick one up for. Basically nobody really wants these things because all the collectors want Stanley’s. Even woodworkers when buying old tools typically gravitate toward Stanley’s more than their competitors since there are far more Stanley’s in the market place. However, if you keep a keen eye out, you can buy an old Millers Falls for about $10.00. I know because I just picked up a few Millers Falls No 9’s for $10.00 each a few weeks ago at antique shows.

As far as the price of Stanley No 4’s expect to pay $40.00 or more for a nice one since dealers will want top dollar for them. I’ve seen some mint Stanley No 4’s go for $150 on eBay.

Getting the Millers Falls No 9 cleaned up and ready to use is no different from an old Stanley. If rusty, dip the parts in citric acid for a few hours and then polish the metal to a shine with steel wool. If necessary, fettle the bed flat with 220 – 400 grit sand paper then sharpen the blade. The results will be stunning for a $10.00 plane as I was able to achieve a plane shaving of .003″ by only sharpening the blade. So thin in fact, that you can literally see through the wood shaving.

As a final note, if you’re the type of person who likes to use several smooth planes with a different cut setting, (hence the reason you don’t need to reset the blade with the frog adjustment screw), a good idea is to have a Stanley No 4 set to a medium-cut and a Millers Falls No 9 set to a fine-cut so it’s easy to determine which plane has the proper cut set to it.

23 thoughts on “The Nicest Plane You’ll (Probably) Never Buy

  1. Mike,

    I have a Millers Falls plane of the same size but without the screw for the frog adjustment. That’s no problem, as with most of my planes I never adjust the mouth (the Veritas ones are the exception because it’s such an easy adjustment). The blade that it came with was really worn, with about 1/2″ of metal before the slot that accepts the cap iron screw, so I replaced it. I love the size and balance of this plane.

    Here’s a picture of it:



  2. Chuck fisher

    I have my mother-in-laws no.9 miller falls cracked the piece that holds the blade in .what is that called and can it be replaced or welded?


    1. If the part that holds the blade is on top of the blade, then it’s called the Lever Cap. If it’s below the blade, then it’s called the Frog. Both can be replaced. Looking on eBay is the best way to find a replacement part.

      I wouldn’t bother trying to weld the piece back together regardless if it’s the lever cap or frog.



  3. Curtis Waskey

    I just received a #9 M-F hand plane I purchased on Ebay. in like new condition with the original box. I notice that the tote sits on a surface that is not flat and rocks slightly. Can anyone advise? I would think that eventually the handle’s rocking would cause it to break. I need help on this so that I might understand why they designed it this way..


  4. Edward Hunter

    I have a circa 1936 9″ Millers Fall plane I inherited from my late Father. I have a similar sized Stanley plane but the MF feels more comfortable to use.


  5. I got a Millers Falls #9 and really love it, this is my preferred smooth plane.
    To complement previous post, earlier versions did not have the frog adjustment screw while later version got the adjustment screw. They are easilly identified as the frog was painted in red. Both are type 9.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. david feller

    Have a # 14 I bought from the mechanic in a San Francisco boatyard in 1985, many miles on that one. Also a # 9 I bartered for from a customer, nicely tuned up, but rarely used. I got a # 10 with very little wear in the box at a flea market this year, but it does not have the red frog, and the sole and sides have grooves as if they had been placed on a belt sander, not so deep I couldn’t dress them out, weird because the blade, handles, japaning give the appearance of “used once by a neophyte until the blade edge beat up,then set aside”, something I encounter now and then. Was the quality down near the end of the run, 1961, or did someone just abuse the plane when they found it surface rusted in the box? Has the solid tool steel blade, takes a nice edge.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. david feller

    Oh, re the rear adjustment screw, never realized its use, do you really find closing the mouth up by bringing the blade off its last support at the mouth desirable, seems like an invitation to chatter?

    Liked by 1 person

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