Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Carter Australia Hand Planes - A Small Review

I have been wanting to write some comments on Carter hand planes for some time, ever since I wrote about Falcon Popes.

Another vital part of Australia's tool making history belongs to Carter Tools Pty Ltd Australia.
The building boom following World War 2, and the worldwide shortage of tools, led to the establishment of several Australian tool manufacturing companies.

Carter Tools Pty Ltd was a Sydney company that provided bench planes, G clamps, sash cramps, vices, hatchets, brass plumbobs, pipe cutters, bench screws, hand routers, vernier centre finders, and much other urgently needed tooling to a market hungry for them.  Only in business for a little over 20 years, Carter's products came and went quickly.

Several Carter handplanes have come my way over the years, and it seems appropriate to give them a short review, as they still surface (heh heh) at markets and garage sales.

  One interesting aspect of Carter Hand Plane manufacturing, was the way that the company sub-contracted out the casting work to different foundries around the Sydney area.  Because of this, there are often differences in both shape and quality among Carter planes - even those of the same model.

Even the frog castings show differences in design - perhaps reflecting the variations from the different foundries.  The Number 06 fore plane at the top shows a different frog and base casting from the others.

All frogs have the looped lateral adjustment lever - a simple and effective design.
None of them have the frog fore and aft adjuster screw that was found on Stanley planes, and copied by both the Falcon Pope and Turner handplanes that were also made in Australia.  Just like Sargent hand planes in the United States, Carter decided that their planes didn't need them.
This simplified the castings for both frog and base.

Three of these planes have brass depth adjuster wheels, while the number 06 fore plane has an aluminium depth adjuster.

All handles are made from Australian hardwood - normally coachwood - and all are painted with black enamel.

The handle on the 4-1/2 has been through the wars, and has lost its spur - as well as showing a crack across the middle.  These wounds were not uncommon, given the tough lives that these tools often led.  Bouncing around in a tool box from one building site to the next, can cause damage and always takes a toll on appearance.

All have their original Carter blades except for the 4-1/2, which has one made by John Shaw of Sydney.

John Shaw produced plane blades, HSS tip bronzed to the main body of blade.  There isn't much left of this one, but a comparison with other similar blades shows how long it probably was when new.

Here are two blades with HSS tips bronzed to the main body.  The first was made by Titan and the second made by Stanley - probably after they took over the the Titan Manufacturing Co Pty Ltd.  Interestingly, only Stanley Australia seems to have made such blades, and not any other Stanley enterprise from any other country.  This makes me think that it was an Australia-only phenomenon - and one probably started by John Shaw and copied by Titan - to be continued by Stanley when they bought out Titan.

 The Carter blades are all much thicker than a standard Stanley blade, and all are very close to 3mm thick.  This is more than 30% thicker than the standard Stanley offering.

The reason for this is probably to be found in the design of the frog.  All Carter frog castings have support for the blade only at the very top, and the very bottom.

Compare that to the bedding for the blade provided by Falcon Pope and older Stanley frogs.  There is blade support there - all the way from the top to the bottom of the frog.

The thought occurs to me that the Carter design allows for less exactitude in casting, since only the top and bottom faces need machining to the one plane in order to bed the blade.  This would save time, and allow the frog castings from different foundries to be finished off with minimum grinding.  A simple solution to the obvious quality control issues attached to multiple castings from multiple foundries.

An ordinary thinner Stanley-type blade would likely experience induced chatter with a frog design like this.  The Carter blades, being so much thicker, resist this chatter and cut quite well - even with such a frog.  Of course, their extra thickness also makes them popular with woodworkers - as replacement blades in other makes of bench plane.

The bodies of the Carter planes are robust, and usually of thicker and heavier dimensions than the equivalent Stanley.

Comparing the cheek thickness of Carter number 5's and number 4-1/2's with those of a Stanley, the variations of Carter's foundry castings are apparent.  The carter 4-1/2 is particularly odd, with one cheek significantly thinner than the other.

Here are two number 4 planes - one Carter, the other a Stanley.  The differences in length and thickness are obvious.  The Carter is significantly larger, even though it has the same width blade as the Stanley - 2 inches.

All of this translates into extra mass - the Carter is nearly a pound heavier.  It is also not as refined as the Stanley.  Here it is up close:

Surprisingly, it can still be set up to function as a tolerably good smoothing plane.  A sharp blade and a tight mouth can produce quite reasonable results.

Here is a piece of Australian rosewood that has first been dressed by a Carter number 5, followed by the Carter number 4 smoother.  The grain was swirling and in places a little tricky.  The Carters did a presentable job on it.

Apart from the minor tear-out shown, the remainder was glassy smooth.

Carter handplanes were made to fill a niche in the building industry, at a time when anything was better than nothing, and they were turned successfully to cabinetry as well.  In these tasks they performed creditably.  They are a mixed bunch, with some examples being very well made, and others a little rough and ready.  Time has moved on, and consistently better made examples of handplanes have appeared and become commonplace.

For all that, Carters are somewhat rarer than others, simply because they were manufactured for such a short time.  A good one is well worth having as a working tool in any workshop - others may only be added to collections as historical footnotes.

The blades are something else again.
I have never come across a bad one, and the extra thickness is appreciated by hand plane enthusiasts, and those who want good performance from their plane - no matter the brand.  If you get a chance to own a Carter blade - jump at it.

Are Carter planes worth buying?
It may end up being a good one - or - it may just be your little part of Australian toolmaking history.
Either way, the blade alone will be worth the purchase.

For more on Carter Tools including other planes, follow this link to the
Hand Tool Preservation Association Of Australia

...... and happy woodworking to all ...............


  1. Interesting read Tom.

    One thing I notice about the spurs is that often they dig into the web skin area and muscle (not that thats my problem) and some tradies remove it post haste. It also to do with the angle of attack and position of body hand to plane. You are right also many were broken off due to constant use and abuse and working on site carrying tools to work and home again daily in those days. Having lived here in the housing commission building days in Green Valley watching workers as a kid using the simple tool kits they could carry in a bag or tool box if they had money to buy or make themselves. The lucky fellows bosses had vehicles.

    1. That's a good observation Ray. I also grew up in a housing commission area, and all the houses were clad with hardwood weather-boards. All the tradies that I saw worked at saw-stool height, so that might explain some of the missing handle spurs.
      As kids we used to do the rounds of the unfinished houses at the weekend, and pick up all the spilt nails, and those that hadn't made it through the weather-board. We always found enough to build our cubby houses with. Great times they were - off with mates roving the neighbourhood - just had to be home by dinner time.

  2. Well well eh Tom which area did you grow up in. I was in Green Valley Housing Commission (Busby) area my parents bought. Yep sounds like us nails off cuts, tree houses, billy carts, cricket bats, stumps etc etc.

    Asbestos also got played with and used. I recall when the winds got up it was like snow blowing all the asbestos dust teachers would close all the windows even in 35C heat to keep the dust out.

    1. I am a Brisbane boy - Brighton and Deagon.
      Great days - family, good mates and good times.
      Simple formula really - something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to.
      Life doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.
      Cheers Ray,

  3. Hi there! I am actually very interested in one thing, could you be so kind and please tell us the place where you spent your childhood?

  4. Hi Miss Adele, I think that I may have already answered that question. Do we know each other perhaps?
    What about yourself ..... could you be so kind and please tell us the place where you spent your childhood?

  5. Hi Tom the Village Woodworker. I came across your blog when I googled Carter G Clamps. I recently discovered three 18 cm Carter G Clamps in my Dad's old tools. I was wondering if you would have any idea of their $ value. Glad to see you are a Brisbane boy - I'm a Brisbane girl! :) Any of your knowledge which you could pass on would be much appreciated. Thank you, cheers, Gayle.

  6. Thanks for the comments Gayle.
    Carter made a large range of different tools for a market hungry for them.
    That is not the case today - we have numerous manufacturers making things such as clamps for a diminishing market.
    Clamps are the sort of tools that woodworkers buy to use, not just to collect. Unlike planes which have a collector following.
    So, in the scheme of things these clamps may not be worth much to most woodies. There are possibly Carter collectors out there who would be glad to acquire these, but I am guessing that they will be in the minority.
    The best way to find out would be to search the online auctions and check out the completed listings for final bid prices.
    These may or may not be a reflection of the quality of Carter tools, which were, by and large, very good.
    Good luck with yours.

    1. I have just acquired a Carter Jointer plane No 8. It is in rough condition and is missing the lever cap. Any hints on where I might find one? I am considering restoring it but without the lever cap it would not be worthwhile.
      It was left under a bench for years with a few Record planes (Nos 07, 08, 10 1/2 and a bull nose rebate plane). Any hints on parts for these our even a good home for some would be appreciated


    2. Carter Number 8 handplanes are very scarce. It would be well worth hanging on to and restoring. Carter Number 8 lever caps are even scarcer, but you might get away with an old Stanley 8 cap while you are waiting. Try Hans Brunner:


  7. Great post! Hand planes, safety specs, pliers, hand saws, tape measures, wrenches, a level, screwdrivers, are typical some of the tools that will be needed mostly during woodwork projects.
    Hand Planes

  8. Hi Tom,
    I have come into an old Carter No.5 plane and have been researching its history when I found your blog. My Carter is in good condition and it has apparently 2 things special with it. 1. it has the simple Carter, Australia stamped on the blade and 2, it has an aluminium alloy handle which definitely appears to be a rarity. It was sitting under a house, sealed in a tool box for over 25 years and the original owner was in his 80's when he passed away and did not use it for many of those years. I am guessing he bought it early post war and as he was a painter and plumber I don't think the plane received a lot of use.
    Look forward to any comments.

    1. Thanks for the information Ron.
      "Carter Australia" is a most uncommon mark to be found on Carter blades, and may well indicate early manufacture. The aluminium handle - unless marked "Carter" - is almost certainly a replacement after the original hardwood handle had broken. Aluminium handles were sold alongside Turner red acetate handles in hardware stores as replacements. The plane should fettle well and be a useful jack plane for you. A good honest number 5, and a historic Australian made tool.

  9. Hi Tom, I am disgusted that it has taken me this long to thank you for the information you gave me on Carter G Clamps but, in my defence, have been dealing with a very ill Mum. I am just about to test the market for the clamps and will let you know if I get any decent nibbles. :-) Thanks again for your knowledge. Gayle

  10. No worries Gayle.
    All the best with the sales.
    I hope you get a price that reflects the quality.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Hi Tom, I am refurbishing my grandfathers old Carter #4, it also has a split handle, i want to us e it as an everyday plane, should I try to repair it or just replace it. My Grandfather worked as a labporer in the IXL jam Factory in Hobart and also the

    1. Hi Andrew,
      your grandfather's Carter is a treasure and it will be great to put it back into service. Handles can be repaired and sometimes they hold well together. At other times the handle cracks at or near the original break. No harm in trying to repair it and you can always go for a new handle if the repair does not hold. Good luck with it and enjoy the plane in use

  13. Hi to the Village Woodworker and all bloggers, I have recently acquired a Carter No 7 jointer from a 90 yr old gentleman cabinetmaker who was downsizing. He asked me if I was a collector and my answer was absolutely not. I wanted the plane to restore (it had not been used for many years) and use. It required some de-rusting, the blade needed grinding and given a good sharpening. Having only used it a couple of times now I must say I love it and enjoy the effort and finish it gives. The latest piece I tackled was a 1.2m x 200 x 40 piece of Tas Oak (an old kitchen bar top) with some gnarly grain. It took to it with ease and I am very impressed with the finish, both in jointing ability and glassy smoothness. This plane is in my workshop forever, and being only a relative young 68, it is bound to get a lot of use. I hope I can pass it on to a family member or good friend when I can no longer use it. Enjoyed reading your blogs. WoodyWazza

    1. Good on ya Wazza - the joy of restoring and using an old handtool is part of the satisfaction in woodworking

  14. Hi Tom,
    On Carter G clamps - my grandfather left me 4, 6" G clamps over 40 years ago, they have been my favourites using them professionally. I have used many different brands but find the quality of the Carters - their tight acme threads, neat finish the speed of the thread and handle to be very pleasurable. I'll have no trouble passing them on to my grandson in very sound condition. I bought 2 x 8" the other week for $25 each and notice a price on them at 19/-.

    Thanks for the history on Carter,


    1. No worries Chris. Carter made some great tools. I have a carter G cramp as well and it is still doing stirling service

    2. In my travels last week I purchased a Carter 5 1/2 plane in rough condition for $20. An affordable risk. I adjusted the blade roughly and it works.Some serious cleaning and it can go into the shed for future use. The handle is cracked but useable. Have you any tips on cleaning, setting up and sharpening the blade? I would have included a picture but could not work out how.

    3. Good on you Jim. Sounds like a bargain.
      You might like to try removing the handle and using some two-part epoxy to try re-gluing it. This has worked for me in the past. After gluing, make sure that the handle is firmly re-attached with no slop or play.
      To clean - disassemble the plane and remove the frog. I use turps and an old toothbrush to get rid of gunk and grime. Rust can be buffed off.
      There are plenty of links on the net for sharpening and setting the blade, so have a quick peek through google and you will find it isn't too challenging.
      The 5-1/2 is a heavy duty workhorse, so you will likely want to use it for rapid dressing of timber with a heavier cut than a smoothing plane, however I have seen 5-1/2 planes used for smoothing with a fine cut and fine set on the blade as well.
      Good luck and congratulations on your lucky find.

    4. Is Araldite suitable for gluing handles or do I need something else?

    5. Yes, this should work as long as the integrity of the timber in the handle is still sound - otherwise it may break again above or below the glue line. Make sure that the handle is well snugged down with the attaching screws when re-attaching to the plane and leave no play or slop in the handle. You might need an extra washer under the tup of the handle attaching rod.

  15. Hi Tom
    My grandfather was a cabinet maker/joiner in Sydney from the early 1920's to the late 60's and my father remembers seeing some Carter tools in the workshop.
    Great info. Thank you for collating this information, a treasure trove of info for those interested in Australian tools and manufacturing.
    Do you have any suggestions regarding the Carter blue? Are there any spray paints you would recommend for replicating the colour?

    Cheers Stuart

    1. Thank you Stuart.
      There was a Dulux blue that I have seen in spray pack that comes very close. I'll see if I can track it down

    2. Thanks Tom
      That was quick. I'm doing up a No.6 and selected a tin of Dulux Duramax Gloss True Blue, however I'm concerned after painting that it is the wrong shade.

    3. Hahaha - yes, I am not normally that slick but I was online at the time :)
      There are several Dulux blues - one is close to royal blue and there is a darker shade. I have had them in the past but I cannot remember the exact names.
      On the other hand you can take your plane to almost any auto paint shop and they will not only match it for colour, but will also make up a spray can for you. Of course, if you have a spray unit you can use that. Ozito had them at Bunnings recently for around $40

  16. Great reading I built a outdoor entertainment area last year and the client was so happy he gave me a no 6 Carter, I've spent some time tuning her and she's a delight to use all that's needed is the original rear handle, a great part of Australian history built when men were men .

  17. No 6 Carters are uncommon these days, so you have a rare one there.

  18. Hi village woodworker,
    Since I last wrote to inform readers I have acquired a no6 Carter I have been busy buying up more Carters at the moment I own 4 no6 1 no4 3 4.5, 3 no 5 and about enough spares to build a 5.1/2 I'm impressed by the rugged build of the tools and am constantly on the hunt to further my collection. Regards Harley

  19. Hi Village Woodworker,

    i picked up a carter no. 6 in a bucket of old rusty planes i bought to restore since then I've collected a few more i now have a no.4, 4 1/2, 5, 6, 7 i seen in a previous post there is a no.8 just wondering if they made a 1, 2 or 3?.

    Also what is the difference between the standard numbers and the one's with a C in front of the number?

    Lastly the one's i have appear to have some sort of textured gray/black finish to the plane body wondering if you know what this is doesn't appear to be japanning i don't think.

    Any info is much appreciated as there doesn't seem to be much info out there regards carter planes

    Cheers Mitch

  20. Hi
    I have got a carter rebate plane with a bronze lever cap, can you shed any light or has someone frankenstined it?

  21. Hi Village Woodworker,

    I recently picked up a what I believe is a Carter 4 1/2. It was only after looking at your photos that I could say it was. The giveaway was that it says No 04 1/2 not 4 1/2 on the body. It has the folded lateral adjuster and the hex bolt in the knob, no frog adjusting screw and the recess for the tension screw on the lever cap. Also it has the uneven machining on the body sides like yours.

    The reason I could not tell who the maker was is that someone has milled the name off the leaver cap and the body in front of the knob. (They must have felt inferior about there tools)

    The frog on mine is machined fully across the front face, with as cast recesses. It may be a latter casting than yours.

    I also like the solid yoke unlike the Popes pressed metal piece. The knob bolt and tote screw are also beefier than the Stanley and Popes. Once it was set up and sharpened it works great. I just need to do something about the broken front screw hole on the tote

    Thanks for writing about these tools

    Cheers Paul

  22. What would a # 6 carter plane be Worth

  23. Hi Tom, I recently obtained a Carter No C1 handplane and have restored it to its oregonal state. Apparently these planes where issued to goverment schools locally to be used in woodwork training. Any comments? Thanks, Hennie Prinsloo, western Cape, S.A.

  24. Hey Village Woodworker. I've just aquired a Carter No 5. and it's missing a blade adjuster. I've tried a few others from Stanley planes that I have and they are all just a touch too small. I'm thinking the easiest way to solve this issue is by buying a replacement frog instead, but I'm wondering if the Stanley will be compatible? I'm guessing it will be pretty hard to find spare parts for Carters these days.
    Regards Nath

  25. Hi Nath.
    I have a feeling that the frogs are different - Carter /Stanley.
    I'll check tomorrow.
    Carter frogs aren't common, but they do come along from time to time. Keep an eye on the auction sites or have a look at the Tool Exchange

  26. Hi Village Woodworker,
    I' used my Cater No.7 for the last 35 years, I love it, even with a Stanley HSS laminated blade.
    I was thinking of selling it, but after reading more about them I'm not so sure now.
    The casting of my Carter plane is better than any of my other Stanley/Bailey planes, finer and better finished.
    I'm hoping it has more than sentimental value as its a wonderful tool to use.
    Cheers Pete.

  27. You have a gem there Pete. Carter Number 7's are most uncommon and yours has a long attachment to your own woodworking. Those HSS laminated blades were a Titan product initially and were re-branded as Stanley after Stanley bought out Titan tools. They are as rare as hens teeth