Using a Stanley No 1 Plane

Last summer I had the opportunity to buy a Stanley No 1 plane at The Springfield Antique Extravaganza. The price the lady wanted was too good to pass up, so I went to the ATM a few times to get enough money out to buy the plane. I’ve wanted to own one of these planes for nearly thirty years so I was stoked to bring it home.

Everytime I see one of these little guys, they’re usually behind a glass case at an auctioneer’s table so holding one in my hand was a real treat. Stanley No 1 planes are often on the top of the bucket list for a lot of tool collectors. Unfortunately, their prices spiked over the past few decades so finding one at an affordable price is hard to do. I read stories from old time tool collectors that they could buy these planes at the flea market for $10-20 during the 1960’s and ’70’s. Today they command as much as $1000 or more. The odd thing is, is that Stanley never made these planes to be collectible. In fact, they were the most inexpensive bench plane they offered in their catalog. At $2.95, they were 32% cheaper than a Stanley No 3 plane which are still readily available at antique shows around the country. Never being able to use one, I often wondered what the purpose of these little guys were and how they were used.

When I got home I lightly cleaned the plane and sharpened the blade. When I flipped the plane over, I noticed that there were diagonal scratch marks on the bed. This told me that the original owner used the plane at an askew. I know when I use a plane at an askew, it’s either to prevent tear out on difficult grain or to clean up some blemishes on the wood. So I thought to myself that maybe these planes are used just to clean up little areas on the wood’s surface.

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Last weekend I had a chance to test my theory. While making a display cabinet for my wife, I was planing some eastern white pine with my Stanley No 4 plane when I was getting tear out around the large knots in the wood.

The tear out wasn’t terrible as the blade on my Stanley No 4 is sharp and the bed has been fettled flat, but the tear out was still there. I decided that I would try to get rid of the tear out by using my No 1 plane.

Sure enough, after a few strokes, I noticed that the plane was cleaning up the tear out quite nicely. So I thought to myself, this must be one of the purposes of the plane. But then I started thinking about why a small plane like this would do a better job at shaving the wood than a well tuned No 4 plane. The only thing I can really think of is the small footprint on the No 1 helps the user focus on a smaller area on the wood’s surface. Also the mouth on the No 1 is tighter with less of a gap than my No 4 that is set for general planing. Both my No 4 and No 1 are sharpened the same way with water stones up to 12000 grit so it’s not that one of the plane’s blade was sharper than the other.

With how well the plane cleaned up my tear out I’m thinking that these planes were used for cleaning up the work surface and other small tasks. Whether it would be tear out, scratch marks, small gouge marks or even taking labels off of boxes. Remember these were cheap planes that were made for daily use but never took off in the marketplace. Because there’s not very many of them available, supply-and-demand shot their prices to the moon.

I know that one of the most famous tool cabinets in the world, H. O. Studley’s tool cabinet has a Stanley No 1 plane in it. His plane is in the middle left of the left hand door. Studley was a piano maker so he probably used his plane when making and fitting piano keys. I also know that instrument makers use small planes in their work so that’s another group of people that could benefit from a Stanley No 1 plane.

All I know is that it’s a nice little plane to own. It’s not the most versatile plane you can have in your arsenal, but it’s nice to have it when you need it. So do I recommend using a Stanley No 1 plane? HELL NO! They’re too valuable! Buy a Lie-Nielsen No 1 for a couple hundred bucks and let a tool collector stick this thing on his shelf.

My Basement Shop

I’ve had this blog for almost nine years and I’ve never bothered to show you my shop. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s all that special but below is a short video I posted to Instagram the other day.

I’ve had this shop for the past seventeen years when I bought the house in 2002. Before that, I had a shop in my parent’s basement when I started working with wood when I was a kid. Back then, I had a bunch of bench top power tools. Almost all of those tools have been upgraded. The only power tools that remains from the shop in my parent’s house are the band saw, jointer, and drum sander.

The king of the shop is my tool cabinet which I finished building in 2001. The inside has changed a lot over the years as I added to my tool collection. I doubt it’ll ever be finished as I’m constantly buying new tools to put in it and selling the tools I don’t use that much. It sits behind my workbench for easy access. The majority of the tools in the cabinet are antiques that I restored but I do have some brand new tools in there like a Lie Nielsen dovetail saw and a Veritas shoulder plane.

The workhorse of the shop is my Roubo workbench. Made from southern yellow pine, I based it off Chris Schwarz’s Roubo and Roy Underhill’s Roubo workbench. I use the hell out of it so it’s dirty. I never get any visitors to my shop so I don’t care that it’s not made from hard maple and looks perfectly new. I just use it.

At the end of the bench is my Emmert Turtleback Patternmakers Vise. I LOVE this vise. I bought it 20 years ago at an antique tool auction for about $500. It’s worth every penny. This vise gives me plenty of flexibility when clamping work pieces in it as it swivels 360 degrees and swings up. If you ever have a chance to buy one of these vises, do it! You won’t regret it.

In the middle of the shop is my SawStop table saw. I have no complaints about the saw. I tripped it three times. Twice was from the blade hitting my aluminum miter gauge. The third time it was the tip of my thumb. I was ripping thin strips of wood and every time I ripped the stock to make a strip, my left hand got closer to the blade. Like a dumb ass I didn’t notice the position of my thumb until it was too late. Luckily, it tripped and the tip of my thumb was spared. I sent the tripped cartridge back to SawStop and they sent me a free replacement. My thumb just needed a band-aid.

Another nice vise I own is a blacksmith vise. Because I do a lot of antique tool restorations, this thing comes in handy whenever I have to do some metalwork. It’s another one of those tool you don’t realize how nice it is to own until you use it.

On one side of my shop are my power tools. I’ve owned them for years with the Delta jointer going back to when I was a kid. I souped up my Delta band saw with a 6″ riser block and a 1 hp Baldor motor. My 15″ Powermatic planer is one of the best tools I ever bought.

In the corner of my shop is my lumber rack. I buy lumber when I need it so the majority of the boards on the rack are scrap wood. I have one or two boards of certain species but not enough to build a piece of furniture. I simply don’t have the money or the room to stock up on lumber.

One of my favorite power tools I own is my Jet oscillating edge sander. I wanted one of these for years until I pulled the trigger a couple of years ago. I love this machine as I use it on nearly everything I build. For years I used a home made disc sander jig attached to my lathe. My only regret about this sander is not buying it when I first wanted it.

All in all, I’m happy with my shop, I just wish it wasn’t in my basement. I’d love to own nicer power tools like a 12″ jointer or a heavy duty lathe, but there’s no way I could get them down basement steps. Or more importantly, get them back up when I move.

Making Herb Sticks

Last weekend my wife and I were cleaning up our booth in the antique mall when she decided to take things out that weren’t selling. One of the items was a bag of silver plated spoons that had been in the booth for six months, when I mentioned I could make herb sticks with them. I remember us talking about making herb sticks from old spoons several years ago but it was one of those little projects that never got done. So, I grabbed the bag and took them home to see if I could figure out how to do it.

Making herb sticks from old silver plated spoons is not my idea as I’m sure I’ve seen it done somewhere else, I just can’t remember where I saw it. The idea is pretty simple. Take an old spoon, flatten it out and stamp words on it.

The first thing I did was stick the spoon in my bench vise and squeeze the hell out of it. It flattened the face but there was still a bubble in the middle.

I then took it over to my blacksmith vise and squeezed it again. You can see in the picture that the spoon is actually tapered to the front so simply squeezing it in the vise will never get it perfectly flat.

I brought the spoons outside and smashed them on my anvil. I’ve owned this anvil for several years hoping that one day I would start making my own hardware and tools but it hasn’t happened yet. Actually, my wife wants me to sell my blacksmithing tools but I’ve been dragging my feet for months. I really don’t want to give up my dreams of having my own blacksmith shop even though we need the money.

After I pounded the hell out of the spoon, I taped it to my bench anvil and punched words onto the face. The tape does two things. First, it holds the spoon to the anvil so I can work with both hands. Second, it acts as a guide to line up the punches so that the letters will look somewhat even. I bought the punches at Harbor Freight for about $10.00 so they are nothing fancy.

Once I punched a bunch of words onto them like, lavender, sage, thyme, basil, etc. I painted over the lettering with black paint. Then, I rubbed over the face of the spoon with steel wool to make the paint stand out inside the lettering.

After a couple hours of work, I was left with a couple dozen herb sticks. We’ll take these to an antique design show in the spring to see how they sell. I’m not sure what I’ll charge for them. Maybe $4.00 – $6.00. If they sell well, I’ll make more. If they are dogs and no one wants them, I’ve learned not to waste my time repurposing old silver plated spoons.

I posted these pictures onto my Instagram Story last weekend and a few people gave me positive feedback telling me it was a really cool idea. Hopefully, I’ll have an excuse to use my anvil a lot more and my wife won’t make me sell it.

An Olde Way Shelf Support

Last year my wife, Anita, bought an old cupboard with open shelving. What struck me most about the cabinet was its shelf supports. So simple, they seemed like a no-brainer. Simply take a piece of wood, drill holes down the middle, then saw the piece in half. Stick each piece in the corner of the cabinet then make a stick to act as a cleat for the shelf support.

I’ve done the whole drill 1/4″ holes through a scrap piece of peg board trick for years. In theory, it should work out fine as long as you measure where the holes go perfectly, but with my luck, one of the four pins would be off just enough to make the shelf rock.

I’m also not a fan of those metal shelf brackets you screw to the cabinet by running dadoes down the side. They look too ’80’s for me and give the appearance of commercially made cabinetry.

When my wife wanted me to make a custom buffet cabinet for our dining room, it got me thinking about using the old style shelf support I saw in her old cupboard.

The build went well. I used 3/4″ birch plywood and trimmed the casing with poplar as I knew the piece would be painted anyway.

When it was time to focus on the inside, it was my turn to use the old style shelf support. I took two pieces of poplar 2″ wide and drilled 1″ holes down the center 2″ apart. Then I took each piece to the band saw and split them apart. Since all four pieces are the same height, attaching each one while they touch the bottom of the case assures that all of the semicircles are all at the same height.

I cut a notch at each corner of the shelf to fit around the shelf supports. Then I glued a piece of wood to the front so the shelf wouldn’t sag with weight. Super simple and gives the cabinet an old world feel.

The buffet cabinet was now finished and Anita eventually painted it white. As luck would have it, Anita found another cabinet she liked better at an antique show so this buffet was sold in our booth (which you can see in the back below). Doh!!!… oh well, it was still fun to build.

Repairing an Accent Table

My wife bought an accent table at a local thrift store yesterday. She hesitated on buying it because it needed some work but I assured her that I could fix it quickly.

When we got it home, I examined how to repair the stretcher and make the legs not so wobbly. It seems that someone else tried to repair the stretcher in the past with no luck.

After popping off the glue blocks, I noticed that the only joinery on the legs was a dowel rod and some glue. It’s no wonder why they wobbled. I’m not sure how old the table is but it’s made from mahogany and the fasteners are straight slotted screws. My guess would be around the 1940’s but that’s just a guess.

If I was to restore this table properly, I’d used mahogany for the stretcher and make it similar to the original but I’m by no means a professional furniture restorer. If anything, I’m closer to the craftsmen you see on Flea Market Flip where people buy a $40 wheel barrow at an antique show, turn it into a coffee table and sell it at a New York City art show for $450. Except, I don’t do that dramatic transformation on pieces and don’t get anywhere close to those prices. (Personally, I think that show is fake). My wife will eventually paint the table so I just grabbed some scrap wood.

I grabbed some red oak and planed it down to 3/8″ then drew some arches on it with my french curve. Then it was onto my band saw and spindle sander to cut and sand the stretcher to shape. I just whipped this shape up in my head without much thought. I think it’ll do fine.

To break the edges of the stretcher and give it curves, I used my specialty scraper with various radius’s cut out and scraped the edges to shape using the 1/2″ radius.

Cutting the piece to proper length took a little trial and error, but I eventually got it to seat in the mortises with the legs being perpendicular to the top when the table was flipped over.

Then I grabbed some scrap pieces and glued and pinned hefty glue blocks onto the legs to hold them to the top better.

Here’s the table all glued up waiting for paint. My wife will paint the table either white, or black, or green, or duck egg, or whatever. I’ll have to wait and see which one she picks. I’ll throw a picture up when she’s done. Merry Christmas!

UPDATE 1-20-20; Anita painted it white with a stencil on top.

Porter Cable Restorer- Customer Service Excellence

A few days ago, I was working on this farmhouse table flattening the underside of the top with my Porter Cable Restorer sander. I wrote a post about the sander a couple of years ago saying how nice of a tool it is to use. Granted, I don’t use the tool all that much as I don’t work with reclaimed wood too often, but it works well as a quick belt sander.

I was sanding the top down when I noticed some black streaks on the wood. I stopped and turned the tool over when I saw the sandpaper drum moved to the right eating into the housing flap.

I thought to myself that I must have the drum in backwards so I flipped the sandpaper drum around and kept going. Then I noticed the sandpaper was now eating into the body of the sander.

I thought to myself “what the hell??” I looked at the sander to see if there was any way to tighten the sandpaper to the drum as I do with my oscillating drum sander, but there was nothing to tighten.

I had no idea what I did wrong as I’ve used the tool in the past with no problems. I follow the guy who invented the Restorer on Instagram, Robert Kundel Jr, and sent him a picture of the tool and asked him what I did wrong. He wrote back to me apologizing that there was an issue with some of the sandpaper drums not being made to spec and he would send me a new unit. Sure enough a few days later, a new unit arrived at my doorstep.

These are drums that were not made to spec. I bought them on clearance at Lowe’s. They are now going into the garbage. Lowe’s is now starting to carry the Craftsman Restorer which is more likely the same as the Porter Cable as they are both owned by Stanley Black & Decker. I’ll buy the Craftsman sanding drums for now on.

You can see the difference between the two drums. The used one is about an 1/8″ wider in diameter causing it to move while being used.

I always read about great customer service from Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley on woodworking forums. Robert at Inventor of the Restorer needs to be on the list as well. He went far and beyond what was appropriate. I would have been happy with just a new sleeve of correct drums as the sander still works.