I Did It! Quercus Magazine

Well, I finally wrote an article for a woodworking magazine. It’s called Quercus and it’s based in the UK. I was asked by the editor Nick Gibbs through Instagram if I would be interested in writing an article about how and why I restore old planes. I jumped at the chance as writing for a woodworking magazine has always been a dream of mine.

I restored an old Stanley No 5 plane and documented my progress, then wrote out my article the same way as I write a blog, then sent him the file along with the pictures. It took a few months for the article to get published but, I’m in the magazine along with Paul Sellers.

When I received my copy, I was amazed by the content that was in it. The magazine features woodworkers from all around the world and their process of how and why they work with wood. There’s not too many “How To” articles and the magazine primarily focuses on hand tool woodworking so, don’t expect an article about “Building the Perfect Router Table” in it. The only other magazine that I would compare to it would be Mortise and Tenon magazine.

This is the plane that I restored for the article. I was planning on selling it, but now it carries sentimental value to me. I asked Nick if he would like for me to do another article but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet. This may be a one-off, but maybe not. Maybe I could be a constant contributor to the magazine. Wish me luck.

Hold-Fast Bevel

A few weeks ago, I went to an antique tool auction near Xenia, OH. On the tables was an interesting little bevel with a locking mechanism I hadn’t seen before. It’s simplistic design and art deco styling appealed to me. Intrigued, I waited for the bevel to come up for auction and ended winning it (probably paying too much.) I took home my new little friend, polished him up a bit and stuck him in my tool cabinet.

Then, a few days ago, I was reading Stewart Woodworks blog about some of his bevels he uses in his workshop. Sure enough, one of his bevels was similar to mine called a Southington, except his was all metal and not rosewood like mine. The only marks I see on my bevel are the words Hold-Fast on the blade with a patent date of 12-15-14.

A google search of Hold-Fast bevels doesn’t come up with much, and James said a google search of Southington came up with limited information on his end as well. Whether or not Southington was the name of the company or just a trade name, who knows? Nevertheless, the two have to be one of the same as both have identical locking mechanisms.

EDIT: I found out that these bevels were indeed made by Southington Hardware Co in Southington, CT. Nicholas McGrath was the patentee.

When you open up the mechanism you can see the simplicity of the design which makes it easy to use. A simple turn of the screw, tightens the locking mechanism to the blade. You adjust the screw to the proper tighteness and you’re done.

A lot of the antique bevels on the market have a one armed wing nut which you need to adjust the other nut on the back of the bevel to the proper spot in order for the wing to tighten parallel to the body so it doesn’t get in your way while using it. A lot harder than it seems. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed using Stanley No 18 bevels with the locking screw at the bottom of the body. However when I use it, I have to set the angle of the blade with one hand and tighten it in the back with my other hand. Not a big deal, but tedious none-the-less.

This new bevel is going to be even easier to use that the Stanley No 18 because I can adjust the angle of the blade and lock in place at the same time with one hand. Super quick, super easy. An ingenious design that has stood the test of time.

If you come across one of these Hold-Fast bevels at a local antique store or flea market buy it. You’ll be glad you did.

Wooden Router Plane

Several months ago, I bought an old wooden router at an antique store for $20. The price tag said it was a Japanese woodworking tool. I guess it could be if a Japanese guy used it. Looked like a home made wooden router plane to me. I bought the tool simply for the hardware, and the Stanley router bit it that came with it.

I search online and came up with a wooden router plan and printed it out. Then I measured, drew, and bore the three holes for the body on a piece of 2″ thick cherry.

A few minutes on the band saw I had the new body of the router.

The hardest part in making the body was cutting the mortise for the blade holder. I jabbed at the wood with chisels, knives and drill bits in order for the piece to fit. I ended up getting the piece in the hole and then tightening in the back in order to crush the wood fibers into shape. It took a few attemps, but after a few minutes, it finally fit.

Once the hardware was in, I stuck the blade back in to see how the final fit. Once I was satisfied, I sanded the body and applied a few coats of shellac to it.

The last thing I needed to do was sharpen the blade. The easiest way I have found to sharpen a router plane blade is to grind a bevel on an oscillating spindle sander making sure to take a light touch in order to prevent burning the edge of the cutter. Then, I hone the edge and flatten the back with a whetstone.

I stuck the blade back into the router to see how it cuts. Cuts like butter!

If you’re in the market for a router plane, take a look at the wooden versions. They are much cheaper than their metal counterparts as some of their prices fetch up to $150. I see wooden router planes all the time at antique shows for around $40. They work pretty much the same way, they just don’t have the adjustment mechanism to raise and lower the blade. With a little practice, you can easily tap the blade down with a hammer to lower the blade for the next cut.

Jorgensen Compound Miter Box

A few months ago I was browsing through my local thrift store when I stumbled upon this miter box. I’ve seen hundreds of miter boxes in my day, but this was the first handtool compound miter box I had ever seen.

It’s a Jorgensen No 64020 Compound Miter Box made during the 1980’s or ’90’s in complete condition with its original instruction sheet. The price at $15 was too good to pass up so I brought it home to play with it.

The miter box appeared to be well made with smooth action on the vertical axis swing, wood support, repetive cut stop, and a hold down clamp. After figuring out how the tool worked, I was excited to put it to use.

I grabbed a piece of pine and randomly set the angles on the vertical and horizontal axes and gave it a go. After a few minutes of cutting, I was finally able to cut the piece off. The blade is either dull or the teeth are set so fine, that it easily binds in the wood. I measured the teeth on the blade and they’re 20TPI. I’m thinking that maybe this tool was meant to cut woods like balsa for model airplane building.

I went online to find a replacement blade, but unfortunately they are no longer made. Craftsman makes a 16″ long replacement blade but this one is 24″. I guess I could make a new out out of old miter box saw blade and use this one as the template. That may be a fun thing to try someday.

So right now, it sits underneath one of my workbenches out of the way collecting dust. What a shame! It looks like a really cool miter box that would come in handy for cutting intricate molding that would be too dangerous to perform on a powered miter box.

Soupin’ Up a Stanley Surform File

Last weekend I bought this Stanley No 296 Surform File at a local antique show. When I first got into woodworking, I would use these things to round over boards when making wooden sailfish and ducks in junior high shop class. I hadn’t used one in years but for $5.00, I figured I’d play with one again.

I hated the handles so I grabbed a piece of 2″ square cherry and turned a new knob. The diameter of the knob is a little bit bigger than the original, but I had to keep the base the same diameter so it would sit it the recess of the body.

I then grabbed 1″ thick cherry and used an old Stanley tote as a template for the new handle. I then cut it out on the band saw and shaped it smooth with my oscillating spindle sander.

I then shaped it round with chisels, rasps, and files. I could have used a 1/2″ round over router bit but then again, I could also have cut it out with CNC machinery like most modern tool makers. The rasps and files worked just fine.

I drilled a couple of holes underneath to fit on top of the fitted body. I simply used the original tote as a template of where the holes needed to be drilled.

A quick spray paint job on the aluminum body did the trick. After a few coats it was done.

After assembling the parts back together and buying a new replacement blade, the rasp looks better than ever. What’s nice about these tools is that Stanley still makes them so buying replacement blades are super easy as every hardware store sells them.

I now own the coolest surform file in Cincinnati. It was a fun little weekend project.

World’s Longest Yard Sale 2021

Last week, my wife and I spent the days traveling up and down US127 for the World’s Longest Yard Sale. It’s something we’ve down for the past seven or eight years and we have an absolute blast doing it. We get up at 4:30am and drive 150 miles to start our day in a different part of the country to see what we can find. After 1200 miles in my truck and five days of picking, this is what I came home with.

As much fun it isto pick, it’s frustrating that I can’t find as many Stanley Bailey planes that I used to. Even nice planes that are out of my budget were few and far between.

I was able to find a couple of good deals on miter boxes. One is my favorite Stanley No 150. It’s great little miter box for cutting wood that too small to cut with a powered miter saw. The other is a Miller’s Falls No 70 miter box along with a Disston saw. Both will take some time to restore but I’ll eventually get it done.

I also picked up a blacksmith post vise. The price was too good to pass up. The jaws are a touch small at 3 1/2″ wide but it’s a perfect size for a woodworker who needs to do a little metal working from time to time.

The other things I picked up were some large jaw Bessey clamps for $8.00 each. (I couldn’t whip out my wallet fast enough). Then, I found some old Fine Woodworking magazines and old testbook for a few bucks. One thing that’s great about woodworking is that the old books and magazines are still relevant because wood is wood and steal is steal. Been that way for thousands of years and it’ll be that way for a thousand more.

Overall, I’m happy with my purchases, I’m just getting a litttle nervous about not finding any decent tools on the yard sale anymore. I know damn well I haven’t bought them all.

Oddball Smoothing Plane

I bought this plane on eBay this week. Probably the first plane I bought on the bay in two years. The seller said it was marked 904 and was similar to a Stanley No 2 plane. When I opened the box, I immediately saw that it was actually the size of a No 4 plane. It’s my fault for not paying closer attention to the pictures and not doing my research. I looked over the plane and saw no makers mark of any kind. To me, it looked like it was made by the Sargent Tool Co.

When I took the plane apart, I saw that the frog on the plane was identical to early Stanley Bedrock plane. I knew it wasn’t a Bedrock because it would say “Bedrock” on the bed. The only other plane company that made planes that I knew of that had a Bedrock style of frog was Vaughan & Bushnell but all their planes had flat side walls similar to Bedrock planes.

The lateral adjustment had a twist on the top. It reminded me of a Sargent plane but I don’t think Sargent ever made planes with a Bedrock style of frog.

The back of the frog was similar to all other Bailey style planes on the market back in the day. The one thing I noticed was that the threaded rod for the brass knurled nut was really long like that of an Ohio Tool Co plane. Was this an Ohio Tool Co plane?

The only identification mark on the plane was 904 on the chip breaker. Since I thought it was a Sargent or Ohio Tool Co plane, I researched “904” for each company and came up empty. Sargent’s No 4 size planes were labeled 409 not 904.

The blade had no marking on it. The only unique feature it had has a polygram shaped hole at the bottom. So, I went back to Vaughan & Bushnell and searched “904”. Sure enough, I found an early example on the internet of a Vaughan & Bushnell No 904 with round sides. Mystery solved. Why Vaughan & Bushnell didn’t mark their planes is anybody’s guess but mine would be that they sold their planes to hardware companies who would then label the plane under their own brand name. Similar to that of companies who use to make tools and sold it to Sears to be sold under the Craftsman brand. Maybe this plane was packaged in a box with the hardware store’s brand on it.

I sharpened the blade and put it to use. After a quick honing, the plane performed well. It’ll make a nice user however, I’m still kind of pissed it was sold as a number to 2 size plane. I overpaid for it but that’s my fault.

Cleaning up an Old Saw Blade

It’s been slim pickings buying antique tools the past few months. So much so, I had to close my eBay store and just list things when I had a few tools to sell.

Scrounging around my shelves in my workshop, I found an old miter saw I bought at one time but completely forgot about. It was in pretty rough shape when I bought it but the price was right. Being out of inventory, I figured it would be a good time to clean it up

If you know me, you know I like dipping old rusty tools imto a ctric acid bath for a few hours. The process works great on old cast iron plane beds but when I try it on saw blades, it turns the steel really dark.

I heard about guys who scrunch up a piece of aluminum foil and use mag wheel polish to buff out the rust using nothing but elbow grease. I have tried this method on previous saws and have enjoyed the outcome so much that I no longer dip my saw blades in citric acid.

I started with a piece of aluminum foil but the blade was so tarnished and rusty, that I decided to use a scotch brite pad instead. It took a lot of elbow grease, but I was happy with the outcome after a few days of scrubbing.

You can see the etching was saved using the mag + aluminum polish. Sometimes when you use sandpaper to remove rust on saw blades, you lose the etching as well. You can also see the oxidation on the blade from all the rust.

When I bought the saw, I thought it was a Disston but it turned out to be a Simonds saw for a Millers Falls Langdon Mitre Box. Turned out to be a nice find.

The handle was already in nice shape. All I had to do was remove the old cracked lacquer finish with paint removal gel and buff it with steel wool. Then I applied a few coats of shellac to it.

The saw cleaned up nicely and is ready to be put back to use. Just needs a quick sharpening.

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 Presentation

This past Saturday I had the honor of being the guest speaker at the Cincinnati Woodworking Club. I arrived at the church around 9:00 am and Bill, the gentlemen who originally contacted me, told me I’d be the last speaker around 10:45 am. I thought to myself “Oh God, I’m the headliner. I hope I live up to their expectations.” There was about 50-60 people at the meeting which was way more than I thought would be there. I kind of hoped I would only be speaking to around twenty to calm my nerves.

Like any club, the meeting started off with some administrative stuff and talking about building toys for a toy drive. A few members spoke before me demonstrating projects they built or woodworking classes they took. There were a few really nice pieces that members brought in to show off.

I started off talking about how my Grandpa got me into collecting old tools as a kid when he gave me his jewelers drill press. Then I talked about my tool cabinet and how it came to be. I’ve been collecting antique tools since I was a kid and the tool cabinet was born out of necessity as a place where I could store all the old tools I used. When I was young, living at my parents place, my tool collection was on the other side of the basement being displayed on book shelves. I had to walk outside the shop to the other side of the basement in order to pick up a tool I wanted to use. My idea was the tool cabinet would separate my “good” antique tools from my users. I told the audience that my cabinet looks a lot nicer in pictures than it does in person because every time I reorganized the inside, I tore the veneer from the oak plywood where a tool holder was attached to the wood. If you examine the cabinet in person, you’ll see a bunch of tears and mismatched stain where I couldn’t remember which stain color I used the last time.

I then went on and talked a little bit about my work bench and described how it’s based on Chris Schwarz’s benches in the Workbench Book and Roy Underhill’s Roubo bench he built on his show. My bench is a user and is dirty from years of use. Once in awhile, I’ll clean the top off with a hand plane or belt sander just to give me a fresh surface.

Then I started to discuss how I restore old planes. This is a Diamond Edge Jointer I picked up on The World’s Longest Yard Sale this summer. The plane was a good candidate since it was made by the Sargent Tool Company a competitor of Stanley Tools.

Anytime I buy and old tool, I roll the dice that I’ll be able to restore it. Most times I win, but once in a while I’ll buy something that needs additional work. I didn’t notice at the time, but this plane’s yolk broke off the frog and needed to be replace.

Luckily, I had the proper replacement parts in stock from other planes I couldn’t restore. The yolk and the brass adjustment knob from an old Stanley plane worked as replacements.

To fix the frog, I simply punched out the pin that holds the yolk in place and inserted the new yolk, punching the pin back in place to repair the tote. It took literally five minutes. Once the brass adjustment knob was screwed back on, the frog was as good as new.

Once I determined the plane could be restored, I told them I dip all the plane parts in a citric acid bath. I allow the parts to sit in the bath for a couple of hours making sure that they don’t sit too long or I’ll get acid burns on the metal.

Wiping the rust off the metal with a drywall sanding sponge, the plane was looking in good shape and ready to be buffed.

I took the parts outside to use my wire wheel to buff out the metal. I told the audience I have this machine outside because the little wires fly off the wheel. If I use the machine in my shop and this happens, I’ll walk around at night and get a nice little wire stuck to the bottom of my foot. So, outside this thing stays.

I then discussed my tool solution I make to coat my tools. It’s made up of a slice off of a beeswax candle, one part orange oil, and one part mineral oil. I take the slice of beeswax and melt it in a pot on a hot plate. Once the wax is melted I add equal parts of mineral and orange oil and stir it up. The solution works great and works just as well as Kramers Antique Improver for pennies of the price.

This is the plane put back together. If I wanted to just put this thing on my shelf, I would be done but I want to see if I can get this guy to work again.

Here’s the plane blade when I bought it. Many people think that when you buy an old plane, you have to buy a new blade because the old one won’t work anymore. I always try to see if I can get the original one sharp first.

Using my slow speed grinder, I flatten the back of the blade to remove as much of the pitting as I can. I only care about cleaning up 1/4″ of the bottom of the blade as this will be the only part of the blade that needs to be tuned.

Then I use the plane jig and grind a 25 degree bevel to the edge using my Tormek slow speed grinder.

After that, I’ll hone the edge of the blade using 4000 and 12000 grit water stones. At this point, it’s sharp enough to shave the hairs off of my arm.

Setting the cap iron back on the blade about 1/8″ behind the cutter, I stick both back on the plane to see how it cuts. With a little bit of work, I was able to get whisper like shavings from the plane without buying a new blade or even worrying about flattening the bed with sandpaper. I brought the plane with me to the meeting and used it on a scrap piece of poplar to show how the plane performs. I then passed the scrap wood around the audience so that they can see how smooth the plane made the wood.

I told the audience that it basically took me an afternoon to transform the plane to make it work again as it will make a nice user for the next 100 years.

Hopefully, I inspired a few of the them to hunt for old planes to see if they can tune them up themselves. All I know is that I really enjoyed giving my presentation and a few of the members came up to me after the meeting to tell me how much they enjoyed me speak. And no one threw tomatoes at me.