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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Six months ago I ran across this miter box lying on the floor in an antique store. Intrigued by it, I took a look at the price but decided not to buy it. I went back a few weeks ago and the seller lowered the price by 50% so I took it home with me.
I’ve been using a Stanley No 150 miter box for years. In fact, it’s the only hand powered miter box I ever use now since I sold my larger Stanley No 60 1/2 miter box as it was just sitting around collecting dust. What I love about the 150 is its small footprint and ability to cut small moldings safely as opposed of using my Delta powered miter saw.
You can see the difference between the Jacobs and Stanley No 150 Miter Box. The Jacobs looks like Stanley’s bigger brother. The Jacobs actually predates the Stanley by several decades as it was patented in 1889 while Stanley didn’t produce the 150 until 1923. More likely, Stanley simply bought the design from Jacobs or waited for the patent to run out and redesigned it into a smaller version.
I always use a Disston back saw when I use my Stanley No 150 but, apparently this miter box was meant to be used with a panel saw which is why the throat is so deep. Even the patent documents show it being used with a panel saw.
The cut from the miter box is pretty accurate considering it’s age. Both 45 degree positive stops produced a decent cut however, I would still finalize the cut by using a shooting board or miter trimmer as I always use my miter trimmer to clean up the miter when I use my Stanley No 150. This is a neat box to own and I’m glad I found it.
Every once in awhile I’ll buy an old tool that gives me some grief. This time it was the frog that wouldn’t come off the bed of a Stanley No 4 plane due to some rusted screws. Normally, when screws won’t budge, I use the oldest trick in the book, and tighten them before I try to loosen them. This will often break the seal of rust and allows me to unscrew the bolt with no problem. But that didn’t work this time. Not even a shot of PB Blaster could save the day.
I ended up having to drill through the top of the head to break it apart from the threads so the frog could come free. I’ve read where some people use propane torches to heat up the screws and free the rusted threads that way but, my shop is in my basement and don’t feel like stinking up the whole house with the flames off of a propane torch.
After a few minutes of drilling, the frog came off of the bed. You can see all the gunk that’s been trapped underneath the frog for decades.
Now that the frog is removed, I was left with another problem. The threads of the left screw stood proud of the bed while the threads of the right screw are inside the bed.
Removing the left threads was simple, a little bit of oil and some channel locks and it unscrewed easily. The right one, not so much.
For the right one, I used a 11/64″ drill bit and carefully drilled through the threads of the screw paying careful attention not to damage the interior threads of the bed. When the majority of the screw is removed, I used a dental pick and cleaned out any remaining metal inside the threads so that new screws would seat nicely.
Grabbing a couple of spare screws I had lying around, I tested them inside the cleaned out holes. They worked just fine. Now it was time to continue on with the restoration job. I dipped all the metal parts of the plane in a citric acid bath to remove all the rust.
With all the parts cleaned up and the blade sharpened, the plane was restored to working order. Another plane saved from the scrap heap.
Over the weekend, I received a box from The Fine Tool Journal with a couple of planes that I won in their latest auction. I’ve been disappointed with my winnings the past few auctions as I have only won one lot at each auction after sending them two pages of my bids, but apparently that’s my fault for not bidding high enough. Nevertheless, I was happy to get something from them. Inside was a Stanley No 104 Liberty Bell plane and this guy. An odd looking bronze plane with GTL stamped on the lever cap.
Searching online, I discovered that GTL stands for Guaranteed Tools Limited. It was a short lived plane maker in London, England from the 1920-1930’s who marketed to the DIY and amateur carpenter market. Apparently, the makers of these planes were trying to fill a gap between the Stanley Bailey planes that were taking the world by storm and the traditional Norris style planes that British craftsmen were accustomed to using at the time.
The lever cap and frog look rather crude which made me to believe at first, that it was user made. According to guys on UK woodworking forums, these planes were garbage to use. No one liked them as they thought they were too light and the “Norris” adjustment was a joke compared to real Norris style planes.
Intrigued by the plane, I decided to restore it and see how well it performed. I removed all the paint that the previous owner sprayed on the body and handle and sharpened the blade.
The plane cuts, but not very well. The biggest issue with it was because the Norris adjuster doesn’t have any lateral adjustment, I was unable to dial in the cut when the blade was cutting too heavy on one side and not enough on the other. I would have to either play with the setting of the frog or hone the edge at a slight angle for it to take a nice feather like shaving. Neither of which I was willing to waste my time doing.
Another big issue with the plane was the screw on the bottom of the bed that holds the tote in place stuck proud of the bed’s surface leaving gouge marks on the work piece when I used it.
Obviously, when I took the plane apart to clean it, I removed the screw so when I went back to install it, it wasn’t in the exact position it was before I removed it. This left a little nib of the screw head sticking proud of the surface which I had to file back down.
The oddest thing about the plane is that the frog is bent for some reason making the blade and cap iron not seat fully on it. I’m not sure if it was manufactured that way or if it got damaged some time during it’s life. No way would I try to bend it back straight. Knowing my luck, I’d end up cracking the frog in half.
All in all, it’s a fun to look at, but not the best to use. If the idea of a Norris style adjuster on a modern bench plane appeals to you, just buy a Veritas or even a new Stanley plane and avoid all this nonsense.
I listed a few tools on Ebay tonight. You can see them here.
I normally don’t blog when I list tools but, I’ve been selling on eBay for years. I’m small potatoes compared to the big tool sellers like Jim Bode or Patrick Leach but, I only do this in my spare time.
I buy tools that are often passed up by tool collectors because they’re not in the best shape. However, to me, part of the fun is to see if I can get them to work again. I make sure all the parts function properly and fix broken totes so they feel good in your hand. I’ll even sharpen the blades when I have time. If I buy a plane that can’t be brought back from the dead, I’ll sell it in parts so someone else can bring their tool back to life.
I normally have more than 100 tools for sale in my store but, I haven’t had time to restock it in the past few weeks. But that’s a good thing. It means that my prices are fair and they sell. I don’t want to own an antique tool museum.