Several months ago I posted pictures of plane totes I repaired on Instagram. A couple of my followers asked if I could make a video showing how I do it. So, I obliged and posted a video. Here is the video.
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.
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.
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.
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.