Replacing my Tormek Sharpening Stone

After using my Tormek sharpening machine for the past twenty years, it was time for a new stone. When I researched replacement wheels, I read all about the new CBN wheels on the market that stay flat and don’t require water to use. The one disadvantage I saw with these wheels, is that the side of the stones are prettty narrow. When I sharpen old plane blades, I like to flatten the back of them as well, so I often grind the back of the blade with the side of the stone. I was afraid that the narrowness of the CBN stones wouldn’t do the job as well as my original stone. I’ve been happy with the stone that came with the machine so, if it ain’t broke, dont fix it.

I knew the hard part of replacing the stone would be taking the old one off. I grabbed a 3/4″ wrench and tried like hell to unscrew the nut. I whacked on the wrench with a hammer as hard as I could hoping not to bend the shaft of the machine. It was so tough to get off, my stone cracked and fell apart.

After about twenty minutes of cussing and using a half of a can of PB Blaster, the nut finally freed itself. Once I took the remainder of the stone off, I tried to put the new stone on, but the shaft was so rusted and corroded, I had to sand the shaft smooth in order for the new stone to slide on.

I slipped on the new stone and noticed that it moved up and down just a little bit. Curious, I removed it from the machine and also removed the stropping wheel on the other side so I could remove the shaft in order to get a better look at what was going on.

Sure enough, the plastic gasket that was next to the stone had wore a larger hole in it from use over the past twenty years. Not having a replacement gasket on hand, I simply switched the gaskets from eachother sides hoping they will still work.

Now with a “new” gasket in place, the shaft wouldn’t fit into the hole because of all the corrosion on it so, I carefully filed and sanded the rust away. After a few minutes, I was able to get the shaft nicely seated in the machine.

I checked the squareness of the stone to my crossbar and it looked much better than before. For years when I used the Tormek, it would cut slightly heavier on one side of the blade. I would compensate for this error by tilting the angle of my blade in the jig just a smudge. After messing around with the machine this afternoon, I finally understand why it would cut heavier on one side.

I turned the machine on and checked how everything was running. The stone wobbles just a touch but, from how hard I was hitting the wrench with a hammer in order to get that nut off, I’m not surprised. As long as the machine sharpens blades fine, I’m happy with it.

The Worst Plane Blade

Every once in awhile I’ll come across a plane blade that is so heavily pitted and corroded, the best thing to do is to simply throw it away. This blade that came off a Stanley No 6 plane was no different. The problem was that I didn’t have a replacement blade to go with the plane I was restoring, so I was forced to see if I could get the blade to work again.

The first thing I did was take the blade over to my 8″ speed grinder and grind the face and back of the blade to remove the corrosion. I paid special attention not to heat the blade up too much so, I occasionally cooled it off in a bucket of water. Fortunately, the blade’s face had about a 1/4″ of metal at the bottom that wasn’t pitted, so I was hopeful I could still get a good edge out of it.

I took the blade over to my Tormek and ground a 25 degree bevel on it and honed the face flattler on the side of the Tormek grinding wheel the same way as I did with my 8″ speed grinder.

After the grinding was finished, I took the blade over to my water stones and sharpened it just as I do with any other blade. When I was done, there was a clean line of light at the tip of the cutting edge so I was hopeful it could achieve a nice cut.

Placing the blade back into the plane, I tuned it up, and sure enough, this crappy blade cut pretty well. I took out my dial calipers, and the shavings measured .002″ thick. The blade will eventually need to be replaced, but at least the plane can function properly now.

The plane performed so nicely, I used it to flatten my workbench.

Venom Steel Nitrile Gloves

I normally don’t do product reviews. The reason is because often when someone writes one, they seek affirmation that they made the right decision with what they just bought. This is especially true with tool reviews. How many times do people buy a new tool, take it out of the box, use it, and then blog about how much of a piece of shit it is? Very rarely. It’s one of the reasons I don’t put much weight on reading tool reviews in woodworking magazines. The other reason I don’t write tool reviews is that often I don’t have anything to compare the new tool to. When I bought a new random orbital sander, my old sander was twenty years old and obsolete. I can’t compare my new one to the old. That wouldn’t make any sense. Also, when I bought my random orbital sander, I didn’t try out any of other sanders on the market to see how they stacked up to mine so, I just use it and move on with life.

This time it’s a little different. I found these heavy-duty nitrile industrial gloves at Lowe’s a few weeks ago and was intrigued. For awhile, I was looking for something to replace my old exam gloves that would constantly tear while I was working. I tried using industrial latex gloves, but didn’t like how I couldn’t “feel” what I was doing so, I went back to the old stand by. When I saw these at Lowe’s, I opened a box, took a glove out and tried it on. Then I pulled on the glove while it was on my hand trying to rip it. It was a tough glove so, I bought the box hoping for the best.

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These are the nitrile exam gloves I used for years. For the price I couldn’t complain. Two boxes of 100 ran about $15.00. The problem is that I would go through three to four pairs when I spent the day sharpening. Worse yet, when they did tear, they often tore at the thumb turning my thumb black from the sharpening slurry completely defeating the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place.

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Typical dirty thumb even after I washed my hand from sharpening slurry. If you sharpen without gloves or do any type of metal working, you’ve experienced this as well.

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When I sharpen, I use my water-cooled sharpener along with 1000, 5000, and 12,000 grit water stones so, my hands are constantly getting wet.

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These are some of the planes I sharpened within an afternoon. It took about two to three hours to do all of them wearing my new tough gloves.

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After a dozen plane blades sharpened, the gloves took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. No rips or tears and best yet, clean hands! If your Lowe’s doesn’t stock them, you can find them on Amazon.

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Saving a Millers Falls No 9 Plane

Last month my wife and I were at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio when I passed by this Millers Falls No 9 plane. I looked at it and decided that the rust on the right side was too much to deal with, so I walked away. About ten minutes later, something told me to go back and examine the plane better to see if it was worth saving. I thought to myself if nothing else, it could be used for parts as the handles and frog were in good shape. I asked the dealer how much he wanted for it and he told me $10.00 so I handed him a ten-dollar bill and walked away.

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The first thing I do when restoring an old plane is to take everything completely apart spraying PB Blaster on the parts if necessary to break free the rust.

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Once apart, I soak the plane in a citric acid bath for a few hours. I use an old planter box as my tub and fill it half way up with water. Then I’ll scoop out about a cup of citric acid and spread it over the water. Sometimes you can buy citric acid at the grocery store in the spices section, but I buy mine by bulk on eBay. I buy about ten pounds worth for $30.00 which is much cheaper than the grocery store which is usually about $7.00 per pound.

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After a few hours, I take the parts out of the bath and use a wire brush to scrub the residue off the parts. The acid does a great job of removing the rust from the tool.

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I then polish all the parts with sanding sponges and apply my own homemade rust protection solution which contains, mineral oil, orange oil, and beeswax. I also steel wool the handles of the plane and apply a couple of coats of shellac to them.

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Once everything is cleaned and polished, I put the plane back together to see how it looks.

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If all the plane was to do is to sit on a shelf and collect dust, then I would be done. However, I want this plane to be used again, so I needed to focus on the blade. As you can see in the picture, the blade was roasted and desperately needed a new edge. Some people feel a blade that is in this bad of shape would automatically need to be replaced, but I like to see if I can get it to work again first.

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I took the blade over to my high-speed grinder and ground a new edge making sure not to overheat the blade making it lose its hardness.

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After the major grinding was done, I switched to my slow speed water-cooled grinder and worked on the edge some more. I also flattened the back of the blade on my grinder at the same time.

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After I was satisfied with the grinding process, I switched to my water stones to hone the edge. I sharpened the blade with a series of 800, 2000, and 5000 grit water stones.

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I set the cap iron about a 1/8″ from the edge of the blade and put it back in the plane. After adjusting the blade up and down, I was able to get the plane to cut off a nice thin shaving.

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I took one of the shavings and measured it with my calipers. The shavings produced were .002 of an inch thick.

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The shavings are nice, but the real proof is the way the plane leaves the wood with a nice sheen. No sandpaper needed. Not too shabby for a rusty $10 plane.

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Restoring a molding plane

I’m constantly buying old molding planes at local auctions. I can usually pick them up for a song since they really don’t attract much interest from tool collectors. They come in various forms and sizes but the most common in the marketplace are hollows & rounds and beading planes. This plane is a cove and bead. A sweet little plane that is useful for adding little detail moldings on cabinets.

This plane is overall in good shape, just a little dirty and neglected. But a little elbow grease and a citric acid bath, it will tune up in no time.

The blade has some surface rust but no serious pitting. I dipped it in a citric acid solution which contained a tablespoon of citric acid with five cups of warm water. My trough is nothing more than a scrap piece of plastic gutter with an end cap glued to each end. It works well and hasn’t leaked in the past three years.

After the blade sat in the solution for a few hours, I scrubbed it clean with a piece of steel wool and washed it off in the sink. I then sharpened the back by lapping it on some water stones.

As far as the body, I didn’t do too much. I simply wiped it with 00 and 000 steel wool then applied a couple of coats of mineral-oil/orange-oil/beeswax solution to the body and wedge. I didn’t rub steel wool on it too much as I didn’t want the plane to look new. Since it’s over a hundred years old, it should look like it’s that old but in working order.

The biggest obstacle that you’ll face tuning up a molding plane is matching the blade to the soul’s profile. After decades of the wood expanding and contracting, losing moisture and drying up, it’s not unusual for the soul to change. This plane’s blade doesn’t match up perfectly to the soul. ideally the blade should protrude equally along the soul. Since it doesn’t I have two options. One is to reshape the blade to match the plane’s soul. Or two, reshape the soul a little bit to match the blade. The first option is the best since you don’t want to weaken the soul by removing wood away but in this case, so little wood needs to be removed, that option two would be much quicker.

I needed to remove a little bit of wood by the end of the bead so I took a bastard file and shaved it down. I periodically checked the blade in the plane to make sure I had a constant protrusion along the soul. Once it did, I was done.

Next I needed to see how the plane performed. I grabbed a piece of straight grain poplar and started planing. The plane shaved off perfect shavings with no clogs.

This is how the molding would look when installed. You can see how the shadows bring out the curves of the molding. A nice little detail that adds a touch of class to cabinetry.

The plane looks nice too. It still has a nice warm dark color and plenty of patina to show off its age. I could have bought a router bit to do the same thing, but where’s the fun in that?