One of my Favorite Plane Restores

Over the years, I’ve restored hundreds if not thousands of tools. In every instance, I usually think of the same thing. “I wonder who owned this tool and when did they buy it?” The question is something I can almost never answer until now.

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I bought this Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware No 6C at the Springfield Antique Show last month. Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware operated several hardware stores in the Cincinnati area. The guy who had it had a couple of other bench planes for sale so I bundled them all up and offered him a price for all three. I knew the plane wasn’t a Stanley, but still felt it was worthy of a restore. A lot of competitors of Stanley like Union, Sargent, Ohio Tool Co, and even old Craftsman’s made quality planes back in the day. In fact, Sargent often private labeled their planes for hardware stores around the country so sometimes, I’ll end up finding odd ball “No Name” planes in the market. However, they are still Sargent planes.

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This plane was quite different from any other plane I restored in the past. Not in the way it was made, but when I took off the rear tote, I saw this little piece of paper in the slot.

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When I opened it up, inside it was written “Fred G W Meyer, Property of Sept 10, 1938”. It had to be a note from the original owner of when he bought the plane. It was like opening a time capsule that has been locked away for nearly 70 years.

Just think, in September of 1938, Hitler had just taken over control of Czechoslovakia a year before invading Poland starting WWII. Then it got me thinking again. I hope this poor guy wasn’t drafted into the army and was killed during WWII. The blade of the plane had been used, but the remaining length of blade remaining is about the same as if Fred would have used it daily for three years until 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I’ll never know the answer if Fred served in WWII, but the penmanship of the hand writing reminds me of someone who was young in age at the time. If Fred was a young man in 1938, it’s quite possible that he did serve in WWII.

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I loved seeing the note, so the only right thing to do was to fold it back up and stick it back under the tote where it belongs.

Removing Paint and Grime with Soy Gel

Sometimes life gives you the answer so clearly that you’re too blind to see. Just a few days ago I read on the “Working by Hand” blog a post about removing tool japanning with Soy Gel. https://workingbyhand.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/plane-body-finish-removal-soy-gel/

Soy Gel is a 100% soybean based paint remover that has no toxic fumes and is really safe for the environment. I bought a bottle for my wife about a year ago so she could remove the paint off a piece of furniture she bought. I rarely repaint planes so, I never gave much thought about using it to remove the black japanning from a plane. Well apparently according to the post, it does the job quite well.

So, this weekend while I was busting my knuckles cleaning up the bed of an old Stanley Liberty Bell plane with steel wool, I opened up my cabinet to grab another piece of wool when my bottle of Soy Gel was staring at me right in the face. I looked at the bottle, then looked at the plane bed and thought “I wonder if it would help”?

I grabbed the bottle, squirted some on the bed, spread it around with my steel wool pad and let it sit there for a bit. Sure enough after just a few seconds, the dirt and grime just melted away when I rubbed it off with the steel wool.

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I was amazed it worked so well. Then I was angry at myself that I didn’t think of it any sooner. How could I be so blind? Here’s the before and after shot of the side of the plane.

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All these years of busting my knuckles trying to clean up the wood from old planes with nothing but steel wool and a whole bunch of elbow grease, and I could have just been using Soy Gel the whole time to make the job a whole lot easier. Oh well, I learn something new everyday. Here is a couple of shots of the plane all cleaned up. I guess someone liked my cleaning job as the plane sold within a few hours of being listed on eBay.

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The World’s Longest Yard Sale 2014

My wife and I got back from The World’s Longest Yard Sale today which runs down US 127 from Michigan to Alabama. We left Wednesday morning before it officially began and drove down US 127 looking for bargains stopping at dealers who sat up early. We ended up in Chattanooga, TN for a couple of nights.

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When we woke up in Chattanooga, we headed south toward Alabama because last year we had heard that that’s where all the good deals are. Going below Tennessee on the yard sale can be tricky because US 127 ends in Chattanooga. The yard sale continues on the Lookout Mountain Parkway which takes all different routes as it changes onto different state roads.

Once we got into Alabama we didn’t necessarily see a lot of good deals, just a bunch of dealers selling antiques. I did spot tons of anvils for sale. I could have bought 20 anvils if I was in the market for one, but I still have an anvil I bought two years ago sitting in the garage waiting for me to make a stand for it.

After we got back to the hotel we stayed for another night then headed up Tennessee in the morning. Tennessee had a bunch of professional dealers as well. My wife and I were buying a few things here and there, but the prices people wanted weren’t “yard sale” prices.

Everything was going fine until somewhere in the boon docks of Tennessee I got stung by a damn bee. What made the situation worse is that I just got stung in my lip by a bee a couple of weeks ago when I was doing mulch in my yard which made my lip swell up three times its normal size.  Now another son of a bitch comes right toward my face and stings my eyelid. I’ve never been an anti-bee person, but I think I’m going to start pissing on my wife’s flowers so the little bastards can inject my urine into their bodies.

We drove to the nearest pharmacy 20 miles away and picked up some Benadryl and ice to prevent the sting from swelling up. I put ice on it all day, but sure enough when I woke up in Lexington, KY the next morning, my eye was swelled shut. We considered calling the trip and just head home, but I told Anita that I was fine and it’s best for us to just keep moving along.

Photo: I got stung again!!!!! Twice in three weeks. This is bullshit!

Kentucky had the most tools. However, a lot of dealers were around selling their tools at retail. There’s nothing wrong with selling retail, I’m just a picker so it needs to be a good deal for me to buy it. I found the best places to buy tools were the little road side sales with only a couple of yard sales. Not these big tent cities where there are 150-200 vendors in one spot.

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We got back home last night and headed out this morning to check out Ohio. Ohio had the best deals on items. They were true yard sales with “yard sale” prices with very few dealers. When we were all done this afternoon I got a few tools. Nothing major considering we did it for nearly five straight days.

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Out of all the tools I bought, the neatest was a panel raising plane I bought in Tennessee. It appears to be of German descent so it’s quite possible that a German immigrant made the plane when he came to America. There is no makers name on it so it’s definitely an owner made plane.

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The guy who sold it to me told me that it was from the 1700’s, but I highly doubt that. I would guess anywhere in 1800’s. One of the clues that could determine its age is the bore hole made by whatever drilled it. If I can figure out what kind of drill bit that bore that hole, I could estimate the plane’s overall age.

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Another nice find was this Disston stair case saw. I believe these little guys are somewhat rare so I was happy to pick him up at an extreme bargain.

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The yard sale is a lot of fun and you should definitely do it if it’s ever been on your bucket list. I’m not sure if we’ll go all the way down to Alabama next year, but we are already planning our next trip.

Mid-West Tool Collectors Association

Last Saturday morning I drove up to Columbus to attend the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association’s annual meeting. I left my house at 7:00 and arrived around 9:00am. The schedule they sent me said the tool room would be open from 6:30 -12:30 so I figured I had plenty of time to browse around. Well sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, some of the dealers were already packing up and heading home.

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I wasn’t expecting to buy a lot anyway. I went just to meet and greet some of the fellows in the organization. I ended up meeting a fellow named Don from Wisconsin who told me that he owns 1900 molding planes. I was shocked! This guy was my hero. He pulled out a binder about four inches thick where he drew the molding’s profile and maker of each plane he has ever bought on a piece of paper. He said he would be selling off his collection in a couple of years so I gave him my card.

I asked a couple of dealers how the turn out was. They told me that over 300 people came to the show which was a little bit more than when it was in Springfield, MO last time. I zoomed around the room as fast as I could so I wouldn’t miss anything. I was able to take a few pictures of the displays before everything was packed up. By 10:30 the room was nearly empty.

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There were plenty of planes for sale, however the prices the dealers were asking were high. Coming to these conventions are fun, but don’t expect to walk out with deals. These guys know what their tools are worth. The main fun is seeing all the rare planes that you’d never spot in the wild.

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I was able to find a couple of deals. I bought two eggbeater drills for $20.00 each and an Ohio Tool Co No 8 Corrugated Plane for $15.00. The plane was repainted and had a Stanley No 8 blade in it. I’ll eventually part it out and sell the parts on eBay once I remove all the over sprayed paint from the plane.

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In the back of the room there were several displays set up to demonstrate certain tools and the year they were made. This display was of Stanley fiber board planes and the different styles they came in. I have no idea what fiber board planes do, but I think they were used on the exterior siding of houses. I guess I should have read the display. I probably would have learned something.

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If you ever have a chance to attend one of these meetings, I strongly suggest you get there on Friday. Saturday is the day they pack up and head home. From what the dealers were telling me, everyone set up in the parking lot Thursday night and all the heavy selling was done the next day. I have to work, so Friday’s don’t work too well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharpening a Pitted Plane Blade

I bought a Millers Falls No 7 Jointer Plane a few weeks ago that had a pitted blade in it. While most people would look at a blade like this and immediately think that it belongs in the trash, I decided to see if I could get it to work well enough to slice thin shavings off a piece of cherry.

The first thing I do when I sharpen any of my blades is to whip out my Tormek sharpening wheel. I’ve owned the Tormek for several years now and have never regretted the coin I paid for it. I set the machine up to grind a 25 degree angle on the blade and go to town.

A few minutes on the Tormek puts a real nice edge on the blade. The problem is the back of the blade is still pitted causing the blade to cut ridges in the work piece while using it in the plane.

I used the side of the wheel of the Tormek to try to flatten the back of the blade, but after a few minutes I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It did help, but it would have taken hours to remove all the pits.

I decided to give the old ruler trick a try made famous by David Charlesworth and remove only the metal at the front of the blade. I stick a thin ruler at the back of the blade and sharpen the backside of the front of the blade by moving it back and forth on a piece of 320 grit sandpaper. This in theory changes the cutting angle of the blade by a few degrees, but honestly, who cares? There is very little difference between a blade with a 25 degree angle and one with 24 or 23 degrees. It may make a difference with hard exotics, but I normally use poplar, cherry, maple and southern yellow pine. I’m too cheap to buy hard exotic wood.

As you can see if you look closely, the ruler trick worked. The very front edge of the back of the blade is clean of any pitting and will hold an edge better.

I then switched to my water stones and hone the edge created on my Tormek. I use a combination stone of 800/4000 grit and a final 12000 grit stone. I use water stones as opposed to oil stones simply because the Tormek is a water stone. Oil and water don’t mix.

Here is my final sharpening of the blade. Pretty good if you ask me.

Here’s the blade in action cutting cherry. After a few adjustments with my plane, I was able to produce nice clean shavings. The cherry underneath was glass smooth after it was planed with the blade.

How thin were my shavings? About .003″ thin. Not too shabby for a piece of crap blade that most people would have never even given a second chance and would have just thrown in the garbage.

Brown Tool Auction Winnings

Every few months Clarence Blanchard from the Brown Tool Auction holds an antique tool auction in Pennsylvania. Even though some his auctions are within a day’s driving distance for me, I’ve never been to one. It’s just too easy for me to place a bid online and pay a $3.00 absentee bidder fee for every auction I win. Plus at $3.00, it’s a lot cheaper than spending the money on gas and a hotel room.

I never know what or if I win until about a week later when UPS drops of a box at my door. So you can imagine the excitement when I see a big box at my door. Typically the bigger the box, the more tools I have won.

As soon as I open it up I see molding planes neatly bubbled wrapped up. I love molding planes. To me they’re the router bits of hand tool woodworking. With a little bit of work, molding planes tune up nicely and create some of the nicest profiles that you can’t even produce with common router bits.

After unpacking the box, the results were in. Seventeen molding planes and two Stanley bench planes. All of the planes were in good shape and need only a little bit of tuning to bring them back to working condition.

Of the two Stanley planes I won, one was the Big Boss of Stanley planes, the No 8C Corrugated Jointer. This plane is in excellent condition and with a little bit of work, it will clean up to be a top shelf tool. The other bench plane was a nice Stanley 5 1/2C corrugated plane. Collectors go crazy for the corrugated soles as they tend to bring in higher prices, but for me, the corrugations just act as a place for dried glue to hang out. The theory behind corrugated soles was that they tend to be easier to push because of the less mass on the workpiece, and they were easier to fettle the bed because you didn’t have to remove as much metal. I haven’t found either one of those benefits to be true.

The molding planes were nice with a wide variety of profiles in the mix. Over the next few weeks I’ll tune them up and list them for sale on eBay.

As you can see, I have a soft spot for molding planes. The day I figured out how to tune one up and make it sing, I was hooked. I intend to sell some of my duplicate profiles on eBay in the coming weeks.

Fixing a Childs Rocking Chair

My wife’s cousin’s husband (does that make him my cousin in-law?) has a childhood rocking chair he wanted me to fix. My wife Anita brought to me and asked me what I could do with it. I looked it over for a few minutes and noticed that it had old glue repairs and screws all over the place trying to hold everything together. It must mean a lot to him if he tried so hard to keep intact, so I decided that it I’ll give it my best to return this chair to its former glory.

The first thing I had to do is carefully disassemble the top of the rocker and save as many pieces as possible. The seat was a piece of MDF that I was going to use as a template for the new seat.

The crest rail was all beaten up so I had to cut a new piece out of poplar using the original as a template.

I then used the holes off the old crest rail as a pattern for the new crest rail and drilled the appropriate size holes.

Since I was using the seat as a template, transferring the holes to the new seat was easy. I simply stuck the auger bit in the hole at the appropriate angle and drilled through. I realize that in theory that this doesn’t exactly work because the angle in which I drilled the holes through the new seat won’t perfectly line up with the where the holes are in the original seat, but the difference was miniscule and not enough for me to be concerned with.

After the holes were drilled, I shaped the seat on the band saw and cleaned up the edges with rasps and files.

I needed to make new spindles underneath the arm stretchers as one of them looked like a dog chewed on it. Luckily I had a couple of short 5/8″ dowels that would work.

I needed to put a 1/2″ tenon on them to fit in the 1/2″ holes I drilled through the seat. I used my tenon cutter and brace to do the job cutting a tenon on both ends of both pieces.

The test fit looks pretty good. Now I needed to make 3/8″ dowels for the back spindles.

I didn’t have a 3/8″ dowels on hand but I do have my Stanley No 77 dowel machine with a 3/8″ cutter in it. I actually sold this tool on eBay earlier this year, but the guy I sold it to claimed it was damaged in shipping so he returned it. I took it as a sign that I should keep it.

I grabbed some maple and cut 7/16″ square stock on the table saw. I then took the stock and shoved it into the cutter while turning the handle which makes the cutter head spin cutting the square stock round.

In no time flat I get perfect 3/8″ dowels. I cut them to size and stuck them in the holes to act as the back spindles.

After some sanding and glue, the rocking chair is back in business. Now Anita will paint it and give it back to her cousin’s husband.

UPDATE 12/24/13

The rocking chair has been repainted just in time for Christmas. My wife Anita did a nice job painting it with chalk paint and distressing it a little bit. We’re on our way to my Anita’s cousin’s house to deliver it to her husband. I’m sure it will be well received.

World’s Longest Yard Sale: US127 Corridor

My wife and I just returned from a five-day excursion on the The World’s Longest Yard Sale down US 127. The yard sale runs every year during the first weekend of August from Michigan down to Alabama. Last Wednesday, my wife Anita rented a Ford F-250 cargo van and we headed down to Chattanooga TN to spend the night. We picked up 127 around the Kentucky Tennessee border stopping at multiple yard sales running all the way to our hotel in Chattanooga. The next day we started heading up 127 back home.

Anita was looking for old furniture to fix up as well as things she could sell in her booth. I was looking for antique tools. We traveled over 1200 miles in five days traveling from Chattanooga, TN to Castine, OH and had an absolute blast. Nothing more fun than the thrill of the hunt. We ran into a little trouble at the top of Tennessee though. It was around 7:00 pm and we didn’t have a hotel booked. We drove all the way to Danville, KY hoping that a hotel on US 127 would have a room but they were all booked. We ended up driving all the way to Lexington, KY to find a room. The next day we got up and had a nice breakfast in neat little restaurant and headed back to Danville, KY to continue up US 127.

I picked up mostly a bunch of planes, some of them needing major cleaning, with a few miter boxes near the end of the trip. What’s amazing about my finds is that most of the planes I had bought had corrugated bottoms. I wasn’t specifically looking for corrugated planes but when I turned over a plane I was interested in, its bottom was corrugated. Twelve of the fifteen planes were that way. Amazing since corrugated planes are not as common as flat bottom planes in the market.

This is the shot of the bottoms of the planes with nearly all of them being corrugated. It’ll take a while but every one of these planes will be cleaned up and ready to be put back to use.

Near Danville, KY I ran into a guy selling a trailer full of cherry hardwood. I couldn’t buy the whole trailer but I did manage to pick up one of his slabs. This piece is 2″ x 16″ x 100″ and the offer was too good for me to pass up. Does anybody want to guess what I paid for this slab of cherry? Post a comment and I’ll let you know.

Using a Circular Plane

If you get into woodworking much, you’re bound to get tired of always building square cabinets and start incorporating curves into your work. With modern woodworking equipment, it’s easy to cut shapes on the band saw then clean up the edges with random orbit sanders but if you’re a hand tool enthusiast, there is a long forgotten plane you should bring into your arsenal.

Stanley made several versions of circular planes in their hay-day. Out of the three versions; Stanley No 13, No 20, and No 113, the No 113 is by far the most commonly available in the marketplace. When Stanley introduced it, sales took off because its top center wheel allowed the user to adjust both sides of the bed at the same time.

The 113 came in different versions as the years went by. A side-wheel blade adjuster later became the more common Bailey blade adjuster. My personal No 113 is the side-wheel adjuster. It was the first 113 I ever bought and I tuned it up nicely. However many people prefer the Bailey adjuster since it works just like a normal bench plane.

By turning the top center wheel, you flex the bed in a concave or convex shape. The shape of the bed doesn’t necessarily have to be the exact shape of the wood you’re planing. The idea is to support the bed enough so that the blade will make constant contact with the wood.

The blade on a 113 is the same width of a Stanley No 3 so finding replacement blades shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, the mouth is a large enough at the base you can even use after market blades from Hock or Lie-Nielsen. However, after market chip breakers will not work because of the position of the frog adjustment tongue hole.

Using a circular plane is much like using a spokeshave. You want to plane down the grain as much as possible which means you’re going to constantly change the position of the plane on the work piece. If you plane up the grain, you’ll get blade chatter and tear out as the plane will literally bounce off the work piece. Skewing the blade at an angle will help produce a better cut as the blade will shear the wood fibers the same way a vegetable slicer cuts a cucumber.

Because of the divergent and changing grain, it’s critical that your blade be sharp. When planing, you’ll often produce two types of shavings. The first being regular shavings as you plane with the grain, then finer curly shaving as if you were planing end grain.

The true benefit of using a circular plane is the consistency you get when shaping the curve. Any high spots will get planed first revealing low spots in the work piece. After more planing, the piece will take on a consistent shape.

If worst comes to worst and you can’t remove plane chatter and tear out due to the grain rising, you can always remove it and smooth the shape with a sharp spokeshave.

One of the most common misconceptions about using circular planes is that people think that they only work with wood that is circular in shape. That’s simply not true. You can plane ovals and soft curves just as well. In fact a few years ago when I built my Roubo workbench, I used the No 113 to finalize and smooth the shape of my crochet.

The only manufacturer that makes a new circular plane nowadays is a company called Kunz which will run you $300 on Amazon. I have never used one so I can’t tell you how well they work. Neither Lie-Nielsen nor Lee Valley have versions of their own so buying an old Stanley may be your best bet. They run between $100-200 depending on condition. All I know is that if you’re in the market for one, buy it now before Chris Schwarz writes a blog about them making their prices double.