Oh Boy, I Did It Again

Well I went to another antique tool auction yesterday. This one was in Jeffersonville, OH about half way between Cincy and Columbus and good deals were to be had as you can see in the photo.

I only picked up a few Stanley bench planes. After the auction I went to in Indy a couple of weeks ago, I have enough Stanley planes to last me awhile.

I’m a sucker for molding planes and these were too good of a deal to pass up. Several of them I snagged for under $10.00 each.

All the profiles of the molding planes I bought. I realize that you can make nearly every molding profile with a good set of hollow and rounds which I already have, but I can’t resist the opportunity to buy some complex molders. Some of these I’ll keep for myself, the rest I’ll sell.

I also picked up a few hand saws as well for under $5.00 a piece. Three of them were Disston thumb hole saws that are gaining popularity on eBay lately. I’ll clean them up and throw them on eBay to see what they bring.

Here’s a neat pair of shears I picked up for $6.00. I really don’t know anything about old shears and have no idea what they’re worth but my wife will stick it in her booth for sale.

A couple of sash molding planes a froe. I had a nice sash molding plane before and sold it only to regret it later so I’ll probably keep one of them. I’m definitely keeping the froe. Working green wood has always been an ambition of mine and this froe will come in handy. It looks like it was made from old leaf spring from a car.

The two scores I got were a Stanley No 141 with the fillister bed and blade and a Stanley No 603C corrugated bench plane. I may hold onto the 141 until I find some regular blades for it and then sell it.

All I know is that I’m going to be very busy for a while cleaning all the tools I bought this past month.

The Nicest Plane You’ll (Probably) Never Buy

If you’re in the market for a smooth plane, chances are you’ll probably consider one of two options. Buy a new one from a top tool-maker like Lie-Nielsen or Veritas which can set you back $200-350, or buy an old Stanley and fix it up. However there should be a third option on your list.

The Millers Falls No 9 smooth plane is one of the nicest production smooth planes you can buy for the money. In most cases, you can buy one for a lot less than a comparable Stanley No 4 plane and get the same quality of plane.

The differences between a Stanley No 4 and a Millers Falls No 9 are minimal. Both planes use 2″ wide blades. Both are about 9″ long and weigh about 4 lbs. They both have a frog adjustment screw in the back (some older Stanley’s don’t have this feature). In fact, the only main difference between the two is that the Millers Falls uses a two piece hinged lever cap that supposedly holds more pressure on the blade and chip breaker reducing blade chatter.

Both planes are about 9″ long with the Millers Falls being 1/8″ longer. If the bed is pitted a little bit it’s not a big deal as the pits won’t affect the plane’s performance. Consider them micro corrugations.

These two planes both have a frog adjustment screw in the back making it easier to adjust the opening of the mouth for the blade. Stanley’s made before 1907 don’t have this feature but I don’t think it’s a really big deal since once you set the opening of the mouth, you rarely reset it.

The handles on Millers Falls are made of beech hardwood with some older ones being made from cherry. In my experience, these are actually better than the rosewood Stanley used. Although prettier than the stained beech, a lot of Stanley’s with rosewood handles tend to break at the tip since the rosewood is more brittle than beech or cherry.

The nicest difference the Millers Falls No 9 has over the Stanley No 4 is the price you can pick one up for. Basically nobody really wants these things because all the collectors want Stanley’s. Even woodworkers when buying old tools typically gravitate toward Stanley’s more than their competitors since there are far more Stanley’s in the market place. However, if you keep a keen eye out, you can buy an old Millers Falls for about $10.00. I know because I just picked up a few Millers Falls No 9’s for $10.00 each a few weeks ago at antique shows.

As far as the price of Stanley No 4’s expect to pay $40.00 or more for a nice one since dealers will want top dollar for them. I’ve seen some mint Stanley No 4’s go for $150 on eBay.

Getting the Millers Falls No 9 cleaned up and ready to use is no different from an old Stanley. If rusty, dip the parts in citric acid for a few hours and then polish the metal to a shine with steel wool. If necessary, fettle the bed flat with 220 – 400 grit sand paper then sharpen the blade. The results will be stunning for a $10.00 plane as I was able to achieve a plane shaving of .003″ by only sharpening the blade. So thin in fact, that you can literally see through the wood shaving.

As a final note, if you’re the type of person who likes to use several smooth planes with a different cut setting, (hence the reason you don’t need to reset the blade with the frog adjustment screw), a good idea is to have a Stanley No 4 set to a medium-cut and a Millers Falls No 9 set to a fine-cut so it’s easy to determine which plane has the proper cut set to it.

A day at a tool auction

Last weekend I went to an antique tool auction in Indianapolis and picked up a few planes. Needless to say I went hog-wild with my bidding. All the planes were sold in lots which brought the price per plane down a bit. Even with all the good deals I got, I never spent so much at a tool auction.

I bought several Stanley circular planes as well as No 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, Gage 5C, block planes, and No 71 1/2 router. All of them are in nice shape with nice clean rosewood handles, full blades and no rust.

I also bought a lot of transitional planes but they were all sold in lots with five or more so I couldn’t refuse.

I also won a box of woodies which had a cooper’s croze, old woman’s tooth router and two cute little panel raisers. One of those panel raisers I’ll keep while the rest I’ll sell.

I’m a sucker for old molding planes. I have over 150 in my arsenal and still counting. I’ll more likely keep all these unless I already own that profile then I’ll sell it.

Box of measuring instruments. Lots of calipers and dividers in there and a few do-dads I have no idea what they do.

Some of the tools that were in the box I’ll keep for myself. Buy a box full of tools, sell the ones you don’t need to pay for the ones you keep. End up getting free tools which is not a bad deal.

Once I get all these tools cleaned up I’ll throw them on eBay. The money I make will help pay for my medical bills from when I was in the hospital last month. Wish me luck.

Removing a rusted bolt on a Stanley plane

I’ve cleaned up a lot of planes over the years and most of them come apart pretty easy. However once in a while I’ll get one that’s a bugger to take apart. 

This Stanley No 5 I bought was pretty rusted when I picked it up. In fact the only reason I bought it was because the rosewood handles were in nice shape. I as took it apart, one of the bolts that holds the frog down was seized. I sprayed it with BP Blaster several times and tried numerous flat-headed screw drivers to loosen it with no luck.

I knew it was lost cause to save the bolt so I ended up drilling a 1/4″ hole through the top of the bolt and then use a 5/16″ drill bit to widen the hole.

Once the bolt was weakened, I used a cold chisel and a hammer to smack the head of the bolt off and then I was able to remove the frog.

The only part of the bolt that remained was the bottom half that was still screwed into the bed.

I gently unscrewed the threads with some channel lock pliers making sure the threads wouldn’t break off in the bed.

I have a lot of spare bolts from Stanley planes I have taken apart over the years so finding a suitable replacement was a breeze. Not the prettiest Stanley No 5 but with a coat of black japanning, it would look a lot better. Since the body of the plane is so rusty and pitted, the blade will need to be replaced since it too is pitted.

A real Stanley No 55 Plane

A few weeks ago I picked up an old Stanley No 55 plane at an auction. In all my years in buying old tools, I’ve never seen an old Stanley No 55 quite like this one. Stanley referred to the 55 as a molding machine in itself. It came with 55 blades which interchange with the plane to cut different profiles. Stanley even provided a booklet with the plane to help the user create some of the different profiles.


When I won the plane at auction, all the parts where there except the screwdriver but who cares about the screwdriver other than a collector anyway? What made this 55 special were the two dozen extra blades that the original owner cut and used with the plane.

If you know anything about a Stanley 55, you know that one of the reasons that most examples that are found out in the wild are in pristine condition is because they were hardly ever used. The plane is notorious for being too complicated to set up with its various fence and sliding section adjustments. Most craftsmen simply gave up and stuck it on the shelf to sit and collect dust.

However, this plane was different. Most all of the blades were sharpened and ready to cut. Even some of the complex cutters had scuff marks on them from where they were used.

But what was most intriguing part of the plane was the extra cutters that came with it. These cutters weren’t special cutters available from Stanley at the time. These were probably handmade by the craftsman himself. The mere fact that this craftsman knew not only how to use the blades that came with the plane, but went so far as to make a couple of dozens of extra cutters and put them to use makes me green with envy.

I admit that I have messed around with a Stanley 55 plane in the past. And while I was able to make some of the simple profile blades cut well, I had very little luck with the complex ones. The biggest problem with cutting complex profiles with a Stanley 55 is the fact that the plane rides on skates and does not compress the wood in front of the blade like a wooden complex molding plane does. You often end up getting a lot of tear out in the grain ruining the piece you’re cutting.

So how this craftsman got the plane to work well enough to motivate him to make his own cutters and put them to work baffles me. The one thing I do know about making the Stanley 55 work well is to use straight grain wood and have a very sharp blade to avoid tear out. Apparently this guy was a master with the plane getting these complex blades to work. I just wish he would have left a pamphlet on how he did it.

Thanks USPS

So I sold this Stanley No 8 plane on Ebay two weeks ago for about $82.00. I get an email from the buyer last week claiming that he received it broke. It’s not too often that tools I ship end up broken during shipping but when it happens it makes me want to go down to the post office and go postal on someone.

Over the years, I’ve shipped hundreds of planes all over the world to places like Canada, Italy, Australia, England and France. Every time I take care in making sure the plane is well packed and well protected. But when I finished packing this boy to California, a little voice in my head told me I better add insurance to the bill.

A couple of years ago it was the buyers responsibility to pay for insurance when they paid for the item. Now Ebay turned that responsibility onto the seller. So if you sell something expensive through Ebay without insurance and it breaks during shipping, you’re responsible even though the buyer didn’t pay for insurance. I don’t ship everything I sell with insurance because it adds expense to the shipping and handling charge and buyers often get turned off to an auction if they feel the shipping charge is too high.  But thankfully I had enough foresight to pay the insurance for this plane.

When the buyer emailed me it broke, I told him to file a claim through Ebay so they would know the plane broke during shipping. I used Ebay’s third-party shipping insurance called ShipCover and not the USPS. Once the claim was filed, I went through Ebay’s dispute center where they acted as a mediator between the buyer and seller.

As soon as the buyer filed his claim, Ebay immediately froze the money he sent me through PayPal until the dispute was resolved. That can be a hairy situation if you already spent the money your buyers sent you. If there isn’t enough money in your account to cover the disputed item, Ebay will often take the money from your bank account. Talk about a sticky situation if you start bouncing a bunch of checks because Ebay froze your money.

Luckily I had enough money in PayPal and after he filed his claim, I filed mine to ShipCover through Ebay. A few days go by and I received the plane back from the seller. My frozen money went back to him and I was rewarded the $82 from ShipCover. The dispute was settled and life goes on.

User vs Collectible Stanley Planes

Sometimes I’ll see people ask the simple question on woodworking forums on whether or not an old plane they picked up at a garage sale is worth anything. While chances are it’s worth what they paid for it, every once in a while they found a real gem. The key is finding out what Type of Stanley plane you have.

About twenty years ago Roger K Smith wrote a Type Study on the different features of Stanley planes through the years.  It was originally printed in Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America Volume I and then later used in John Walter’s book Antique and Collectible Stanley Tools Guide to Identity and Value. Unfortunately both books are out of print and tough to acquire but fortunately for us, some people have uploaded the info to the internet. Below is one of the links. http://www.tooltrip.com/tooltrip9/stanley/stan-bpl/bailey-types.htm

This Type Study is considered to be the most accurate information to date on the manufacturing of Stanley planes, however it should be noted that Stanley Works never built planes based on these Type Studies. They simply build planes with whatever parts they had lying around. So it is quite possible to have a plane that fits all the criteria of a certain Type Study but may have a part or two with an earlier or later Type to it.

Below are two Stanley No 5 planes that to an untrained eye, may look quite similar to one another but are worlds apart as far as value. The plane on the left is a Type 2 which was made from 1869-1872. The one on the right is a Type 13 made from 1925-1928.

The easiest way to tell if your plane is collectible or not is to see if there is a lateral adjustment on the frog. Planes without this lever are known as Prelateral planes. There are four Type Studies that were Prelateral planes, Type 3 being the most rare. If you come into contact with a Type 3 plane, don’t do anything to it. It’s gold to tool collectors.

The second easiest way to see if you have a collectible Stanley plane is to see where the round hole on the plane’s blade is. If it’s on top like the blade on the left, it’s a Prelateral plane blade. Why Stanley changed the position of the hole from the top to the bottom, I have no idea. The hole is there to put the cap iron nut through the blade without having to fully remove it. Seems like a silly feature  to me but that’s just me. Every plane blade ever made has this feature so I’m obviously missing something.

Another feature that distinguishes really old Stanley planes from the users is the lever cap. If your lever cap is solid without any recesses, it’s rare. I guess metal was a precious commodity back then and every ounce counted. Do the solid lever caps work better? I doubt it. It’s just a lever cap.

The fourth feature that separates the collector from the user is the brass adjustment knob in the back of the frog. I guess Stanley was trying to save money anyway they could back in the 1870’s and putting a recess in the adjustment knob saved them $.001 in brass. But hey, $.001 was a lot of money back then.

A fifth major feature is the shape of the tote. It was still being made out of rosewood but the shape on later Stanley’s became more streamed line. Stanley probably heard complaints from customers about the totes being uncomfortable so they redesigned  the shape. But that’s my guess. It wasn’t cost savings because they didn’t switch to birch hardwood until the 1940’s.

Now it’s your call of you want to use one of these old planes in your shop on a day-to-day basis. All I know is I sold the Type 2 on eBay for $175.00 while the Type 13 commonly goes for $40.00. With the economy the way it is today, if I had an old collectible Stanley plane, I’d sell it and buy a later version with a little bit more bells and whistles for a quarter of the price and fill up my truck with a tank of gas and take my wife out for dinner with the remainder of the money.

Citric Acid, the new Evapo-Rust

I’ve been cleaning old tools ever since I was a kid. I fell in love with the way they looked and wanted to make them look better by cleaning all the rust off of them. After all, when they were in use in someone’s shop, the blade was sharp, the parts moved freely and the tool didn’t have a speck of rust on them. It was only after they were left for dead did rust start appearing on the metal making them appear unusable. I knew early on that with a little love, these tools could come back to life.

In the beginning, cleaning the rust off the plane was attacking it with 220 grit sandpaper. With lots of elbow grease I got the job done. Then after a few years, I moved onto using a flap wheel on my drill press. Rust removal was faster but left a cloud of rusted dust in the air. Something I had a hunch was not too healthy to breathe. I tried electrolysis for a while but thought it was too cumbersome and time-consuming hooking each part to a positively charged metal rod and battery charger.

Then while reading internet woodworking forums, I ran across a member talking about Evapo-Rust. I was intrigued and had to give it a try. I bought a gallon of it, poured it into a container, dropped the parts in, and let them set overnight. The results were amazing! Nothing I had ever tried worked so well with so little effort. There was only one problem; the price. I bought a five gallon bucket form a company called Nebraska Hotrod for $65.00. It would last about five servings worth of tool cleaning, pouring about a gallons worth of it in a container at a time.

Then this spring I read about citric acid. I’ve heard it mentioned before but I was so in love with Evapo-Rust that I thought nothing would work better. But the economy was tight, my wallet was thin and I was open to the idea of using it. Plus I was curious to see how it would compare to my beloved Evapo-Rust. I looked in my local grocery store for it but came up empty. I was told that it could be found at health food stores but eBay was easier and I found it available there. I bought 15 lbs of it for about $42.00 and received it within a week.

I poured one cup of citric acid in about a gallons worth of water and dropped my parts in just like it was Evapo-Rust. I use a 30″ window planter box as my container as it’s long enough for #8 jointers. I waited overnight for the results and was pleasantly surprised! My parts turned out just as well as if they had been sitting in Evapo-Rust.

The true benefit of citric acid is the price.  A cup of citric acid weighs about one pound and a five gallon bucket of Evapo-Rust would last me five servings worth of tool cleaning. So when you do the math, A gallon of Evapo-Rust cost me about $13.00 ($65.00/5 gallons) while a pound of citric acid cost me a meer $2.80 ($42.00/15 lbs). Now that’s a price that I can live with.

Restoring a Stanley No 7 Jointer Plane

Every time I see an article in a woodworking magazine about restoring an old plane, it’s usually a Stanley No 4 smooth plane. While a smooth plane is probably one of the most important planes to own, it certainly shouldn’t be the only plane you have in your arsenal of tools. A jointer plane is extremely handy for jointing the edges of boards straight as well as leveling the tops of wide panels flat. In fact I probably use my jointer just as much as I use a smoother.  So I decided to write a blog and show how easy it is to refurbish an old jointer and put it back to use.

The first thing I do when cleaning a plane is take it completely apart. Remove every single bolt and screw you can and lay them on the bench so you won’t lose them. Don’t worry about not knowing where each screw will go as the guts of a plane are quite simple and easy to put back together.

Next you need to get yourself a product called Evap-O-Rust. I buy it in a five gallon bucket as I clean a lot of tools but a couple of gallons at your local auto parts store should do you just fine. Fill a container with the Evap-O-Rust and submerge the parts in so that they are completely covered in the solution. If you don’t have the part completely covered, you will end up with an oxidized line on the part where the air and the solution meet. It’s also important to make sure that the parts of the plane are not lying on top of one another in the solution. You want to make sure that the Evap-O-Rust has the ability to penetrate the entire part. Let the parts sit in the solution overnight.

Once the parts have soaked overnight, take them out and wash them under the tap to remove any residue from the part. You’ll notice that the parts will be completely clean from rust but will have a dull finish to them. I like to take them over to a flap wheel sander and buff them to a nice satin shine.

After buffing the parts, wipe them with an oil protector called Kramer’s Antique Improver. I have been using this stuff for twenty years and have never come across anything that works better or is simpler to use than Kramers. It simply brings the metal and wood back to life. After wiping all the parts with Kramers, put the majority of the plane back together.

Now that the plane is clean, you’ll need to make it work. The first thing to do is grab something that is perfectly flat and place soaking wet 220, 320, 400, and 600 grit wet and dry sandpaper on top of it. I use an old marble window sill but the top of your table saw will probably work just fine. You will need to flatten the bottom of the plane so that it will be able to cut crisp clean shaving off. Start with 220 grit and work it over until you have uniform scratches upon the entire body. You actually don’t need to have the entire bed perfectly flat. Only the front of the bed, the front and back of the mouth and the back of the bed need to be co-planer with each other. If you happen to have a hollow area between the back of the mouth and the back of the bed, it’s perfectly fine. Once you have uniform scratch marks with 220 grit paper, switch to 320, then 400 and so forth until you have a nice clean bed with the 600 grit paper.


Next and most importantly, you need to sharpen the blade. I own a Tormek sharpener so I use my Tormek to grind a 25 degree bevel on my irons. After I sharpen and flatten the back of the iron with the fine grit of stone I switch over to my 4000 grit water stone and continue to sharpen the burr off. I then finalize the edge with my 8000 water stone. Sharpening to this magnification gives me an edge that stays sharper than simply using my Tormek alone.


Now it’s time to see the results of your work. Take a piece a wood and start planing it. You will need to adjust the position of the frog and depth of the blade in order to achieve a clean cut. Since you’re using a jointer plane the tolerances of mouth opening isn’t as critical as it would be for a smoother. You’re not trying to achieve .002″ thick shavings with a jointer. A jointer is a medium cut plane that is used to clean up joints and panels so that other planes can finish the job. A shaving of .005 to .010″ should work just fine.

With about an hours worth of work, you can a have a perfectly usable plane and save hundreds of dollars as opposed to going out and buying a brand new plane off the shelf.

**** Word to the wise: If you’re a beginning woodworker and are considering spending a few hundred bucks on a 6″ motorized jointer, pick up one of these hand jointers for $30.00 and learn to use it. I no longer even use my 6″ motorized jointer anymore.

UPDATE 4/17/17 — Forget about buying a Stanley No 7 for $30.00. Prices have gone way up since I wrote this post in 2011. If you buy one on eBay, you’ll pay $100 or more. If you’re lucky, you may find one at a flea market or antique show for less, but don’t count on it.

Japanning a plane

Ah, is there any more controversial topic in antique tool collecting than whether or not a tool should be re-japanned? Well I really don’t care, because I’m not really a tool collector for tool collecting sake, I’m more of a woodworker who buys old tools to put them back to work. Plus I consider it an honor to bring an old tool from the graveyard of Grandpa’s garage into my shop. So the last thing I want is to have a perfectly usable tool with only 5 -10% japanning remaining on it. It simply looks like crap. So I’m going to show you how to properly re-japan a tool.

I bought an old No 7 off Ebay for about $30.00 a few weeks ago. While the plane was in good condition, most of the japanning had flaked off. I really didn’t want to keep the plane looking like that so I decided to japan it. The first I did was to take the bed and scrape away as much of the original paint as possible with dental picks. In order to have a nice finish with japan paint, you need to have the surface as clean as possible.

Next I take advantage of the summer months and place the bed and frog in the sun to bake for a few hours. Back in the day, old black japan paint was baked on in an oven to seal the surface. There’s no way I’m sticking tools in my wife’s oven so I let mother nature heat the tool up for me.

I buy Pontypool black japan asphaltum paint from a company called Liberty of the Hudson and use artist brushes to apply a very thin coat on the bed. Apply the paint as thin as possible and don’t try to use glue brushes as their bristles are too thick. If you do, you’ll have thick brush strokes all over the plane’s surface and it’ll look terrible. I apply four coats while the bed is in the sun, waiting about two hours between coats. The japan paint will go on really oily and it will look strange, but it levels out as it dries. It’s important not to apply the paint too thick. Four thin coats is much better than two thick ones.

If you plan on japanning a plane bed, japan the frog as well so that the colors match.

After the paint dries I let it sit for two weeks to cure. You have to make sure that the japanning is completely cured before you attempt to finalize it, otherwise you will rub off the paint. Once the paint is cured, I rub 0000 steel wool on the body to knock off the glossy sheen. I also rub off some of the paint from the high spots of the bed like the plane number and patent dates. It just makes the tool look more authentic. Then I use a product called Kramers Antique Improver and wipe it all over the plane to bring out a satin shine and protect it from rust.


You may ask, why not just use engine enamel spray paint? Well I have seen tools that have repainted but they never look like real japanning. Japanning gives you the texture of a thick coating that can not be duplicated by simply grabbing a can of Krylon and spraying it with several coats of spray paint.

When the plane is done it looks fantastic. So much so that some people may never be able to tell that the tools has been re-japanned. That’s where it gets hairy. If you re-japan a tool and plan on selling it, you need to disclose the fact that the tool has been enhanced, otherwise that’s a form of fraud. The value of an old tool often depends on how much of the original japanning remains and some tool collectors will pay big bucks for tools that are in mint condition. So bare in mind, it’s your tool, do with what you want with it, but if your knowingly misrepresent the conditions of the tools you sell, then you will be considered a fraud.