My $1.00 Plane

A couple of weekends ago, I went on the World’s Longest Yard Sale on US 127 looking for old tools and other things to sell. Sunday, I ran across a guy selling junk just north of Cincinnati and saw this plane on a table. The guy told me that his prices were negotiable so I asked what he wanted for this plane. He told me $2.00, but I countered that I would give him a buck for it and he accepted. I really didn’t need it, but I wanted to buy something during the day. The blade was marked Van Camp which I believe was a hardware store back in the day however, the plane was more likely made by the Sargent Tool Company.

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Every time I restore a tool, I start by sticking the parts in a tub of water with a cup of citric acid. I let the parts soak for about an hour and then wipe them clean once I take them out of the solution.

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I took the time to fettle the bed since the plane’s body was so small. Honestly, I don’t think the bed was that bad to deserve to be fettled, but I was in the mood. I went through a series of wet sand paper grits, from 220 to 500 to 1000 grit.

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You can see the smoothness of the bed when shown through the light. The bed doesn’t have to be completely free of pitting, just flat enough from front to back.

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After the bed was fettled, I soaked all the parts of the plane with my custom solution of mineral oil, orange oil, and melted bees-wax.

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Next, I sharpened the blade by using my Tormek sharpening system and a set of water stones. I was able to shave the hairs on my arm with this blade.

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All tuned up, the plane takes nice curly shavings. Not bad for a buck.

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For years I used this squirrel tailed plane. It works okay but the shavings are not that clean and it’s a pain in the ass to set properly with the screw and cap.

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You can see the difference when you flip the two over. The area of the mouth is a lot tighter on my buck plane than the squirrel tail plane. The tight mouth keeps the wood fibers pressed down just until they hit the edge of the blade giving me a nicer shaving.

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My new plane still fits nicely in the holder where my old squirrel tailed plane sat. Maybe I should have given the guy $2.00. haha

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Using a Lion Miter Trimmer

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a Facebook page called “The Collectors of Antique/Vintage Tools” about a Lion Miter Trimmer I just restored. A few people in the group replied to my post asking what the tool did. I was surprised that so many people weren’t aware of this tool, that I decided to talk about it here.

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I’ve owned an AMT miter trimmer for over twenty-five years and love it. They are simple tools that were popular for people who made picture frames back in the day. You use it by swinging the arm pulling the knife through the piece of wood, slicing off perfect little curls precisely at whatever angle you set the fence at.

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The miter trimmer has fences on each side that can be positioned between 90 -45 degrees. There are adjustable stops at 90 and 45 that can be fine tuned with a screwdriver. Once you swing the fence to whatever angle you want, you tighten the wing nut on top locking the fence in place. As you can see in the photo, this machine also has layouts for 60 and 67 1/2 degrees.

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After fiddling with the machine for a few minutes, I positioned the adjustable stops precisely were they needed to be. As you can see, the stop is a little shy from the 45 degree scribe line on the bed. I’m not sure why this is, but the tool is probably over 100 years old, so it’s allowed to be off a little.

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You can see how the tool slices off perfect little shavings. When I was restoring the tool, I took the knives off and sharpened them on my Tormek using the Tormek knife jig. Before I sharpened them, the knives couldn’t cut butter.

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The main reason I love my miter trimmer is that it cleans up the cuts that are made from my miter box and saw. For safety reasons when doing delicate trim work, I like to use my little miter box instead of a powered miter saw.

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However, the saw doesn’t leave the wood with a nice enough cut.

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Not only that, the miter box doesn’t even produce a perfect 45 degree angle throwing the two pieces out of square.

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Here are the two pieces after they’ve been trimmed up with the miter trimmer.

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The proof is in the pudding here. All the joints fit nicely together and the frame is a perfectly square inside. No wonder why picture framers loved these things.

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Another good use of a miter trimmer is doing outside corners like attaching molding to a bookcase or cabinet. Here is a piece of molding that I cut with one of my molding planes.

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If I stick the piece in my miter trimmer and try to trim it up normally, you can see how the inertia of the cut pulls the molding off the bed. There’s simply not enough surface area in the front of the molding to keep the piece stable.

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The cut it produces this way is garbage. Not only is it not 45 degrees, it’s not even a straight cut.

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The way to get around this, is to take the body off a combination square and clamp it to the fence of the trimmer. Use a scrap piece of wood and cut a 45 degree angle to the end with the trimmer. Then use the cut as a gauge to accurately place the combination square under it. It’ll take a little time and a few test cuts, but once you have the combination square properly position, you’re ready to go. Note: You can buy an attachment from Grizzly for about $30 which does the same thing as this, but I’m not sure if it will work on old Lion Miter Trimmers.

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Now you can use the bottom of the molding to rest against the fence for support and make a perfect 45 degree cut.

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Repeat on the other side of the trimmer for the other side of the molding and you’ll get a super clean and accurate joint.

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Unfortunately, the website for the original Lion Miter Trimmer no longer works which makes me believe they are no longer in business. http://www.lionmitertrimmer.com It’s a shame because the tool is truly an awesome piece of machinery.

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?