Restoring History-Auburn Tool Co Try Plane #1: A look into the past

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Blog entry by RGtools posted 06-20-2011 05:33 AM 15157 reads 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Restoring History-Auburn Tool Co Try Plane series Part 2: Cambering the Iron »

I normally don’t buy old wooden planes, since I can make wood planes much better that are suited to my purposes. However, like any other hand tool addict (lets face it, we’re addicts not casual users) I occasionally adopt things that need a good home.

What could need a home more than a former inmate?

Auburn Tool Co repeatedly used prison labor within Auburn correctional facility in New York to create their tools. The contracts to do this constantly changed hands but A Howland and Company held the contracts between 1869 and 1874 (sources seem to disagree as to if this company did in fact use prison labor or not…further research on this point is needed on my end….). If the design of the plane seems familiar it’s because the company will eventually evolve into Ohio Tool.

The quality on the plane is amazing, I can’t help but think that the world would be a better place if we were giving prisoners skills to to earn an honest living but that’s another post for another forum. Le’s start messing with the wood.

First issue I noticed was the insane tightness of the iron I could not safely fit the iron into the plane once I got it out. 137 years will remove a lot of moisture from wood, so this is not so much a manufactures’ defect as time taking it’s toll on things. A small split developed in the sole but it’s not going to mess anything up as long as I don’t let it get any bigger. Let’s give the plane some breathing room so this does not happen.

Details like this make a difference. This raised section really speeds up the matching of the iron and the breaker but as you can imagine is very expensive to produce. Because of this quality feature it best to work the Iron and chip breaker as a set.

I start by carefully filing the sides with a mill file. A saw vise makes a very gentle clamp for the Iron -Breaker assembly. Alternate the sides you file and try to maintain square with the cutting edge. Smooth up the edges on sandpaper, use a good flat reference surface, and use a grip that you can keep the whole works at a 90 degree angle.

Using an auger bit file (keep one of these in your shop…trust me) I clean off some of the goop that has accumulated over the years, once I do that, I use a sharp and I mean SHARP chisel to remove a lump I noticed during the fitting. Very small but between that and the adjustments to the blade I think I bought another 100 years of movement.

Now that we have the Iron fitting in the plane, lets get the iron working again. I love taking a once over on a tool and learning things. This is one time where I learned a great deal.

A tale of two edges, at one point this tool was used as a try plane (to make work try’ed and true), this is evidenced by the lower curved bevel, the blade itself is now flat, meaning that someone changed the plane to a jointer (flat blades make better glue joints, curved blades make rapid adjustments to stock.). I feel like bringing this plane back to it’s heritage. But before I start messing around with re-cambering the blade I need to get the breaker and the iron seating correctly.

This is my technique for getting a prefect knife edge on a chip breaker. The height of the sandpaper on the glass makes for an angle where the tip of the breaker can touch the blade before anything else. This keeps shavings from jamming or sneaking under the breaker.

On a smoother I would go further than this as the ultra fine shavings might sneak under the breaker, but a try takes thick enough shavings in use that I will stop here (take as little steel as you have to).

Blech, some work to do on the back side of the iron. No I will NOT use the ruler trick, it does not save time in the long run especially on cambered Irons.

Good enough for now. As some of the depression on the right hand side is going to come off during the cambering process I see no need to get this dead flat right now.

This is a good seat, I sight against a bright light (not photographed here) and check for any gaps; there are not any so I am ready to camber.

But as I am starting not nod off I will post that blog tomorrow…but as a preview I gave my dirty work plane a promotion to a scrub. Here are the pics.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

9 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4122 days

#1 posted 06-20-2011 05:42 AM

Looks like it will be a wonderful addition to your suite of tools.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#2 posted 06-20-2011 02:54 PM

Thanks Wayne, I hope to add the finished project to the hand-planes of your dreams forum and then use the thing to make stuff until I croak.

August, thanks a lot, I read a book recently that kind of nudged me to be more detailed on sharing, so I will take strides to be quite thorough on this restore, since there are quite a bit of basic concepts to cover. Not a father, just a farmer, but thanks very much for the sentiment. Hope you had a good fathers day as well.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2718 days

#3 posted 06-20-2011 02:57 PM

Awesome rescue! Thanks for that journey.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#4 posted 06-21-2011 01:56 AM

Thanks Al. I told you I would do a cambering entry soon. So i hope it helps when I am done.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View mafe's profile


11730 posts in 3114 days

#5 posted 06-21-2011 11:31 AM

Wauuu, she is a beauty and made by prison labor, this makes her even sweeter.
I love the nice curves on that handle, her old beautiful patina and che curves on her throath… Ok I am sick.
Nice job on the plane.
You will love to make shaves with that baby.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#6 posted 06-21-2011 02:57 PM

I had all the same thoughts you did Mads, which is why she followed me home. Hope this find you well in your part of the world.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View swedefarmer's profile


1 post in 1949 days

#7 posted 02-17-2013 01:08 AM

I’m new to this group… I just acquired over 100 hand woodworking tools, and began to look at manufacturers. One is Auburn Tool Company, another is Bemis and Call, and a third is Spear and Jackson. I saw the description of RGtools above, and I have many of those planes in this group. There are also curved planes, and hand gougers… many sharpening tools, and measuring devices. This must have come from a large woodworking shop. The tools are in wonderful condition. There are even pennies dated 1846 and 1849 used as washers holding the moulding planes together. Is anyone interested in my posting pictures of these on this site? I haven’t a clue…

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#8 posted 02-17-2013 01:13 AM

You better believe it. Post those beauties..

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2679 days

#9 posted 02-17-2013 04:16 PM

I for one would love to see those. Especially the washers.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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