Ever use an antique wood body plane?

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Forum topic by StumpyNubs posted 12-24-2010 04:13 PM 902 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6830 posts in 2222 days

12-24-2010 04:13 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane

I am sure some of you have used them, but I wanted to know what you had to do to make them useable. I have a collection of very old, solid wood bench planes. Whenever I see one at an antique shop or estate salee, i just HAVE to buy it. I love history and these just make me think about the craftsman who labored with it 150 years ago.

As you can imagine, the condition of these old planes is often terrible. Soles neet flattening, blades are rusted, checks are found on the ends… But has anyone here ever restored one and used it?

Are the old blades of any quality? I’d hate to discard an antique blade if it is useable, and the way I see it, that blade used to work just fine!

Do a few checks (cracks) in the endgrain really matter if the sole of the plane is solid and flat?

Care to add any photos of your old wood body planes?

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2 replies so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2537 days

#1 posted 12-24-2010 04:26 PM

some of the old planes can come back to life and a few of them can´t
those that can´t is often side escapements planes becourse the way they are build
but the others can often just with a little help be heard singing again some just need a little tuch
others need a little rustremover and new sharpening
some need a new patch around the soles mouth
they can bee a little trickyer to over the years doo to change of humidity
I willsee if I can remember where I have seen the link to it


Edit here is a link to the site look under Bob Smalser how you can restore one way of doing it
but ells is the site full of very usefull knowledge about handtools

View rwyoung's profile


385 posts in 2894 days

#2 posted 12-24-2010 04:49 PM

Derust the blade, Evaporust is my current favorite method. Plain vinegar works too but takes longer. Rinse, dry and oil after. Then look closely at the blade, if it is laminated you have a better than even chance of a very good blade. No matter what, flatten the back (just the 1/8” near the business end is fine) and sharpen it up. For profiled blades, check that it still matches the sole of the plane. Correct as needed. Sandpaper glued to dowels or inside a cove (see, that router and table saw are good for something) are handy at sharpening and re-shaping.

Small checks in the end grain are no big deal. Large, long checks through the body are. You can use dish soap and warm water to scrub off some of the grime. This annoys some and they will claim it lowers the value. Personally I feel these tools were made to be USED, not looked at so a little cleaning only increases their value in my eyes. Carefully clean out where the wedge seats, the ramp, etc. Don’t go nuts with the water. You will get a little bit of swelling but it soon goes back down. Don’t try and assemble the plane while it is damp, wait a few days to a week.

Once it is good and dry again, start checking the squareness fo the sole or the contour if it is a molding plane. On a few rabbet planes I knew were mass produced (woodies were mass produced but some very old ones are rare and expensive in any condition) and had serious damage to the sole, I simply went to the router table, cleaned up the edge and glued on a replacement block. After that dried I reshaped the sole and re-cut the mouth to make it work like it was supposed to. Molding planes that have damaged soles can sometimes be reshaped or small sections of boxing replaced but this might be a bit much for a first-time project.

In short, pick out a few that look to have promise, maybe a nice smoothing plane (9” or shorter) and a jack (12-14”) and fore (>14”) and start with them.

There are a handfull of books out there that give information on makers’ marks and collector’s values. I have a friend who is an avid collector and member of the MidWest Tool Collector’s Assn who has helped me value planes. So far, I’ve just had $20 beaters so no guilt in my working on them.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

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