Keeping the character while restoring old planes

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Forum topic by NateX posted 01-13-2012 09:05 PM 2109 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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98 posts in 3170 days

01-13-2012 09:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane refurbishing traditional rustic

I was able to get my hands on some really cool old planes this year. I received a #7C Bailey from my father in law for Christmas, won a Millers Falls #75-01-B off ebay, and picked up a beautiful #6 Bailey fore plane at a local flea market for $30!

I love the patina on the metal of these old planes but I want to use them. They are solid tools that deserve to be put back in service. There is almost no rust, just oil and time darkened metal. There is a beautiful swirl pattern on the sole of the block plane that I would hate to erase with sand paper.

I can see the original milling marks, and i think that to be an honest user I might have to lap it flat. The japanning on both of the Bailey planes is pretty rough, but I really don’t care a whole lot about that.

I have an idea of the dates on the planes, the #7C is the oldest, it has 2 patent dates which I believe dates it to between 1902 and 1908!

The Corrugated bottom looks flat with a few peculiarities. There are a few spots way back on the sole that look like it was hit with a ball peen hammer. Sorta weird dished out small dents.

It also was re-braised where it cracked through.

The repair looks good, the sole is flat and it looks strong. It must have been re-japanned at some point as well, or at least touch-up paint applied to the weld. The handles are also different than the slightly later #6, and they are a lighter hardwood (maybe beech?) than the rosewood knob and tote on the #6. Its also sporting a Stanley Sweetheart iron which is really short.

I suspect all these defects place it squarely in the user category, i bet no collector would give my franken-plane a sideways glance. That being said, think it adds a lot of character and history to the piece for me. I want to use it, but i want to keep its character. I don’t have 100 years to wait for the metal to age like this gain.

On the other hand, the #6 is amazing. It has the original rosewood handles and a cool aftermarket blade. It has the same 1902 patents plus the 1910 patent which dates it from 1910 to 1924. I can’t believe I own something so cool. What kind of soulless monster would sand off 100 years of personality, history, and soul?

The frog and innards of both planes are in fine condition. Both of the bench planes look like they spent a fair number of years working. I am really excited to get them tuned and ready to use.

Now, how would you go about getting these old tools ready to use? Anyone ever tried to get old tools like these functioning without using 220 grit?? They work well, but I know what a really aggressive restoration can do. What do you think? What would you do if these were sitting on YOUR workbench?

6 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


7044 posts in 2772 days

#1 posted 01-13-2012 09:16 PM

I would be in the “soulless monster” category. I love the look of them now, but my personal prefence is to shine them, tune, repaint, and then put them into service. I probably am in the minority here, but that is ok by me. They all look like some good scores, no matter your direction, good luck. Be sure to post more pics later.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2661 days

#2 posted 01-13-2012 09:20 PM

Sharpen, Tune, Use.
I think too many people put too much emphasis on the looks and not enough on the use.

For instance, I had a ratty old 1953 Ford Skyliner, Flat head 239 V-8 and a cast iron Cruisomatic. It also had some G70X15 tires and a Offy 6 pack manifold with triple duece Strombergs. Cam was a mild race cam so the idle was almost normal, but sounded like it had a valve out of adjustment.

I think I lost 5 races with that car, going up against `61 Impala, `64 Tempest, a `58 Pontiac Star Chief, and (whuda thunk) a `64 VW bug….. twice.

That car was laughed at a lot to begin with, until they saw it work.

Keep your toys original and impress the rubes with your skills!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3283 days

#3 posted 01-13-2012 09:44 PM

I have only purchased one plane that was old enough to require more serious work. I haven’t taken the time yet to do a full restore. You can get it quite functional without being too aggressive. The bottoms of the planes don’t have to be shiny but they do have to be flat. How flat, the experts stay divided on. Some say that you can go shy of perfect without losing functionality, I am more along the line of the belief that flatness is the whole point. The items I would say you can’t skip on is flattening the sole, the frog (it has to be seated firmly on the base and has to be flat where the blade sits so there is no chatter). The throat has to be checked for burrs and to make sure there is not a potential bottleneck for the shavings. That type of thing. If you like the character of the plane, you don’t have to feel obligated to make cosmetic changes. A product like evaporust will get rid of the rust without removing all the patina.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View smndrummer's profile


47 posts in 2519 days

#4 posted 01-13-2012 10:15 PM

Soulless monster here as well. They still look beautiful even after an aggressive restoration. Cleaned up, mine looked cool, but restored they were functioning works of art. They look like they just came out of the box about a year ago. As far as usability, that’s my number one concern for a “user”. I lap the soles completely flat, then work the rest of the plane to match. I still have some patina on the sides, but they’re quite shiny as well. Cool effect, and my planes rarely require much in the way of maintenance.



-- - Rich

View Don W's profile

Don W

18989 posts in 2741 days

#5 posted 01-13-2012 10:54 PM

Great blog. I have planes that I’ve done both ways. After reading your blog, and knowing you don’t want to do a complete restore, I’d suggest sharpening and using them. If they work great, keep using them, they may need tuning, then tune them.

Shane’s planes look fantastic. If all my planes looked like his restores I’d be a happier man, but I to like the patina on some of the older planes. One of my favorite planes is a Bedrock 604, which was cleaned up and has been in service ever since. I like a mix, go with what you like.

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

View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2851 days

#6 posted 01-14-2012 01:26 AM

Sharpen them up, tune the frog, and try them. Do they work well enough? If yes, you are done; if no, break out the sandpaper.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little grunge.

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