What's your hand plane restoration philosophy?

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Forum topic by Ripthorn posted 02-21-2013 05:26 PM 2055 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2984 days

02-21-2013 05:26 PM

So I’ve got a few old planes that I am in the process of restoring/updating. They include a type 9 #7C and a type 14 #5, each with original totes and knobs, etc and a SW-era 190. The #7 has a lot of the japanning missing while the #5 still had part of the decal on the tote. I made a new tote and knob set out of cherry for the #5 so that I didn’t add any wear to the pristine T&K. The #7 needs some work relative to the japanning and a couple other small issues, but I waffle back and forth between full blown restore with new paint and a new T&K (made a second cherry set while doing the set for the #5) and keeping its vintage character. I’m not terribly concerned about collector value, as I don’t ever plan to part with them and they will be users. With the 190 I plan to strip the japanning and repaint, but the #7 keeps giving me issues. I’m kind of leaning towards full on restore with matching cherry T&K.

Now I am wondering what others’ restortion philosophy is, are you the type to hot rod it, make it look like new, or let it’s aged character shine?

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

29 replies so far

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3393 days

#1 posted 02-21-2013 05:30 PM

Avoid anything that is not reversible. That simple.
To me, the real value, and the nicer thing about old tools is the imprint of time over them. If I would want “New” tools, I’d simply buy Lie NIelsen or other current manufacturer.

So I guess you are the one to answer your own question.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2598 days

#2 posted 02-21-2013 05:32 PM

If possible, I prefer to have them look new as possible. Take them on a case for case basis. I do prefer shine to patina, but I can appreciate them either way. I would be hesitant to paint a a plane that had some collectors value, but have painted in the past due to missing japanning. So I guess my philosophy would be to make it look the way you want it to, then use it.

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3006 days

#3 posted 02-21-2013 05:42 PM

For me personally, i just get the rust off, true up the sole, and sharpen up the iron. I leave the age on mine mostly because i dont like masking and painting. Ill replace a broken knob or broken tote on a case by case. I can say that many of my planes are collectable minus an early type 4 #71 (Thanks Smitty).

+1 to Shane’s make it like ya want it and put it to use.

I told my old man one day as a kid “Dad, i want a mohawk” Dad said “Its your head kid, do what ya want”.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2567 days

#4 posted 02-21-2013 05:55 PM

For me it depends. How bad is it? And what is its collector value? For the typical plane, a full restoration increases its value, so if its bad enough, that’s what it gets.

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

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2359 days

#5 posted 02-21-2013 06:14 PM

Let me begin by apologizing if I step on a few toes. I do this sincerely, but primarily as a social nicety, lest this forum devolve into the infantile, sniping mess some competing forums have become.
Those processes which are repeatedly referred to in these forums as “restorations” are, with few exceptions, NEVER restorations. (look the word up if you need to).
This isn’t a matter of mere semantics either. My background (aside from a career in IT, and the law before that) is in auto restorations. You wouldn’t get very far in any competition utilizing standards, if for instance, you replaced the leather upholstery in a vintage ‘vette with naugahyde, or swapped out the birch wood trim on a ‘48 “Woody” with walnut. You might like it better, but don’t try to call it a restoration. You have not “put it back the way it was when they manufactured it.”
All of this is open to further discussion, and that’s fine—that’s what these forums are all about. My point, and I come from a “less is always better” perspective, is that unless you’re replacing japanning with some mixture using gilsonite/asphaltum, you’re doing the equaivalent of street-rodding a plane. Engine enamel might look like japanning to some, but to me, it’s just one more plane that’s been ruined.
btw – I understand perfectly the case in which a plane’s casting is a complete, rusted disaster. In that case, anything goes in an effort to make it a useable tool. The problem is, countless thousands of individuals are ruining perfectly good planes everyday, by mindlessly following a prescription that says “strip the finish off casting and handles, sand the sole, wirebrush any trace of nickel off the lever cap, etc.
A lot of these need a much milder touch up (or none at all!) so that, in the future they can be discovered with their histories intact.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3393 days

#6 posted 02-21-2013 06:19 PM

(well said!)

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3040 days

#7 posted 02-21-2013 06:24 PM

I am a believer that it’s yours, you can do anything you want with it. You like it thats all that matters, we are not talking about $1 Mil Items Here we are talking about $50 Handplanes.

Example: Why would anyone Light Cigars with $100 Bills. Because they Can !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View JayT's profile (online now)


5632 posts in 2210 days

#8 posted 02-21-2013 06:29 PM

Depends on the plane. If it is in really good shape as is, I will just clean it up, sharpen, flatten and use. Otherwise, I have been stripping, re-jappaning, shining & polishing to protect the plane, make it look good and be a useable tool.

My feeling is—do what makes you happy. In the end, taking care of the tool in any way is better than letting it rust away.

Just like an old car, some people do concours level restorations, which takes them over the top to a level exceeding what they were like new, some do a faithful, accurate restoration and others make hot rods or rat rods. Each person is happy with their creation/work and all have cars they want to drive an show off.

You will find cars of all kinds in musuems, from hot rods to wrecks, not just pristine originals. Why should tools be any different? Just because it is not all original doesn’t make it less a part of history.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3006 days

#9 posted 02-21-2013 06:35 PM

Doc – ill go along with your point of view, because its yours, but ive got to argue against your last statement when you said ”... in the future they can be discovered with their histories intact”.

I feel like those who “restore” or refurbish planes are addding to such history just like when i find a plane or a saw or a chisel with the owners marks stamped on them, its part of its history and not its original function or form.

History is made every day and is forever evoloving, the refurbishment of these planes you so much dislike are probably saving them from their total demise and keeping the history alive.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2359 days

#10 posted 02-21-2013 06:56 PM

”Look the word up if you need to”

res·to·ra·tion [res-tuh-rey-shuhn] Show IPA
1. the act of restoring; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.
2. the state or fact of being restored.
3. a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.
4. restitution of something taken away or lost.
5. something that is restored, as by renovating.

Typcially when people have to preface what they are about to say with something like “not to offend” “sorry if I offend” “Sorry if I step on toes” It’s because they know they are about to do just that…

With that being said…MY restoration philosophy depends on the tool and what I plan to do with it…if it is a flea market find, that will be a daily user I clean it up enough to make it a usable functioning tool. If it is something that I want to show off or put in a case I may decide to try and restore it to original condition.

IMO a tool is a tool…meant to do a job. If it looks pretty while doing the job, awesome! If it looks like a 200 year old tool that does it’s job awesome as well…if it looks like a 200 year old tool and doesn’t work worth a pile of beans but looks all original it’s a paper weight.

-- Steve

View bandit571's profile


20008 posts in 2682 days

#11 posted 02-21-2013 06:56 PM

Myself, i look more to a “Refresher”. About like dropping a car off at the Detailer’s lot. Come back later to see a “Refreshed” plane or car.

IF any only if the japanning is toast, Then i will consider painting it. I don’t try to match the original japanning, just use the paint as a way to keep rust at bay. Yes, i did turn a gray bodied Victor into a black bodied Stanley Budget line plane. The “Gray was half rust and badly faded out, more like primer coat.

Everything else gets a thoruogh cleaning, irons sharpened, and mated to the chip breakers. If the “woodwork” is in pieces like a puzzle, it gets tossed, and a new one installed.

IF I happen to sell any of them, I state out front what was done. I am not looking to be a collector, just like to use handplanes for the simple projects I do. If I get too many users ( like block planes) I tend to thin the “herd” a bit.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Mosquito's profile


9305 posts in 2291 days

#12 posted 02-21-2013 07:06 PM

I also just de-rust, tune, and sharpen. I have only painted one plane, and that’s because when I got it there was only about 10% japanning left. It looks better this way than it did before, and rust is not the same issue that it was with out it. Otherwise I leave the original japanning on it. As long as it’s not rusting, and I can use it, good enough for me.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2984 days

#13 posted 02-21-2013 07:08 PM

Good stuff guys. I agree that sometimes we use the word restoration a bit loosely. The #5 is only getting a cleaning and new T&K (originals kept safe in a drawer) as it is in great shape. I will confess, I like pretty tools. I like having tools that I can look at and admire as well as use. For that reason I posted my question, to see what others thought. I like the variety of opinions.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2376 days

#14 posted 02-21-2013 07:08 PM

I’m lazy so i just clean it up, fettle it and use it. I like the look of old steel too but . . . . . oooo look at that shiny plane.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2354 days

#15 posted 02-21-2013 07:08 PM

I go for useability over collectability. I’m not worried about the value so much so though, If I buy it, it’s most likely going to be used.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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