Need advice on possible restoration of OLD handplanes and other tools

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Forum topic by Dr_T posted 07-11-2014 07:19 PM 788 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 577 days

07-11-2014 07:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane refurbishing

Hi all!
Hoping I can get some advice on a possible hand tool restoration project. First, some background. I just recently visited my Grandfather, who in addition to installing cabinets for a living for umpteen years also has a tendency to collect anything and everything. Sometimes this is a good thing (as you may see below) other times it just means that there is a lot of junk lying around. While I was visiting this time, he insisted that I take at least one tool that his great grandfather had, so I would have something from my past. To be clear, this would be my great, great, great Grandfather. I’m guessing that not many of you have a woodworking tool from that distant of a relative. :-) Grandpa wasn’t sure exactly when the tools were from, but for a bit of perspective, the next generation down the line was born in the 1870’s.

So even if I don’t do anything else with them, they are still neat to keep and inspect. I was wondering if I might be able to restore them to a bit more functional state without damaging them. This is where all of you come in. I don’t have any experience restoring tools, but I know many of the people on this site do. I’m not necessarily looking to make these into functioning tools, but a general clean up and preservation would be nice.

The first two are wooden body hand planes. Both look to be in about the same condition, the irons are very rusted and the plane bodies are dirty and dry. To say they have patina would be overly nice in my opinion.

The next tool I took just because I had never seen anything quite like it before. If any of you can tell me what it would be used for that would be great. The triangular head spins freely about a shaft.

The last one appears to be a marking gauge or thicknessing gauge of some sort. I grabbed it mainly because of the manufacturing inscription. In case you can’t read it on the picture it is from “The Bacon Equipment Co. The best equipped job shop in south Georgia. Albany, GA”

I don’t know that all of these tools are quite as old as the handplanes. The marking or thicknessing gauge in particular is made of aluminum, which might have been unusual for 1860’s so that one may be a little later than the others.

Any advice on where to start or places to look for information would be appreciated!

9 replies so far

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Don W

15766 posts in 1352 days

#1 posted 07-11-2014 07:34 PM

For the hand planes you’re going to need to get them apart. Hold the wedge in your hand and tap on the back of the plane with a wooden mallet. If it comes loose quickly go buy a lotto ticket before your luck runs out. Then tap the iron a few times, then then try again. Do this until it comes loose. Some time a wiggle from side to side will also help.

Clean them with murphy’s oil soap, BLO and mineral spirits or something like that. Then I would oil them. A lot of people don’t care for BLO, but I do. Or you can get renaissance wax, or make your own wax mixture. There are lots of mixes around. I usually give a couple coats of BLO then I have a mix of bee’s wax and turpentine I use. Almost any wax will help.

If you want to make them look better, before oil you can lightly sand them. Like any piece of wood, the higher the grit the better the results. If they will be display pieces, follow your décor. If your house has a rustic décor, then no sanding is required, if its a 50 kind of chromy, take ‘em to 2000 grit.

If this is all you think you’ll ever restore, just wire brush or sand the cutters to a desired sheen.

I’d wire brush the hammer with a fine wire wheel, and just oil the handle.

I’d just use a good detergent or simple green on the square, then maybe some aluminum polish.

I think Dave Bardin has a couple good video on wood plane restoration to.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Tim's profile


1506 posts in 746 days

#2 posted 07-12-2014 12:08 AM

See if you can find a makers mark on the front or back end of the plane. They may be very faint, but a brush or something can help find them. Then check if they are a particularly rare plane. I tend to go for the milder restore route now, and if it were something from my family that long ago I’d go really gentle. But on the other hand, they are not in good shape now, so you most likely are not harming anything of particular collector value, if you choose to restore them more.

Here’s a good article on a gentle approach to cleaning.

The basic idea is the less collector value the tool has, the less it matters if you damage them by cleaning them up.

View Dr_T's profile


13 posts in 577 days

#3 posted 07-15-2014 12:25 AM

Thanks for the tips so far. I haven’t had a lot of time yet to deal with them, but hopefully I’ll have some later this week and I can post some photos of the progress.

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13 posts in 577 days

#4 posted 08-26-2014 10:01 PM

Well I finally got around to trying to take them apart and looking for marks. I got one of them apart fairly easily (didn’t go buy a lottery ticket though) but the second one is making up for getting the first one apart easily. It still hasn’t come apart, probably going to work on it again later. I did look for marks on the ends of the planes, and found a few. They are very faint and in some cases hard to photograph. I also don’t have any good reference for them so I have no clue what they mean in many cases. Any input would be appreciated. Photos below:

This one is the one that I haven’t gotten apart yet. I believe the text says *ERMAN BRO N-YORK. I am not sure how many characters exist before the letters that I can make out.

Opposite end of the plane. Says 75 and maybe I or L in the top center? Nothing else on the other surfaces that I could find.

I think this one says: OHIO where the * represents a uncertain character. It looks like it is a 1 or an L to me but I am not sure.

Opposite end of the plane. Obviously says 3/8 and maybe a 8 in lower center. No other markings on other plane surfaces.
Again, any advice or help (even just to point me to resources that I can look at myself) would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Don W

15766 posts in 1352 days

#5 posted 08-26-2014 10:19 PM

Second one is OHIO Tools.

I can find a C Herman and a James Herman but don’t see a %erman bro.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

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Don W

15766 posts in 1352 days

#6 posted 08-26-2014 10:21 PM

Could it be Sherman Bro. 1849-52

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View racerglen's profile


2454 posts in 1565 days

#7 posted 08-26-2014 10:31 PM

Dr T, I’d say the hammer is a glaziers tool, the triangular end designed for tapping the “points”, the little metal wedges in place to hold the glass against the frame, the other end is a tack hammer.
The last item was a sales tool, offered by many merchants in past, drop it in your pocket on a trip to the lumber yard and the stepped area gives you an instant read on the thickness of the board.

(variations on both are still sold today, notably Lee Valley has them)

-- Glen, Vernon B.C. Canada

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13 posts in 577 days

#8 posted 08-27-2014 04:17 AM

racerglen – That is what my grandpa thought that the triangular hammer end was for as well, but he wasn’t sure. Nice to have another opinion that agrees with the first.

Don W. – Ah, OHIO Tools or OHIO Tool CO. makes a lot of sense, I’m not sure why I didn’t see that myself. I’ll take a look for the Sherman Bro. in New York in that time frame. If that is the correct time frame for the company, that would fit with the approximate time that I think the planes are from.

Thanks to you both!

Edit – Don W. I tried to look up that name and time frame and I’m coming up dry. Any pointers where you were looking for the info, or are you just trying to read the markings?

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Don W

15766 posts in 1352 days

#9 posted 08-27-2014 11:59 AM

I got the info from “A guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes”. And I gave you the wrong dates. Sherman Bro were 1853-73.

That book is a good reference for finding the makers and their stamps. Not a whole lot of other info though.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

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