Restoring Old Hand Tools — Seminar Links

Below is a list of supplies referenced during a seminar at the Woodsmith Store on October 17.

Materials, Supplies, and Links for Restoring Old Hand Tools

Sharpening Auger Bits

Auger File

Valve Grinding Compound

Lapping Grits

Sharpening Hand Saws

Saw Sharpening Files

Veritas Saw File Holder

Veritas Jointer/Edger

Italian Needle Files

Braces, Bits, and Yankee Drills & Drivers

Garrett Wade

Hex Bit Adapter

Screwdriver Bits

Spiral Ratcheting Drivers

General Cleaning Supplies

Wire Wheels

Safety Goggles

Dust Mask

Lacquer Thinner

Mineral Spirits


Wash Bottles

Lightweight Oil (3-in-1)

Old Toothbrush

Cleaning Brushes (Lee Valley)

Cleaning Brushes (Woodcraft)

Dropper Bottles

Needles & Syringes (for oil)

6″ Cotton Swabs

Shop Rags

ProtecTool Wax (Lee Valley)

Restoring Hand Planes

Wet/Dry Sandpaper

Non-Woven Abrasives

Plane Tote (Handle) Templates (Lee Valley)

Veritas Replacement Blades

Pinnacle (Woodcraft) Replacement Blades

Tools for Working Wood (must search for “Stanley Replacement Blades”)

Hock Tools

Interesting Links Worth a Look


4 Traditional Hand Planes and Their Uses

Most everyone that knows me is aware that I have a slight obsession with hand planes. One of the questions I’m often asked is what the different types of planes are used for. In other words, what’s a “jack” plane? Or a “try” plane?

Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, Massachusetts has a short, informative video about the uses of traditional hand planes in the 18th century.

To recap, the Jack plane was used to remove surface roughness left by the saw mill. Jack planes range from 14″ to 16″ long. That would be a No. 5 Stanley plane.

The “Try” plane was a little longer. This enabled it to create a smoother surface than the jack plane. The blade of the jack plane typically has a slight “crown,” or radius which left shallow undulations, or valleys, after planing. The Stanley equivalent would probably be a No. 6 or No. 7.

A Jointer plane was, and is, the longest plane ranging from 22″ to 24″ or longer. Its primary purpose was to straighten the edges of boards in preparation for glue-up and assembly. The idea is that the longer length skims off the high spots and leaves a straight, square edge.

The smoothing plane is usually the last plane to touch the wood. Its shorter length (7″ to 9″) makes it ideal for getting a glass-smooth surface. It’s also used for fine-tuning joinery. No other tool can accurately remove ultra-thin shavings for a perfect fit.

With today’s modern woodworking equipment like surface planers and jointers, the need for Jack and Try planes is somewhat obsolete. However, in my small shop, I don’t own a power jointer. So I use my No. 7 or No. 8 Stanley on a regular basis. But my go-to plane of choice is a No. 3 smoothing plane. It’s the perfect size for most of the projects I work on and it fits my hand perfectly. It touches almost every workpiece before final assembly of the project.

New 2013 Stanley Hand Plane Patents

Stanley Plane Patent 2013You can learn a lot by reading patents. As I mentioned in this post, I enjoy looking at patent drawings. I was perusing some patents on hand planes and noticed this European patent granted to Stanley Black & Decker on April 24, 2013. And this same U.S. version of  April 23, 2013. And this older U.S. patent of June 23, 2011. Primarily, they have to do with a “plane blade adjustment improvement.”

I find this interesting for a number of reasons. First, if we look at the history of Stanley planes in general, we find that after World War II, their quality and availability has suffered (in my opinion). The manufacturing was outsourced overseas and the fit and finish of the machining was and is pretty rough.

In the woodworking sector, and for the serious hobbyists and professionals, quality hand planes are as much a part of the wood shop as a table saw and electric router. At least they should be. But you need good ones.

The problem was that unless you could find a good, used pre-WWII Stanley or Bailey hand plane, you had to settle for poorly-made imports. Thomas Lie-Nielsen and Veritas stepped up to the plate many years ago to manufacture high-quality planes that rival the best Stanley ever made and will last for generations.

More recently, Stanley introduced a “new” line of hand planes. It almost seemed as if someone in marketing suddenly realized they were missing out on the woodworking market. They tried to capitalize on the “Sweetheart” name known by collectors of old Stanley/Bailey planes. Stanley’s redesigned planes have a more modern look. The problem is, they still suffer from the same quality-of-manufacturing issues they’ve had for the last 40 years. I’ve had them in my hands and was not impressed.

Well, perhaps the folks at Stanley Black & Decker recognize that they need to come out with something new/better/different if they want to compete with the likes of Lie-Nielsen and Veritas. So let’s analyze these patents and see what they’ve got up their sleeves.

The present invention provides a plane with an improved construction for enabling longitudinal and lateral adjustment of the plane blade.

At first glance of the patent drawings, it appears that they’re using a design similar to the Norris-style lateral adjustment that Veritas now uses. Nothing revolutionary there. I happen to like that style of adjuster. But these patents appear to be addressing another issue.Stanley Lateral Locking

If you look at the drawing on the right, you’ll see a curious little knob on the back side of the frog. The pivot bushing for the lateral adjustment is threaded and protrudes through the back of the frog. This is unlike the Norris-style adjusters where the pivot pushing simply rests in a counterbored recess on the front face of the frog.

The knob (372) shown in the Stanley patent drawing engages the threaded bushing and is used to apply friction to the lateral movement of the adjuster/blade assembly without affecting the ability to adjust the depth of the blade. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile feature or not. I suppose there have been times when I’ve accidentally knocked the blade out of alignment. And I have a few old planes that have some difficulty maintaining their adjustment. The problem is, if you tighten the screw that holds the lever cap in place to apply more pressure to the blade, you also restrict the ability to adjust the depth. So perhaps there is some merit to this patent.

With the knob in the Stanley patent, you can torque it down enough to prevent any lateral movement of the blade. In other words, the tighter the knob, the more friction you apply to the lateral adjuster. What’s unclear to me is how this still allows depth adjustment. The cross-section views of the patent drawings are a little difficult for me to decipher. The relevant text portions explaining the mechanism are buried about halfway into the document.

If you’re a glutton for technical jargon, I encourage you to read the patents. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait and see if Stanley incorporates this feature into their planes.

Let’s hope they work on improving the quality, fit, and finish of the rest of the plane while they’re at it.


Sharpening a Blade for a Scraper Plane

Scraper PlaneAs a part of rehabbing my newly-acquired but used Lie-Nielsen scraper plane, I needed to sharpen the blade. If you’re not familiar with how a scraper plane works, it’s quite a bit different than a standard bench plane like a smoothing plane. If you’ve ever used and sharpened a card scraper, you’re familiar with how they work. A slight burr is formed on the edge. It’s the burr that performs the cutting action.

The Lie-Nielsen scraper plane comes with a thick blade. And their web site has complete instructions on how to sharpen it for use. The first thing I did was flatten the back and remove the existing burr on a series of diamond stones. Then I proceed to hone the bevel. Finally, I clamped the blade upright in my face vice and started to form a burr with my Veritas burnisher. (I’ve also used the shank of an old screwdriver as a burnisher.) I used two hands to apply firm pressure making a few strokes starting at about 45° then working toward 90°. (Because I had the camera in one hand, you won’t see both of my hands on the burnisher.)

I installed the blade in the plane. I just let it drop to the surface of the workpiece the plane was sitting on. By adjusting the angle of the blade, the burr will eventually “bite” into the workpiece and form thin shavings.

This is a great tool to use for smoothing large worksurfaces that might have unpredictable grain prone to tearout with a standard smoothing plane. The scraper plane doesn’t care about the direction of the grain. It will create a glass-smooth surface.

Cleaning a Scraper Plane

I acquired a nice Lie-Nielsen scraper plane in a tool swap. I’m the 3rd or 4th owner. It was in great shape except for a little surface rust. While I was in the shop doing a little cleanup from the last several projects, I decided to spend a half hour cleaning it up and getting it ready for use.

The photos below explain the basic process I went through. First, I went about removing the rust with 100-grit sandpaper. I took some care to keep the scratch pattern straight and consistent with the original pattern from the factory’s grinding machines. Then I moved up to 120-grit, finishing up with 400-grit and then a final polish with a green non-woven abrasive cloth, again keeping the scratch pattern consistent. While I was at it, I used the 400-grit paper to polish up the smooth portions of the blade holder.

To clean the accumulation of dust and grime from the inside, painted bed, I removed the tote and knob then used an old toothbrush to get rid of most of the dirt. Where I couldn’t reach with the brush, I used a long cotton swab — you know, the kind you see in jars in doctor’s offices. You can buy a pack of 100 from Grainger (formerly Lab Safety Supply) for about $5 or 1,000 for about $25. I use them a lot. After most of the dirt was brushed away, I wiped out the bed with a rag dampened with WD-40 then re-installed the tote and knob.

For the rougher portions of the brass castings on the blade holder, I scrubbed them with a brass-bristle brush. This removed the grime from the shallow recesses of the castings.

Before installing the blade, I applied a coat of clear paste wax to the bare steel and brass to hopefully stall any more rusting.

Kunkel & Son a Hidden Treasure in Nashville

Kunkel & Son Mahogany Door CarvingWhile I was visiting Fort Houston, I was wandering through the old factory/warehouse building and stumbled upon a room that felt like I had stepped back in time about 100 years. Like the wardrobe in “Narnia,” I was in another world. It was a huge wood shop with benches and hand tools all along two walls. The wood floor was covered in sawdust, shavings from hand planes, and chips from carving. There were all sorts of projects in various states of completion from gothic church carvings to modern benches with aluminum butterfly keys.

As I stood there taking in the site of benches and walls loaded with carving and hand tools, an older gentleman steps out from the shadows in the back and asks, “Can I help you?” It was apparent he wasn’t used to visitors in this back corner of a warehouse. I told him I had just stumbled into the room and was admiring his work and tool collection. He immediately pointed out a few of his tools that had belonged to his great grandfather. After asking his permission to snap some photos, we struck up a lively conversation and he proceeded to show me some of his unique projects.

One project was the bench that had been made by his father and carved with his name. Then he stoops down and grabs an odd-looking wood box with a large hole in the top. Turns out it’s a vacuum-assisted carving vise. He picked up an old bowling ball that had a short piece of pipe with a wood block stuck in it. He places the ball on the box, hooks up a vacuum, and clamps his carving to the pipe stem. The vacuum creates a tenacious hold on the bowling ball yet it can be pivoted to any position. Ingenious. Next he had to show me the carving vise he made from an old dentist’s chair. He can elevate the work with a foot pedal. Brilliant.

His son soon came out of the back room and they told me about some of the work they have done, some nationwide for retail stores. Their website shows you some of the more interesting projects they’ve done.

Diamond Stones are the Cat’s Meow

The first time I used a really, really sharp chisel and plane iron, I immediately became aware of how sharp tools can make or break craftsmanship. With a sharp tool, fine-tuning a joint or smoothing the surface of a workpiece becomes effortless and precise.

When I first got serious about woodworking, all I knew about sharpening was that you were supposed to use a bench grinder. At least that’s what I grew up seeing my dad use. Oil stones were reserved for pocket knives.

Combination waterstone

Then along came the Internet. I soon learned about the “scary sharp” method using wet/dry sandpaper. I was hooked. The tools for this method require nothing more than sheets of sandpaper and a flat surface. For years I used a polished wall tile I picked up at one of the big-box stores. It’s a 12″ x 12″ tile that’s perfect for holding a sheet of sandpaper. For touching up my chisels and plane irons, I’d start at about 400-grit and work my way up through 2000-grit. It’s a quick and relatively inexpensive method for sharpening edge tools.

Then came the fad of using waterstones (oilstones are so messy and so “old school”). So I put away my “scary sharp” method in favor of a combination waterstone. I used it for a few years but soon discovered one drawback: Waterstones become dished out with use and require flattening. You can buy dedicated flattening stones, but I used 80-grit sandpaper on my 12″ x 12″ wall tile. It worked great, but can be messy.

DMT DuoSharp Bench StonesThen a friend of mine told me about the wonders of diamond stones, specifically the DMT DuoSharp dual-sided combination stones. Once I tried them, I was hooked. I rarely use any other sharpening method. I have the WM8CX and WM8EF models. This gives me a good range of grits from coarse to fine that serve the majority of my sharpening needs. Yes, they’re a little pricey, but well worth the investment.

Here’s what I like about the DuoSharp stones. They’re flat and they stay flat. No need to mess with flattening them periodically.

The steel plates that are coated with diamond grit are perforated. This means that when you spritz the stones with a little water before sharpening, the swarf doesn’t clog the stone. All it takes to clean the stones is a wipe with a cloth or running them under the tap and drying them thoroughly.

The best thing I like about diamond stones is how quickly they cut. It doesn’t take much to get an edge. I proved this when I was chiseling out a lock mortise for a door jamb and hit a nail. After gritting my teeth in frustration at ruining a good chisel edge with a sizable ding, I drug out the diamond stones. I started with the coarsest grit and worked my way up through the finest grit. It took my all of about 10 minutes to get back to a “scary sharp” edge.

If you’re one of those that has to work toward a mirror polish on your tools, you can invest in DMT DiaSharp Bench Stones. They’re available in grits as fine as 3 microns.

You can view a chart of the available DMT grits by clicking here.

So how do I know when a tool is sharp enough? My first test is to see if it will “catch” on my thumbnail as I try to drag it across. But the final test is to take a piece of basswood or soft pine and see if I can make thin shavings of the end grain. If I can’t, it’s back to the sharpening stones. If a tool is anything less than sharp, the fibers of the soft wood will crush rather than be severed cleanly.

Happy sharpening.

Inspiring Woodworkers

John SchwartzkopfI love hearing and reading about other woodworkers. I enjoy reading about hobbyists and what they do in their shops. I also gain inspiration from those woodworkers that have managed to make a living from their craft. It’s not easy and it takes a huge commitment to make a go of woodworking as a livelihood.

John Schwartzkopf of Cedar Falls, Iowa has found a niche making tables and sculptures…and sometimes a combination of both. He describes his work as half functional and half sculptural. He combines power tools with hand techniques for his one-of-a-kind pieces. You can read more about John’s work here. Continue reading “Inspiring Woodworkers”

Thoughts on Hand Planes

My fascination with hand planes began one year when my Dad gave me a Stanley 4-1/2 smoother and a Stanley 78 rabbet plane for Christmas. He found them in his shop and since he’s a power tool kind of guy, didn’t have any use for them. I had always used power tools in my woodworking because that’s what Dad always used.

The last time I had tried to use a hand plane was when I was a young boy. I’d go down to my Dad’s basement shop and spend hours “building” things. But trying to use his hand plane was so frustrating, I gave up. It wouldn’t cut and it kept tearing out the wood. Continue reading “Thoughts on Hand Planes”

This Week’s Best WoodNet Forum Thread – July 20, 2006

I was reading a thread on WoodNET and it got me to thinking.  Even if you have a shop full of power tools, or “tailed apprentices” some might call them, hand planes have a place in your workshop.  Some woodworkers use hand planes to get that glass-smooth surface after they’ve run the workpiece through their jointer and planer.  Others just enjoy the process of working wood mostly by hand and will dimension and surface stock with hand planes.  Jeff Gorman lives in the U.K. and has a great web site for woodworkers.  He talks about dimensioning stock here.

But I use hand planes for a lot of other things in my shop like smoothing an edge, leveling a joint, or adding chamfers, just to name a few.  I have a nice collection of old Stanley planes, but when I recently built a dining room table, I needed a smoothing plane like a Stanley 4-1/2 that worked better than…well…my Stanley 4-1/2.

So I recently ordered a Veritas Low Angle Smooth Plane from Lee Valley.  I looked at Lie-Nielsen’s Low Angle Smoothing Plane, but decided that I liked the design and price of the Veritas plane better.  I haven’t received my plane yet, so I’ve yet to see how well it performs.  I’ll post an update after I’ve had a chance to use it in my shop.

I’m real interested in hearing your opinions about the use of hand planes (and hand tools in general) in the shop.  Do you use them at all?  For what?  Do you hate them?  Want to learn more about them?  Can’t see the reason to use them?  Let me know your thoughts!