The first step in restoring the plane is to take it completely apart. Explaining the anatomy of a hand plane is beyond the scope of this article, but if you aren’t fully familiar with how the parts fit together, a quick internet search will turn up several helpful resources. Typically the only tool needed to accomplish this is a flat head screw driver. While none of the parts are overly fragile, it’s important to exercise a bit of caution to ensure you don’t damage any of the screws or adjusting components, particularly the softer brass pieces.
Once you’ve got the plane taken apart, you can begin individually cleaning the various parts. At this stage, don’t worry about removing rust, but try to remove as much dirt and grime as possible. A little bit of warm soapy water and a brass wire brush should do the trick on the steel parts.
Again, be especially careful with the brass pieces, as these are more easily damaged. For the brass pieces, I used an old tooth brush to remove any dirt and grime, and then gave them a quick polish using a miniature buffing wheel in a rotary tool. This is all the further I went with the brass pieces, but you could certainly spend as much time as you desire restoring the original shine on the brass knobs and screws. For my purposes, cleaning them and giving them a bit of a shine was all that was required.
The next step was to address the broken handle. Since the break was clean, I simply used a thin layer of two part epoxy to glue the pieces together. I taped the seem with painter’s tape to help hold it in alignment as the glue dried and then carefully clamped it. I was a bit skeptical that this would be a sufficient fix in the long run, but I’m happy to say that after much use, it appears to be holding up well.
To prepare the wooden front handle and tote, I chose to keep it simple. The rosewood has taken on a very rich patina in almost a hundred years of use, and has been worn smooth by the natural oil in the hands of it’s previous owners. Stripping the wood down, or even replacing the parts is certainly an option, but in my mind takes something away from this great old tool. In order to preserve that, I recommend just cleaning and oiling the wood with a soft cloth and a product specifically made for gently reviving the finish of antique furniture.
I used something called “Kramer’s Best Antique Improver” and it worked great, but there are other similar products out there. I did this to both pieces as soon as the epoxy had cured, and then set them aside and moved on to the steel parts.
In the next article, I’ll cover rust removal via electrolysis which works wonders on the steel components.